Screen Printing Vs Digital Printing – A Review

Last Updated on 22/04/2022

Screen Printing Vs Digital Printing – A Review

Chintan. R. Madhu
Lecturer, R.C. Technical Institute, Sola,
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.


There are so many innovations in textile printing methods since block printing to rotary screen printing machine, and dry heat transfer printing. The global market of textile printing is smaller and more dependent on fashion. Market of textile printing involves rotary screen printing (about 58%), followed by flat-bed printing (about 28%)1, and remaining by transfer, hand screen printing but there is not any statistics for digital printing. So we need to understand why digital printing? And which is better? It is necessary to competing conventional textile screen printing technologies, which are based upon analogue technology.

Screen Printing:
Screen printing is an old age process and involves creating a screen and uses it as a stencil to apply layers of ink on the printing surface. Different screen is needed for each color that is used in the design, one at a time, combined to achieve the final look. Screen printing is the best option for designs that require a high level of vibrancy, when printing on dark ground, or specially product. Screen printing is usually used to larger orders. The dye color in screen printing is applied thicker than digital printing which results in brighter color even on darker shade. It is easier and more cost efficient to use screen printing to mass produce than it is digital printing. On the view of fashion, season is changing on regular basis; fashion is the important factor for market domination. As a result of this, retailers are trying to go for minimum stocks and give repeat order; printing companies have had to develop competitive strategies for survival.

screen printing
Figure 1: Screen printing

Engraved roller printing suffers from a fabric-width limitation, because above a width of 1200 mm the rollers bend under their own weight. Flat-bed printing generally operates at lower speeds which affect the production, and the screen size can be up to nine meters width for some specialist fabric end-uses2. The major problem with all of the screen printing methods is that these machines relay upon the production of a design on a screen, or roller. Conventional screen printing of shorts runs is uneconomic because of high downtime, high wastage of fabric and print paste, high engraving costs and high labor costs3.

Digital Printing:
Digital printing is an invention that involves artwork being process by a computer, and then printed directly on to the surface of fabric. Digital printing is not a heat transfer, as the ink is directly adhered to the fabric. 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. Digital printing does not use screen allows for a photographic print, with much more details than traditional screen printing. This provides significant saving in both time and money. Digital printing is often used for design with a lot of detail, color and high resolution. As the ink is apply thinner, Digital printing is best used on lighter colored ground, to allow the design to shine through4. The fact the design is processed and printed digitally allows for a quantity one, since there are no screens or physical set up. Table-I5 shows Comparison between conventional screen printing and digital printing.

digital printing
Figure 2: Digital printing

Table I: Comparison between Conventional Screen Printing and Digital Printing5

Screen PrintingDigital Printing
ToolsThe process involves making a stencil using a drawn/digitized image or a photograph, attaching to a screen, placing it over the desired canvas and spreading the ink over the image.All need is a computer and a printer with ink cartridges of every colors.
EffortsTakes a lot of time consuming effort, because the screens need to be made and the process takes long.As it is so easy to operate and gives results at the touch of a key. It is relatively quicker.
QualityOffers better quality imaging as the ink gets deeply absorbed and lasts longer. Screen printing also gives clearer edges to the image printing, because of the precision that carefully created stencils offer.The ink does not spread because the image is directly printed on the fabric, but tends to fade quicker that the screen printed images. However, person has a colorful image to imprint, then this is an option, all the colors are present in the single image and person does not need separate screen for the same.
CostCosts escalate with the numbers of screens. If person want a more complex image with many colors, then individual slides for every color are created. It also required trained labor which adds to the cost. It is most apt if person want a large quantity.The computer and printers are one time investments and digital printing is cheaper compared to screen printing as the charge is offer for per imprinted image.

As the garment decoration marketplace has matured so has the demand for one stop shopping. In today’s competitive market it is important to maximize potential with every customer. Not too long ago, the vast majority of garment decorators were specialists, for example, embroiderers or screen printers6. Chances are, as a screen printer or embroiderer that already creating and/or manipulating artwork on daily basis. Due to this small footprint and relative low cost of equipment digital printing is the fastest growing segment of the apparel decoration industry.

For a long time, printers have utilized display printing as their preferred technique for printing design onto fabric. The only other option utilized to be iron-on styles or transfers, which was a quite diverse type of item. Display printing was a significantly far more effective process, permitting printers to do numerous more rapidly whilst making a larger high quality. Screen printing had extended become the standard in the printing market. The normal right up until digital printing begins to evolve.

Printing with screens is even now widely utilized by printing firms and is nonetheless as high quality method, but the digital printing has quickly become the chief alternative for small runs7. The set up for digital is a lot less difficult and cost effective. In the screen procedure a single has to set up a display for each color the design normally require, which means that the more complex the design is the more screens the printer is going to need. This increases the manual labor which is going to increase cost. When screen printer prices, they always charge more for more colors. With digital there are limitless shades and no screens, just one flat price per garment. Instead of setting up all the screens beforehand, the only set up digital requires is a pre-treatment of the garment, which gives the garment a sound base and prevents the digitally printed ink from smearing.

Digital printing delivers significantly a lot more control throughout the printing method than screen printing. Digital printing gives a printer the option of auto-matching ink. Instead of mixing inks, the screen printing way, ink matching makes it possible for digital printer to print any shade from the authentic design right onto the garment8. The digital ink process makes it easier to print multi-colored designs digitally on garment.

For a large order of garment screen printing is still going to be the main option most printers choose. The only downside of digital printing is the producer needs multiple printers in order to speed up the printing process. Screen printing can print much more garments at a time, making them ideal for significant orders. This is the main reason why digital printing has not completely taken over the market. Someday most garment printers might only do digital printing if printers grow to be large enough and are ready to deal with large orders. Until then screen printing and digital printing will continue to work together. It will be up to the printer to decide what procedure is far more effective for each individual buy9.

However, digital printing is making stride. A decade ago digital printers were rare; now most garment companies have a digital printer and use it for all single garment orders. The ability to design unique graphics on computers is one of the skills most in demand today in the labor market. However, computer generated drawings are still printed on garments with the process of the screen until the advent of digital printing. The digital printing is the new era of printing garment to printer to the drawings from computer directly prints on garments allowed. Digital printing is the 21 Century alternative to screen printing.


  1. International Dyer, 2003, 188(9),
  2. I Holme, Digital ink jet printing of textiles, Colourage, April 2006, 103.
  3. I Holme, Ink jet printing advances: Digital Textile 2001, African Textiles, 2001, No.3, 28.
  4. P.S.Chori and others, Ink jet printing of textiles, Textile Asia, 2003, 34(10), 1.
  6. Weiser et alia, Ink jet printing moves forward, Textile Asia, 2002, 33(7), 19.
  7. Bosma, Lecture presented at the 3rd European Coating Congress 2005 (Kortrijk, Belgium) 28-29 September 2005.
  8. John Scrimshaw, International Dyer, July 2006, 13.

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1 thought on “Screen Printing Vs Digital Printing – A Review”

  1. Digital printing has become increasingly popular in recent years, but screen printing is still the preferred method for many applications. Screen printing is a versatile printing technique that can be used on a variety of materials, including paper, fabric, metal, and glass. It also has a number of advantages over digital printing, including a higher print quality, greater durability, and lower costs. Thanks


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