What is Screen Printing?

Screen Printing is the oldest, but still one of the most popular printing methods out there. What happens in screen printing is that a layer of ink is pulled over a set screen, resulting in the production of the design. For every design, there has to be a different dedicated screen.

The working mechanism of screen printing is simple. Firstly, you have to place a stencil of the desired image on the substrate. The placement is followed by pouring ink on the stencil, and then a cotton bar is used to spread the ink over the stencil. The ink penetrates through the pores of the stencil and settles on the fabric. Once dry, the process is complete. Screen printing is often called as silk screening, serigraphy, or serigraph printing.

Pros

  • Due to volume discounts, it gets cheaper with the increase in the number of items you order.
  • Design can be placed anywhere on the fabric.

Cons

  • It's not possible to get complicated designs out of this process. Therefore, screen printing only produces simple designs.
  • If multiple colors are to be printed, it gets uneconomical.
  • The upfront investment is pretty large.
  • Products of only one design can be made per batch, contributing to the unfeasibility.

What is Direct To Garment or DTG?

Ever used a printer to print out something? Well, DTG is pretty much the same. The only difference is that it makes use of fabric in place of paper. As mentioned, it works just like a printer, meaning that the support for detailed and intricate designs is present. The printer prints one garment at a time, and you can print as many colors as you wish or need.

The working mechanism is not any different from a regular printer; instead, it is pretty much the same. The DTG printer uses an inkjet print head. It moves horizontally and applies the desired image directly onto the fabric's surface. The fabric is mounted on a platen whose job is to push the garment through the printer directly below the print head slowly. The inks used are special; they dry quickly and are designed specifically for the fabric that is printed upon.

Pros

  • You get to enjoy a variety of color options.
  • Detailed designs are supported. Designs obtained can be very intricate.
  • This mechanism is suitable for small batches because of its very economic nature that doesn't fall heavy on your wallet.
  • The upfront investment is very minimal and can be considered insignificant.
  • Designs are very easily customizable.

Cons

  • When batches are enormous, it becomes uneconomical and unfeasible.
  • No volume discounts are offered.
  • The placement of the design is minimal, which is a big drawback.

What is Sublimation?

Sublimation is an exceptional printing technique. Here, the image or design is printed onto a particular type of sheet of paper. That image is then transferred onto the fabric. Printing done by following this method ensures that the print won't "peel off" even when the t-shirt wears out, which every customer wants.

Firstly, the desired image is printed onto a special heat transfer paper, followed by a heat press machine transferring the digitally printed image on the sublimation blanks. The machine converts the image directly into a solid-state from gas. This is the reason behind the nomenclature.

Pros

  • Printing is done all over the fabric/garment.
  • There are a variety of color options available.
  • Detailed designs are obtainable without creating a mess of any sort.
  • This process is economical for small batches, thus feasible.

Cons

  • Sublimation printing can't be carried out on all kinds of garments.
  • There are no volume discounts available.
  • If orders are large, it gets uneconomical.

Read more about sublimation printing here.


Difference between Screen Printing, DTG, and Sublimation

Coloration

When you go for screen printing, then you can produce only one color at a time. If the design to be printed has multiple colors, then the colors are inevitably layered one on top of the other, which makes color handling very tough. However, it doesn't happen with DTG and sublimation printing.

Ease

Screen printing is a lot messier than its competitors. In case there's a misalignment of the stencil, then the result is very messy. Often colors go on top of each other, thus mixing up and producing an unwanted result. Whereas, this is not the case with DTG and Sublimation printing. They're a lot easier and don't create such a mess.

Using excess ink

If excess ink is used in the screen print, the ink runs and forms splotches and stains. Sometimes, the tools used in the process aren't properly cleaned after every use. Due to this, the ink leaks from the previous print and shows up on undesired substrates. Excess ink can be troublesome in DTG printing as well. On the other hand, the ink used in sublimation dry up instantly because of the heat press used at the end.


How to Choose Between Screenprinting, DTG, and Sublimation

It's not really tough to figure out which method suits your purpose best. However, two deciding factors govern the choice of the printing process:

  • Design: The most crucial factor that determines the best printing method for you is the design to be printed. Before you begin printing, the design should be clear in your head. If the design is multi-colored, too-detailed, or has photography images, then DTG is the best choice for you. If it's monochrome or just letters, screen printing should work just fine. If you want to have your design stretch seam-to-seam, you should go for sublimation.
  • Quantity: This is yet another critical factor. If you're making one-off and drop-ship assignments and you can't put a count on the number of sales, DTG works best. If you're ordering many at once and you're sure to sell a single-designed product in double digits, screen printing should be fine. If the order is small, sublimation printing works as well.

It is necessary to understand the different areas where different printing techniques work. Your choice should not only be suitable but economical and smart as well. Analyze your needs and choose wisely.