Purple flower digitally printed wallpaper

Digital Printing vs Screen Printing – Advantages & Disadvantages

Clients looking for printing advice very often ask us about the differences between digital printing and screen printing, so we’ve compiled this useful guide and discussion of the two print methods to help you make the decision on the best way forward for your specific print job.

About screen printing.

Screen printing is a traditional print technique that’s been used for many years. In the screen printing process, a type of stencil design is created on fine mesh or polyester fabric, with several layers of ink pushed through this stencil layout onto the surface of the print material. All the different ink colours are applied using a different screen stencil to create the final printed effect. Areas of the print material which need to be left clear are covered with an impermeable substance to prevent ink contamination.

About digital printing.

Digital printing is a more modern technique, which involves creating a digital print image on computers and this is then printed directly onto the print material. Ink in digital printing is applied directly to the print material using either a laser jet or inkjet printer. Although screen printing offers a higher quality print output, digital printing is becoming extremely popular as it entails far less pre-press artwork which makes it far more cost effective.

Screen printing versus digital printing.

Very often our clients tend to let us make the decision on which print technique will be best for their needs after we’ve had a chance to take a look at their design and the specified print materials. For example, we can generally use screen printing or digital printing for most flags and banners we produce, but where clients require high levels of vibrancy and contrast we will usually recommend screen printing.

It’s difficult, though, to state categorically which technique is better as the answer is really not that obvious. Clients with a requirement for a good deal of signage or display requirements often opt for a mix of screen print and digital print solutions, dependent on the clarity and colour contrast needed in the final print products. Some of the pros and cons of each print technique are discussed in more detail below.

Benefits of digital printing.

We often recommend digital printing for customers looking for one-off prints and small quantity print runs and it is suitable for a variety of print materials. Advantages include:

  • low cost set up and speed of turn around
  • easy to print in a range of different colours
  • photographic images can be transferred accurately
  • best for one-off or short print runs
  • can be customised in a variety of different ways
  • designs sit flat on the print material and do not bulge out from the surface

Cons of digital printing.

  • the range of printable fabrics is more limited than with screen printing
  • the print is not so durable
  • the colour white cannot usually be reproduced within the print
  • prices are fixed, so printing in bulk does not provide scaled cost reductions

As can be seen, digital printing is really ideal for small print orders where it’s important to be able to include a number of different colours and customisation effects or photographic imagery. Where clients need to print on lighter coloured materials, though, digital printing may not be suitable if the printer cannot utilise white ink. The other main drawback of digital printing is that it’s just not as durable as screen printing, but it’s an absolutely ideal solution for unique events and one-off display purposes. And, finally, you won’t achieve economies of scale in print costs if you opt for digital printing as prices remain the same, irrespective of the number of prints required.

Benefits of screen printing

When it comes to screen printing, one of the major benefits is that it’s a really effective solution for bulk printing as its extremely cost-efficient. Other benefits include:

  • higher quality output than digital prints
  • more durable for prints that are needed over the long-term
  • can be used on a variety of different print materials, including glass, wood, textiles, signs, banners, electronics, and much more
  • it’s easy to print on specified areas of the print material

Disadvantages of using screen printing

One of the main disadvantages of screen printing is that it has a much higher initial setup cost than digital printing and takes more time. Other cons of screen printing include:

  • more limited colour ranges available
  • the amount of ink used can make the design look as if it is raised from the print material
  • it cannot be customised in the manner of digital printing

We always advise clients to opt for screen printing if they need a higher quality, more professional appearance for prints. However, we ensure our clients are aware of the extra amount of time needed to prepare the screens and the cost implications of screen printing. Screen printing is most suitable for bulk orders that don’t require much customisation or wide use of different colours. Contemporary developments in digital printing also mean that it’s more widely used for a number of different print materials nowadays, including glass and wood.

Get in touch with Borney UK today to discuss your print requirements in more detail, we’ll happily discuss further benefits of different print techniques to suit your requirements more exactly.