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Screen printing, digital printing or pad printing: what’s the difference?

When you order printed products from IGO Promo, you will come across different printing techniques. In this article we will explain the difference between some of these techniques and which one is best to choose.

What is digital printing? 

The best way to explain what digital printing is is to compare it to a regular printer you have at home. A digital printer does not only print on paper, but on many more materials. First, the products are thoroughly cleaned and placed in special molds. These pass through the printer, where a large print head passes very closely over the products and prints the logo, text or image directly on the product. The printers are therefore many times larger than the ‘standard printer’ next to your computer or laptop, but they basically work the same. Special digital printers are available that can print 360 degrees on bottles, for example.  

Which products are suitable for digital printing? 

Digital print is, for example, widely used for printing plastic and plastic products such as lighters with a logo, power banks with a logo or printed key rings. But it is also possible to print water bottles all around using a digital printer. Usually they are flat, flat products, with the exception of the bottles. Not all products are suitable for digital printing. For example, consider towels. Digital printing of shirts is possible, but for a print that lasts longer, screen printing is better because the color then adheres better and stays beautiful for longer. Ceramic is much less suitable for digital print, as the print is not dishwasher safe for a long time.  

What are the pros and cons of digital printing? 

A digital printer can print a logo directly on the product in full color super fast. It is quite possible to print gradients and color transitions using this method. Even small details come into their own. You are stuck with the CMYK color system. On the one hand, this is an advantage because you can print in many colors. But does your logo or corporate identity consist of one or more PMS colors? Then you always get the most accurate possible approximation of the colors with CMYK. But it’s still an approximation. With screen printing or pad printing, the PMS (Pantone) color can be printed with very high accuracy. Read more in the article about the different color systems. Due to the shorter and cheaper start-up time, digital printing is also especially suitable for small print runs. 

What is screen printing? 

Screen printing uses a framework that allows ink to pass through in certain places. The product to be printed is laid completely flat and pressed against the screen. There is ink on the top and with the help of a kind of ruler the ink is pressed into the product over the guaze. Depending on the print and the product, a somewhat coarser or more fine-meshed framework is used. This means that ink only gets on the product in the places where the screen lets it through and so your logo or text will appear on the product.  

Which products are suitable for screen printing? 

For example, screen printing is very suitable for printing on clothing, such as printed shirts or bags with a logo. Screen printing is very suitable for flexible materials such as bags in polyester, felt, cotton, linen or RPET. The number of colors of the print is also decisive. Requirement is that no more than 6 colors are used for the complete print, depending on the product. An advantage of this printing technique is that you can print on large formats. Perfect for bags and umbrellas for example. Screen printing is less suitable for very fine printing or for printing small runs.  

What is pad printing? 

Pad printing is an indirect form of printing, in which the ink is transferred by means of a silicone pressure pad (tampon). Pad printing uses a cliché. This is an aluminum plate in which the desired logo has been saved by means of laser engraving. On top of the picture is a jar with ink. This goes over the recess, causing the recess to fill with ink. The silicone pressure pad then pressures on the surface where the ink is located and transfers it to the product.  

Which products are suitable for pad printing? 

The tampon is flexible and can therefore adapt to the shape of the product to be printed. This makes pad printing suitable for products in all shapes. Think of pens, golf balls or notebooks. Moreover, with pad printing you can also print better details, such as smaller texts or detailed logos, where this is more difficult with screen printing.   

The advantages and disadvantages of screen printing and pad printing 

Both screen printing and pad printing are techniques that take a little more time in preparation. It is an extensive process in which the ink is premixed and the screens or printed circuit plates have to be made. Precise setting of the machine also takes some extra time. That is why these techniques are particularly interesting for printing products in larger numbers. With screen printing it is also important that the products can be laid flat. 

The major advantage of both techniques is that PMS colors are approached much closer, which is less the case with digital printing. The color of the product does affect this. The same PMS color looks different on a black product than on a white product. The printing also lasts longer, even with intensive use. Pad printing is stronger in small prints with more detail, while screen printing is very suitable for larger prints in one or a few colors.  

Pad printing is also strong in multi-color printing, from 2 to 5 colors, as well as screen printing, from 4 to 6 colors. For pad printing, printing PMS colors on a dark background is a challenge, while screen printing has it a lot easier on this part because more ink is transferred.  

Choosing the Imprint location and technique 

When you have products printed at IGO Promo, you can choose the printing technique yourself. The printing technique and dimensions may differ per product and per printing location. Click on the desired product, select a color and then you will see the possible printing locations. Click on a printing location and you immediately see which printing techniques are possible and in how many colors.  


Do you need help choosing the right printing location(s) and/or technique? Please feel free to contact us. We are happy to help you to ensure the best products with a print that stays beautiful for a long time! 

By | 2022-09-23T09:51:15+00:00 31 August 2022|