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Screen printing, digital printing and embroidery: 3 easy ways to embellish your clothing

Nothing says individuality like embellishing your own clothing. Adding your own print or embroidery can breathe life into an old t-shirt or give your new jacket an edge. There are three common ways to embellish your clothing: screen printing, digital printing and embroidery. Below we’ll dive into these three styles and explain how they differ from one another.  

Screen printing

Screen printing is a venerable printing process. It dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries of Japan, eventually becoming most popular in 20th century America and Europe. Pop artist Andy Warhol is credited with promoting the process through his iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Mick Jagger.

The process is simple: The desired design is transferred onto a mesh frame. This is called the screen. Then you add ink to the screen and push down on your clothing. Voila! Now you have beautiful, customized clothing. This method is unique from digital printing in that it uses a physical screen to apply the design instead of using a digital image. Screen printing is great if you want a style that features bold colors, as the ink is thicker than digital printing. This process also works well on wood and textiles. However, digital printing is a better alternative for designs with finer detail.

If you’re looking for a vibrant, DIY look and not worried about cost, screen printing is an excellent option.

Digital printing

Unlike screen printing, digital printing is a newer printing process introduced around the same time as the home computer. In addition to clothing, digital printing has been used for fine art, marketing and architecture.

The process involves creating a digital design and printing it straight from a computer onto the clothing. As mentioned before, digital printing is a great option for design featuring heightened details, such as photography, or a lot of colors.

Because digital printing requires less physical equipment, the cost is usually less than screen printing. The sky is the limit with what you can put on your clothing. If a digital image can be made, it mostly likely can be printed onto clothing. However, digital printing can have less of a DIY look as compared to screen printing and embroidery.


Embroidery is a wholly different embellishment as compared to printing but has an equally long history. The process, which involves decorating an item with thread or yarn, dates back centuries pretty much everywhere in the world, from ancient China to Medieval England. Clothing, rugs, artwork and most textiles can be embroidered.

The process entails manually or automatically stitching thread or yarn into a design onto an article clothing. Nowadays almost all embroidery is done by machine for precision and cost efficiency. Embroidery requires no ink or printing, and it creates a raised textured look often not accomplished by screen printing or digital printing. This process is commonly used for logos and names featured on shirts, hats, coats and blankets. Cost varies depending on how many stitches are made.

If you’re looking to embellish your clothing, all three processes can do the trick. It’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for. If you want a bold, handmade look, screen printing is the way to go. If your design is complex, digital printing might be your best option. And if you enjoy tactile, vintage-looking design, embroidery is your best bet.

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