Sublimation printing and screen printing are two popular methods for printing designs and patterns onto fabric. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to understand the difference between the two before choosing a printing method for your project. Sublimation printing is best for small batches of fabric or for projects that require intricate designs, while screen printing is better for large batches of fabric or for projects with simpler designs.
Not knowing the difference can result in picking the wrong method of printing for your project. As I have been in that situation multiple times, I am aware of how aggravating it can be. Therefore, in the article below, I have shared in great detail the differences between sublimation printing and screen printing.
Sublimation vs. Screen Printing
The main difference between sublimation printing and screen printing is the printing process. In sublimation printing, sublimation ink is first printed on a sublimation paper then it transfers to desired sublimation blank through heat and it becomes the molecular part of the blank. While in screen printing ink is transferred to the surface of the blank.
Sublimation printing is a method of printing where you need a couple of machines. In this process, a sublimation printer is used to print out sublimation images. Once printed, these images are then transferred to fabric with the help of a heat press or a hot iron. The image is placed on the fabric with butter paper on top, the fabric is then placed on the heat press, and the press is closed.
Screen printing is a much simpler method of printing as compared to sublimation printing. In screen printing, a stencil is made on a mesh fabric that is enclosed in a frame. Then that stencil is placed on the fabric, and paint is added to the frame. After that, with the help of a squeegee. The ink penetrates through the stencil into the fabric.
Difference Between Sublimation vs. Screen Printing
The first striking difference between sublimation printing and screen printing is that in sublimation printing, users have the freedom to add as many colors as they desire. As the image has to be printed through a printer, any color can be incorporated into the design.
However, that is not the case in screen printing. In screen printing, a person can only work with a single color at a time, as they have to pull the ink over the stencil; using more than one color can create a mess. Therefore, the color range for screen printing is very limited, while in sublimation printing, there is no limit to the color range.
Another difference between screen printing and sublimation is precision. When it comes to precision, sublimation printing offers more precise prints as compared to screen printing. As in sublimation printing, one does not use any ink externally; the printed image is transferred to the fabric with the help of a heat press; therefore, the job is done very neatly, and the results are very precise.
On the contrary, in screen printing, a person has to pour the ink over the stencil and then drag it all across the stencil with the help of a squeegee. This entire process often leads to a mess if the job is not done right. Therefore, the results of screen printing are often not as precise as sublimation printing.
Another striking difference between the two types of printings is the difference in process and equipment. In screen printing, the major equipment a person needs are a stencil, ink, and squeegee. The process is quite simple, you pour the ink over the stencil and then pull it from one end to the other with the help of a squeegee.
The process of sublimation printing is very different from this. For sublimation printing, a person needs a sublimation printer that comes with the right ink and paper, then a heat press or hot iron. Once an image or design is printed from the sublimation printer, it is placed on the fabric, which is already on the heat press; then, butter paper is placed on top. The heat press is then closed and clasped together. After a while, it is opened, and the image has been transferred to the fabric.
The results of dye sublimation vs. screen printing are also different. Dye-sublimation printing provides a crisp result, and the design is in vivid and bright colors with neat edges. On the other hand, in screen printing, the results depend on how well the squeegee has been dragged and whether it has been dragged across evenly or not. If the ink is not pulled evenly, then it can result in one side being more vivid than the other.
If we talk about the time spent on screen print vs. sublimation print, then sublimation printing requires more time. Even though this process does not require as much labor as screen printing, it still takes time to print out an image and then leave it in the heat press on the fabric. Screen printing does not take as much time as the stencil is already prepared; you simply need to put ink on it and pull that ink all over the fabric.
Sublimation Vs Screen Printing Pros & Cons
-Sublimation is faster than screen printing
-Sublimation requires special equipment and training
-Screen printing can print on more types of materials
-Screen printing can print multi-color designs without separate screens for each color
-Sublimation produces a higher-quality image
-Screen printing is more expensive than sublimation
-Sublimation can only be used on certain types of materials
-Screen printing takes longer than sublimation
-You need a separate screen for each color with screen printing
-The colors in screen printing can bleed
Which is better, sublimation or screen printing?
Both sublimation printing and screen printing have their own benefits. However, if we talk about which is better, then for projects that require printing in bulk, sublimation printing is better. It prints an image very precisely, the result is always neat, and it does not require as much labor, which is why for larger projects, it is better.
What lasts longer, sublimation or screen printing?
If the person does both of the printing processes properly, with the proper equipment and machines, then both printing processes can deliver long-lasting results. In sublimation printing and screen printing, the ink is penetrated through the fabric, which is why prints produced from both of these methods will last a long time.
In conclusion, both sublimation and screen printing are great methods for printing designs onto fabric. Screen printing is better for large, intricate designs, while sublimation is better for smaller designs. Sublimation is also better for printing onto dark fabrics. Ultimately, the best method to use depends on the design and the fabric.