Alternatives to screen printing – what are your options?

Screen printing is a popular print method, however it isn’t always suitable for every print order. We are often asked what the best alternatives are to screen printing, so here are our expert team’s thoughts.

When can screen printing be used?

Screen printing is a versatile print option and has many benefits, however it isn’t suitable for all orders. Typically, screen printing is a labour intensive production method, so can be more expensive for small orders. It is, however, the most cost effective print option for larger orders. Screen printing can be used on a vast range of fabrics making it a great option for sportswear, cotton or more unusual fabrics. For uniforms that consist of varied products in larger quantities, screen printing is a great option for print consistency across all products. We can even Pantone match the ink used, ensuring your brand ethos can be carried onto your staff uniforms whilst keeping costs low and turnaround times fast.

What is the best alternative to screen printing?

Screen printing has many benefits, however if you would prefer a smaller order or have a complex design it may not be the best option for you. There is no one-size-fits-all option for printing, however there are options to suit all order requirements.

DTG Printing

Direct to Garment printing is great for smaller orders or for those on a budget. This method produces similar results to screen printing but doesn’t have the associated minimum order quantity, so for those who like the look of screen printing but would prefer a smaller order quantity, DTG printing would be a good alternative to screen printing.

For those with a colourful or photographic design, DTG would be a great cost-effective alternative to screen printing. Due to the nature of the process, the amount of colours in the design doesn’t affect the cost, whereas with screen printing the cost is based partially on the amount of colours in the design which could make colourful designs more expensive unless ordering in bulk.

DTG inks are injected into the fibre of the product giving a soft hand feel on light coloured garments. On darker colours an under base is used to keep the vibrancy of the print which can cause the print to feel raised, similar to a screen print. DTG inks will only stick to products with a high cotton percentage, we recommend at least 80% cotton, so whilst DTG is a popular alternative to screen printing if you require non-cotton products there may be a better alternative for you.

Vinyl or DTF Printing

For non-cotton products, Direct to Film or vinyl printing would be good alternatives to screen printing. Direct to film printing involves printing designs onto a specialised film, the prints are then directly transferred onto the garment using a heat press which ensures high precision and accurate replication of the original design on both light and dark fabrics that won’t crack over time. For materials that are typically harder to work with, DTF provides a cost effective solution and fast turnaround for smaller orders with colourful designs that aren’t suitable for screen printing.

Vinyl printing has a similar use case to DTF printing and allows you to add simple designs to clothing by applying a specially-cut vinyl transfer. Generally, vinyl prints are only suitable for one colour and simple designs, however as it is a labour intensive process it has a minimum order quantity of 25 units. Vinyl is also available in metallic or hi-vis colours which makes it a popular option for safety clothing or sportswear. Whilst neon inks are available for screen printing, vinyl is a good alternative when bright colours are required on non-conventional fabrics and for smaller orders.

Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing whether on standard polyester T-shirts or on a range of sportswear is a good alternative to screen printing when your design requires a larger print area than screen printing allows. With this method, the fabric is dyed rather than having inks laid on top which gives a soft hand feel. This also allows for prints to be placed all-over the garment, which is a popular option for sports teams who require personalisation and larger designs.

Sublimation printing allows for full colour prints without affecting the cost and works well with complex designs. With no minimum order quantity, sublimation printing is a good alternative to screen printing for smaller orders on polyester T-shirts whilst being economical on both individual and bulk orders.

How can I choose an alternative to screen printing?

With so many printing options to choose from it can be difficult to know which print method is best for you. DTG printing will be the best option for anyone requiring a smaller order or multi coloured designs on cotton garments. DTF and vinyl printing are the best alternative to screen printing on non-cotton garments and sublimation printing will be best for anyone requiring larger or all-over designs on both small and large orders.

Here at AM Custom Clothing we are always on hand to help with choosing the best alternative to screen printing. Get in touch with us today and one of our dedicated account managers will be happy to help.