Screen Printing vs Embroidery: What is the Difference?

As you consider custom apparel options, you’re faced with a crucial decision: embroidery or printing. Both methods have their strengths, but which one is right for your project? Embroidery offers a professional finish with intricate stitching. It is perfect for workwear and business attire. But what about vibrant, detailed designs at a lower cost? That’s where printing comes in. You’re likely wondering which method will give you the desired outcome. To make an informed decision, you need to explore the pros and cons of embroidery and screen printing. Let’s explore which method reigns supreme for your specific needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Embroidery offers durability and a professional look. It is ideal for workwear and high-end apparel, but can be expensive and limited in color range.
  • Screen printing is cost-effective for bulk orders and suitable for custom apparel and promotional products. But it may have limitations in design choices and color accuracy.
  • Embroidery provides a raised texture and is suitable for heavier, textured fabrics. Screen printing offers a smooth texture and thrives on smoother fabrics.
  • Embroidery is more expensive than screen printing, with additional fees for set-up and digitizing.
  • The choice between embroidery and screen printing depends on the desired look, fabric type, and budget.

What is Embroidery?

what is embroidery

Embroidery is a timeless art form that combines creativity and precision. It brings intricate designs, logos, and text to life on fabric using needle and thread.

Embroidery is the art of decorating fabric with needle and thread, allowing for unique garment personalization. You can choose from various stitches, thread colors, and fabrics to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

What’s more, embroidery can be done by hand or with specialized machines, making it accessible to anyone. The result? A premium, textured look that’s both durable and long-lasting, making embroidery an ideal choice for creating lasting impressions.

What is the Process of Embroidery?

When you start embroidering, you need to upload your design to the embroidery machine as a digital file. Next, you’ll carefully set up the machine to ensure precision and quality.

Upload a digital version of design

To begin the embroidery process, you need to upload a digital version of your design. This digital file is essential for setting up the embroidery machine with the correct thread count and placement details.

Set up embroidery machine

Once your digital design is uploaded, you can proceed to set up the embroidery machine. This process requires careful attention to detail in order to achieve perfect stitching.

Now, it’s time to select the perfect fabric and thread type that will bring your design to life. Consider the colors and stitch types that will achieve the desired visual effect.

Once you’ve made your selection, securely place the fabric in the embroidery machine. 

Stitch the embroidered design

Use the embroidery machine to quickly and accurately create flawless designs on fabric. The machine can easily handle intricate patterns and vibrant colors.

With each stitch, the machine meticulously crafts a masterpiece, blending hues and textures to create a one-of-a-kind embroidery work.

Advantages of Embroidery

As you weigh your options between embroidery and printing, you should consider the advantages of embroidery.


Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to embroidery. You get to reap the benefits of its adaptability in design placement, fabric choice, and thread color selection.

With embroidery, you can choose where to place your design on the garment, such as the chest, sleeve, or collar. Plus, you can choose from a variety of fabrics, from smooth cotton to textured polyester blends. The raised texture of embroidered designs adds an extra layer of visual interest, making your garment truly stand out.


Embroidery lasts a long time, thanks to its durability. The stitching is more resistant to wear and fading. It ensures your design remains vibrant and intact even after multiple washes. This makes embroidery ideal for items that require resilience and longevity, such as workwear or high-end apparel.

Professional Look

Embroidery can give your business attire and outerwear a sophisticated and high-end look. So it is a great choice for professionals who want to project a polished image.

When embroidering logos or designs onto the fabric, you can choose thread colors that match your brand’s style. The intricate stitching in embroidery creates a refined look that’s unmatched by other decoration methods.

Disadvantages of Embroidery

As you weigh the pros and cons of embroidery, you’ll want to consider the limitations that might impact your design.

Incompatible with gradient colors

Gradient colors pose a significant challenge for embroidery. Its thread-based nature and limited color blending capabilities make it difficult to achieve smooth transitions in gradient effects. You’ll struggle to replicate the seamless transitions you can achieve with screen printing. The stitch-by-stitch process of embroidery makes it tough to blend colors, resulting in noticeable steps between shades. 

Not recommended for waterproof garments

For waterproof clothing, avoid using embroidery to decorate it because the stitching can damage the fabric’s ability to repel water. The needle and thread used in embroidery can create holes in the fabric. This allows water to seep through the stitched areas, making it unsuitable for items requiring water resistance.

Not suitable for small text

Embroidery is not recommended for designs with small text because the intricate stitching can make it hard to read. The fine details can be lost in the thread. You’ll want to consider this when deciding between embroidery and printing for your personalized apparel.

What is Screen Printing?

what is screen printing

You’ve probably seen screen printing on many things, like t-shirts and polo shirts. Have you ever wondered how it works?

Essentially, screen printing involves using ink through a mesh screen onto a garment to create vibrant, detailed designs. This technique allows for bold graphics and solid colors. So it’s perfect for apparel customization and promotional items.

As a cost-effective method for large quantities, screen printing is a go-to for large orders. With its excellent color opacity, brightness, and durability, it’s no wonder screen printing is a preferred choice for many.

Screen printing is a reliable method that delivers high-quality results for creating shirts or billboards.

What is the Process of Screen Printing?

As you explore the world of screen printing methods, you’ll discover that it’s all about the process.

