If you haven't ordered a lot of promotional apparel, you may wonder which process is best for you: embroidered logos or screen printed logos. There is no one right answer for everybody or all situations, because it depends on what you want printed, what quantity you need, and what you want to spend. Hopefully the following brief primer on the differences between the two most common processes of logo reproduction will help you better understand the options and make a more informed decision.
Embroidered logos are created with thread, and are stitched directly onto a fabric product such as a baseball cap, shirt, jacket, or towel. Custom embroidery is a long lasting way to make a professional statement. It has a higher perceived value than screen printing -- embroidery just looks more upscale. It also lasts longer. Custom embroidery is most often used to apply logos to corporate apparel, but also works well for delivery personnel or other blue collar workers who need to look professional when they show up at customer's homes or businesses.
For a simple one or two color logo, the initial setup cost is a little greater with embroidery than with screen printing, but the more items you produce, the lower the overall cost per item. And once an embroidery setup is done, it doesn't have to be redone for subsequent orders. In comparison, screen printing setups have to be recreated each time the logo is reproduced, although usually at a discounted rate on repeat orders, since the artwork preparation part of the setup process does not have to be repeated.
Custom embroidery will generally be the most economical solution when you only need a few garments (less than say 3-4 dozen), when your logo has numerous colors in it, and when you are content with a small (pocket sized) reproduction of your logo. Also, a coarse or fluffy fabric will not screen print well, so embroidery is be a better choice for fabrics such as fleece. If your items need to hold up through daily use, or will be industrial laundered, embroidery is a better choice as it is more durable than screen printing. If you want your logo reproduced at a large size (like full width on the back of a shirt or jacket), that is relatively costly to do with embroidery, so screen printing should be considered in this situation.
Screen Printed Logos
Screen printing uses ink to create a logo on fabric. A stencil (also called a "screen") is made for each color in the design, and ink is pushed through the screen onto the item being printed. Each different color used requires a different stencil, and there is a cost associated with creating each stencil, so the more colors in the design, the greater the cost to print the item. Using sophisticated color manipulation techniques, screen printing can reproduce detailed images and therefore allows for a variety of different effects, colors and shadings. However, it is possible to create artwork (particularly in Photoshop) that does not translate easily (or sometimes at all) to screen printing. Always check with your screen printer as to whether your art is suitable before becoming irrevocably committed a design that may cause you major headaches or expense down the line.
Screen printing can be very economical when done in larger quantities. But it can be ridiculously pricey when done in small quantities, especially if multiple colors are involved. Screen printing prices depend heavily on the number of colors in your design. The more colors in your artwork, the higher the quantities have to be before costs become reasonable. Check out our previous posts about how to keep custom screen printed t-shirts affordable for more insight. Another thing worth noting: unlike embroidery, screen printing prices often do not vary depending on the size of the logo being reproduced. So it is often possible to print a large logo (full width across a shirt) for the same price as a small (pocket) sized logo. Consider the extra size for added visibility at no additional cost.
One thing to be aware of when comparing embroidery and screen printing is that the durability of screen printing is not nearly as great as that of embroidery. Frequent wearing and washing of an item will eventually cause a screen printed image to wear, while an embroidered logo will almost always outlast the garment it is sewn on. But if you need a large quantity (hundreds) of baseball caps or t-shirts for a particular event, screen printing is definitely going to be the more economical way to go.
Hopefully the above information has shed a little light on your consideration of the two most common methods of reproducing your logo. But you may not have a clear cut understanding yet of which one is best for you. That's because every situation is unique -- and that's why everything that we do is custom. Every situation has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. And we're happy to do that -- it's what we're here for. When you're ready to order promotional apparel, contact us for assistance in deciding which process and which items are the best fit for your needs. At EmbroidMe San Diego, we offer both embroidery and screen printing, and our expertise in both techniques means we can help you figure out which is the best way to get your message across to your customers. We're here to help!