Advantages and disadvantages of plastisol ink screen printing and digital direct injection in T-shirt printing

It is estimated that friends who want to make printed T-shirts have heard of these two terms: screen printing and digital direct printing, which are two ways to print patterns on fabrics. So, what is the difference between them? Which should you choose? This article compares the advantages and disadvantages of the two methods from several aspects, for your reference.
Note: The screen printing in the text adopts the method of printing plastisol ink on an automatic screen printing machine.
First, briefly introduce the two methods.
Screen printing is a very old printing method. Wikipedia mentions that this printing method was recorded in the Song Dynasty in China. However, the great development of T -shirt screen printing began in the United States in the 1960s. Andy Warhol’s pop art created by silk screen printing was sought after (the famous head of Marilyn Monroe), which made this technology quickly applied in the field of T-shirt printing, followed by the emergence of multi-color overprint screen printing machines , is still widely used today. The working principle of screen printing is that the squeegee extrudes the printing material, so that it is transferred to the substrate through the mesh on the screen plate (graphic part) to complete the printing. Screen printing consists of five elements, namely screen printing plate, squeegee , printing material, printing table and substrate. According to the different printing materials, it is divided into ink screen printing, glue screen printing, water paste screen printing, etc.

Digital direct injection is the product of new technology, which has been around for more than ten years. In short, the ink is sprayed directly onto the surface of the fabric using a digital printer. In recent years, with the continuous development of digital printing technology, this printing method has become more and more popular.
Below is a comparison of the two printing methods.
color saturation
plastisol ink screen printing adopts the spot color printing mode, and the ink density (ink amount) of the different color inks is controlled by the screening process . On the automatic T-shirt printing machine, the machine completes continuous scratch printing ( that is, there is no interruption between each color version ), and the colors are mixed version by version during the printing process to achieve the final desired color effect. This process is very similar to the process of creating with a paintbrush toning. The automatic screen printing machine generally has 12 printing heads (that is to say, it can complete the continuous scratch printing of 10 to 12 color screen plates). The most advanced printing machine has 18 heads, and can hang up to 18 pieces. The screen plate overprints a very fine pattern.
The high opacity of plastisol inks enables highly saturated colors to be printed even on black and other dark-based fabrics. For designers, it is very important to reproduce the colors specified by the designer. Plastisol ink screen printing can fully meet this requirement.

Digital direct injection adopts four-color principle (CMYK blue, magenta, yellow, black) to express color. In addition, the use of water-based ink, although the printing feel is good, but there is no hiding power. The cloth color will interfere with the printing color, especially on fabrics with a dark background, even if a layer of white background is added, the color saturation is still inferior to silk printing.

color gamut
There are some colors that are not in the four-color range , such as Pantone 807 colors, which cannot be printed by digital direct injection. Therefore, the pursuit of accurate color reproduction design, it is best to choose silk screen to achieve.
Pantone 807C, the left side is the silk screen effect, the right side is the digital direct injection effect.

tone level
The process feature of plastisol ink screen printing is halftone printing with halftone dots. The ink has good printability and screen- passing performance. Therefore, the screen printing plate often uses 300 mesh (high mesh) mesh, and the printing effect of fine patterns And the efficiency is better than other pastes (glue, paint), and it can print exquisite patterns with very rich tones and layers. Whether it is a photographic image, a 3D painting image, or the artist’s acrylic painting, oil painting, watercolor painting, gouache painting and other painting techniques, it can be restored to the fabric through ink silk screen printing. Digital direct injection is also dot printing. Its precision can reach up to 1200 points, which is higher than silk printing, but the color is not as bright and colorful as silk printing on dark fabrics.
Since the color processing of plastisol ink is similar to the drawing method of silk screen printing, the printed pattern gives people a painting-like texture effect, while digital printing or thermal transfer printing is used. The way pattern gives the impression that a print is attached to the fabric.

Color fastness
Color fastness has always been an issue for digital printing, and initially digitally printed products faded after a few washes. Now the technology is constantly improving, and the color fastness is gradually improving, but it is still affected by many factors. For example, various factors such as the ink used, the pretreatment method, the print quality of the digital direct-injection machine, and the washing method may cause the problem of non-washability. Silkscreen does not have this problem.
After the plastisol ink printing is completed, the ink is firmly attached to the fabric after being baked in the oven, but the fabric is not blocked, so the air permeability of the fabric is maintained and the hand feels soft. This is different from glue silk screen printing, which does not have the airtight feeling of glue. The breathability and feel of digital direct injection are very good.
special effects
Foaming, fluorescence, metallic ink, sequins, thick version, crack effect, transparency and other special effects are currently only available with silk screen printing .

Dauelsen plastisol inks

quantity and price
There are many production links for silk screen printing: prepress, plate making, ink adjustment, plate registration, printing, and drying. Therefore, for small orders, the initial cost will be relatively high, and the printing cycle will be relatively long (usually 2-4 days). Similar to the production of business cards, a box of business cards (100 pieces) is 60 yuan, and a business card is also 60 yuan. Digital direct injection is just the opposite, the price of printing one piece and the unit price of printing 100 pieces have not changed. Therefore, from a cost point of view, digital direct injection is cheap and fast for small quantities of printing.
All in all, the above two printing methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. I hope that this comparison can help you choose a printing method that meets your needs.

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