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Embroidery or Screen Print? - Which Decoration Method is Right for You

Embroidery or Screen Print? - Which Decoration Method is Right for You.

3 Questions to Help Decide Which is Right for Your CB Station Products

We’re often asked if customers should use embroidery or screen printing to personalize their CB Station items, and our answer is simple: “Both!” And, “It depends.” Because of the type products we sell - with heavier, usually canvas, material - both embroidery and screen printing will create an indelible, beautiful image on our products. While embroidery technically lasts longer, our screen-printed products have a durable image that lasts long enough to make the difference meaningless.
That means the right choice for your product depends on other factors:
  • The quantity of the order
  • The frequency of re-orders
  • The complexity of the image
Before we address these three factors, however, let’s take a quick look at the basic differences between embroidery and screen printing to better understand why we might recommend one process over the other.

Embroidery is created with a needle and thread and is sewn directly onto the product. Of course, most embroidery today is done with computerized machines with multiple needles for quick changing of colored threads. Embroidery is usually priced by the number of stitches it takes to create the image. More stitches = higher cost.

  • Three-dimensional look
  • Coated threads give your image a “sheen”
  • Use as many colors as you like with no additional charge
  • Higher cost for large or complex images
  • Difficult to create complex effects like shading
Screen Printing

Screen Printing (AKA silk-screening or serigraphic printing) is done by printing the design on a screen. The screen is placed on top of the product, and ink is spread across the screen so that it seeps through the open areas on the screen onto the product. Screen printing has a higher setup fee than embroidery, but it is less expensive to print each product.

  • Virtually any design, with any effects or details, can be recreated with screen printing
  • Less cost if ordering many products at once
  • Because a new screen must be created for each color and then applied to each product, multiple colors can drive up the price
  • Two-dimensional images
Which is Right for You? Before deciding on screen printing or embroidery, consider the following three factors:

Factor #1: Order Quantity

If cost is a consideration (and isn’t it always?), the number of items you’re ordering with an identical image – in a single order - can make a big difference. While there are some discounts for larger quantities with embroidery, the cost-savings is much greater with screen printing.

Here’s an example:

If you’re ordering a tote bag with a three-color logo, and you need ten bags, embroidery will be the best choice (assuming it’s a logo that reproduces well with embroidery). The reason? With screen printing, three colors means three separate screens and a pretty big setup cost. With embroidery, you won’t be charged extra for the additional colors because multi-color embroidery can be easily programmed into the machine.

If you’re ordering 500 of the same bag, however, screen printing will get you the best price. Once the screens are made, the additional setup fee is spread out over 500 bags, and screen printing is a simpler process that takes less time.

Factor #2: Re-Order Frequency

Sometimes you’ll have an item where you won’t be able to order 500 at once, but you know you’ll need 500, say ten at a time, over the course of a year. In that case, embroidery will probably get you the best price. Setup fees for a second run are minimal or non-existent with embroidery: we simply program the machines to create the same image. Even though the screens exist from your first order, setup fees are still much higher with screen printing: the printer has to be re-loaded with the right inks, the screens put in place, etc. So over time, you’ll spend more with screen printing. Of course, factors 1 and 2 are meaningless if you simply want one or the other. The specific image is usually the most important – and most complex – factor in deciding between embroidery and screen printing.

Factor #3: Complexity of the Image

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: less complex images – such as single-color monograms – usually look better with embroidery, while more difficult images – such as a logo containing a picture or very small lettering – usually look better with screen printing. Price also plays a role here. If you have simple lettering (and remember, you can use as many colors as you like), embroidery will define the letters, give them a three-dimensional look, and the coated threads will make them stand out. It’s THE professional look. But here’s where it gets interesting: If you want the same lettering to be very large – say taking an entire side of a garment bag – embroidery can be very expensive. Remember, embroidery is priced by stitch count, and the bigger the image, the more stitches it takes to create it. The lettering can be more expensive than the bag!

The bottom line: embroidery works best with a small, simple image.

If you have a complex image – logos with pictures, shading, etc. – you’ll best be able to reproduce it with screen printing. Screen printing doesn’t give you that 3D look, but the tradeoff is that you can, quite literally, print anything with screen printing. Logos. Pictures. Even photographs. Screen printing can handle it all. In addition, screen printing doesn’t care how big the image is (as long as it fits on our products!). So an extra-large logo or monogram will cost the same, and look as good, as a smaller one. The bottom line: screen printing works best with more complex images of any size.

So What Does It All Mean?

Unfortunately, most orders don’t fall simply into one of the above categories. What if you have a small, simple image, but you need 500 of them? What if you have a very complex image, but you only need 20? It can be complicated. That’s why we’re here to help! The experts at CB Station are here to advise you on the best method, taking all these factors into account. If you’re not sure, give us a call or email us! We want you to get the best product at the best price every time!