What is the best printing technique for clothing?
Screen print, digital print or flex print
The three most used and best known printing techniques are screen printing, digital printing and flex printing. But what is the best choice? This question can be once and for all resolved after reading this article.
Let’s start with a brief explanation of the three printing techniques. Don’t worry, we won’t explain you all the details and technical issues for each printing technique. Extensive information about each printing technique can be found in the specific articles of the printing technique.
Screen printing is one of the best known printing techniques. A lot of developments already have been made to increase the quality of screen printing. With screen printing, one color at a time is applied. There is a screen for each separate color, so there are 5 screens for a design with 5 colors. Therefore, the coverage is very good. Screen printing works with pantone colors, which is not the case with digital printing. It’s possible to have high volumes in little time, that’s why we advise screen printing for high volumes (from 25 pieces).
The quality of your screen print depends on the screen printer, the machine, and the materials that are being used. There are different kinds of ink, we use premium inks that are GOTS certified. Also, there has to be an underlayer for a perfect coverage and a durable result.
Digital printing is a recent technique, the first steps were made in the year 1991. An image is sent directly to the printer using digital files. The advantage is that there is no need for a printing plate, for example a screen with screen printing. Digital printing is perfect to print bright photographs on your textile, or for designs with multiple colors. If you choose for digital printing, the textile has to be made from 80% cotton. Digital printing on synthetical, softshell or other textile is thereby not possible.
In general, digital printing is good for colorful designs and photo’s. Surely for samples or for low quantities, we advise you to choose digital printing.
The textile has to be 80% cotton. Make sure that you choose a partner that has expertise in digital printing. The result depends on the pre treatment of the file, the machine and the drying process.
T-shirts with a very thick layer are mostly flex printed. You may think: “the thicker, the better, because it does not wash off”, but that’s a wrong statement. We really don’t advise to use flex printing because of the low quality. With flex printing, the design is cut from a colored foil and then pressed onto the T-shirt under high heat. The possible colors are limited, and the result is bad because the printing or the T-shirt can be skewed. There is also a great chance that the printing comes loose after a few weeks. Also, the price is very expensive.
Benefits? It’s good on thick jackets in the industry market. The technique has the best result on big printing surfaces. Detailed designs are not possible with flex printing.
Don’t choose for flex printing. Out of experience, we know it’s not the best choice because the print can be deformed after washing the T-shirt.
Information overload? Let’s summarize the three printing techniques in the following scheme.
- What? Ink through a prepared screen to create your design
- Colors: pantone
- From 25 pieces
- Set-up cost for the screen
- Special decoration techniques: glow in the dark, gold shimmer. Discover more about special decoration techniques on this webpage
- Price per print: low
- Best choice: high quantity, limited colors
- What? Transferring a design to a printing substrate
- Digital colors are matched with the ink
- From 5 pieces
- Set-up cost: none
- Special decoration techniques: none
- Price per print: high
- Best choice: low quantity, multiple colors
- What? The design is cut from a colored foil and then pressed onto the T-shirt under high heat.
- Colors: restricted, depends on the colors of the foil.
- From 25 pieces
- Set-up cost
- Special decoration techniques:
- Price per print: very high
- Best choice: actually not a good choice for anything
So, what do I choose?
Actually, we can’t say you have to choose for screen printing or digital printing. We surely advise you not to choose for flex printing. Really, don’t do it. Every technique is good, the choice depends on what you are looking for. Digital printing is advised if you want to print photographs, or if your design has more than 12 colors. For higher quantities, and for a maximum of 12 colors, you can go for screen printing.
The most important of all, look for a partner that can advise you from the beginning until the end. The expertise of your partner and the materials being used are the most important of all.
Do you need personal advice for your needs? Contact our expertised team, they are happy to help you.