Embroidery vs Screen Printing – which decoration method is better?

What decoration method is best for your logo?
What decoration method is best for your logo?

Embroidery and screen printing are the main two methods for adding logos to apparel.

With embroidery, your logo is reproduced via different colour threads stitched directly onto your garments using a computerised embroidery machine. Your logo has to be “digitised”, the end result of which, is a computer program that instructs the embroidery machine what to stitch.

With screenprinting, your logo is reproduced via different coloured inks which are squeezed through mesh screens (or stencils) directly onto your garments. Your logo has to be separated into colours and a mesh screen is made for each colour in your logo.

When you are considering what decoration method to use for your garments you will probably be interested in two main things.

1. Which method is cheaper?
2. Which method will give the best result?

Well, just read on to find out.

The Cost

EMBROIDERY: Best used on business Shirts, polos, jackets & caps
EMBROIDERY: Best used on business Shirts, polos, jackets & caps

Often the first thing we are asked is “which method is cheaper?” In general, embroidery is cheaper for left chest position logos, particularly where the quantity is small, (say less than 100 garments) and where there is more than one colour in the logo.

For small quantities (less than 100), the unit cost for each embroidered logo is similar to the cost for each screen printed logo. The big difference comes with the set-up costs for each method.

The set-up cost for most embroidered logos is a flat fee and isn’t dependent on the number of colours in your logo. The set-up cost for screen printing is colour dependent – a new screen is required for each colour in your logo so if your logo has two or three colours, you will need to pay for two or three screens. And when screen printing logos onto coloured t-shirts, a “base print” is required – think of it as an undercoat – so you’ll need to allow for a screen for this as well. Since the set-up cost for a typical embroidered logo is about the same as the set-up cost for one screen, embroidery is generally cheaper to set-up.

Exceptions to the rule are for very large images that are too big for embroidery. Full sized chest images or large images placed on the back of t-shirts are more suited to screen printing.

Another exception is where the quantity of garments to be printed is large – say several hundred garments at least – this means that the set up costs become incidental and the printing costs per garment become inexpensive.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for repeat orders of the same logo, there are no set up charges for embroidery whereas there are repeat set up costs for screen printing.

Suitability

SCREENPRINTING: Best used on t-shirts & hoodies.
SCREENPRINTING: Best used on t-shirts & hoodies.

Putting aside cost, which method will give you the best result? The answer to this question depends on the garments being decorated.

For business shirts and polo shirts (also known as golf shirts) embroidery is most suitable. Embroidery on these items is perceived as more stylish and screen printing looks “cheap”.

Embroidery generally produces the best result on headwear too. Most caps have a seam which runs vertically down your forehead which is right where the logo usually goes. Screen printing logos across this seam is ill advised – we’ve done some “fix up” jobs where other suppliers have attempted this for clients – we had to make badges and sew them over the top of the failed print.

Screen printing is definitely the best method for cotton t-shirts and hoodies. Embroidery is too bulky for t-shirts and you often get unsightly “puckering” or wrinkling around an embroidered logo.

Screen printing has a softer handle or feel than embroidery, so you can print much larger designs or logos. And this suits t-shirts and hoodies because they tend to have a much larger decoration area.

Our most popular t-shirts are made from 100% ring-spun cotton, making them soft and smooth and ideal for screen printing. We also have some polo shirts that are suitable for screen printing – they are perfect for large quantity polo shirt orders that have a left chest logo print and a large print on the back.

In Summary

  • Embroidery is the best choice for business shirts, polo shirts, golf shirts, jackets and headwear.
  • Screen printing is the best choice for cotton t-shirts, hoodies and some large volume polo shirt orders.