When it comes to t-shirt printing, one of the most commonly asked questions is, “What are the true differences between digital vs. screen printing?” For those who are new to this industry, it might seem like a lot to digest. We are going to take the time now to break down the differences between both methods so that you can better understand how to successfully establish your printing business.

Process & benefits
Screen printing is a method of printing that gives you your artwork laid down layer-by-layer with a solid base underneath. Each separated colour is exposed to individual screens. Subsequently, colours are applied one by one to the shirt, which is then dried and cured to complete your final product. This method is capable of printing large amounts of garments much quicker and more economically than digital printing. Screen printing can bring to life designs that have minimal detail or amount of colours within the artwork. While usable colours for this method are limited, the layers of ink can be applied in a slightly thicker manner with an enhanced appearance. So, if you are looking to print a large volume of company, branded or team shirts, screen printing may be the best method for you.
Digital printing (DTG) is a different approach to printing t-shirts. Artwork is printed directly onto the garment after the article has been pretreated. The pretreatment and printed shirts will require heat curing. This adds time to the process, although there are alternative solutions that are helpful. This method of printing can give intricate works of art the attention and detail they need to come out looking clean and refined with no colour limit. Artwork preparation is easier to prepare, and set-up times are non-existent, allowing you to print one-off customer designs. For its efficiency and user-friendly set-up, this method is ideal for a smaller batch of garment orders.

The amount you should expect to pay will rely on a few things, including the number of garments that you need printed, how many colours are required, and the design itself. How affordable each printing method is will depend on what you’re printing, and it’s important to take all factors into consideration when deciding between DTG vs. screen printing.
Quantity – How many do you need? It is always better to go slightly over than under when you are placing an order for a print job. You would much rather have a few extra just in case than have to go back and print a few more items. You could end up wasting crucial time and money. So be sure you have an accurate estimate of how many items you will need printed. Keep in mind that large orders can often be made cheaper than smaller ones. This is particularly the case with screen printing. If you do have a large order, screen printing will likely be the most cost-effective printing choice, as DTG printing isn’t great for large batches.
Colours required – How many colours do you need? While this might seem like an extremely specific detail, it makes a huge difference in price and the equipment you will want to utilize when starting your print job. Using fewer colours can be more cost efficient as you won’t be using as much time to setup and print your job, not to mention the amount of ink to create your print. Screen printing will not be your most cost-effective option if you are printing with multiple colours. If you can stick to a select few, screen printing could be your go-to option. This, however, is still dictated every bit as much by the volume of shirts to be printed as by the number of colours. Using specialty separation software, or simply knowing how to separate and set-up process or simulated-process colours, can help reduce the number of inks needed, and still render high-quality, full-colour images. If you are set on recreating complex details, digital printing will be the ideal printing method to make sure you get the sharp image you want, but only if the number of shirts required is low.
Design – The size of your design will also add to your cost, as larger images take longer to print and require additional ink needed for the entire print job. This is true of either method.
You will also have to consider the upfront investment and what is feasible for you and your business. DTG printing has a minimal upfront investment while screen printing will require a large upfront investment.