3 Things To Consider Before Picking A T-Shirt Printing Method

There are tons of ways to compare and contrast digital printing and screen printing. Everything from ink, technology, and process is different. But when you’re designing your own custom t-shirts, you don’t want to know every possible difference, but instead what the relevant differences are so that you can decide when you’re placing your order. If want to cut to the chase and hone in on those key points, check out the clip below from our recent video comparing screen printing and digital printing.


Outline

Both print methods have important strengths and which one 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 a print method and then based on those, we can tell you which is best for your order.

So we’re going to start by talking about the top three considerations when you’re picking a print method, and at the end, we’ll walk through some possible scenarios so that you can better understand when digital printing is best and when screen printing is best.

1. Quantity

Quantity just means the number of pieces of apparel that are printed with the same design. Those could be different types of apparel, as long as nothing about the design changes.

Printing a single custom t-shirt with a direct-to-garment printer.

Screen printing has a minimum quantity of 12 because of its extensive preparation and set up time. So, if you’re looking to order fewer than 12 pieces, digital printing is your solution. That’s really the strength of digital printing. Set up is so quick that you can order even just one t-shirt if you want to.

A press operator loading multiple shirts on an automatic screen printing press.

If you’re ordering 12 or more, you can actually go with either of the print methods, but if it’s anything above about 25 or 30 pieces, you’ll almost surely want to go with screen printing. That’s because screen printing has much larger bulk discounts for higher quantity orders. Because even though it has more extensive preparation and set up, the printing part is just so much more efficient.

A large stack of blank t-shirt preparing to be screen printed.

If you’re in that 12 to 24 range, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to the other two considerations, but you can always compare price with a quick quote on the website, and at the end, we’ll go over how price is calculated for the two print methods.

2. Apparel

An apparel example from the UberPrints apparel catalog.

Screen printing is going to have a much wider variety of options when it comes to the type of apparel and the different apparel colors that you can print on. That’s because screen printing works on any fabric type. Including 100% polyester, performance fabrics, and a lot of other synthetic blends.

Showing the fabric detail of a navy 100% cotton t-shirt.

Digital printing on the other hand is best for 100% cotton and other cotton blends. So, we only offer it on products and colors that we’ve tested and we can guarantee print quality. You can always sort our catalog by products with no minimum and still see tons of styles and colors that are available for digital printing. We’ve made sure that we offer plenty of comparable styles for both print methods and available colors are always separated between the two so it’s clear which ones have a 12 piece minimum and which don’t.

3. Design

Photographs and designs with lots of colors are generally better candidates for digital printing. Especially if it’s fewer than about 24 pieces. That’s because digital printing is much better at easily reproducing photographic images. But also because it uses those CMYK inks to make all the colors, it doesn’t matter how many are in your design.

An example of a digitally printed photographic t-shirt design.

However, screen printing can be a better option — and a much more cost-effective option — if you have fewer colors in your design, or if you’re ordering larger quantities. Because screen printing requires that we separate the colors in your design and print them individually, the cost of screen printed orders depends on the number of colors in your design. Six or seven colors may not be a big deal for 50 or more t-shirts, but if you’re only ordering 12, you’ll want to keep your color count low so that it can stay a cost effective option.

Multiple colors being printed using a screen printing press.

And even though screen printing is usually associated with solid, bold graphics, it’s still possible to print elaborate and realistic designs with screen printing. It just may require some adapting to make the design work best.

Demonstrating how ink is pressed through a screen stencil on a screen printing press.

One final thing to consider is how important color matching is to your design. Because we mix and print each color individually with screen printing, we can match the color to a specific brand, logo, or any other time where a specific color may be important. So, if you need your print to match a Pantone color for instance, screen printing is the best option.

Mixed screen printing ink compared to a Pantone swatch book.

A quick recap

The top three considerations when picking between screen printing and digital printing are:

  1. Quantity – Fewer than 12 and you’ll definitely want to go with digital printing. Anything higher than about 30, and you’ll definitely go with screen printing. Anything in between and you probably just want to compare price when you get your quote.
  2. Apparel – Not all products and colors are going to be compatible with digital printing. But everything is for screen printing. Just take note of what products and colors are available for the two print methods when you’re looking through the catalog.
  3. Design – If you want to print lots of colors or even a photograph on just a few shirts, you’ll probably go with digital printing. If it’s just a few colors, or you’re ordering a much higher quantity, then screen printing is probably the better option.

Leave a Reply