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Choose Embroidery or Screen Printing?

Need shirts decorated with your logo but you're uncertain whether you should choose embroidery or screen printing? How the type of design, garments and other factors effect your decision? Read on for suggestions on what you should consider!

What Is The Difference Between Embroidery and Screen Printing?

Embroidery is sewn with stitches and screen printing is printed with ink. Embroidery generally has a higher perceived value and conveys a more professional appearance. Screen printing has a more casual look and is usually more desirable for athletic wear and T-shirts. Screen printing can often reproduce artwork more closely while many designs must be modified for embroidery. Embroidery is thought to be more expensive but it really depends on the quantity of items and the number of colors in the design.

Which Process Is Best For Different Types of Garments?

Embroidery is recommended for hats, jackets, polar fleece, button down and golf shirts. Embroidery isn't recommended for large back designs on light-weight polo, woven and T-shirt fabrics. T-shirts can be embroidered if the design isn't too large. Screen Printing is great for T-shirts, jackets, sweats and athletic bags. Polos can be screen printed but cotton and cotton/poly blend fabrics must have a smooth surface (jersey knit) to obtain a clean print. 100% polyester polos can be printed but special care must be taken during the printing process. Polos treated with Posicharge technology can be printed without having the design bleed or fade. While hats are usually embroidered they can be printed if a five panel hat is used.

Is Embroidery More Expensive Than Screen Printing?

Embroidery is often more expensive than screen printing but it can be cheaper depending on the quantity of items decorated and the number of colors in the design. If you need stock embroidered text in the left chest location on a small quantity of shirts then embroidery can be cheaper because screen printing will require a screen charge in addition to the print and shirt charge. But, if you need one color text on a large quantity of polos then screen printing will be cheaper.

Can The Type of Design Affect Your Decision?

Designs with lots of small text will be more readable when printed. Designs with outlines, shadows and gradient effects can usually be more closely reproduced when printed but can be simplified to work for embroidery. Effects such as distressed and cut-out techniques can't be effectively achieved in small embroidered designs and are best reserved for screen printing or large scale embroidered designs. Embroidered designs can be very detailed but they often look best when they are simplified.

What About Thread and Ink Colors? PMS Matching?

Both embroidery and screen printing use specific colors for each area of color. Artwork with color information in color mixes such as CMYK or hex colors must be translated into thread or ink colors. Both thread and ink colors can be matches to PMS colors )Pantone Matching System) although exact thread matches don't exist for all PMS colors. Extra charges may apply if thread must be ordered or ink is mixed to obtain the correct colors.

Artwork Requirements?

Both embroidery and screen printing require good quality artwork. Low resolution images saved from the internet are usually too pixilated to work well. Artwork is used as a template to create an embroidery set-up. If it can't be clearly read at the required size it will negatively impact the quality of the set-up. Artwork for screen printing is used to print a film that is used to burn a screen for each color in the design. Artwork must be in separate layers for multicolor designs so each color can be printed individually and be clear enough to obtain a clean print.

What if good artwork isn't available? For a small fee artwork can be "vectorized" or converted into sizeable line art to obtain a clean image.

Other Advantages Between Embroidery and Screen Printing?

Embroidery thread colors can be easily changed to accommodate different colored garments. Ink colors can be changed but that involves additional labor so extra charges may apply. While the number of colors in a design usually doesn't effect the cost of embroidery, it does increase the cost of screen printing. But, its possible to decrease printing charges by having one of the design colors be the shirt color (in multi color designs) or by using halftones. Group names and sponsor logos where extra room is needed.

Embroidery thread has a unique sheen that catches the light. This quality can make embroidered designs look different depending on the light, viewing angle and length, type and direction of stitches. This sheen gives embroidery a three dimensional appearance which adds to its perceived value.

Which process lasts longer? Embroidery generally looks better longer while screen printing has a tendency to fade or crack. Both embroidered and screen printed items will look better longer when laundered inside out and not left in a hot dryer for an extended period.


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