Screen Printing vs Digital Printing

When we print your design on any type of apparel, we're going to use one of two forms of apparel printing: Screen Printing or Digital Printing. Each process has its own characteristics when it comes to feel, durability, appearance and consistency. Let's take a quick look at the two printing processes, the benefits of each, and the factors that you'll want to consider when choosing one over the other.

Digital Printing

When it entered the garment printing scene in the 90s, digital printing changed everything. Consumer adoption skyrocketed with digital printing's ability to put an unlimited number of colors on a garment. What's more, because garments are printed on one at a time, single t-shirt orders became an option--no more minimums. Digital printing can reproduce your logo or design more precisely than screen printing, and you're not obligated to meet a threshold per order.

Digital Printing Characteristics:

  • No minimums: Perfect for orders ranging from 1-36 pieces.
  • Durability: Not quite as durable as screen printing since the water-based ink used for digital printing will fade over time.
  • Feel: Because the digital printing process applies colors in a single pass, the design area will feel light and flexible.
  • Color/Appearance: Digital printing can accommodate unlimited colors, but not all colors may appear vibrant.
  • Consistency: This process can result in a slight variation in color from print to print.

Screen Printing

Unlike digital printing, screen printing has been around for a long time--we're talking as far back as 960 AD. Minimum orders are required, and the screen printing process can leave a heavy feel over the design as the ink used in the process is heavier than ink used in digital printing. However, when it comes to durability and vibrant colors, screen printing is a popular choice.

Screen Printing Characteristics:

  • Minimum order required: Screen printing orders require a 36-piece minimum.
  • Durability: Wash after wash, screen printed items will retain color and details.
  • Feel: If the print is a large solid shape, the design can feel heavier than a similar design that's digitally printed. This is due to the heavier inks used in screen printing. The tradeoff? Screen printing is generally more durable and consistent.
  • Color/Appearance: Even with a five-color maximum for screen printing, colors are vibrant and true.
  • Consistency: Screen printing results in little to no variation from order to order.

Which printing method should I choose?

Deciding Between Screen Printing and Digital Printing

Here's the quickest way to determine how your next apparel order will be printed:
  • If you need fewer than 36 items, digital printing is the only way to go. We have a 36-piece minimum for screen printing, and digital printing allows us to deliver your order without quantity requirements.
  • If you need more than 36 items, digital printing and screen printing are options. To determine which one to choose, ask yourself these questions:

Do I need more than 5 colors in my design?

If you do, you may need to use digital printing even if you're ordering more than 36 items.

Can my design include a photograph that would be difficult to reproduce with the screen-printing process?

Yes, your design may include a photograph, and it will be printed digitally. Think of it this way: With digital printing, you have access to every color in the rainbow and millions more. With screen printing, your palette consists of all the colors that can be made from five unique colors, or screens.

Please let us know if you would like help when deciding which printing method to use for your printed apparel.

Additional Questions Related to Screen Printing and Digital Printing

What are the minimum purchase requirements for screen printing vs digital printing?

If your print order is for fewer than 36 pieces per version of your logo or your design includes more than 5 colors, your logo will be printed using digital printing. Not all garment styles are available for digital print. If your print order is for more than 36 pieces per version of your logo or your logo includes no more than 5 colors, your logo will be screen printed onto your garment. A "version" refers to size, format, ink colors, and logo locations.

What are the specifications for artwork uploaded for printing?

We can accept the following file types under 5MB: .AI, .PSD, .EPS, .JPG, .JPEG, .PNG, .PDF, .GIF, .BMP, and .SVG. Files larger than 5MB can be emailed to

Can you print a photo on t-shirts?

Yes. However, the artwork submitted must be print quality, or 300dpi (dots per inch).

If I have more than five colors in my design, which process should I choose?

To reproduce a design with more than five colors, digital printing is the way to go.

Can you print on dark colored shirts?

Yes. We are able to print on all color fabrics.

Do you print white ink? How are white areas of my design printed?

For different fabric colors, the white elements of your logo will print differently:

  • For Printing on Light Fabric: If you are printing on white shirts, we will use the fabric as the white elements in your logo design. For other light fabrics, white will be used as an ink color unless otherwise requested in your logo instructions to our Art Team.
  • For Printing on Dark Fabric: All dark fabrics will have a white ink base included, with the additional 5 ink colors allowed printed on top of that base layer. This ensures that the colors will be vivid and saturated on dark items.

Why can't I order the same items for print that I can for embroidery?

While embroidery can be done on a large variety of materials, digital printing is a specialized process that requires a primarily cotton fabric that can bond directly to the ink. Screen print is a little more flexible than digital print, but fabric texture and ornamentation such as buttons, seams, or zippers sometimes limit screen print apparel options. You will find our complete line of items available for digital printing and screen printing under our Printed Apparel section.

Print Decoration Methods

Screen Print vs Digital Print

Screen Print vs Digital Print

What Locations Are Available For Printing?

We offer a standard set of logo locations for Print. Please keep in mind that for both Screen Print and Digital Print we can only do one location per side (front and back). The first logo location is free. If you add a second logo location to your embroidery order it will be an additional $5.00 per item. See the diagrams below for more information.

What Ink Colors Are Available For Screen Print?

Light Blue
Deep Sky Blue
Royal Blue
Navy Blue
Lime Green
Kelly Green
Dark Teal
Forest Green
Olive Green
Pastoral Green
Baby Pink
Hot Pink
Light Purple
Red SP
Burnt Orange
Dark Tan
Bright Gold
Lemon SP
Old Gold