Screen-Printing Guide

Screen Printing Buying Guide



Screen-printing is the most common form of apparel decoration, mainly due to its versatility and cost-effectiveness for large orders. Screen-printing is useful for casual events, tradeshow giveaways and other situations where a high volume of affordable items are desired.

Because of the upfront configuration required, the cost of screen-printing is driven by the number of colors (and thus screens and runs through the printer) in your imprint. Dark-colored fabrics may require a flash layer before the actual imprint can be applied. Screens are generally reused within a year, so you will be subject to additional setup and run charges if you reorder after a year has transpired

Logos can be large and fairly detailed, but you will want to avoid using artwork with several colors, due to the setup and run charges associated with screen-printing.

Whether you are ordering T-shirts for a tradeshow giveaway or looking for help with a new design for your booster club’s apparel, we’re here to help you make the best decision possible

If you have additional questions or want more information about this or any other decoration process, call us 855-833-5893 between 9AM and 6PM EST Monday through Friday.

Benefits of Screen-Printing

Screen-printing has many advantages over other decoration methods, including:

  • Cost-Effectiveness: If you need to print a large number of shirts, screen-printing cannot be beat in terms of cost-per-unit.
  • Capturing Fine Detail: While embroidery can handle some details, screen-printing can handle more intricate designs.
  • Versatility: Embroidery is mostly limited to shirts and hats; screen-printing can be done on nearly any fabric surface.
  • Handling Large Designs: Large designs can be done via screen-printing for the same price as smaller ones.
  • Durability: While not as durable as embroidery, imprints made via screen-printing will last much longer than heat transfer.

The Screen-Printing Process

Screen-printing is a printing technique that uses a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil. Colored ink creates the pattern on fabric, which is then dried through a heat press.

Screen printing can also be achieved through a stencil method of print making in which a design is imposed on a mesh screen, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface. It is also known as silkscreen, seriography, and serigraph.

Screen-printing is perhaps the most versatile of the imprint methods in that it can be applied to a wide variety of fabrics and products.

Costs of Screen-Printing

With screen-printing, there is a setup and run charge associated with each color and location in your imprint. This is because each color requires the creation of an additional screen as well as an additional run through the screen-printer.

Run charges are generally based on three things: the number of shirts you are decorating, the number of colors in the artwork being printed and the number of locations to be imprinted. While there is some leeway, you should expect to pay higher run charges if you are ordering a large number of shirts using a multi-colored imprint or want to decorate multiple areas of the garment.

Flash layers (an under-layer to ensure true colors) will also contribute to cost. Dark-colored shirts may require that the decorator create a white flash under-layer before they can screen the colors in your imprint. In such situations, you would be charged for an additional color.

Provided that you reorder within the industry-standard hold time of 1 year, we will waive the setup costs of the screens.

When to Use Screen-Printing

There are some situations where screen-printing will be preferable to embroidery or other types of decoration.

  • Casual Events: While embroidery has a higher perceived value, screen-printed logos convey a relaxed attitude that may align more closely with the corporate culture at your company.
  • Tradeshow Giveaways: If you’re planning to give away garments at events or tradeshows, screen-printed shirts are cheaper to produce than embroidered shirts.
  • Customer Appreciation: Because screen-printed T-shirts are so cost-effective, they’re great for customer appreciation giveaways.
  • Large-area imprints: Unlike embroidery, size has no bearing on the cost of screen-printing. If you have a large logo, screen-printing is a more affordable embellishment cost.
  • High-quantity orders: Because most of the cost is generated by the production of the screens required to imprint the garments, silkscreening is more cost-effective than embroidery for large orders.
  • Finely-detailed logos: Screen-printing can offer more flexibility than embroidery when it comes to fine details and gradients in logos.
  • Extremely small lettering: If your logo or design includes lettering under a quarter-inch tall, opt for screen-printing or direct-to-garment printing.

When Not to Use Screen-Printing

While screen-printing offers a number of advantages over other imprint methods, there are some situations where it should be avoided, including the following:

  • Small orders: It may not be cost-effective to screen-print a small number of shirts due to setup and run costs.
  • Too many colors: While screen-printing can handle several colors, each color requires the creation of an additional screen and an additional run through the printer, which can drive up the cost
  • Dark fabrics: Due to the printing process, certain colors do not show up well on dark-colored fabrics without the prior application of a flash layer, which creates additional cost.
  • Ribbed fabrics: Porous and ribbed fabrics do not take screen-prints very well, so you should avoid using that decoration method if you are ordering golf or polo shirts.

What You Need to Know About Screen-Printing

If you choose screen-printing for your apparel, bear in mind:

  • Order Size: Screen-printing is most cost-effective when used for larger orders. If you need to decorate just a few shirts, consider going with embroidery or heat transfer which generally have lower setup costs.
  • Number of Imprint Colors: Each color in your logo represents both another screen that the print house will have to make as well as another run through the screen-printer. If you have a logo with several colors, consider using a embroidery, heat transfer or direct-to-garment printing.
  • Graphic Detail: While screen-printing can handle a greater level of detail than embroidery, it still has limitations. If you have an intricate design, you may want to use heat transfer or direct-to-garment printing.
  • Fabric Color: Dark-colored fabrics will require a flash layer, which means additional setup and run charges from our screen-printers.
  • Order Frequency: Screen-printers generally recycle old screens after a year, so if you anticipate reordering the same apparel later, let us know. We can request that the screen-printer save your screen, saving you future setup costs. Please remember that this is not a guarantee, and you will always be subject to setup costs when ordering screen-printed apparel.

If you have additional questions or want more information about this or any other decoration process, call us 855-833-5893 between 9AM and 6PM EST Monday through Friday.