Now that the new Digital direct garment printing has come of age people wonder if all garment should be printed with it?
There are some major differences between the two reproduction processes and each one has its merits and faults. Let me see if I can explain them to you in simple terms.
Silk screen printing.
This process has been around for thousands of years. it is one of the oldest forms of reproduction invented in Asia as far back as 4000 years ago. Not much has changed with the process, Instead of using a silk screen we now use polyester to keep the cost down, Originally the stencil was hand painted onto each screen, nowadays we use computers to generate the film positives and a liquid light sensitive emulation much like film to image the stencil onto each screen.
_____SILK SCREEN PRINT PROCESS_______
Because we use a squeegee with lots of pressure applied the plasitol ( Plastic) ink gets maximum penetration into the garment weave or fiber. When cured solid with heat the ink is guaranteed to outlast any woven fiber.
2.) Color control.
With silk screen printing each ink is mixed to the pantone standard and a color match can be guaranteed. with the exception of tertiary color builds. ( these are colors created on the garment when two or more colors mix together during printing.
3.) Specialty inks.
With the screen print process we can print custom inks like puff that swells up, Glitters, metal flakes & crystalline, Glow in the dark & neon or black light inks, color changing photo chromatic inks, clears and jells, Just to name a few.
4.) Mass production.
Silk screen printing is designed for mass production, It's all about quantity. Screen printing can produce dozens of shirts in the time it takes a digital bubble jet printer to print one shirt. These means major savings when ordering custom garments in quantity.
1.) Set ups.
For each color of ink printed, there needs to be a film and a silk screen stencil created, these in-turn get put an a press and the images are registered to fit each other. Ink is mixed and put in each screen. Most screen printers charge a set up fee to cover the cost associated with the lengthy process. While this may seem like a lot of money for say 12 shirts, when it is applied to a run of hundreds of shirts it equates to only a few cents per shirt. This is typically the reason most printers have a minimum order of say 12-24 pieces.
Urban Legend Con's :-P
Some people claim the plastisol ink prints a rubber plastic patch like Blob on shirts, Killing the breathability of the garment.... While this is typically possible and most likely to happen with inexperienced screen printers, there are a number of ways to insure this does not take place, from the way the art is designed to ink thinners and High mesh count screens that do not allow thick concentrations of ink.
_____DIGITAL DIRECT 2 GARMENT_______
1.) No set up's!
This means two things, No cost associated with films, screens and press set up, this now makes it affordable to print a limited amount including just one shirt or garment. Also the time involved in set ups means direct digital custom shirts can be produced very quickly. Many people even reefer to the process as Print On Demand for just this reason.
2.) Full digital color.
Printing four color process with screen printing is Very expensive and most shops only offer it on white shirts with a huge minimum order in the hundreds. This is due to the set up time quadrupling. Digital printers will print a photograph or computer graphic in Full color ( millions of tints and tones.)
1.) Not quantity driven.
Because it takes the same amount of time to produce a single shirt and the process is much slower then screen printing there is not the vast savings as quantity's go up.
2.) No color matching.
Printing four color process, ie Cyan, yellow, magenta and Black, can have mixed results for color matching, an exact Pantone match is impossible, many files will print completely different then what is seen on various digital monitors, and colors may be different each time a job is run.
3.) No specialty inks.
Four color process does not generate neon colors like those designed with RGB, the printers do not print custom inks like glitters, neon's, color changing, metallic or glow in the dark.
So, to summarize it seems that the new Digital direct fills a specific need for full color low quantity runs that are affordable. Screen printing three full color garments would be too cost prohibitive. While it seems to fill a need for the so called print on demand, it's not very profitable to do it this way. Just like all the web sites that offer this service... Imagagine you sell shirts on your blog, you may only get three orders on week, and 73 the next.... These can be printed as the orders come in. With screen printing you need to order and have stock. But the profits from doing it that way can be five or six times greater then the digital print on demand.
Screen printing is always the best choice for Quality goods in large numbers!