What is Screen Printing & Digital Printing?

If landing on the UberPrints website is the first time you’ve ever even thought about t-shirt printing, then you’re likely lost when you start seeing the terms digital printing and screen printing. If you’re looking for a quick rundown of what these processes are, check out the clip below where we give you the cliff notes version of the two print methods. And if you’re up for the more elaborate version, you can go watch the larger video we did comparing screen printing and digital printing where we go through all the relevant details you might need to know when ordering your own custom t-shirts.


Just a quick background

These are the two most common forms of t-shirt and apparel printing and if you’re making a design and ordering it on the UberPrints website, these are the two print methods that you’re going to have to choose from.

So, what is digital printing?

Detail image demonstrating the printing action of a direct-to-garment printer.

Well, digital printing, also called direct-to-garment printing, essentially works just like your at-home desktop printer. You have a file on your computer, you hit “print”, it gets sent over to the printer, and there it prints off in small, incremental passes as the piece of paper — or in our case the t-shirt — slowly exists the printer.

Showing the row of white, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink cartridges.

What these two things also have in common is that they both use CMYK ink to print your image. You know those small cartridges that you have to buy more of when you run out of ink that somehow cost more than the printer itself? Well, digital printing uses cartridges just like those — except a lot bigger — to print your whole design.

Screen printing: The tried and true

A single screen printing screen from a two color t-shirt design.

The other print method, screen printing, is the more traditional form of t-shirt printing. With screen printing, we separate the colors in your image and make individual stencils for each one of those colors. We then mix separate inks for each one and push the inks through the stencils one after another to print the whole design down on to your t-shirt. 

A screen printing press operator demonstrating how a t-shirt design is printed.

So, what you want to know now is, “which one of these print methods is better”

The thing is, there’s no direct answer to this question, because which print method you choose should really depend on some details about your order and what’s important to you. So, what you really need to know, is what are the key considerations when you’re picking between screen printing and digital printing, and based on those, then we can tell you which one is going to be best for your order.

The print head of an automatic screen printing press that's printing the white underbase.

Check out last week’s post to learn everything you need to know about deciding between screen printing and digital printing and stick around for more tips on designing and ordering your own custom t-shirts.

If it’s all still a little daunting, be sure to take a look at our t-shirt design templates and always feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to walk you through the process.

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