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Embroidery vs Screen Printing: Which is Better?

20220214-220349rockford_large Embroidered Cap with Screen Printed Tee

You know one thing: you're ready to outfit your team with branded apparel featuring your company logo. But, now you're wrestling with the question: do I want screen print decoration or embroidery? Here at Midwest Stitch, we see customers deal with this dilemma every day – and we're here to help.

Embroidery vs Screen Printing: What is the difference? 

Embroidery is the art of creating designs on fabric using a needle and thread. Embroidery can be done by hand or with the use of multi-head industrial machines run by skilled operators.

A machine operator clamps each garment to the machine by using a specialized embroidery hoop that attaches to each embroidery head. Each head must also be set up with the corresponding thread colors. At this point, thanks to machine programming, much of the embroidery process is automated.

However, an operator carefully observes the machine to ensure everything is running smoothly. Items are then removed from the machine and inspected for quality.

Screen Printing, sometimes referred to as silk screening, involves the use of stenciled screens and ink to print designs on a surface.

For this discussion, we're referring to printing logos onto various [KR2] apparel items. Once the garment is prepared, then every color in the design is laid using its own screen. The garment is passed through a dryer to cure the ink, ensuring the permanence of the decoration.

Popular applications for screen printing are tee shirts, hoodies, and smaller promotional items like pens and coffee mugs.

 Is Screen Printing or Embroidery more cost-effective?

This is a great question! Let's consider three factors to help you decide which one is the best option for your project: (1) set-up costs, (2) cost per wear, and (3) the type of garment.


 1. Set-up costs:

Screen Printing: There is a charge for creating the screens needed for your design. Each color in your design requires its own screen and most designs need an under base which also needs its own screen. Typically, these charges apply only with your first order.

When discussing your options with your apparel consultant, ask how many screens your design requires and how much each screen will cost.

Embroidery: For a design to be embroidered, it must first be digitized (to read an interview with our in-house digitizer, please click here). Our digitizer needs a high-quality file of your logo to create a digital file that maps out each stitch in your logo.

This process is not automated and requires technical skills, experience, and creativity. The charge for digitizing applies for logo designs that we have not embroidered before.

If you are getting a logo embroidered very large, perhaps on the back of a jacket, or an additional slogan embroidered on another part of the garment, those would likely incur their own one-time digitizing fee.

After looking at your logo, our consultants will be happy to give you a quote.

2. Cost-per-wear:

To calculate the cost-per-wear of a garment, divide the cost of the garment by the number of times you will wear it. Many people consider this factor when making apparel purchases and it's helpful to take into account when deciding between screen print and embroidery. You need to decide which benefit is most important to you: price or longevity.

Embroidery: costs slightly more, decoration lasts longer than the garment

Screen Printing: costs slightly less, garment lasts longer than the decoration

3. The Type of Garment:

Because screen printing involves the transfer of ink directly onto fabric, the fabric must have a smooth face. Examples of garments that typically fit this requirement are cotton tees, performance tees, hoodies & sweatshirts, and canvas tote bags. Lower cost apparel , like these, in large quantity orders are a great candidate for screen printing.

Embroidery is excellent for many items, including: knit polos, performance golf shirts, polar fleece, ball caps, knit & fleece caps, outerwear, and uniform shirts. These items are usually made with heavier fabric that holds embroidery very well.

High-pile fabrics like polar fleece and sherpa cannot be screen printed, so embroidery is the solution when decorating these fabrics. Items well suited for embroidery will likely last longer compared to those well suited for screen printing (e.g., an outdoor coat will last longer than a hoodie and a knit polo will last longer than a tee shirt).

Remember: good embroidery will likely outlast the garment it adorns.

Which is Better?

Both embroidery and screen printing are great methods of decoration for corporate apparel, and each meets a specific need. Often, many customers find that they need some of both. Here are some questions to help you narrow it down for your specific order:

  • Are these items for an event like a company picnic or an anniversary party?
  • Do you need these items in bulk?
  • Are they for daily manual labor?
  • Are they promotional items for customer giveaways?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, a screen print order may be the way to go.
  • Are the items needed for office wear?
  • Are they meant to be worn once or twice a week?
  • Are the items outerwear?
  • Is the fabric high pile or fuzzy?
  • Are the items a gift to commemorate an outstanding team accomplishment?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, choosing embroidery is likely the best route.

We'll Help You Decide: Screen Print (Silk Screen) Vs Embroidery 

Here at Midwest Stitch, we understand that the options for branded company apparel seem endless and even overwhelming. That is why we make sure to learn exactly what you need and want from your apparel. With that knowledge, our team of apparel consultants can make well-fitted recommendations. This allows you to make an informed decision that is best for your company.

The next time you are read to get a branded apparel order started, bring us your problems. We're here to help!

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