If you’re looking to purchase promotional clothing products you have two main choices for decoration: screen printing or embroidery. If you’re not sure what you need you should consider your options carefully. What’s the right option? Keep reading to find out.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is a method of decorating a piece of clothing by pressing ink through a mesh screen. The mesh is coated with light-sensitive emulsion to create a stencil so that the ink can only pass through certain sections of the screen. One screen is created for every color in the print, and the screens are used one after another to create the final print. Screen printing can also be used to print gradients using halftones, a process where one color is printed on top of another color as small, densely-packed dots. If done properly, a halftone looks like a color gradient.

What is Screen Printing Good For?

Screen printing works well for very detailed or complex designs. You can use a very fine mesh allowing a print with small details. If your design requires a ‘distressed’ look or gradients your best option is going to be screen printing. This method also works well if you plan on adding a large design to the front or back of your garments because a large print will generally be cheaper than a large embroidered design. Screen printing can also be a very economical option for large print runs depending on how many colors and locations your design requires. For example, a one-color one location print on 50 shirts will be cheaper than a two-side, two-color print on 50 shirts. Certain fabrics also work better with screen printing than embroidery, particularly very light fabrics and T-shirts.

What Isn’t Screen Printing Good For?

If you’re planning on printing a small run of garments or lots of colors, screen printing can be expensive. Most printers charge set-up fees based on how many screens they will have to create to make a complete design. For a single-color design this cost is pretty small. However, if you want five or six different colors printed your set-up charges can increase dramatically. Depending on how many locations you want to screen print your costs can go up as well. Screen printing also doesn’t work very well on certain types of fabric. Some fabrics like fleece will distort a print applied to them, and some materials require additives to be mixed with the ink in order to adhere to the garment properly.

What is Embroidery?

Embroidery is a method of decorating a piece of clothing using a needle and thread to apply a design. Modern promotional product companies embroider items using embroidery machines. These machines use a set of digital instructions to decide where to place the embroidery stitches to create the design. Most embroidery services use machines with many sewing heads that all operate at once. This lets the embroiderer add an identical design to many pieces at once.

What is Embroidery Good For?

Decorating your garments via embroidery is a good option if you need you need durable and professional decoration. Well-made embroidery will not fade or snag and will look crisp for the lifetime of the garment. Embroidery is also preferable if you need to decorate nicer items like polo shirts, or non-shirt items like tote bags or caps. Because embroidery utilizes thread, the completed design will have a slight 3-D effect, making it stand out more prominently. Typically embroiderers don’t charge based on how many colors the design uses. That makes embroidery ideal for logos with lots of colors that would be very expensive to screen print. Embroidery is also preferred for personalization on your garment.

What Isn’t Embroidery Good For?

The main downside to embroidery is its cost. Many companies calculate cost by the stitch and the time it will take to embroider your garment.  Full-back designs are significantly more expensive than screen printing due to the excessive stitch count.  Embroidering on some lighter garments can pull on the garment causing a puckering effect. Furthermore, sewing fine details or small lettering may look distorted due to the physical limitations of using a needle and thread. Embroidery also cannot create convincing gradient or distressed effects.

So Should I Pick Screen Printing or Embroidery?

Sometimes picking between screen printing or embroidery is an obvious choice. If you want to put a large, elaborate design on the back of a T-shirt, you’re probably better off with screen printing. If you want to add your team’s logo to a baseball cap, you’re better off with embroidery. When you start working with a promotional products supplier you should talk with them about what you want to accomplish. Experienced suppliers will be able to help determine the best option for your needs and budget. If you’re thinking about promoting your business, email Free Style Promotions today or call us at 414-543-4443 for all your screen printing, embroidery, and other promotional products needs.