Design the mesh screen

To start screen printing, create a mesh screen with a stencil of your complex design. This will be the template for transferring ink to fabric. This design will dictate the final look of your printed garment, so it’s essential to get it right.

Transfer the ink

With your design mesh screen ready, you’re now set to transfer the ink onto your garment. You’ll need to push the ink through the mesh screen onto the garment using a squeegee. Make sure to apply even pressure to ensure a smooth, consistent print.

As you work, remember that screen printing is all about layering. Be prepared to create separate screens for each color in your design. With each pass, you’ll build up the colors, gradually bringing your design to life. The result? Vibrant, high-quality prints that’ll make your garments stand out.


Now, you need to dry the garment properly after applying the ink. This will ensure that the print is vibrant and long-lasting. When you put your printed clothes in the dryer, the heat cures the ink, making sure your designs are fully ready to wear.

Advantages of Screen Printing

As you weigh the pros and cons of screen printing, you’ll discover that it offers some major advantages. 


Screen printing proves to be a cost-effective choice for decorating garments, especially when compared to embroidery. You’ll benefit from lower setup costs, as screen printing involves creating screens. This makes screen printing an attractive option for bulk orders or large-scale productions.

Suitable for high-visibility and weatherproof clothes

Use screen printing to make your clothing brand stand out, especially on high-visibility clothes like safety vests. Because it can create bold, bright colors that attract attention.

You can rely on screen printing for colorful designs on durable jackets and windbreakers that can handle any weather. The durable ink used in screen printing ensures your brand’s message remains loud and clear, even in harsh conditions.

Suitable for small texts

When precision matters, screen printing delivers, capturing even the smallest text details with remarkable accuracy and clarity. Screen printing is ideal for small texts because it can accurately reproduce intricate fonts and logos.

Disadvantages of Screen Printing

When you’re considering screen printing for your custom apparel, you’ll want to factor in the downsides. 

High cost of colors

As you start screen printing, you’ll find that one of the main challenges is the high cost of colors. 

The cost of ink colors is a major contributor to the high cost of screen printing. Each color in your design requires a separate screen, making it a costly affair. The more colors you use, the higher the cost. This can limit your design choices and restrict your creative freedom.

Fabric color affects ink colors

In screen printing, the color of the fabric you choose will affect how your design looks. To get the desired result, it’s important to consider the fabric’s color and select ink accordingly.

Light fabrics need more layers of ink for vibrant colors, while dark fabrics affect brightness and ink precision. The interaction of fabric color and ink can cause variations in the final color result. So it’s crucial to consider the fabric’s color when screen printing.

Differences Between Embroidery and Screen Printing

differences between embroidery and screen printing

There are several key differences between embroidery and screen printing.


Unlike screen printing, embroidery is more durable. Because the intricately stitched threads become an integral part of the fabric. It ensures that your embroidery design remains vibrant and intact even after multiple washes and wear. 


Your choice between embroidery and screen printing greatly impacts the tactile experience of the finished product. Embroidery adds a raised texture by stitching thread on fabric, while screen printing creates a smooth, flat texture on garments.

Variety of Colors

You’ll encounter significant differences in the variety of colors achievable with embroidery and screen printing. The latter offers a vastly broader spectrum of hues and shades. When it comes to vibrant and complex color designs, screen printing may be a preferred choice.

Embroidery uses a more limited color due to thread availability and stitching constraints. This makes it better suited for designs with fewer colors or where color accuracy is crucial. In contrast, screen printing excels in color variety, allowing for intricate designs with multiple shades and tones.

Fabric Compatibility

Consider the fabric: embroidery works best on heavier, textured fabrics, while screen printing is better on smoother, more compact weaves.

Embroidery looks great on jackets and caps, while screen printing adds color to cotton tees and sweatshirts. When choosing between embroidery and screen printing, consider the fabric type to ensure your design looks its best. 

Cost Comparison

As you weigh the cost of logo design, consider that screen printing is cheaper than embroidery. Think about extra fees for setup and digitizing for embroidery, which may not be charged for screen printing.

The labor and time required for embroidery’s intricate stitching process contribute to higher costs compared to screen printing. So embroidery is suitable for minimum orders.

Look and Feel

When choosing between embroidery and printing, consider the tactile experience and visual appeal of the final product. The decision to use embroidery or printing depends on the desired look and feel of the final product. Consider if you like embroidery for its raised design, or if you prefer screen printing for its flat design.

If you’re looking for a more subtle, sophisticated look, embroidery might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you want to make a bold statement with bright, eye-catching colors, screen printing is the way to go.

Care and Maintenance

To keep your embroidered and screen-printed clothes vibrant and intact, you should take different approaches when caring for them.

For embroidered garments, gentle washing and air drying are a must to preserve the intricate thread work. Avoid machine washing and drying, as they can cause damage. When ironing, do it inside out to protect the threads.

On the other hand, screen printing can withstand machine washing and drying, making it a low-maintenance option. However, it’s still important to iron on low heat or inside out to protect the design.


Now that you’ve got the lowdown on embroidery and printing, it’s time to make an informed decision.

Consider the fabric, color options, and durability you need, and choose the method that fits your vision. With the right choice, your custom apparel will turn heads and make a statement.


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