Screen Printing vs Sublimation: The Differences You Need to Know!

Screen Printing vs Sublimation: The Differences You Need to Know!

Shelly wants to be a business tycoon from her childhood. She is creative, she is ambitious and very much serious about her dream. She wants to build her own t-shirt brand. She is good in graphics design, she has eye-catchy designs and very impressive concepts. She is pretty sure her design will grab the market. But when it comes to printing, she got pretty confused? Should she take Screen printing or Sublimation?  What is the difference between Screen printing vs sublimation printing? 

Mike and his friends are going to finish their graduation soon. So they decide to go for a trip. They want to make this trip memorable. So they decide they will make custom printed t-shirts for all. All of their friends will keep these t-shirts with them as a sign of memory. So, when Mike went for printing the t-shirt the first question he faced - should it be screen printing or sublimation printing. 

Like Shelly and Mike we often faced the similar kind of question when it comes to apparel printing. Screen printing and Sublimation printing are the most common kind of printing. Both of them are useful but like Shelly and Mike based on your purpose both might not be suitable for you. It depends on your purpose and your budgets. If Mike took the wrong decision it can cost him a lot, if Shelly took the wrong decision it can cost her a lot too. If you take the wrong decision it can cost you a lot too. So, it is wise to know screen printing vs sublimation printing differences and  comparing these processes. In this article, we have discussed detail about screen printing and sublimation printing and how they differ from each other. So, let's check it out! 

Screen Printing 


If you understand the screen printing you understand half of the difference. So, let’s explore screen printing now.

What is Screen Printing 

Screen printing transfer stencilled design on to a flat surface. To transfer stencilled design it uses mesh screen, ink and a squeegee. Screen printing is mostly used on fabric and paper. But with special ink and method wood, plastic, metal and glass can be screen printed.  The most commonly used screen printing follows a three steps method. Create the mesh screen, design the screen and then imprint of the design is applied on the surface. 

Cost of Screen Printing 

In screen printing each design needs to have a specific setup. So you can guess, it is mostly perfect for the bulk design. If you want to make minimal order then this kind of printing can be costly for you. Since the setup cost is higher, you have to pay the whole setup cost for your order. So, if you want to screen print 10 t-shirts then the cost will be higher because you have to pay the whole setup cost only for this 10 t-shirt. 

Sublimation Printing 


So, it is time to understand sublimation printing. So, let’s explore the sublimation printing now. 

What is Sublimation Printing 

Sublimation printing is often known as the dye-sublimation. It is a kind of digital printing. It uses chemical processes to print apparel. Sublimation printing uses digital processes to print apparel. In this process the ink goes directly to the fabric and the ink permeates itself into the fibers of polyester fabric. In sublimation printing the design is firstly created, then the whole thing is applied on to the apparel through heat transfer. 

Process of Sublimation Printing 

The process of sublimation printing is different from screen printing. As we can guess from its definition, it is quite different but much faster than the screen printing. In sublimation printing firstly the design is printed on the special paper. However, in the design the mirror image is used in the process. Then the design is leveled with the fabric and then through heat and pressure the design is applied on the fabric. In this process the ink transforms from their solid form to the gas and penetrate on the fibers and create a bond with the fiber. This is how you get the high definition print with a high level of details. 

Cost of Sublimation Printing 

The setup cost is lower in the sublimation printing but the material cost is a bit higher in comparison to the screen printing. This kind of printing is perfectly suitable for the small order. Since the setup cost is lower than the screen printing you can print in a small order with minimal cost in this sublimation printing. 

Screen Printing vs Sublimation Printing 

So, let’s get back to our story again. Which one is suitable for Shelly and Mike. As you can guess not both of these printing is suitable for both of them and not each of them need one kind of printing method. So, to answer this question, let’s explore the key difference between Screen Printing and Sublimation Printing. 

Print Longevity 

If you are looking for a printing that stays for a long time then screen printing is the best. Screen printing does not stay for a long time on the substance. In screen printing the color sits on the surface so there is a big chance of fading after using the substance for a long time. . On the contrary Sublimation printing is completely the opposite. In sublimation printing the color penetrates the fiber which makes it fade resistant. So it stays for a long time. 

Print Detail 

If you are looking for a detailed printing then sublimation printing is the best suit for you. Sublimation uses a digital printing method, so you can easily get the high image quality printing in the sublimation printing. However screen printing creates sharp edges but cannot create detailed images like sublimation printing. 

Order Size 

Screen printing setup cost is higher. Each time you have to create a new setup for a new design. However, for the sublimation the initial setup cost is higher but when it is done, it is done forever. Unlike screen printing you do not have to create a new setup in sublimation. So, if you are planning to print a high volume of product then screen printing is much more suitable and cost effective. On the contrary for a low volume of product sublimation printing is perfect. 

So, Screen printing or Sublimation printing, which one Shelly should go for ? Which one Mike should go for? Mike does not need a bulk amount of tshirt, he needs only 10 to 100 t shirts for his circle. So, surely sublimation printing should be perfect for him. 

However, Shelly is planning for a business. She wants to create her own brand through her unique designed printed t-shirt. No doubt she will need a bulk amount of t-shirts. So, in-terms of costing screen printing should be the perfect choice for her. So which one do you think would be perfect for you? Is it Screen printing or Sublimation printing? 

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