ShadowGraph Industrial

Screen Printing vs. Digital Printing

I am often asked about the differences between screen printing and digital printing. So, I thought I would use this opportunity to discuss the advantages of each process and how to determine which to use.

Screen printing is a stencil process that has been used for hundreds of years whereas digital printing as we know it has only been around since the 1990’s. Created centuries apart each method has unique advantages and your decision should be based on which criteria are most important for your unique situation.

Screen printing is well suited to larger quantities and images that require solid or critical color images.  The inks can be matched to any color including fluorescent and metallic colors that cannot be produced digitally and offer excellent adhesion to a wide range of substrates.

A separate piece of film and a screen, or “stencil” must be created for each color then mounted in the press and registered to the previously printed color. Once the initial set up processes have been completed the number of prints per hour is much higher than digital which reduces cost on larger runs.  Although labor intensive, the process lays down a thick film of ink that is durable, vibrant and weather resistant.

Digital printing excels at lower quantities, large format and complex multi-color designs.  It produces superior gradients and halftones for detailed images and photographs.  The press uses a digital file and “cmyk” four color process to produce all colors so, unlike screen printing, the number of colors has no effect on cost and lead times are reduced as no films or screens are required. Our UV digital press also has the ability to print white which allows for beautiful prints on clear substrates.

That being said, there are some colors especially reds, oranges, greens and greys that cannot be achieved using four-color printing (4cp) imaging.

Shadowgraph offers both solvent and U.V. based inks for screen and digital printing.  This allows us great flexibility to print on a wide range of materials and recommend the most effective print process based on your product requirements, goals and budget.