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Technology

The difference between Screen Printng & Pad Printing

Author:
When you create promotional products or certain other types of printed, three-dimensional marketing collateral,
there’s a good chance you’ll end up using one of two different printing methods: screen printing or pad printing.
Though it’s typically best to entrust the actual printing to experts, it never hurts to learn the definition and the
difference between screen and pad printing so that you can understand the precise process your
design will go through.

Screen Printing
Screen printing (or silk screening) uses a mesh stencil through which ink is transferred to your material.
Typically, this involves first coating a steel, nylon or polyester screen mesh with emulsion that blocks all
openings in the screen except for the stencil area. The screen is placed above the material to be printed
and ink is pressed through the open holes using a roller or squeegee.


The technique dates back to early China (between 960 and 1279 AD) and has been popularized by many
modern-day artists including Andy Warhol, who used screen printing to make those famous colorful prints
of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. The technique rapidly caught on thanks to its low cost and easy access.

Professional screen printing has, of course, become significantly more sophisticated and accurate
since the 1960s. Automatic printing presses have helped streamline the process to make it incredibly
efficient. Today it’s commonly used to create custom t-shirts, drinkware and other promotional products.

Images printed using screen printing tend to look very sharp, clean and high-quality. The process is also
fast, inexpensive, and provides excellent ink opacity (the ability of ink to conceal the material underneath it).

Screen prints do, however, have certain disadvantages. For one, it’s not the optimal process to use when
working with very fine detail. There’s also the fact that different ink colors in a multicolored image must be
applied separately. With the screen printing process, this means that there’s a possibility of the product moving
slightly (up to 1/8 of an inch) and creating minor discrepancies in the way each color is applied. This is referred to as
an issue with registration. Screen printing does allow for overprinting (printing one color on top of another), which
may help to correct this misalignment.