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Understanding the Difference Between Screen Printing and Offset Printing

Screen printing press printing membrane switches at IP Tech in Mesa, AZ
Screen printing press printing membrane switches at IP Tech in Mesa, AZ

Screen printing and offset printing are two different methods of printing that have certain advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the differences between these two printing techniques can help you decide which one is best for your project.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is a printing method that involves using a mesh screen to transfer ink onto a substrate. It's a popular choice for large-scale designs and customizing t-shirts and fabric items. The process requires the use of a mesh stencil, or “screen”, to block off areas of the substrate where ink will not be applied. Inks usually fall into two categories: water-based and plastisol inks. Using a squeegee, the printer forces ink past the areas blocked by a stencil and onto the substrate below.

Technical screen printing is just like the above, but is done with more exacting process and can produce circuit boards, membrane switches, touch screens, graphic overlays, printed resistors and numerous applications where a heavy deposit is required as in printed electronic tracings.

What is Offset Printing?

Offset printing, commonly referred to as “lithography”, utilizes a wet-on-wet process. This means that a special liquid ink, or “offset” ink is rolled onto a plate and then transferred from the plate to the substrate—in this case usually paper. The elements of the design are removed from the area and left behind on the plate. Ink is then applied to transfer an image onto paper. Offset printing is best for high volume, large format runs that may require intricate detail and precise colors. It also offers superior color accuracy and consistency compared to screen printing.

How Do You Choose the Right printing Method For Your Project?

When deciding which printing method to use, you must consider the size of your project, the type of material you plan to print on, and the desired end result. Offset printing is best used for large prints; anything up to 50,000 copy runs. Screen printing is ideal for smaller jobs and offers a higher level of vibrancy and texture on a range of materials from textiles to paper. Depending on your needs, cost considerations will ultimately determine which method you choose for your project!

What Are The Advantages of Screen Printing?

Screen printing offers many advantages over other types of printing. It is often the most cost-effective for small runs, and it produces a higher quality product than other printing methods. Also, because each color needs to be printed on its own screen, you have more control over which colors are used and how they are blended together. The end result is a vibrant design with excellent texture that can be printed onto almost any type of surface.

What Are The Advantages of Offset Printing?

Offset printing is used when a large number of prints are needed. Rather than using physical screens, offset printing utilizes plates to transfer an image onto the material. The biggest advantage of offset printing is that it tends to be more cost-effective for larger orders, as you don’t need to purchase multiple screens. Additionally, the plates used in this method tend to produce very fine details, making it ideal for complex designs with numerous components or color gradients. Finally, offset printing offers consistent results across all prints due to its high accuracy.


If you have a screen printing project requiring a graphic overlay or labeling or even t-shirts and product specialty decorations IP Tech has the technology to quickly turn around fully functional prototypes for design validation and full scale production runs. Contact IP Tech us for a free estimate.


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