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? 

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.

“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.” — Xerox Corporation: What is digital printing?

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. If you need it in a hurry, digital is your 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.

Less Variation in Color

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.

“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.” — — What is screen print?

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 has been used for adhesive vehicle graphics in large format before digital print was an option in large format.

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 100 prints may be more cost-effective than digital. Got a lot of printing to do? You might do better with 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 set or finite colors. For example, if you have a specific shade of blue in mind for your logo and it it doesn’t exactly match a Pantone color, your print provider will be unable to create the color with digital print. However, screen can be mixed to an exact match.

Metallic Prints

Even though metallic particles, or flakes, can be integrated into digital printing for metallic prints, screen printing offers greater customization. Screen printing allows a larger range of flakes and flake 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 options such as our HP Turbo and HP Scitex 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 metalics 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 solution for you and you business. You should have a choice and that choice should be based on your needs. It shouldn’t be based on the providers abilities, but on the customers needs. At TKO Graphix we’re not one size fits all, we give you a choice.

If we can answer any questions or be of any help please, Contact Us.

Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash