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Home » Sticker Blog » Screenprinting or digital print – What is the difference? Which is more durable?

Screenprinting or digital print – What is the difference? Which is more durable?

10/01/2024

Screenprinting and digital printing are two commonly used print methods, for printing on paper, Correx, Foamex, Dibond, card, polypropylene, vinyl and more.

Durability refers to how well the print will resist fading, cracking, peeling, or wearing off over time.

Understanding how each printing method works and what factors affect their durability, will help you to choose the best method for your printing needs.

What is Screenprinting and how does it work?

Screenprinting works by using a mesh screen, that has been made with a stencil of the design on it and pushing ink through the holes in the screen onto the material below. Every colour requires a different screen.

Here are the basic steps of screenprinting:

  • First, a stencil of your design is created on a transparent film (each colour used in your design will need a different stencil). This is printed with black ink. The black parts of the stencil will be used to block the ink from passing through the screen, while the clear parts will let the ink through.
  • Next, a mesh screen will be coated with a photosensitive emulsion, which is a liquid that hardens when exposed to light. A wooden or metal frame, can be used to hold the screen tight and flat.
  • The stencil is then placed on top of the coated screen, and it is exposed to a strong light source, such as a UV lamp. The light will harden the emulsion where the stencil is clear, but not where the stencil is black. This will create a negative image of the design on the screen.
  • Once exposed, the screen will then need washing (with water) to remove the unhardened emulsion. This will leave holes in the screen where the ink will pass through.
  • Finally, the screen is placed on top of the material you want to print on, and use a squeegee the ink is pressed through the screen. Different colours of ink and different screens are used for each layer of your design. A heat press or a dryer can be used to cure the ink and make it last longer.

What is digital printing?

Digital printing is a fast, cheap and versatile method of printing images & designs  directly on to the chosen material, without using any plates or stencils.

Different materials, such as paper, Correx, Foamex, Vinyl, PVC, Polypropylene, card or Di-bond, can be printed on using inkjet or laser printers.

Factors that affect the durability of Screen and Digital print.

There are several factors that affect how durable the print will be, this includes ink type, ink thicknesses, ink curing, material type, material coating, environment and how frequently it is used.

What are the pros and cons of using Screenprinting and digital print methods?

Screenprinting:

Pros:

  • Prints on a wide range of materials.
  • Produces vibrant long-lasting colours that resist fading.
  • Colour matching
  • Thick ink layers
  • Sharp edges and large solid colour blocks
  • Cost-effective for large volume print runs

Cons:

  • Limited number of colours so not suitable for complex designs or photographic images
  • High set up costs (producing screens and stencils), make it not cost effective for short print runs.

Digital printing:

Pros:

  • Quick and easy to set up.
  • Cost effective for short print runs.
  • Fast turnaround times
  • High quality prints
  • Can print variable data on each print e.g. barcodes.

Cons:

  • Cannot match pantone colours (uses CMYK)
  • Thinner ink layers

 In conclusion, screenprinting and digital printing are both capable of producing durable prints, but they have different strengths and weaknesses. Screenprinting is generally more durable than digital printing, as it uses thicker layers of ink that bond to the material. This results in more vibrant and long-lasting prints. However, screenprinting is also more time-consuming, costly, and limited in terms of design complexity and number of colours in each design.

Digital printing is faster, cheaper, and more versatile than screenprinting. It uses computer-controlled printers that apply ink directly to the material, allowing for more detailed and varied designs. However, digital printing is also less durable than screenprinting, as it uses thinner layers of ink that may not match the exact colour or texture of the material, resulting in less contrast and longevity.

The choice of printing method depends on your budget, quality expectations, and durability preferences. For further information speak to our team on 01347 823 230.

 

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