Difference Between Screen Printing and Digital Printing

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Screen Printing and Digital Printing

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Print Locker offers both screen printing and digital printing as options for producing personalized t-shirts and product designs. Each printing method has its advantages, but how can you tell which will best suit your requirements, stay within your budget, and produce the desired results?

Let’s discuss the differences between Screen printing and Digital printing.

Screen Printing vs Digital Printing

A large inkjet printer for products is how digital printing operates. A computer prints your design immediately into your item after you have uploaded it. While screen printing requires the development of a bespoke stencil (screen). To accomplish the artwork intricacy, each color requires a screen and the application of thicker and more layers of ink.

Difference Between Screen Printing and Digital Printing in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Screen Printing Digital Printing
Durability The thick ink utilized makes it more durable. Little less durable, but with careful maintenance, it will last for years.
Quality Typically regarded as the best printing technique available. Due to the less bright hues, the quality is a little lower.
Complexity Works best with a simpler design and one, two, or three ink colors.  Can produce complicated graphics, like images or memes, with ease.
Consistency Slightly less reliable since setup requires human intervention. Because a computer controls the printing process, very competent.
Cost efficiency It’s very cost-effective for large orders. It’s very cost-effective for small orders.
Multi-color print Commercial screen printing equipment is capable of using several colors, but they don't do so as swiftly or readily as DTG. Quickly and effectively produces multi-color prints.
Color blending A screen can only layer one color at a time, therefore this is pretty inadequate. Excellent. A DTG printer can produce intricate pictures by blending primary colors into any shade or gradient.

What is Screen Printing?

Now, a mesh is used to transfer ink (or dye), except for areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil, in the printing method known as screen printing, also called silkscreen printing, serigraphy, and serigraph printing. The open mesh holes are filled with ink using a blade or squeegee motion, and a subsequent reverse stroke causes the screen to briefly touch the substrate along a line of contact.

As the screen springs back after the blade has passed, the ink wets the substrate and is drawn out of the mesh apertures as a result. Multiple screens can be utilized to create a multi-colored image or pattern since one color is printed at a time.

Now, silk was traditionally utilized in the procedure. Currently, screen printing is often done with synthetic threads. Polyester is the most popularly used type of mesh nowadays. The screen printer has access to nylon and stainless steel special-use mesh materials. However, the outcome and appearance of the finished design on the material will even depend on the kind of mesh size used.

The method is employed not just for printing on clothing but also for printing on decals, clock and watch faces, balloons, and a variety of other products. Thin ceramic layers used as the substrate can be used to lay down conductors and resistors in multi-layer circuits.

Now, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), screen printing made its first notable appearance in China. Later, it was modified by other Asian nations like Japan and further developed utilizing contemporary techniques.

Screen printing was mostly brought from Asia to Western Europe in the late 18th century, but it didn't take off or become widely used in Europe until silk mesh became more widely available for commerce from the east and a lucrative market for the medium was found.

The actinic light-activated cross-linking or hardening properties of potassium, sodium, or ammonium chromate and dichromate chemicals were used with glues and gelatin compounds by several printers early in the 1910s.

Now, chromic acid salt sensitized emulsions for photo-reactive stencils were the subject of research and experimentation by Roy Beck, Charles Peter, and Edward Owens. By providing photo-imaged stencils to the industry, this trio of developers would ultimately transform commercial screen-printing, albeit it would take many years for this technique to gain widespread recognition. Sensitizers that are far safer and less poisonous than bichromates are currently used in commercial screen printing. For making photo-reactive stencils, a wide variety of pre-sensitized and "user mixed" sensitized emulsion chemicals are currently available.

To distinguish between the artistic use of screen printing and the industrial use of the technique, a group of artists, including WPA painters Max Arthur Cohn, Anthony Velonis, and Hyman Warsager, eventually founded the National Serigraph Society. The word "serigraphy" is a combination made up of the Latin words "sricum" (silk) and "graphein" (to write or draw).

Screenprinting is likely the most adaptable of all printing techniques, according to the Printers' National Environmental Assistance Center. Simple screenprinting tools have been used frequently in underground settings and subcultures because they are so inexpensive and accessible, and the unprofessional appearance of these DIY culture screenprints has become a significant cultural aesthetic that can be seen on movie posters, record album covers, flyers, shirts, commercial fonts in advertising, in artwork, and elsewhere.

A piece of mesh stretched across a frame is used to create a screen. For a design that requires a greater and more delicate level of detail, a finer and smaller aperture for the mesh would be used. The mesh might be constructed of a synthetic polymer, such as nylon. The mesh needs to be installed on a frame and put under strain to function properly.

Depending on the complexity of the machine or the artisan process, the frame that supports the mesh may be constructed from a variety of materials, including wood or aluminum. A tensiometer can be used to examine the mesh's tension; the unit of measurement for mesh tension is Newton per centimeter (N/cm).

In the negative picture of the pattern to be printed, portions of the screen are blocked off to create a stencil; the ink will appear on the substrate in the open areas of the stencil.

