In the world of custom t-shirt design there are two main types of printing that are used today: Screen and Digital. With designers using both screen and digital printing you might be wondering what the difference between the two are.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is a recent invention in printing. Digital printing works a lot like how a printer for your computer would work. Instead of having that printer print on a piece of paper, it prints directly onto a t-shirt. There are specialized printers that are made just to print on t-shirts.

Digital printing is an easier process than screen printing. A customer can get a multiple color design without having to have a screen made for each color. This provides for a significant saving in both time and money. Digital printing is often used for designs with a lot of detail, color and high resolution. Digital printers can easily print off a picture onto a shirt without having to go through the process of creating different screens for each different color.

Recently, many designers try to use digital printing for their collections , because there is no limitation of colours and motif repeat size.

[Alexander Macqueen 2010]

Balancing ruffled silk-organza layers with a nipped-in corseted waist, Alexander McQueen’s multicolored digital snake-print dress makes a directional party silhouette.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is an age old process when it comes to designing t-shirts. Screen printing uses screens as stencils in order to directly imprint ink onto the fabric of the shirt. The original design is printed onto a screen and a different screen is needed for each color that is used in the design. Once imprinted, the fabric of the t-shirt absorbs the ink, fusing the design and the shirt into one entity.

Screen printing is usually used for larger orders. Most custom design companies will use screen printing if you order multiple shirts of the same design. It is easier and more cost efficient to use screen printing to mass produce than it is digital printing.

What is the limitation for screen print?

* flame size : the repeat size is limited according to the flame size .

* number of colours : both hand printing and machine printing are limited with 11 to 18 colours. This also depends on whether the factory has a skilled worker or not.

What Process is Better?

There really isn’t an answer to what process is better, it depends more on what type of order you need. If you are buying a single shirt it is probably more efficient to use the digital printing process. If you are buying in bulk, the screen printing process makes more sense.

Custom t-shirt design companies have incorporated digital printing to allow you to order single shirts, where as in the past you had to order in bulk only. The cut off for digital printing varies with most companies. We found that prints shirts digitally if the order is under six, and uses screen printing for most orders of six or more. When we contacted them to learn more about this process we learned that people are sending in photos, sonograms, and all kinds of crazy things and having them digitally printed onto t-shirts. We did find some companies like Cafepress and Zazzle that seem to do all of their orders as digital. It seems from checking their pricing that they find it harder to offer competitive pricing on large runs than companies that offer both screenprinting and digital printing.