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When to Use Embroidery Instead of Silk Screening

We’ve got imprint methods galore around here, each providing your product with a fresh, distinct look. If you've ever wondered which method works best or what the differences between our two most popular methods are, then you’ve come to the right place! Quality Logo Products is in the business of making your brand look fabulous, so read on to find out which of these popular imprint methods might be right for you.

Part of choosing a promotional product means deciding on an imprint method—and there are a lot! If you want a custom glass desk award, for instance, you’re going to need to laser engrave that. And if you want to order leather portfolios with your logo, those will need to be debossed.

When it comes to most products (especially apparel), you’re faced with choosing between two of the most popular imprint methods: embroidery and screen printing (also called "silk screening" by some old pros in the industry). Here’s what you should know about both:

All About Embroidery

Embroidery is an art. With this method, your image is expertly sewn onto a product for a clear, classic look. In this day and age, modern technology has also turned embroidery into a science—now computer-controlled machines are responsible for the sewing and stitching!

The embroidery floor is an action-packed place, full of needle-work and wizardry. See for yourself:

Pros!

Quality
In some circles, embroidery is the gold standard of imprints. An embroidered imprint looks crisp, distinct, and professional. It’s precise with near-perfect quality, which is why it’s the must-have imprint method to some of the fancy and elite.

Long-Lasting
With the right care, an imprint on any item can last a long time. Traditionally, custom embroidery doesn’t wash or fade out. It becomes part of the fabric on the item, and the thread used holds up slightly better than the ink transfer in screen printing.

Multiple Colors
Not only can you choose from a ton of thread colors when you go the embroidery route, you can also use several colors on your imprint at once, usually for no additional charge! Since embroidered imprints are programmed into a machine, it’s easy for the computer to switch from one color thread to another. And although satin thread is the default thread used for most projects, other types like metallic and matte threads are available.

Time
With embroidery, your logo file is taken and digitized (turned into a file that embroidery machines can read). Because of this relatively fast and simple digital process, the turnaround time on embroidered materials is pretty quick – often finished in just a day or two!

Cons!

Cost
Embroidery has some amazing benefits, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Or in this case, you pay for what you get. Either way, embroidery is kind of expensive. The cost is based on the number of stitches used; larger images mean more stitches, and more stitches raise the cost. More stitches also create a more detailed image.

However, you do save some money on setup fees. If you want to do another embroidery order and use the same image, the file is ready to go, so you don’t have to pay another charge for the setup of the embroidery machine!

If you want to know what else to expect when ordering an embroidered item, check out all the frequently asked questions here.

The Secrets of Screen Printing

Screen printing is, well, printing using a screen. Your design gets printed onto a screen, and that screen is laid on top of the item being customized. Ink is spread across it and seeps through only the parts of the screen left open. The ink dries on top of the fabric, leaving your bold logo looking fresh.

With the magic of UV light and carefully placed ink, your logo comes to life (not literally, because this is more of a factory operation and less Frankenstein’s lab). This is how it works:

Here are some other things to know about the screen printing imprint process before using it on your promotional products:

Pros!

Cost
By and large, screen printing is an inexpensive way to print a lot of top-notch promotional products. Cost is determined by several factors including the number of colors used, the number of imprint locations, and the number of pieces ordered. More colors and more imprint areas cost more, while ordering more items usually results in a lower cost per unit, much the way that buying cereal in bulk at Costco works.

Versatility
You can use screen printing on more than just clothes. Basically any material that’s cotton, polyester, plastic, leather, glass, or metal will take a screen printed imprint. Sadly, it doesn’t print well on rough, fuzzy, or thick materials the way embroidery does and may peel off. But it’s perfect for your assorted t-shirt, stress ball, tote bag, and keychain needs!

Cons!

Imprints Can Vary

Unlike embroidery, screens are not saved. Thanks to our Setup for Life ® program, you'll never have to pay for a new screen again (if you're using the same item and artwork combination). However, this means there's a small chance the imprint can vary from your first order to your second. But don't worry—Quality Logo Products warranties all of our imprints!

Time
The screen printing process is more complicated than embroidery because there are longer setup times. They have to make an actual screen of the image for each imprint order, which takes a little more time than just uploading a file into a computer. If you check out some of the items that get screen printed on our website, you’ll notice the process time for an ink imprint can be up to 7 days or longer.

For more tips about how to get the most from your screen print and what to expect in the screen printing process, read more here.

Because embroidery costs more than screen printing, it might be a good choice for advertising on a small quantity of promotional items rather than on thousands of items. It’s the best imprint method for sports apparel, work uniforms and hats, or harder-to-imprint items like a fleece hoodie. If you’ve got a prestigious reputation to uphold, or a small order of fuzzy blankets that you want to last a long time, embroidery might be for you!

The Moment of Truth

Because screen printing is often cheaper, it’s ideal for printing large quantities of promotional items like 1,000 stress balls for your next trade show or t-shirts for your staff.

Ultimately, deciding on embroidery versus screen printing is based on personal preference and marketing budgets. Both screen printing and embroidery produce beautiful color imprinting, but picking one might depend on what you’re looking to imprint or what event you’re attending. If you’re still hesitant about picking an imprint method, the Quality Logo Products experts are always just a click away!

If you’re looking for a super-swanky imprint method, you might be leaning towards embroidery. If you’re looking for something a little less costly, you might want to make screen printing your imprint method of choice. Only you know which imprint method is going to be right for you, but hopefully this handy guide will help make the decision easier!