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Promo University

Embroidery vs. Screen Printing: Which is Better for Promotional Items?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: April 5th, 2022

Ladies and gentlemen...it's time for the fight of the year! In this corner, the current reigning champ of the promotional world, clap your hands for screen printing! And in this corner, vying for the championship belt, please welcome, embroidery!

Okay, so maybe it's not the most exciting match in the world, but these two imprint methods do impact the overall quality and look of your promotional items. Here's everything you need to know about screen printing vs. embroidery.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is a customization process that uses plastisol ink. To create the design, the file is placed onto a mesh screen, covered in a green gel known as emulsion, and sealed via UV light.

You'll see screen printing used on many custom products including:

People in t-shirt Graphic T-shirts Clinking glasses Drinking Glasses Pen held up Promotional Pens Hearts on keyboard Stress Balls 2 notebooks Personalized Notebooks

Pros of Screen Printing

There are many advantages in using screen printing to customize your promotional items:

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Cost-Effective

Customization is not always cheap, but you won't have to worry about that with screen printing. In fact, some items start at under $1 each.

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Fast Production for Bulk Orders

Speed is the name of the game! The factories that decorate your items can get them screen printed at an insanely fast rate. Your order will be in your hands in about a week or less.

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Versatile

There's basically nothing screen printing can't do. It can be used to personalize a variety of materials including: fabric, plastic, wood, metal, glass, and ceramic.

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Scalable

A screen print can be scaled to fit any item, whether it's a small shot glass or a large yard sign. No matter what, the design will always be clean, crisp, and easy to see.

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Long-Lasting

Once the ink is on your item, it's bonded for life! As long as you're mindful when washing, you won't have to worry about a screen print coming off.

Cons of Screen Printing

Here are the disadvantages in using screen printing to customize your promotional items:

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Not Ideal for Heavy/Fuzzy Fabrics

Ink doesn't tend to stick too well to heavy materials like 100% cotton or fleece. If you want a product made from either material, embroidery is a better option!

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Icon 1 Color

Only 1 Color Included

Unfortunately, you usually only get one ink color included in the cost for a screen printed order. You have to pay for every extra color you want in the design, which can add up really quickly.

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Image May Crack or Chip

If a screen printed shirt or plastic cup takes a beating in the washer or dishwasher, the design may end up cracking or chipping away. Avoid this issue by handwashing and keeping the screen print away from heat whenever possible.

screen print

When Should I Use Screen Printing?

You should use screen printing if you need custom promotional items in bulk. This imprint method is great if you're on a budget, and since it's versatile, you can order pretty much anything with a screen printed design on the front.

 Screen Printing

Does Screen Printing Last?

Think of screen printing like a cool tattoo. It will last for life as long as you take care of it properly! Prevent cracking on screen printed t-shirts, hoodies, and other garments by washing them inside out and then hanging them up to air dry afterward.

Plastisol ink can also be used on non-fabric items like ceramic coffee mugs, plastic cups, and pint glasses. Try to handwash whenever possible instead of putting these items in the dishwasher. With enough care, the image may fade, but it won't totally disappear!

What is Embroidery?

Embroidery is a customization process that uses thread. Once the digital design is uploaded, a machine then stitches it directly onto the items.

You'll see embroidery used on many custom products including:

Person in baseball hat Baseball Hats Person holding blanket Custom Blankets Smiling person in hat Beanie Hats Person in gym Personalized Towels Backpack on chair Customized Backpacks

Pros of Embroidery

There are many advantages in using embroidery to customize your promotional items:

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Great for Any Order Size

You can order just a few embroidered items or order them in bulk if you need favors, gifts, or trade show giveaways. There is a quantity to fit anybody's needs!

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Fast Production

It's not like a bunch of grandmothers in rocking chairs are sewing your design by hand. The machine can crank out an order of embroidered promotional products faster than you can say, "needlepoint." You can expect the order to be shipped within a week.

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More Colors Included

Good news! With embroidery, you will get 7 or 8 thread colors included in the price. Sometimes it's even more depending on which promotional products you're ordering!

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Professional Look

There's a reason "stitched with love" is a common phrase. A design that's embroidered on a winter scarf or cozy sweatshirt looks more polished and refined than if it were created with ink printing.

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Long-Lasting

You don't have to worry about embroidery coming undone any time soon. Just don't let your cat get at the thread, and you're good to go!

Cons of Embroidery

Here are the disadvantages in using embroidery to customize your promotional items:

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Pricey

A stylish look comes at a higher cost. Embroidery isn't as budget-friendly as printing in ink, so it may not be a good option for places with a small budget like mom & pop shops, schools, charities, or nonprofits.

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Detail May Get Lost

Do you have a detailed logo or design that you want to print? Steer clear of embroidery! It can't capture all of the details and isn't able to produce gradients.

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Thread Can Get Snagged

Loose threads may get snagged and fall apart if you're not careful. Avoid this mishap by washing your embroidered garments inside of a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase.

When Should I Use Embroidery?

Embroidery machine

You should use embroidery when you want promotional products that are a bit more special than your average swag. This imprint method is also a good choice if you're interested in items that are made from fleece or heavy cotton.

Embroidery machine

Does Embroidery Last?

Embrodered fabric

Embroidery will last forever! As long as the thread doesn't get snagged, and the factory does the job properly, you won't have to worry about the design falling apart over time.

Embrodered fabric

To keep your design sharp, keep it away from kids, pets, nails, rocks, or anything jagged. You also should limit how often you wear embroidered clothing outdoors, especially if you're hiking, camping, or exercising. Embroidered items aren't delicate, but you still need to be smart and only wear or use them in the appropriate settings.

Is Screen Printing or Embroidery More Expensive?

Person counting money

Embroidery is usually more expensive than screen printing, but that isn't always the case. The cost of screen printing may increase if you're placing a smaller order or if you're using multiple ink colors. Price varies from product to product, so do your homework!

Person counting money

How to Digitize a Logo for Screen Printing or Embroidery

Person counting money

Do you want to order custom items? Get your artwork, photo, or logo ready by vectorizing it ahead of time. This saves a step when the design is being screen printed or digitally embroidered onto an item.

Are you not sure what "vector" means? Don't worry about it! The best promotional products distributors will take care of this step for you, free of charge. If they don't, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction and find someone better (*cough* *cough*... Quality Logo Products®)!

Person counting money

Screen Printing Vs. Embroidery: Which is Better?

Now that you know the pros and cons of embroidery vs. screen printing, it's time to finally decide which one is better. Drumroll please...the answer is it depends!

That may be an annoying verdict, but it's a truthful one. As a recap, here's everything you need to know about screen printing vs. embroidery.

Screen printing vs embroidery chart

Overall, there isn't a wrong choice when deciding between a screen print and embroidery. You're the best judge, so weigh the pros and cons, think about your budget, and if needed, ask a sales rep for their advice!

The Bottom Line

It doesn't happen often, but the battle of the century - embroidery vs. screen printing - ended in a tie. You have all the knowledge you need to make a decision before your next order of promotional items!

Quality Logo Products are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!

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Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.