Packaging 101: The Complete Guide

Discover Phillip Akhzar’s journey, the Founder and CEO of Arka, bringing 16 years of expertise in packaging and supply chain logistics. Read more on Arka.

What is Screen Printing?

In the realm of printing, two prominent contenders, screen printing vs sublimation, stand out; silk screening, or screen printing, is a distinct printing method wherein ink is transferred through a mesh screen onto materials like fabric, paper, or metal. The process entails crafting a stencil, placing it over the material, and using a squeegee to force ink through the screen. Multiple screens are employed for different colors, allowing intricate designs.

screen printing

Pros of Screen Printing

Here are the key advantages of screen printing:

Versatility: Accommodates a broad range of materials.

Cost-Effective for Bulk Orders: Becomes more economical with larger quantities.

Durability: Ensures printed designs endure wear and tear.

Cons of Screen Printing

Some challenges you may notice with screen printing are:

• Complexity: Setup and operation require skilled operators.

Limited Color Options: This may have constraints compared to other methods.

Screen Printing in Packaging

Screen printing plays a pivotal role in packaging, offering a unique product branding method. Its adaptability to various materials and capacity for a durable finish makes it ideal for conveying essential information and creating distinctive, long-lasting graphics on cardboard, plastic, or metal packaging.

screen printing in packaging

What is Sublimation?

Sublimation, an avant-garde printing method, revolutionizes the transition of solids into gases without the intermediary liquid phase; in printing, this technique employs heat and pressure to infuse dye directly onto diverse surfaces like fabric, ceramics, or metal. Unlike traditional techniques such as screen printing, sublimation integrates ink seamlessly into the material, yielding prints that are not only flawless but also enduring and of superior quality.

sublimation print

Advantages of Sublimation

Infinite Color Possibilities: Sublimation presents an expansive palette, enabling the creation of intricate and vivid designs that surpass the capabilities of other methods.

Photorealistic Reproduction: This process excels at replicating intricate details and gradients, producing photo-realistic prints with stunning clarity.

Smooth Fabric Surface: Unlike screen printing, sublimation imparts no noticeable texture to the fabric, ensuring a sleek and comfortable touch.

sublimation printer

Challenges of Sublimation

Material Limitations: While sublimation performs admirably on specific materials like polyester, its compatibility with all surfaces is constrained, limiting its versatility.

Economically Impractical for Small Orders: Sublimation proves more cost-effective for substantial production runs, making it less pragmatic for smaller batches.

Sublimation in Packaging

Extending beyond textiles, sublimation carves a distinctive niche in the realm of packaging; this innovative approach permits the customization of packaging materials, elevating brand visibility and crafting an unforgettable unboxing experience.

sublimation printing on box

Screen Printing vs Sublimation: Choosing the Best Option

When it concerns bringing alive the designs on the fabrics, the option of screen printing vs sublimation becomes very crucial; both these methods possess respective characteristics that can satisfy different needs and interests.

Let's explore the difference between screen print and sublimation across various features to help you make an informed decision.

Print Quality

Screen Printing: Renowned for vibrant and enduring colors, screen printing delivers exceptional print quality with ink sitting atop the fabric, creating a bold and opaque finish.

Sublimation: In contrast, sublimation embeds ink into the fabric, resulting in a softer, more breathable feel, excelling in intricate and detailed designs.

Color Range

Screen Printing: Offers a broad color spectrum, ideal for designs with multiple hues, but incurs additional costs for each color screen.

Sublimation: Presents an extensive color palette without extra setup expenses, making it preferable for gradients or photorealistic images.

Fabric Compatibility

Screen Printing: Suitable for various fabrics, excelling on cotton, polyester and blends with excellent adhesion for durability.

Sublimation: Works best on polyester fabrics, relying on the ink turning into a gas and bonding with fibers, less suitable for natural fabrics like cotton.

Setup Costs

Screen Printing: Involves higher initial setup costs due to creating screens for each color, especially for intricate designs.

Sublimation: Boasts lower setup costs as it doesn't require separate screens for each color, making it more cost-effective for designs with numerous colors.

Speed of Production

Screen Printing: This method is efficient for large batches, but set-up times might be longer. However, once it has been set up, printing is quite fast.

Sublimation: In reality, the process is rather fast for small to medium orders as too little setup is involved, while it may delay large quantity orders.

