With the advent of computers came many new luxuries – new ways of calling people, new ways researching information, new ways of buying goods. Many people don’t in fact realize to what extent they use computer-based services on a daily basis. But is every new computer-related service an improvement, or are there certain areas where the old way of operating is better.
That’s the question at the heart of the “screen printing vs. digital printing” debate, whether printed clothing is better quality when an ink jet printer or a screen printer does it. This has important implications for companies that use custom t shirt printing services for bulk orders, as they have to keep close tabs on both the aesthetic quality and durability of their investment. This article will attempt to get to the bottom of the debate by first defining the two methods, and then weighing out their relative benefits and shortcomings
First, let’s define digital printing. Digital textile printing is achieved with what’s called an ink jet printer – a printer that renders a digital image through propulsive droplets of ink. A t-shirt, or other type of garment, is passed through the ink jet and the digital image given to the printer is imposed upon it. Pretty simple. Screen printing, by contrast is an older art form (modern textile screen printing isn’t actually that old, dating back to the 1960s) and uses fine mesh stretched over a frame, over which an ink squeegee is passed with the stencil of the image. If that sounds complicated, don’t sweat it – perhaps this video will clear things up.
So, which is better. Well, for that, you need to look at two criteria: aesthetics and durability. Digital printing uses a finer ink, as so it creates a print that looks and feels slighter, a quality that many people tend not to enjoy in a shirt, because it looks and feels cheap and doesn’t last through as many wash cycles. Screen printing, on the other hand, uses a thicker ink, with greater clarity and vibrancy, one that adheres well to clothing and stays there through many wash cycles.
Digital printing, while simpler, produces a product that seems digitally produced – sort of like the difference, in the early days of digital cameras, between a pixelated photo and a warm, crisp photo taken on film. Digital printing, to its credit, is less labour intensive, but it can’t provide the same economy of scale, since digital printing requires a user always present and takes much longer.
To summarize, if you’re printing one or two shirts, intended to be used only a few times, then digital printing is a viable option, but for bulk order where quality is a key consideration, you will want to choose screen printing. While computers have advanced modern life in many ways, there are certain products that still benefit from a prior way of doing things. As with most things related to clothing, have a personal touch involved creates a better product.