Traditional vs. UV screen printing: Which one should you use for decorating product packaging?

When it comes to decorating product packaging, choosing the right printing method can make a significant difference in the look and appeal of your products. Traditional screen printing and UV screen printing are two popular options, and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. As a business owner, it’s important to understand these methods to determine which one better suits your product packaging needs.

In this article, we will compare traditional screen printing and UV screen printing to help make an informed decision. 

What is traditional screen printing? 

Traditional screen printing involves using a mesh screen with a stencil to apply ink onto product packaging. The ink is applied to the screen with a squeegee, forming the desired image on the product packaging.

The inks are then typically cured using heat. This can be done in many ways, including using a conveyor dryer, an infrared dryer, or a flash dryer. 

  • Conveyor dryer: The printed packaging is passed through a heated conveyor dryer, which cures the ink.
  • Infrared dryer: Infrared lamps are used to heat the printed packaging and cure the ink.
  • Flash dryer: A high-intensity heat lamp is used to cure the ink in a fraction of a second.

The curing time for traditional screen printing inks can vary depending on the type of ink, the thickness of the ink layer, and the heat source used. However, it typically takes several minutes to fully cure the ink.

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

What is UV screen printing?

Ultraviolet (UV) screen printing is a variation of traditional screen printing that uses UV light to cure the ink instead of heat. UV screen printing inks are applied onto product packaging in the same way as traditional screen printing inks. However, after the ink is applied, it is cured using UV light instead of heat. The printed product packaging is passed through a UV curing unit, where the UV light cures the ink in seconds.

What are the advantages of traditional screen printing over UV screen printing?

Here are three reasons why some companies opt for traditional screen printing over UV screen printing: 

  • More packaging material options: Compared to UV screen printing, traditional screen printing can be used on a wider range of materials. Some materials, such as wood and metal, can be damaged by the UV light used in UV screen printing.
  • More ink options: Traditional screen printing inks are not sensitive to UV light, so a wider variety of inks can be used, including water-based, solvent-based, and plastisol inks.
  • Less expensive inks: UV inks are more expensive than traditional screen printing inks because they contain special additives and chemicals that allow them to cure quickly under UV light.

What are the advantages of UV screen printing over traditional screen printing?

There are many reasons why more and more companies are shifting to UV screen printing:

  • Faster production times: UV screen printing can produce prints much faster than traditional screen printing because the ink cures instantly under UV light. This eliminates the need for a drying period, which can save time and money. 
  • Less risk of over-curing: UV inks have a wider curing window than solvent-based inks, making them less likely to over cure. Over-cured ink can lead to print defects.
  • More durable prints: Compared to heat-cured inks, UV-cured inks bond more tightly to the product packaging, making the prints resistant to fading, scratching, and water damage. This is why UV screen printing is ideal for applications where durability is important, such as product packaging.
  • More vibrant colors: UV screen printing produces prints with more vibrant colors than traditional screen printing because the UV light causes the pigments to bind more tightly to the product packaging. 
  • Sharper, more detailed prints: UV ink cures instantly, preventing blurring and smudging. This results in sharper, more detailed prints that are ideal for printing designs with fine details, such as logos and text.
  • More eco-friendly: UV inks do not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during curing, unlike solvent-based inks. UV inks also require less energy to cure than solvent-based inks, as they can be cured using LED lights instead of large conveyor dryers.
Read also: Sustainable practices for screen printing and labeling product packaging

Which screen printing method is right for you?

The best type of screen printing for you will depend on your specific product packaging needs and priorities. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Product packaging material: If your product packaging’s material is sensitive to UV light, then it’s better to go with traditional screen printing. Materials like wood and metal may be adversely affected by the UV light used in the curing process of UV screen printing. 
  • Production time: UV screen printing can produce prints much faster than traditional screen printing, making it a good option for businesses with tight deadlines.
  • Print quantity: Traditional screen printing may be more cost-effective for small print runs, as the equipment and inks required are less expensive than those used in UV screen printing. However, UV screen printing may be more economical for large print runs over time since it has a faster production time. 
  • Design complexity: If your packaging design features intricate details and fine lines, UV screen printing is the better choice for capturing those nuances. For simpler designs, traditional screen printing may be enough.
  • Design durability and color vibrancy: If your packaging’s design needs to be durable and have vibrant colors, then UV screen printing is the better choice.
  • Environmental considerations: UV screen printing is more eco-friendly than traditional screen printing because it does not emit VOCs and requires less energy during curing.

If you’re still not sure which screen printing method is right for your product packaging, don’t hesitate to consult with the experts at Pro-Motion Industries.


With over 25 years of experience, Pro-Motion Industries is an industry leader in providing product decoration services and equipment solutions. Our team of experienced professionals can assess your needs and recommend the best type of screen printing for your project. Get in touch with us at 856-809-0040.

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