Screen printing vs Embroidery

Sometimes clients have very strong opinions about the type of decoration they’d like to use to embellish a garment. Such information will be useful when choosing apparel, particularly because fabric itself affects the success of the final imprint. The two most common decorative techniques or screen printing and embroidery.

Screen Printing

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing or silk screening is a printing technique particularly suited for flat or relatively flat surfaces. The heart of the process involves a fine mesh or screen that is tightly stretched around a rigid frame. The areas that are not to be printed are masked out on the screen. To create the print, the framed screen is positioned over the item to be printed along with a dollop of thick ink. A squeegee is then used to press the ink through the screen. The masked areas prevent ink from passing through, but the unmasked areas allow the ink to be imprinted on the material. The final step is to send the item on a conveyor belt through a heat-tunnel. This curing process ensures that the inks dry quickly so that they materials can be stacked or packaged. Properly cured inks will remain on the printed substrate even under harsh conditions.

Why Screen Printing?

Determining if screen printing is the best application, you must start with the type of fabric and what’s the garment’s intended use. Some advantages of screen printing over embroidery are that you can create high end designs with shading and gradients and if you print a lot of the same item it is fairly inexpensive. Screen printing is the best solution if you are trying to recreate a very detailed logo. You can also incorporate many different effects in your logo including distressed effects, which are popular in band t-shirts by using screen printing. These effects would not be possible with embroidery. Screen printing pricing is usually determined by the number of colors being used and the number of items being printed with the same custom design. Some of the most common products used are t-shirts, team uniforms  tote bags. The list really could go on forever and examples of screen printing are seen everywhere. Screen printing pricing is usually determined by the number of colors being used and the number of items being printed with the same custom design. Our minimum order for screen printing is 12 pieces.

What is Embroidery?

Embroidery is a process where thread is stitched into your custom product. Some of the more popular items that embroidery is used for are: golf shirts, jackets, hats and corporate wear. With embroidery you can create a more professional look which will last longer than the inks used in screen printing. Some logos may have to be altered a little if embroidery is the preferred method though, because it is very difficult to recreate shading using threads. It is also difficult sometimes to get very small text to sew out well using embroidery due to the limitations of needle and threads. All logos must first be digitized before it can be applied or sewn on the garments.

What does it mean to “Digitize” a logo for embroidery?

Embroidery digitizing is the process by which a digitizer interprets a piece of printed art into a file that drives embroidery machines. They must decide the type of stitches, stitch direction, density and stitching sequence of each element in a design, all the time accounting for the way thread and the particular fabric of the garment interact, as well as the natural distortion of the garment that happens during the embroidery process. There is a common misconception that an embroidery file is created when a digital file is automatically converted to embroidery by a piece of art software. The truth is that most embroidery and the best embroidery is achieved by a skilled craftsperson who determines the direction, length and order of every stitch in a design. The digitizers always try to make the best embroidery possible from a given image and that means understanding embroidery’s limitations and working within them to achieve the best quality stitching. Every digitizer has their own perception and their best idea on how a design will be best digitized and then sewn.

Why Embroidery?

Most fabrics are conducive to the embroidery digitizing process with the correct amount and type of backing. There are some fabrics that are more embroidery-friendly because they are dense and stable, such as nylon, which does not need much backing. However, the denser and more stable the material, the better the results. For example, twill is very dense and stable.  Apparel that includes performance features can be a bit trickier. That material is fairly easy to stretch, so if you stretch it too tight and make your thread tensions too tight, you can cause a lot of puckering with the material. Too much density and too much stitching can cause some distortion.Embroidery is a little more expensive than screen printing, but like screen printing, the price decreases with the more pieces you do. Embroidery pricing is usually determined by the number of stitches in the customer’s logo and the number of pieces being embroidered.Adapted from Wearables Magazine March 2013