The frame and screen must go through the pre-press procedure, in which an emulsion is "scooped" across the mesh before printing can take place. After the emulsion has dried, it is exposed to ultraviolet light only when necessary, passing through a film that has been printed with the necessary pattern. The emulsion becomes harder where it is exposed, but remains soft where it is not. After being removed with a water spray, they are then cleaned from the mesh, leaving a spot that is the same form as the intended picture and is open to the flow of ink. It is a fruitful procedure.

What is Digital Printing?

Now, a digital image can be printed directly onto a variety of mediums using the digital printing technique.  Professional printing typically refers to the use of large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers to print small-run works from desktop publishing and other digital sources.

Compared to more conventional offset printing techniques, digital printing has a greater cost per page, but this cost is typically mitigated by removing the cost of all the technical stages necessary to create printing plates. Additionally, it enables quick turnaround times, on-demand printing, and even the alteration of the image (variable data) utilized for each impression. Digital printing is getting to the stage where it can compete with or even surpass offset printing technology's capacity to generate larger print runs of several thousand sheets at a reasonable cost because of labor savings and the ever-improving capabilities of digital presses.

The biggest distinction between analog printing techniques like lithography, flexography, gravure, and letterpress, which were all developed before digital printing was invented in the 1980s, is the requirement for frequent plate replacements. This causes digital printing to turn around more quickly and cost less but often results in a loss of detail in the majority of commercial digital printing processes. The most widely used techniques involve inkjet and laser printers, which apply pigment or toner to materials like paper, canvas, glass, metal, and marble, respectively.

In many of the methods, the ink or toner produces a thin layer on the surface instead of penetrating the substrate as does conventional ink. This layer may then be further bonded to the substrate by a fuser fluid with thermal (toner) or UV curing (ink).

Lasers are used to expose digital photos onto real, light-sensitive photographic paper, which is then developed and fixed. These prints are authentic pictures with consistent tonality in the fine details. The print's archival quality meets or exceeds the manufacturer's recommendation for any particular type of photo paper. The biggest benefit of large format prints is that there is no vignetting or detail distortion in the corners of the image because no lens is utilized.

With major improvements in quality and sheet sizes, digital printing technology has expanded dramatically during the past few years.

When printing with a digital cylinder, ink is applied directly to a curved surface, often the wall of an item with a circular cross-section and a fixed, tapered, or variable diameter. Digital cylinder printing is a technique for reproducing text and images in black and white or full color onto cylindrical objects, usually promotional products.

Because technology involves fewer production processes and less setup time for works with many colors and greater complexity, digital printing is by definition faster than traditional screen printing. Reduced run lengths are then made possible by this. Multiple design strategies, such as the following, are made possible by the capability of digital cylinder printing machines to print full color in one pass, including primers, varnishes, and specialized inks.

Now, inserting a cylinder-shaped object, or part, into a fixture that firmly holds it in place is required for the digital cylindrical printing process. CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) inks are then released in a predetermined pattern through a print head mechanism as the component passes underneath it to create an image. According to the complexity and quality of the artwork, one part is typically printed at a time and can take anywhere between 8 and 45 seconds to finish. After that, a UV coating is applied to create a glossy surface and provide abrasion resistance.

Digital cylinder printing devices can image in three different ways: helical printing, single pass, and multi-pass.


Similar to a flatbed printer, multi-pass printing involves moving the print heads or printed objects axially in steps down the component. Inefficient motion times can result in stitching artifacts between moves.

Single Pass

In a single pass, the entire image length is printed utilizing a variety of print heads during a single rotation of the printed object. Typically, different colors are printed at various stations, which raises the cost, complexity, and sensitivity to print nozzle drop-outs.

Helical Printing

It is a hybrid technique that combines the advantages of single-pass and multi-pass printing. With a small number of print heads, continuous imaging in a helical pattern is possible thanks to image data mapping. Users can choose faster speed if speed isn't as important as quality if they want to optimize print resolution, speed, and curing parameters. With the variety of controls available, it is possible to manage curved vessels and image taper at high speed.

Moreover, cups, tumblers, thermos bottles, bottles, makeup containers, machine components, carrier tubes, pens, tubes, and other items can all be produced utilizing digital cylindrical processes.

Main Differences Between Screen Printing and Digital Printing In Points

Now, let’s understand the major differences between screen printing and digital printing in brief:

  • A time-tested print method that has been in use for many years is screen printing. In the screen printing procedure, an inked stencil is made on polyester fabric or fine mesh and multiple layers of ink are pushed through it onto the surface of the print material.
  • Using computers to create a digital print image that is then printed directly onto the print material, digital printing is a relatively recent process. Using a laser or inkjet printer, ink is directly delivered to the print medium in digital printing.
  • Digital printing has a low setup cost and quick turnaround.
  • Screen printing produces prints of superior quality than digital printing.


Henceforth, we can say that we got to know the major differences between screen printing and digital printing.


  • Digital printing. (n.d.). Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_printing
  • Screen printing. (n.d.). Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screen_printing
  • Screen Printing vs Digital Printing: What’s the Difference? (n.d.). Retrieved from Silver Bobbin: https://silverbobbin.com/screen-printing-vs-digital-printing/

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"Difference Between Screen Printing and Digital Printing." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-screen-printing-and-digital-printing-622>.

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