Many people wonder what the difference between screen printing and digital printing is. Digital presses usually produce a full 4-color process print in one pass, as opposed to screen printing, which is done one color at a time. In order to help you make the best choice for your next printing project, we are here to explain the basics of each method as well as their points of differentiation. By the way, Prints R Us Screen Printing is the best printing services in Jacksonville, FL.
Basics of Screen Printing
Silk screening, also known as screen printing, dates back to 500 AD and originated in Asia. It consists of creating a stencil on a fine mesh screen (a tight layer of polyester or silk) and pushing ink through the open areas onto the surface below.
A variety of designs and colors are applied to each screen (stencil) until the final image is completed. Immediately after printing, the material is run under UV lights to cure the ink.
Basics of Digital Printing
Screen printing requires a lot of manual labor, whereas digital printing uses a computer and digital files to map and place small drops of ink.
There are two main types of digital printing – roll printing and flatbed printing. Like screen printing, both types can use UV light to cure ink, but they don’t always. As an alternative, some digital presses use solvent or inkjet printing, both of which are similar to home printers.
There are quite a few differences between the two processes themselves. Usually, roll printing is solvent-based, and flexible vinyl is used as the base material. The ability to print white ink on roll printers is becoming more common as technology advances.
Like roll printers, flatbed printers can print on flexible vinyl, but have the added benefit of being able to print on flexible polyester, as well as various rigid surfaces, including polycarbonate, hard-coated polyester, and PVC as well as directly onto products.
Additionally, flatbed presses have a greater range of colors, so they can print a wider array of colors, and they usually include white ink printing capability. Even screen printing can’t compete with digital UV printing when it comes to color and durability.
The main points of differentiation
Durability & Adhesion
Digital ink has come a long way in recent years, and there are now different series of digital inks that adhere to different substrates. Screen printing ink has traditionally adhered to a more diverse range of surfaces (direct to glass, aluminum, etc.). Ink adhesion coatings are often ordered by printers to ensure the digital ink sticks. So the digital ink may be more expensive than screen printing ink.
Furthermore, screen printing ink is more durable and weather-resistant than digital ink, especially when compared to ink from standard roll presses. It is often not possible to add a clear digital top coat to parts, so a screen-printed UV-resistant clear coat can be applied.
Set-Up Time & Fees
A screen print requires creating and setting up each screen before printing, tearing down the screen after printing, as well as films (stencils) and other tooling. A digital job does not include one-time fees or high set-up costs associated with screen printing.
Considering the set-up costs as a percentage of a large quantity, screen printing becomes more affordable. Screen printing has a much higher output per hour than digital printing, so high quantities will be much cheaper, even when set-up costs are taken into account. When run digitally, low quantity jobs will be much cheaper, as set-up fees are low or nonexistent.
Complexity of print
The number of colors used determines the price of screen-printed parts, whereas the price of digital parts remains the same regardless of how many colors are used. Screenprinting almost always produces crisp, clear lines (without pixelation), but digital printing usually produces more complex prints.
Even photographs can be printed using digital presses because they are capable of printing gradients and fine details. Screen-printed parts have a lower resolution, but half-tones can still be used to simulate gradients (reduced dots of ink and blank space simulate fades). With digital presses, mass customization and variable data, such as sequential numbering and varying backgrounds, colors, or text, are also possible.
Payoff with color
When color is critical, digital printing is usually not the best option. Because digital presses use the CMYK four-color process, their color ranges are inherently limited. Spot colors are used in screen printing ink, just like Pantone Matching System (PMS). Screen printing can handle brighter colors than digital presses, especially reds, oranges, greys, and greens.
When low-quality equipment is not used, banding, which is a subtle transition between digital print heads, becomes visible in digital prints. Screen printing is usually the only way to achieve metallic and fluorescent colors, but digital printing has made significant progress in recent years in making these colors more accessible. A thicker layer of ink is