This piece is written as a guide to the designer to help take away some doubts and enable decisions around technical aspects of digital and screen printing to help your decision process on which way you might go with your product outcome in mind.
Pb: The best way to approach this question when asking us is to present us with an ‘indicative’ or actual artwork with the proposed fabric choice and metres required. This opens us up to better questions and we can advise from there depending on outcome required.
As a general idea – Screen printers have been able to print on most fabrics where digital has been much more restricted in terms of ink and fabric compatibility although fabrics in each area or style are available. ie. You can choose voile, drill, poplin, satins, canvas, linens but it’s good to buy the fabric supplied as it is already comaptible.
Knowing this, you can still approach a screen printer to print on a ‘found’ fabric were a digital printer will generally want to supply the base fabric or test your fabric for compatibility.
Screen printers have also had difficulty with washing and printability of polyesters due to waterbased ink vs plastic surfaces being incompatible (although we’ve mastered this aspect) and because coloured polyesters are overdyed and therefore the dyes can be unstable and leach into inks destroying colour integrity, especially when applied to heat. The excess over dye is what turns all your wash pink at home when you try to wash a new synthetic red dress.
Fabric feel on digital prints is less than screen print as it is a liquid ink sprayed onto the (suitable) fabric by an ink jet.
Screen printing onto fabrics uses (Aqueous) water based, acrylic based inks. Feel is lessened with handling and can be non existent anyway depending on the ink deposit. A large area of block colour on a stretch fabric will be very noticable as they are physically at odds. Whereas a thin line is un noticable and any colour that is darker than it’s background is also very soft to feel. ie. Red ink on white fabric is generally good / White ‘opaque’ ink on red fabric is less so depending on surface area printed.
In fashion – soft feel is everything. This is accentuated by thinner fabrics being closer to the skin. This is something generally deliverable easily out of a digital machine but is more design dependant in a screen printing application. In furnishing the fabrics are usually of a heavier weight and thickness and so absorb the screen print inks well.
There is also the ongoing digital v’s screen print argument around the subtle differences in feel and look and particularly depth of field and traditions in screen printing v’s the graphic driven immediacy of digital. That is a very personal thing to discover and my or may not be relevant to your end product.
Price is a very relative subject and it is paramount when considering pricing for textile yardage printing.
Compare – The amount of colours in your print x set-up x product metres
The true cost is when set-ups, testing, fabric costs, custom inks, production volumes are all added together.
Digital prints all colours at once and therefore does not incur multiple set-up costs for each colour. So digital suits 2 colours to 200 as it prints them at the same time and screen printing suits 1 – 4 colours although we have printed several 8 colour screen printed pieces over the years.
Both methods will reduce in cost as you print more metres of the same job.
Screen printing production generally starts about $16 per metre for one colour (not including fabric). Digital generally starts at approx $25 per metre not including fabric.
Set-up of a digital fabric is used to check colours and print outcome. It is also used to create a test piece that the designer can take away to wash test for their own labels and also light test to see if they are happy with performance of teh fabirc before committing to a production run.
This test is $80 for 1 sample metre.
If you are wanting to supply a fabric this would require a test and possible treatment of the fabric for better compatibility.
The Set-up of a screen printed fabric is known as a strike off. This means you are setting up an entire production run but printing a test strike off before proceeding with the volume.
This process means you have created art and separated the colours, we have created a film and screen and colour ink for each colour and will apply that to your fabric testing everything and providing you a sample to take home and test for your own wash label instructions etc.
The film and screen set-up is $250 per colour
PMS colour matching $45 (we have most library colours available free)
The strike off is $40 per colour
Production Price (Not including fabric)
Digital printing (after initial set-up) will generally start at $45 and will become $25 per metre after 10m. Large production runs would be quoted but would rarely drop below $20 per metre due to cost of machines and specialty inks.
Screen Print Prices (after initial set-up) will start at a minimum of 20 metres or be charged at the minimum 20 metres even if you wish to print 10. Screen printing will generally decrease in cost at 20, 40, 60, 100, 200 metres.
Each job is quoted as per difficulty of execution and fabric handling – below is an approx guide.
Screen printing 1 colour 20m would cost $16pm and 40 metres + would cost $14pm / 100m would be $10
Screen printing 2 colours – add $3 to each cost per metre / $2 over 100m