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Sublimation Vs Screen Printing

Screen printing is one of the oldest printing techniques to print different surfaces. After the revolution in technology, the concept of sublimation printing comes. But still screen printing is considered one of the acceptable printing methods. However, in comparison of sublimation vs screen printing, people often ask which technique is best?
Both have their own pros and cons, so we can’t answer this question in a single sentence. In this blog, we will explain the difference between both printing techniques in detail for a better understanding.

What is sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing uses heat and sublimation ink to transfer print from paper to the desired surface. One can sublimate to wood, fabric, acrylic, nylon, and glass. In sublimation printing, first, you need to create an attractive design on any photo editing software that you want to transfer.
You will move your design into sublimation paper through any top-notch sublimation paper. Then this design will be transferred from the sublimation paper to the desired surface by using a heat press.

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Things need for sublimation printing on the shirt:

You can click here for a detailed sublimation process.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is one of the most ancient printing techniques. It is used for printing fabric, wood, paper, glass, and plastic. In screen printing, the fine material screen is prepared usually silk is used to prepare a screen. The ink is passed through a screen to take a print on the desired surface.
For printing shirts by this method, first, you need to create a stencil and then transfer the stencil pattern onto the screen. After this put t-shirt beneath the screen and paste emulsion on the opposite side of the screen using a squeegee. That’s how you can do screen printing on shirts.
Things you need for t-shirt screen printing:

What is screen printing?, screen printing
  • Silkscreen
  • Emulsion
  • Pure cotton shirts
  • Squeegee
  • Stencil
  • Hose

Comparison: Sublimation vs Screen Printing

As we already discussed sublimation vs screen print transfers, both are totally different techniques. Sublimation printing uses direct heat to transfer print from paper to other surfaces. While in screen printing the transfer of print from the stencil to the final surface is done by using quality emulsion. So, indeed both will have their own plus and negatives.

Sublimation vs Screen Printing quality:

No doubt both produce fine quality prints. Sublimation printing creates colorful and clear prints without any ink separation. Moreover, direct heat makes sure the perfect ink adhesiveness and stable print. The sublimated print will remain fresh and bright for a long without losing its original colors.
On the other hand, screen printing gives more vibrant and soft prints with a sublime finish. Although, these prints are also top-quality. However, there are a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, screen prints start losing their colors with time. Secondly, you can use fewer colors in print design as compared to sublimation printing.
So, after comparing silk screen printing vs sublimation, we can say sublimation printing is better in quality.

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Sublimation vs Screen Printing Cost:

The cost-efficiency of sublimation and screen printing depends on the quantity of the product. In sublimation printing, you need to take separate prints on each sublimation paper for transferring it to the shirt. So, it will be costly to print a large number of shirts with sublimation printing.
In screen printing, you just need to prepare a screen of a specific design once. After preparing the screen one can print out hundreds of the same design shirts while using this screen. Therefore, if you want large-scale printing then screen printing is more cost-efficient as compared to sublimation.

Sublimation vs Screen Printing Color Effects:

Screen printing is more versatile in color effects as compared to sublimation. While using screen-printing technology you can blend any colors to create a new one. Contrastingly, in sublimation printing, you can only use only those colors that are recommended for the printer. Furthermore, your printer can blend limited colors.
Additionally in sublimation printing, it is not possible to directly glitter your shirts. In screen printing, glitter inks and 3D inks can be easily used. Screen printing is superior to sublimation in color effects.

Sublimation vs Screen Printing Setup cost:

Though, the setup of screen printing is lengthy and takes a lot of time. Here you first need to make a screen, then create a stencil. After this, you must produce a proper emulsion before pasting it to the screen. However, this whole setup is less costly than a sublimation printing setup.
Sublimation printing setup is very simple, you just need to take a printer along with sublimation paper and ink, and have a PC or Laptop to design prints. Some fine-quality printers can be connected to your mobile devices as well. Asides, a heat press is required to take prints on shirts. Though, it does not require much time to set up the sublimation printing. But it is more costly than screen printing.

Screen Printing Vs Heat Transfer Vs Sublimation:

There is not too much difference between screen, sublimation, and heat transfer printing. Which is the best one for you? It depends on your printing demands and budget. In screen printing, there is no direct heat involved, however, some methods involve heat via a light source.
While in heat transfer and in sublimation, heat is the major source to transfer print. Heat transfer is simple and perfect for beginners, it uses direct heat for printing images. It gives quality print regardless of the shirt’s color. In heat transfer printing, the design is actually pasted on top in the form of a layer.
Screen printing is also simple but demands a lot of skills while pasting emulsion on the screen and transferring prints. The big advantage of screen printing is multi-color effects.
Sublimation printing produces more vibrant and durable prints. In sublimation printing actually ink become part of the fabric. That’s why the sublimated prints will not fade with time.

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Sublimation Vs Vinyl Vs Screen Printing:

As we already explain sublimation vs screen printing and screen printing vs heat transfer vs sublimation. Now it’s time for sublimation vs vinyl vs screen printing.
The sublimation printing setup is costly and needs a new sublimation paper to design each shirt. Ultimately it will be costly for printing a huge number of shirts. However, no other technique can beat sublimation printing in quality. It creates vibrant, top-notch prints that will last longly.
Talking about vinyl printing, no doubt it is efficient low-cost technology. You can create various shaped vinyl by using an electronic cutting machine and then transfer this shape to the shirt with heat transfer vinyl printing. The drawback of vinyl printing is less print durability. After a few years, the print will start losing its real colors.
Screen printing setup is also less costly than sublimation. It also creates high-quality and vivid prints. The main advantage of screen printing is cost-efficiency for large-scale printing. However, it only creates prints on top of the fabric that will start fading.

Final Thoughts:

After using both techniques for printing shirts, I found both of them have their own pros and cons. If you are looking for quality then sublimation printing is one step ahead. But screen printing is cost-efficient and required a low setup cost.
For large-scale printing screen printing is better than sublimation. However, if you want to print a few shirts with the same design then sublimation is the right option.
Sublimation printing creates more vibrant and vivid prints that will not fade. On the other hand, screen printing gives more color effects than sublimation. So, just go for one according to your requirements. Surely, this sublimation vs screen printing guide will be helpful for choosing one.

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