3 Reasons Why Screen Printing is Still Useful in the Digital Age
Screen printing is a time-tested technique where ink is forced through a stencil onto an object. While initially, this was a pain-staking process and difficult process, techniques and equipment have evolved over time allowing for faster, more efficient results with similar quality. While commonly used for items such as T-shirts and other fabrics, screen printing can also work on unusual surfaces like curved bottles when done by a skillful craftsperson.
Digital printing is a newer technique that can print images onto surfaces directly from computer files. Because it is quicker and more precise than screen printing, it is a cost-efficient alternative, especially for smaller orders as there no stencils that have to be created or anything of that sort. However, just because digital printing is fast, that doesn’t mean screen printing is obsolete. There are three major reasons why you may want to consider traditional screen printing for your design.
1. Screen Printing is better for dark colors
While digital printing works great for printing light colors, screen printing reigns supreme with darker colors. The type of ink required for screen printing is thicker than the ink used by digital printers and stands out more on darker colors. Thinner inks can be difficult to make out on dark colors, meaning that you may lose some of the essential detail of your design. This is especially important when printing light colors on dark colors.
Unlike screen printing, digital printing machines bond the ink and the fabric together, meaning that the color becomes part of the source material itself instead of pressed on top of it. While this can be an advantage in some scenarios such as printing photographs, this can present a problem when used for fabrics. This is notable because when a thin, light color is printed on top of a darker fabric, the two are essentially competing for the same area. Because dark colors cover up lighter colors, more light-colored ink is required in order for the lighter color to show up and even then the light color isn’t very vibrant.
Screen printing presses the lighter color ink on top of the darker one so that it doesn’t have to compete nearly as much. And since screen printed inks are naturally thicker, both colors show up well. So if you have a design that makes use of a light-colored design on top of a dark background, it will show up better in screen printing.
2. Screen Printing is cheaper for larger orders
There’s a lot of pieces that go into screen printing design. Because of this, it takes time to set up everything. A stencil has to be created for the design, then each individual color of ink is used in the appropriate portion of the item one at a time. This means that if you wanted to use the design for a single shirt for a special event such as a golden anniversary or specific birthday, you have to pay for the cost of the stencil, the ink changing process, and the printing all for one item.
Because of this, digital printing is a more practical choice for small orders or even a single item. Digital printers are basically large versions of the printer you have at your home or office but with ink and hardware designed for a specific material. They can also be more precise since the entire process is computerized. The design can be loaded and printed, often with little delay and without waiting for the stencil to be built for screen printing. It would be expensive to screen print one item; but it would still look great!
Screen printing really shines when doing large orders. You might wonder “Isn’t the process still complicated and expensive?” and the short answer is no. Yes, you still have the initial cost of setting up the stencils and all the other pieces needed for your design. And you still have to do the inks one at a time. However, if you ordered 100 shirts instead of one, you can reuse the design for each of them and run all 100 shirts using each color in a row before moving on to the next one. Because you can do this, you can actually save money by having bulk orders done by traditional screen printing.
3. Screen Printing works on unique or specialized products
Remember how digital printers are essentially larger versions of a home printer? What if you want something besides a T-shirt or use metal instead of fabric? If you want a custom mug with your family portrait on it, you aren’t going to be able to stick it through the slot of a digital printer.
This is perhaps the strongest advantage to screen printers in that they can print on materials that are impossible to do digitally; unless you print the entire item on a 3-D printer that is. Screen printing works on far more items than simply T-shirts; you are able to use the technology of screen printing on key tags, watches, and even curved surfaces like mugs or hats. Screen printing does the same high-quality jobs on metal and ceramic that it does on garments, and an experienced screen printer knows how to manually adjust the screen to get that perfect look you want for your specialized item.
Remember that “older” doesn’t mean “worse”!
While the advent of digital printing has given customers more options and can be a smart choice for customizing in certain scenarios, screen printing is by no means out-of-date. The vibrant colors, especially light colors on a dark surface, display an unmatched quality. And this higher quality can even cost less money on large enough orders, meaning you can have this top-quality at an affordable price. Also, with current technology, digital equipment is unable to print on unusual surfaces and some kinds of materials. But just because screen printing might be your only option, that doesn’t mean it won’t make for a brilliant final product!