We get this question a lot and it’s a totally valid question. Since digital direct-to-garment has been rising in popularity over the last several years, you’re starting to see it more and more along with the screen print option and it is useful to know the differences between the two.
Screen printing is what many would consider the traditional way of customizing t-shirts. Ink is applied to a shirt, through a screen and then heat cured. With an automatic screen press you can print hundreds per hour making it a very efficient process for larger quantities. There is quite a bit of what we call “set up” involved in the process before you can actually print the t-shirts, that is why you will see a better price for a larger quantity.
Screen prints are very durable and often outlive the life of the garment if properly cared for. You get very solid, and vibrant colors from screen print, so it’s really great for designs that contain solid areas of color.
Digital direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a somewhat new process. Similar to how an inkjet printer prints on paper, the DTG printer applies a mix of CMYK inks specially formulated for cotton apparel onto the t-shirt making it possible to print in full color. There are many different types of DTG printers out there and as many different levels of quality and speed, but for the most part, you are still printing one t-shirt at a time, so it’s slower compared to traditional screen printing. Because of this, and some additional factors like the higher cost of the inks, you will see that digitally printed t-shirts are typically more expensive compared to screen printed t-shirts. However without the initial setup required, you can get fewer at a time.
Digital prints may be considered slightly less durable compared to a screen print in terms of the vibrancy of the print, and its tendency to fade with multiple washings. However, we have found that with proper care, you won’t get serious degradation of the print by any means.
Screen printing and Digital DTG printing are very different. More often than not, what you need at the time will dictate which process is better. If you need a lot of t-shirts with a 1-color print, you will almost always go with a screen print. If you only need a few t-shirts, or if you need a photographic or very colorful image printed, DTG would be the way to go. If you’re still unsure, you can always email or call and ask us which is the best way to go and we’re more than happy to help!