Digital Printing Vs Screen Printing: Which One Is Better?

With drop-shipping and POD companies increasing in recent years, many people may have the idea of printing their apparel. But, once you have a design in mind, how best do you translate the concept to printing? Which apparel printing method is best for your plans? 

There are quite a few printing options available, but the two most popular T-shirt printing methods are direct-to-garment (DTG), also known as digital printing, and screen printing. Choosing the suitable printing method for your online business is the first step towards saving costs, satisfied customers, and scaling your business competently as it expands. It’s vital to thoroughly research your printing options and ask critical questions like:

  • Does the method work well with your design?
  • Is it cost-effective?
  • How eco-friendly is it?

This article discusses the differences between DTG and screen printing, which designs they best work with, and the sustainability of each technique. 

Related: How To Start A Swimwear Line

What Screen Printing Is And How It Works

Screen printing refers to a printing method where ink is pressed through a woven screen (a mesh stencil) onto fabric. The ink lays on top of the product rather than soaking into the material. A special screen has to be constructed for each element of your design. After the screen is designed, the elements and colors of the design are pressed layer by layer onto the material. The more layers in your design, the more time it takes to print and the thicker the design feels on the product. 

Since it takes more time to set up, screen printing is generally used to print items in bulk; it’s not very cost-effective to print only one or two t-shirts since it takes hours to create the stencils for your design. 

Designs That Work Best With Screen Printing

t-shirt design


Screen printing is ideal for solid graphics with minimal details like geometric designs, typography, symbols, geometric designs, and shapes. Making stencils for intricate designs takes time, and it’s challenging to nail the exact details during the printing process. In addition, every color is separately applied. Therefore, screen printing is generally used for designs with few colors. Print providers usually limit the number of colors in a design with screen printing. 

How Eco-Friendly Is Screen Printing?

As a store owner and fellow resident of this planet, you should know how your business impacts the environment. That’s why it’s critical to account for the sustainability of each printing method. For example, screen printing is usually for bulk orders, and the items are sent out as soon as the orders come in. This heightens the risk of overproduction, which is harmful to the environment. If screen-printed products don’t get sold, they may end up in landfills, polluting the planet. Screen printing also uses a lot of water and employs plastisol inks that are non-biodegradable.

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Should I Use Screen Printing?

Screen printing can be cost-effective for simple graphics with just a few colors, but it needs considerable upfront investment. Most third-party print services have order minimums ranging from 5 to 100 items. Your screen printing bulk order cost depends on how many colors you use and the screens needed to print it, making it a higher-cost method. Ordering in bulk also requires a significant amount of planning; you need storage space and a slower design rollout. Certain printing services may ask you to turn in print files separated by color layer. In addition, they may ask about the color codes for inks to print your design. All this adds up to more time, money, and effort going into the product.

Looking for premium apparel manufacturers? Work with POND Threads today!

What Direct-To-Garment Printing Is And How It Works

Direct-to-garment (DTG), or digital printing, is a printing method that sprays the ink directly on the garment. The ink soaks into the garment fibers, like printing on paper- but on clothing. DTG’s most significant benefit is how easy it is to print one-offs with almost no setup time. Suppose your online store is connected with a third-party DTG print provider like POND Threads. In that case, once your customer puts an order in for a T-shirt, POND Threads automatically prints your design on the shirt and directly sends it to your customer under your label. Of course, you still have the option of bulk orders if that’s what your business needs. 

Designs That Work Best With DTG

DTG printers provide many color options to print photorealistic images and detailed designs with almost zero color limitations. This is vital for businesses looking to try out different designs and colors. One thing to remember- Elements with less than 100% opaqueness don’t print well with DTG, as printers try to compensate for missing color by spreading the ink, resulting in gaps on the fabric. We recommend using semi-transparency by halftoning or solid colors. Outside of these restrictions, there is an almost unlimited number of color patterns and detailed designs to work with. 

How Eco-Friendly Is DTG Printing?

Compared to screen printing, DTG is a more sustainable fashion business model since printing one-offs lets businesses avoid overproduction and textiles going to the landfill. When working with a POD company like POND Threads, products are only printed after somebody orders them. With the massive amount of textile waste in the fashion industry, DTG is the model of the future. Plus, DTG printer manufacturers like POND Threads utilize advanced technology for optimal sustainability. 

Should I Use DTG Printing?

Direct-to-garment printing is an efficient way to produce apparel for your customers as the orders come in. Most third-party printers don’t have order minimums for DTG products, so don’t worry about storage! DTG printing allows businesses to use printing services on-demand. The entire design is printed in one go with DTG, and since there isn’t a color count, there is zero extra setup time, so your order is fulfilled the second the print file comes through. This printing model offers you the freedom to enter new markets and introduce new designs with little risk; if the product doesn’t sell, switch to a new design. 

So Which One Is Better?

graphic t-shirt


DTG and screen printing both yield terrific print quality, but they differ in cost and method. DTG employs a printer to spray ink into the material, while screen printing layers the ink over the fabric. DTG allows for on-demand order fulfillment with no upfront investments, while screen-printing requires more upfront costs and is best ordered in bulk. 

Related: Pattern Making: Everything You Need To Know

Taking Your Brand To The Next Level With POND Threads

POND Threads is a customer-integrated purchase-activated apparel manufacturer. We manufacture premium athleisure wear as fast as customer demand and take care of every aspect of the process from inception to shipping. Work with POND Threads to take your brand to the next level! 

Looking for premium apparel manufacturers? Work with POND Threads today!