Digital Printing vs. Screen Printing: Which is Best for Your Project

Digital Printing vs. Screen Printing: Which is Best for Your Project?

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In the fast-paced world of printing, two major contenders have emerged, each with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Images and designs can be transferred onto various surfaces using digital printing or screen printing. A project’s outcome can be significantly affected by choosing one of these two techniques. 

Let’s explore the printing world together now that you understand the difference between screen and digital printing.

Screen Printing Basics

Before we delve into the specifics of digital printing, it’s essential to understand the basics of Screen Printing. The technique involves transferring ink through a stencil on a substrate, also called silkscreen or serigraphy. Here’s a simplified breakdown of the screen printing process:

  • Stencil Creation: A stencil, typically made of a fine mesh screen, is created with the design to be printed. Each color in the design requires a separate stencil.
  • Ink Application: A squeegee is used to squeeze ink through the stencil onto the substrate after it has been applied to the screen. Each color in the design is applied in the same way.
  • Drying: The printed substrate is dried to set the ink and make it permanent.

Digital Printing Basics

On the other side of the printing spectrum, we have digital printing, a more modern and versatile method. Digital printing doesn’t rely on stencils or screens; instead, it uses digital files to directly apply ink or toner to the substrate. Here’s a simplified breakdown of the digital printing process:

  • Digital File Preparation: The design is created or prepared digitally, and no physical stencils are needed.
  • Printing: The printer uses the digital file to apply ink or toner directly to the substrate. Professional-grade equipment and large-scale inkjet printers are used in this process, which is comparable to using an inkjet or laser printer at home.
  • Drying: Drying may or may not be necessary, depending on the ink or toner used. Some inks dry instantly, while others require a curing process.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore the main points of differentiation between digital printing and screen printing.

Main Points of Differentiation

Set-Up Time & Fees

One of the most significant differences between digital printing and screen printing lies in the set-up time and associated costs.

  • Digital Printing: Setting up for a digital print job is remarkably quick and cost-effective. Since there are no physical stencils involved, you can start printing as soon as the digital file is ready. Small or rush orders are perfect for digital printing because of this.
  • Screen Printing: Instead of creating stencils for each color, screen printing utilizes stencils. This process can be time-consuming and may incur additional fees, especially if there are multiple colors involved. Consequently, screen printing is more suitable for larger print runs where the initial set-up costs can be distributed across a greater quantity of prints.


The quantity of prints needed is a critical factor when deciding between these two printing methods.

  • Digital Printing: Digital printing is highly flexible when it comes to quantity. Whether you need one or one thousand prints, digital printing can accommodate your order without significantly affecting costs or production time.
  • Screen Printing: Producing large quantities of prints is the most economical method of screen printing. As mentioned earlier, the initial set-up costs can be substantial, so it’s more economical for bulk orders. If you only need a small number of prints, the high set-up fees may make screen printing less desirable.

Color Payoff

The vibrancy and richness of colors in your prints can influence your choice between digital and screen printing.

  • Digital Printing: Digital printers can produce a wide range of colors with great precision. They can handle intricate color gradients and subtle shading, making them an excellent choice for projects that demand high color fidelity.
  • Screen Printing: Screen printing can also achieve vibrant colors, but it may have limitations when it comes to intricate color gradients. As each color requires a separate stencil and passes through the screen, the number of colors in a design can affect the final result. Screen printing can be highly effective for simpler designs with a limited color palette.

Print Complexity

The complexity of your design plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate printing method.

  • Digital Printing: Digital printing excels at handling complex designs with fine details, small text, and intricate patterns. It can faithfully reproduce photographs and artwork with high clarity.
  • Screen Printing: In addition to simple shapes and bold colors, screen printing is more suitable for large, bold designs. While it can achieve fine details, it may require additional setup and adjustments to do so, which can increase costs and production time.

Adhesion & Durability

Consider the intended use of your printed materials and how well the prints need to withstand wear and tear.

  • Digital Printing: Although digital printing performs well on paper, fabric, plastic, and other surfaces, it is known for its excellent adhesion. It is important to note that the durability of such printers is dependent on the type of ink or toner used. Some digital prints may require lamination or additional protection for extended use outdoors or in harsh conditions.
  • Screen Printing: Screen printing offers exceptional durability, particularly when printing on fabrics, apparel, or items that will be subjected to repeated washing or exposure to the elements. With screen printing, the ink is thicker, resulting in a more durable product. This durability is one reason why screen printing remains the preferred choice for custom clothing and promotional products.

Where Can I Get the Digital Printer?

You can obtain a digital printer from TCS Digital Solutions, a reputable provider specializing in digital label printers. Their digital printing solutions are diverse enough to meet the needs of any business. We are known for the high quality of our products, our reliable customer support, and our low prices at TCS Digital Solutions. Whether you require a digital printer for commercial or personal use, TCS Digital Solutions can assist you in finding the ideal solution. Furthermore, their team can help you determine the best option for you based on your requirements by providing guidance and expertise. Trust TCS Digital Solutions for your digital printing needs.


Ultimately, the decision between screen printing and digital printing will rely on the particular needs of your project. Consider factors such as the quantity needed, the complexity of your design, color accuracy, and the intended use of the printed materials. Both methods have their strengths, and the decision ultimately boils down to what aligns best with your project’s goals and budget.

Whether you’re looking to create vibrant marketing materials, custom apparel, or personalized gifts, understanding the differences between these two printing techniques will empower you to make an informed choice. Digital printing and screen printing each have their place in the world of printing, offering unique advantages that cater to a wide range of creative endeavors.

Drew is the Chief Marketing Officer and E-commerce Director at TCS Digital Solutions, with over 20 years of experience in the printing industry. His extensive background in marketing within this sector has deepened his passion and knowledge. He offers valuable tips and reviews on the latest printing products and innovations, dedicated to helping businesses and individuals find the most efficient and high-quality solutions for their printing needs. For a closer look into his insights and experiences, you can connect with Drew on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

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