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Embroidery vs. Screen Printing: A Detailed Comparison

Custom Screen Printed & Embroidered Jackets

Table of Contents

Embroidery and screen printing are popular methods for customizing clothing and other items with images or designs. However, despite some similarities, the two significantly differ in cost, applications, and appearance. This article will provide a detailed guide on the difference between embroidery and screen printing.

Embroidery: What is it?

Embroidery is a method of customization that uses thread to stitch an image onto a garment using a machine. It is commonly used on various customized products, such as backpacks, towels, blankets, beanie hats, baseball hats, and shirts.

Advantages of Embroidery:

  • Fast Production Rate: Custom embroidery orders can be completed quickly using top-of-the-line machines.
  • Suitable for All Order Sizes: Embroidered items can be ordered in bulk or small quantities without issues.
  • Durable: Embroidered items/designs can last for many years without coming undone.
  • Includes More Colors: Embroidered items can include a variety of colors (up to about 7 or 8 colors) without incurring extra costs.

Disadvantages of Embroidery:

  • Only Used on Fabric: Embroidery can only be used on fabric items, not pens, candles, or mugs.
  • Costly: Embroidery can be more expensive than ink printing methods.
  • Potential Snagging of Threads: Embroidered designs are durable, but the threads are susceptible to snagging if handled carelessly.

An embroidery is a great option for creating unique, custom designs for heavy cotton or fleece items.

Screen Printing: What is it?

Screen printing uses either plastisol, waterbased, or a number of other specialty inks to implement designs/images on various custom products. The image file is first outputted onto film positives and then placed onto a mesh and then covered in emulsion before exposure to Ultraviolet light for sealing. At this point a negative is created of the design which is then set up onto machines and uses the new screen (negative) to pass ink through only that section, creating a final product. Multiple screens are needed if the design is more than 1 color, as each color would require its own screen which is registered on the machines so each time the shirt goes around the colors lay exactly in the correct place. Screen printing can be used on various custom products, including clothing/fabric, pens, notebooks, cups and glasses, and water bottles.

Advantages of Screen Printing:

  • Affordable: Screen printing is one of the most affordable methods of customizing items.
  • Swift Bulk Order Processing: Screen printing can be done quickly and efficiently.
  • Scalable: Screen printing can be adjusted to match the size of any object and can be printed up to 33×43″  or 48×60″ sometimes even larger depending on the product and number of colors.
  • Durable: Screen-printed designs are long-lasting and can work .
  • Versatile: Screen printing can be used on various products and fabrics including acrylic, polyester, spandex, modal, cotton, neoprene, and many more.

Disadvantages of Screen Printing:

  • Small Orders Can be Costly: Small orders can be costly for screen printing how ever the price is the lowest at large quantities due to the initial set up cost.
  • Unsuitable for Non-Flat Objects: Screen printing is unsuitable for printing on rounded objects such as hats.
  • High Initial Set Up Cost: Since each color in your artwork would require an individual film and screen the initial set up cost can be a deterrent to many.

Screen printing is a great option for anyone working on a tight budget and customizing many items in bulk. However, it may be suitable for something other than small orders.


In summary, both embroidery and screen printing have their advantages and disadvantages. Embroidery is best suited for fabric items and can include a range of colors, but it is more expensive than screen printing. Screen printing is versatile, affordable, and durable but may not be suitable for small orders. Choose the method that best suits your needs and budget to create unique, customized designs on your clothing and other items.

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Alex Hales

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