Screen printing vs. digital printing for decorating product packaging

In the competitive world of retail, eye-catching packaging is more than just an aesthetic choice. It has a huge impact on improving sales since it connotes product quality and urges consumers to choose your product over the rest. But with so many printing options available for packaging, how can you tell which is best for your product?

In this blog, we’ll discuss two printing processes that are commonly used in decorating product packaging: custom screen print and digital print solutions. We’ll delve deeper into the specifics of each method to help you make a choice that matches your unique requirements.

What is screen printing for packaging?

Screen printing technology involves creating a stencil on a fine mesh screen. Ink is pushed through the open areas of the stencil onto your packaging’s surface, layer by layer, with each layer representing a distinct color or design element. After each pass, the ink is cured under heat or UV lights for immediate ink adherence. 

What is digital printing for packaging?

Unlike screen printing, digital printing does not use physical screens. Instead, designs are sent directly to a high-tech printer, which then applies liquid ink precisely onto the packaging surface to form the desired output. 

Read also: Screen printing vs. labeling: Which is best for decorating product packaging?

Screen printing vs. digital printing: How are they different?

There are many differences between screen printing and digital printing. 

Setup time and costs

With screen printing, each color or complex design element in the artwork requires a dedicated screen. This means the setup may take time and involve specialized equipment but consider it an investment in perfection, as screen printing ensures precise ink application and vibrant results. 

The beauty of screen printing lies in its efficiency for bulk orders. Once the initial setup investment is made, the cost per unit drops significantly as the number of printed packages increases. Imagine the screens as reusable molds — the more you use them, the lower the marginal cost per item. This makes screen printing highly cost-effective for long-term branding campaigns or products with consistent designs.

Digital printing doesn’t make use of screens, so the associated setup costs are eliminated.  However, the cost per unit often stays the same regardless of quantity, unlike screen printing’s dramatic cost reduction for larger orders. This makes digital printing less favorable for large volumes.

Color palette and vibrancy

Screen printing bypasses the limitations of digital printing’s CMYK blends and lets you choose from a virtually limitless spectrum of spot colors, including metallics, fluorescents, and every shade in between. It applies colors layer by layer, adding depth and dimension to produce visually stunning packaging that leaves a lasting impression. So when it comes to delivering bold, vibrant colors, screen printing reigns supreme.

In contrast, digital printing operates only within the CMYK color model, where cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are combined to create various colors. It cannot replicate the full spectrum of spot colors available in screen printing. Certain bold shades, metallics, and fluorescents might be unattainable, potentially limiting your design options. 

Print complexity and detail

While digital print solutions are excellent for creating intricate elements such as delicate linework and photographic gradients, screen printing can also produce detailed designs. Screen printing excels at delivering impactful designs with clear lines, vibrant colors, and bold text. Its strength lies in simplicity and repetition, making it perfect for consistent, high-quality packaging across large batches.

Not only that, but screen printing also lets you incorporate raised lettering, textures, and other unique elements for a multisensory experience. This elevates your design as well as your brand.


The ease with which digital designs can be replicated makes digitally printed packaging susceptible to imitation by counterfeiters. This can damage your brand image, erode consumer trust, and ultimately impact your profits.

Screen printing, on the other hand, offers a robust shield against such threats. Its unique process allows for the incorporation of specialized inks and textures that are much harder to reproduce accurately. These features act as built-in security measures, making it significantly more challenging for counterfeiters to mimic your product packaging.

Imagine trying to replicate a complex, textured pattern or a unique ink with a metallic sheen using readily available digital printing techniques. The results would likely fall short, making it obvious that it’s fake even to the most casual observer. The protection against counterfeiting that screen printing offers protects your brand and its reputation as well as empowers consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

Read also: How custom screen printing on product packaging elevates your brand identity

Adhesion and durability

Screen printing provides exceptional adhesion to a wide range of packaging materials, such as paper and plastic. The thick ink used in screen printing lays down a durable layer, forming a strong bond that resists peeling, scratching, and fading. With screen printing, your packaging will withstand harsh environments and extended shelf life, maintaining its vibrant look longer.

Digital printing’s inherent durability isn’t on par with screen printing’s, so it is only suitable for products with short shelf lives or those that are primarily used indoors. Moreover, certain packaging materials such as textured surfaces or plastics might still require special coatings for optimal adhesion. 

Choosing the printing method that best suits your product packaging

The choice between screen printing and digital printing depends on the unique needs of your project. However, in many cases, businesses are better off choosing screen printing. While digital printing has its uses, it can’t match the vibrant colors, durability, and cost-effectiveness of screen printing for bulk orders and premium packaging. 

When you partner with Pro-Motion Industries, our seasoned team of packaging decoration specialists will analyze your project’s specific needs and recommend the most optimal, cost-effective packaging decoration solution. We offer high-quality screen printing and labeling on a vast array of packaging materials, ensuring your brand shines in every customer interaction. Together, we’ll make your packaging stand out and tell your brand story with exceptional clarity and impact. Get in touch with us at 856-809-0040.

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