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What is the Difference between UV Printing and Screen Printing? A Comprehensive Guide

What is the Difference between UV Printing and Screen Printing? A Comprehensive Guide

 There are many different printing methods available on the market these days. If you’re a small printing company, or if you’re just starting a printing business, it can be difficult to decide which printing method is right for you. In this comprehensive guide, we will compare and contrast UV printing and screen printing – two of the most popular printing methods available today. We will discuss the pros and cons of each method, as well as the applications they are best suited for.

So, let’s get started!

An Overview of Screen Printing vs UV Printing

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a printing method that is done one color at a time. This means that each color in your design will be printed on a separate screen, and each screen will need to be loaded with ink and then pressed onto the paper or fabric. This can be a time-consuming process, but it results in high-quality prints with sharp details and vibrant colors.


UV Printing

UV printing is a type of digital printing method that uses digital technology to create full-color prints in one pass. As the name suggests, ultraviolet (UV) light is used to cure the ink during the printing process. This means that there is no need to set up different screens for each color in your design, making the process much faster and easier.

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The Processes

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a manual printing process that has been around for centuries. The process is also known as silk screening and originally came from Asia, where a fine mesh was used to print designs onto fabric.

The screen printing process is a simple one and begins with a piece of mesh (usually silk or polyester) stretched tightly over a frame. A stencil is then created on the mesh and a layer of ink is applied to the stencil and pressed through the holes in the stencil onto the surface below. The whole process is then repeated using different colors to create the complete design. The finished design is then made permanent - usually by heat-setting.

There are many benefits to screen printing, which is why it remains such a popular printing method even after all these years. It is often used for printing large quantities of items, as it is an economical way to produce multiple copies of the same design. Common applications for screen printing include t-shirts, posters, and stickers.

UV Printing

UV printing is a much newer printing process that uses modern technology to create high-quality prints. The process begins by creating a design file on a computer using vector-based software such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. Once the design is complete, it is then transferred to a UV printer which prints the design onto the surface using special UV-curable inks. A built-in UV light then follows - instantly curing the ink as part of the printing process and bonding the design permanently with the surface.

One of the main benefits of UV printing is that it is a very versatile printing method. It can be used on a wide variety of materials, including paper, fabric, plastic, metal, glass, and even wood. UV printing is also perfect for creating short-run prints as there is no need to create screens for each color in your design and no separate curing stage – which makes it a much faster process than screen printing. There is also no opportunity for the wet ink to spread or smudge therefore reducing the chance of imperfections in your design.

Digital UV printing has become increasingly popular in recent years as the technology has become more sophisticated and the quality of prints has improved. Common applications include printing on t-shirts, promotional items such as koozies and keychains, and small signs and banners.


Primary Differences & Considerations

  • Set Up Time & Costs -

A big factor in any printing decision is the setup time and costs associated with each method. Screen printing has high initial setup costs due to the need for separate screens, inks, and other materials and tooling. However, once the screens are made, screen printing becomes much cheaper per print.

Screen printing also has a longer setup time than digital printing. Once the screens are made, each color is printed one at a time, so it takes longer to print your design.

UV printing has very low setup costs and a much shorter setup time. Because the design is created on a computer and then printed directly onto the surface, there is no need for screens or other materials, and the design can be printed very quickly.

  • Quantity -

Another important consideration is quantity. Why? Because the setup costs for screen printing become much cheaper per print the more you produce. So, if you're looking to print a large number of items, screen printing may be the better choice. For smaller quantities, UV printing is often a better option.


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  • Design Complexity -

The design you want to print will also play a role in deciding which method to use. Screen printing works best with designs that are fairly simple and have limited colors because each color must be printed one at a time.

UV printing can handle more complex designs with more colors because the design is created digitally and then printed all at once. If your design is very complex or has many colors, UV printing may be the better option.

  • Material -

The type of material you're looking to print on will also factor into your decision. Screen printing is usually limited to flat surfaces, and the variety of materials that can be screen printed is limited.

UV printing, on the other hand, is extremely versatile in terms of the surfaces it can print on and is not limited to fabrics. Digital UV Printing can print on materials such as glass, wood, metal, plastics, and more - even on curved surfaces such as mugs. So if you're looking to print on a non-flat surface or a material that's not commonly used for screen printing, UV printing may be your best bet and give you more options.

  • Customization -

If you're looking to customize your prints, UV printing may be the way to go. With digital printing, you can print variable data (like names or addresses) on each print. This is not possible with screen printing.

  • Print Quality & Colour -

When it comes to print quality, both screen printing and UV printing can produce high-quality prints. However, screen printing is better for producing prints with more vibrant colors, while UV printing is better for producing prints with more subtle colors. This is because UV printing uses a four-color CMYK process, while screen printing uses a Pantone Matching System, which offers a wider range of colors and shades.

  • Durability -

When it comes to durability, screen printing is the clear winner. Screen-printed designs are more resistant to fading and wear and tear than digital prints. This is because the ink used in screen printing becomes bonded to the material during the printing process.

Digital prints, on the other hand, are printed using a UV Printing process, which means the ink is not bonded to the material as strongly. As a result, digital prints are more likely to fade and wear over time.

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UV Printing vs Screen Printing: The Pros and Cons

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of each printing method and the primary things to consider when choosing the most suitable method for your project, let’s break it down into some simple pros and cons of UV printing vs screen printing.

UV Printing


  • Faster printing process
  • Low set-up costs
  • No need for separate screens for each color
  • Ideal for small print runs
  • Can print on many different surfaces
  • More environmentally-friendly



  • Lower quality than screen printing (not as sharp or vibrant)
  • More expensive for large print runs
  • Less durable. Can fade and wear over time.


Screen Printing


  • Higher quality prints (sharp details and vibrant colors)
  • Ideal for large print runs
  • Very durable & resistant to wear


  • Slow printing process
  • Higher Set-up costs
  • More expensive than UV printing for small print runs
  • Requires separate screens for each color
  • Limited to fabric surfaces


Choosing the Right Printing Method

So Which Method is Right For You?

We have covered a lot of ground here and hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the key considerations when choosing between UV printing and screen printing.

The method you choose will depend on several factors, including the quantity of items you need to print, the quality of the print you require, the type of surface you want to print on, and your budget. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your specific needs and preferences.

UV printing is a popular choice for small businesses and DIY printers who need high-quality prints but don’t have the time or resources to invest in screen printing, due to its low cost, and versatility. Additionally, UV printing is much faster than screen printing – meaning you can get your products to market quicker. And finally, UV printing offers a high degree of customization, allowing you to print very specific designs on your products. The process is quick and easy, and the finished product is very impressive.

However, UV printing does have some limitations. For instance, it’s not well-suited for large runs of prints, and the colors may not be as vibrant as screen-printed designs. If you are looking to produce high-quality prints in large quantities, screen printing may be a better option for you.

Get in Touch

Do you have any questions about UV printing or screen printing? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out our other blog posts for more helpful advice on printing for small businesses and DIY printers.

Still not sure which printing method is right for you? Contact us today and we’ll help you figure it out! And if you’re looking for promotional Koozies printed with your logo or design be sure to get in touch. We’d love to help you!

Thanks for reading!

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