Design Complexity

Screen Printing: Strong and simple designs come out best through screen printing. It may be limiting for complicated features or small text since ink layers tend to be very thick.

Sublimation: Sublimation is ideal for more intricate and complex designs, particularly photo prints or those with very fine lines.


Screen Printing: Screen printing can be referred to as durable since the color of the print still remains sharp despite several washes.

Sublimation: Provides a softer feel with good durability but may show wear on high-friction areas.


Screen Printing: In terms of customization, screen printing is considered the best per the desired colors and layouts.

Sublimation: Conversely, with the ability to print arbitrary full-color designs of high modifiability, sublimation fits perfectly for personalized and special designs.

Environmental Implication

Screen Printing: Screen printing creates more waste as clean-up is done between colors, generating more waste. However, lately, modern, eco-friendly inks have come into being to fight environmental issues.

Sublimation: Sublimation can be deemed eco-friendly as little or no wastage is created in sublimation, which might even include water-based ink.

Detail and Resolution

Screen Printing: Screen printing will come up with good detailing but may lose a little sharpness in the little details since the ink is comparatively laid in huge layers.

Sublimation: Sublimate is amazing insulation and resolutions since the design prints fine lines and gradients.

On-Demand Production

Screen Printing: Suited for bulk orders, it may not be that cost-effective for setup times for on-demand or small-scale production.

Incorporating Sublimation: Ideal for on-demand production as well, sublimation printing is a quick turnaround and also helpful for smaller order quantities. So if your requirement ranges from a few at a time to hundreds of custom t-shirts, then there simply cannot be anything more sustainable.

Initial Capital Required

• Screen Printing: Requires more upfront capital since there is screen making and setting up costs from scratch.

Sublimation: Has a modest implication of startup costs hence friendlier even for budgeted businesses.

screen printing vs sublimation

Sublimation vs Screen Printing: Industry Trends

In the dynamic realm of printing technologies, the ongoing clash between sublimation vs screen printing shapes industry trends across diverse sectors. These methods have distinct impacts on both the fashion and promotional product domains.

Fashion Industry Influence

Screen Printing: Esteemed for decades, screen printing holds a revered status in the fashion industry. Its capacity to create vibrant and durable prints on fabrics makes it a cornerstone in crafting iconic apparel. The meticulous layering of inks onto garments has given rise to countless timeless designs.

Sublimation: In recent years a formidable challenger, sublimation, has emerged; this innovative method transfers ink from a solid to a gas state, embedding the design directly into the fabric. The result is a seamless, full-color print that preserves the garment's texture. This advancement has prompted a shift in the fashion landscape, with designers embracing sublimation for its versatility and vibrant outcomes.

Diversification in Promotional Products

Screen Printing: The long-standing choice for promotional products, screen printing is valued for its cost-effectiveness and ability to reproduce intricate designs on various surfaces; this makes it ideal for items like pens, bags and corporate merchandise. The durability of screen prints ensures a lasting brand impression.

Sublimation: In contrast, sublimation has broadened horizons for promotional merchandise; the process enables the creation of intricate, full-color designs on various materials, from ceramics to polyester. This versatility has increased demand for personalized and eye-catching promotional items, offering businesses new opportunities to make a lasting impact.

Final Thoughts

In the never-ending debate of screen printing vs sublimation, one technique comes out as best depending on the fabric and color preference. But each technique has its unique strength that makes the conclusion quite a bit nuanced.

Whether sublimation's versatility touches you or you don't want to leave the charm of traditional screen Printing, without understanding the core technique at work here, one cannot attain the desired results.

For diverse packaging needs, Arka is a reliable ally. Specializing in customizable packaging, we offer high-quality solutions tailored to various product specifications. You can check out our premium custom mailer boxes or shipping boxes! Committed to quality and innovation, Arka is a valuable partner for businesses aiming to leave a lasting impression through thoughtful packaging.

FAQs on Screen Print vs Sublimation

Can sublimation be used on dark-colored fabrics?

Sublimation is best suited for use on light fabrics, taking into consideration the fact that ink solidly transfers little by little into vapor form and may not really show on dark surfaces.

Does sublimation printing have any limitations regarding the type of fabrics it can be used on?

Indeed, the best fabric for sublimation printing is a polyester-based fabric but could not give the best if applied on natural fabric materials like cotton and would less be compatible with some fabric types.

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