What Is the Difference Between Screen Printing And Sublimation – Details Insight

Last Updated on October 22, 2022

What Is the Difference Between Screen Printing And Sublimation

For high-quality and durable prints, sublimation and screen printing are used in different ways. Sublimation printing is a method of printing an image onto a special transfer paper and transferring the dye from the transfer paper into the fibers of a cloth. Through the pores in the screen, ink is injected into the garment and the image is transferred from the screen to the garment.

In contrast to sublimation printing, screen printing uses ink that is applied to the fabric, and dyes are absorbed into the fibers. This means that sublimation printing will ensure that your print will not fade or crack and will last for the life of the garment. Screen printing causes the ink to transfer onto the fabric during the process, which will cause the fabric to become brittle after many washings. Moreover, the moisture management material used in sublimation printing remains breathable even after the print has been completed. When screen printing, the process seals the fabric, which is unsuitable for sportswear since it will cause a greater amount of sweat to accumulate underneath the design.

Here is the comparison chart for Sublimation Vs Screen Printing

Comparison ParameterSublimation PrintingScreen Printing
DefinitionA sublimation process is used to create prints on textiles and ceramic items.This method of printing involves using a screen, stencil, and ink to create designs on objects.
DurabilityExtremely durable and will last for as long as the shirt itself.  Despite its durability, this printed design cracks, and peels after repeated use
Items requiredSublimation printer Heat Press/Tumbler Press/Mug press/Oven  The screen printing press. Coater for scooping. Computer and inkjet printer. Unit of exposure. Squeegees. Pressurized washer.  
QualityColorful, detailed, and high-quality  High-quality with raised designs and excellent contrast on the visual and tactile planes.
QuantityLarge or small batches can be made in this process without affecting the amount of time it takes to complete each shirt.Produces large quantities of the same design easily.
Average Cost Per ShirtIt varies widely, averaging between $20 and $50.Variates greatly, averaging $17-$47
Complexity   Creates intricate, detailed designs quickly and easilyLimited
Best forA multicolored design on a white shirtA contrasting shirt color with a large, bold design in one or two colors
Set-Up Time and CostEasy to set up. Requires some expensive equipment at the time of installation.Setup takes a considerable amount of time. Pricing depends on the order’s size and the design’s complexity.
Best Fabric100% polyester100% cotton
Color Blending        Easy to do digitally.Time and skills are required, but it is possible
Cost Efficiency     A cost-effective solution for small custom orders.Cost-effective for printing in batches

Pros of Screen Printing

  • Screen printing offers primarily economic benefits. This method is the most affordable and cost-effective way to produce shirts in bulk.
  • The cost of establishing a screen printing setup at home is only a few hundred dollars, so nearly anyone can get started. 
  • In addition, screen printing can be performed on virtually any fabric type. Although virtually any material can be used for screen printing, most people have preferences and opinions regarding the best shirts. 
  • Besides screen printing inks, you can also choose from various special effects inks.
  • If you have the right type of ink, you can screen three-dimensional print designs and foil designs on wholesale t-shirts. 

Cons of Screen Printing

  • The process of screen printing may not be cost-effective if you only make a single shirt.
  • Making screens involves not only time and expense, but also the purchase of supplies, which can quickly add up. 
  • The disadvantage of this method is that only a limited number of colors are available for creating the design. It is also necessary to add each color separately, increasing production time. 

Pros of Sublimation Printing

  • Due to the specialized equipment required, getting started with sublimation printing is costly. Nevertheless, depending on what type of shirts you are producing, the process can be cost-effective.
  • Sublimation may be the most efficient method for small runs and frequent design changes. 
  • Additionally, sublimation is the most effective method for creating multicolor designs that are detailed and complex.
  • You are able to use any color and any number of colors with this technology without increasing the time or cost required for the design. Similarly, garments can be decorated with photo-realistic images using sublimation printing. 
  • The sublimation process can also be applied to polymer-treated hard surfaces that can be customized. Thus, the heat press method can be utilized to decorate coffee mugs, tumblers, signs, and more, provided the right kind of heat press is used. 

Cons of Sublimation Printing

  • The cost of sublimation printers is rising even as they become more widely available. Heat presses are no exception.
  • Getting started requires a significant investment of time and money, so this approach is not suitable for everyone. 
  • Further, sublimation printing is only possible on white or very light colored polyester garments. Fabrics that contain less than two-thirds polyester or dark colors will not work with the product. 

Final Words

When you compare these two garment customization techniques, there is no clear winner. The decision on which one to purchase is largely based on your needs and your intended use for the equipment. A sublimation printing process is a good option if you wish to create a shirt with a photorealistic design or if you plan on printing only a few shirts. The other option, however, may be better suited to those who require large quantities or wish to begin customizing garments on a budget. 

Which is the better method? Your preference and the project will determine which is the best method. Screen printing and dye sublimation are both excellent methods of creating custom T-shirts. 

There are many benefits and drawbacks associated with sublimation and screen printing. Your choice depends on your particular needs. You should also note that many individuals – including business owners – utilize both methods. In this way, they can enjoy the benefits of both strategies and avoid their respective disadvantages. 


Which is better, sublimation or screen print transfers?

Sublimation transfers are a good option if you intend to print only on polyester and would like to achieve full-color images while maintaining a lightweight feel. It is recommended that you choose screen-printed transfers if you wish to print on a variety of fabrics, not just polyester.

What is cheaper, sublimation or screen printing?

A screen printing process is more cost-effective if you intend to print many T-shirts. If you need to print just one or two t-shirts, dye sublimation is the best method to use. This is due to the fact that dye sublimation is a much costlier and time-consuming process.

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