So, digital or screen print? There are advantages and disadvantages to both printing systems. However, many print shops have eliminated screen print, and many newer shops have never used screen print. Even though screen printing seems old-school, there is a time and a place for both processes, and you should have a choice. So, should you use digital or screen print? 

Digital or Screen Print, What Should You Use?

What Is Digital Print?

Digital print consists of any printed output that comes directly from a digital file, thus consolidating and automating the printing process. While there are various printing processes available, large-format ink jet is currently the most common digital print output medium.

The Xerox Corporation answers the question, what is digital printing? Digital printing is the process of printing digital-based images directly onto a variety of media substrates. There is no need for a printing plate, unlike with offset printing. Digital files such as PDFs or desktop publishing files can be sent directly to the digital printing press to print on paper, photo paper, canvas, fabric, synthetics, cardstock and other substrates.

What Are The Advantages of Digital Print?

Faster Turnaround

Our biggest customer in digital is a company called, “RUSH JOB.” (I’m not sure what they do, but they use a lot of large-format printing.) With digital print, set up time is minimal so if you need it in a hurry, digital is your best choice.

Shorter Production Runs

With traditional screen printing, the setup time and overall screen prep are not cost effective for short runs. If you only need a few prints, go digital.

Unlimited Image Combinations

Use your imagination. Don’t limit your thinking to 1 or 2-color spot processes. If you want to think out-of-the-box, think digital.

Color Calibration 

If the digital printer is calibrated properly, every print is the same, and will be the same when you need more of the same print job. Read more about Digital Print Color Calibration.

What Is Screen Print?

Screen print consists of a woven mesh, or screen, that runs through a pre-press process of coating a screen, and then transposing an image to the screen. Once the image is set in the screen, the screen is loaded onto the press, and ink is flooded over the image. Next, it is transferred onto the substrate with a squeegee. Finally, the print is sent through a heat-tunnel to cure, or set.

What Are The Advantages of Screen print?

Solid Colors Without Pixelation

Digital prints are pixelated, using dots-per-inch, or “dpi.” Modern printers run from 350dpi to 1200dpi, which makes visible pixelation vary. When printing spot colors, screen print is a solid lay-down of color. If you need something that will be looked at closely, and should have no pixelation, go with screen print.

According to, “Screen printing, also known as serigraphy, is a method of creating an image on paper, fabric or some other object by pressing ink through a screen with areas blocked off by a stencil. The technique is used both for making fine art prints and for commercial applications, such as printing a company’s logo on coffee mugs or t-shirts.”

The quote above illustrates a common misconception about screen print. Screen print isn’t limited to small productions such as t-shirts and mugs. It’s been used for large format printing before digital printing was even an option!

Lower Cost on Large Production Runs

Setup is a large part of the screen print cost. The cost of a few prints may be too expensive, but dividing the cost by 500 prints may be more cost-effective than digital. Got a lot of printing to do? It may be less expensive to use screen print.

Color Matching

Do you need to match a specific color? Screen printing offers a larger color gamut, which can nail colors dead-on. In screen print colors are mixed similar to how paint is mixed at your local hardware or paint store. Unlike digital, there is no limit to colors. For example, if you have a specific shade of blue in mind for your logo and it doesn’t exactly match a Pantone color, your print provider will unlikely be able to create the color with digital print. However, colors in screen printing can be mixed to an exact match.

Metallic Prints

Even though metallic particles, or flakes, can be integrated into digital printing, screen printing offers greater customization. Screen printing allows a larger range of flakes styles and sizes to satisfy the customer’s needs. If you are looking for the upscale, higher-end look of metallics, go with screen print.

In this video, Jason Scheurer, TKO Graphix National Account Manager and R & D Specialist, discusses the benefits of large format screen print. TKO grew up with screen print — it’s where we started. Today we have a variety of digital printers. However, we continue to maintain our screen department and here’s why. — 2-minute Video: The advantages of screen print in large format graphics.

So, Digital or Screen Print?

So, should you use digital or screen print for your adhesive vinyl vehicle graphics? Well, it depends. It depends on the application, use, material, urgency, color, image, and size of the run. Do you need multiple colors and images? If so, you need digital. Or do you need an exact color match, zero pixelation, and you want to add metallics to the print? If that’s the case then screen is what you need.

The best answer may be that you should have the choice. You shouldn’t be forced to use digital if screen is the best solution for your printing project. You should have a choice and that choice should be based on your needs. It shouldn’t be based on the providers abilities, but what’s best for the customer. At TKO Graphix, we’re not one size fits all, we give you a choice because choosing digital or screen print should be up to you. 

If we can answer any questions about digital or screen print, Contact TKO Graphix at 888-544-8051 or Contact Us online.


TKO Graphix is a national fleet and vehicle graphics company helping customers since 1985. We provide full-service graphics solutions such as design, digital printing, screen printing, installation and removal of fleet graphics, vehicle graphics, and commercial graphics. And yes we give you the choice of digital or screen print.