UV Printing vs Digital Printing

Many people are confused about the difference between UV screen printing and digital printing. The primary difference is that digital presses often print a whole four-color process in a single pass, whereas UV screen printers print one color at a time.

So that you can choose the best option for your next printing job, we’ll go over the fundamentals of each approach and how they vary.

What is UV Printing?

Ultraviolet (UV) printing is one of the types of digital printing in which liquid ink is cured by exposure to UV light. One may say that it evolved from the practice of screen printing.

Everything from T-shirts to business cards may be printed with ultraviolet printing ink these days. People who need to print just a few copies of anything at a time at home or in the workplace like it.

In the past, screen printing is the process of pushing ink or metal onto a surface via a screen of thin material to create an image or pattern. In the case of textiles, this technique has seen extensive usage. This allows for a great deal of leeway in the printing process, which in turn results in stunning ink and color effects on the materials.

Common solvent inks used in conventional offset printing aren’t the most eco-friendly choice since they evaporate into the air and release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In order to speed up the drying process, spray powders are often employed. However, this may dilute the original color, giving the paint a less vibrant look.

Conventional inks have the disadvantage of being limited to paper; they cannot be utilized with other materials like foils, plastics, or acrylics since they are absorbed into the paper.

How Does UV Screen Printing Work?

Screen printing or silk screening, dates back to Asia as early as the year 500 A.D. Screen printing relies on the principle of pushing ink through a stencil, which is made on a tiny mesh screen (a tight, thin layer of polyester or silk). Screens (stencils) are used several times, each with a unique color scheme and design, to build up the final picture.

However, technological advancement and the development of digital UV printing were more promising. This screen printing technique is time-consuming due to the long drying time and the limitation of printing to only textiles.

What is Digital Printing?

Digital printing definition: Digital printing is a technique that uses a computer to produce the design, printing process, and ultraviolet (UV) light to rapidly dry or cure the ink, adhesives, or coatings as soon as they make contact with the paper or any surface or material, such as metal, glass, acrylics, ceramics, or wood, provided it fits in the printer.

UV inks don’t smear or run since they dry instantly upon contact with light. The nicest thing, in contrast to traditional printing, is that you do not have to wait days for the work to dry! Using our state-of-the-art digital UV printers, Pakko is pleased to provide large-format printing. This is for the sole purpose of producing single units, small batch runs, or bespoke imprints on any of our standard product lines.

How Does Digital Printing Work?

When compared to traditional paper ink, UV inks function extremely differently. These UV inks don’t need to be absorbed since they dry through a photomechanical process. While being printed, the ink is subjected to ultraviolet radiation, which rapidly dries it.

This method results in little loss of solvent and negligible ink absorption by the paper. This paves the way for printing on almost anything imaginable.
Roll printing and flatbed printing are the two primary categories of digital printing.
Similar to screen printing, both may use ultraviolet (UV) light to cure the ink. However, this is not always the case. Some digital presses employ solvent printing or inkjet printing, which are more akin to a standard office printer.

Regardless, the procedures themselves are quite different. The rolls of flexible vinyl that are used in roll printing are typically printed using a solvent. Roll printers may eventually be able to digitally print with white ink, but for now, this is not the norm.

How Do The Two Differ From Each Other?

Screen printing is done by hand, whereas UV printing relies on a computer and digital files to get the same result. However, there’s more to know!


UV printing eliminates the need for the many supplies required for conventional screen printing, such as stencil screens. Simply print the image after processing it using basic image tools.

Digital screen printing can produce far more copies per hour than digital printing can, making bulk purchases considerably more cost-effective. On the other hand, digital printing will soon make it more cost-effective for assignments with a small print run.

Products to Be Printed

The fabric and clothing industries still have a lot to gain from digital screen printing, despite the fact that it is a well-established technique. However, UV printing may be used on a wide variety of materials, including plastic, metal, glass, and wood.

Cost & Time to Setup

For each screen print job, preparation, setup, printing, removal, and reinstallation are all necessary, as are films (stencils) and other equipment. The upfront expenditures and labor intensity of UV screen printing are significant in comparison to the convenience and low cost of digital printing.


UV screen printing becomes economically viable when the initial setup expenditures are spread among several units. However, the print digital machine has a far higher rate of output per hour compared to digital printing, making it a more cost-effective option for large orders despite the initial investment required to get things up and running.

However, digital execution of low-volume tasks will be far more cost-effective because of the absence or small size of associated set-up costs.

Color Payoff

When exact color matching is essential, screen printing typically outperforms digital. There is a natural limit to the colors that may be printed on a digital press because of the CMYK four-color process that is used. Similar to the Pantone Matching System, the screen printing ink is made up of discrete, individual hues (PMS).

Because of this disparity, screen printing may achieve brighter colors than digital presses, particularly reds, oranges, grays, and greens. Insufficiently high-quality equipment may cause banding in digital prints, which is the gradual change in tone that occurs when one digital print head gives way to the next.

UV screen printing is the sole method capable of producing metallic and bright hues, while digital printing has made great gains in recent years to make these colors more accessible. Finally, since the ink is a consistent color throughout and a thicker layer of ink is put onto the cloth, all colors tend to be more vibrant when screen printed.

Environmental Effects

There are restrictions on drying time and after-wash quality when using the three kinds of inks used in screen printing: plastisol, water-based, and discharge. UV printing and digital screen printing do not require heat or toxic chemicals.

Printing Complexity

Because each color must be printed separately when using a screen printer, UV screen printing may be more expensive than digital printing when there are several colors. Crisp lines (without the danger of pixelation) are virtually always achieved when screenprinting basic pictures, although digital printing is often preferable for printing more complicated designs.

Digital presses make it simple to print pictures and other images with subtle transitions in tone and fine detail. Half-tones (smaller ink dots and white space are utilized to approximate fades) allow screen-printed components to include basic gradients, although at the expense of resolution.

Mass personalization and changeable data like sequential numbering and different backgrounds, colors, or text within the same run are also possible with digital presses.

The Quality That Comes After

Colorfastness is poor on certain screen-printed items; they scrape off quickly, aren’t waterproof, and need to air-dry for a while. UV printed surfaces, on the other hand, are, depending on the quality of the UV printing ink used, waterproof, anti-scratch, and wear-resistant.

Adhesion & Durability

Digital ink has gone a long way, and various series of digital inks may now be utilized to stick to different substrates, but screen printing ink has a history of adhering to a broader range of surfaces (straight to glass, metal, etc.).

Many printers require specific ink adhesion coatings to guarantee the digital ink stays on the material, which may drive up the cost of the material. Additionally, screen printing ink outlasts and resists the elements better than digital ink and ink from traditional roll presses.

In contrast to the lack of availability of a clear digital top coat, items may have a UV-resistant clear coat screen printed onto them to further preserve graphics.

Final Thoughts

UV screen printing is ideal for large-scale production, long-lasting designs, and limited-color runs, whereas digital printing excels at smaller volumes and more intricate artwork.

Using high-quality materials, laser cutting/engraving, and UV print, we are able to provide you with an unlimited printing service, allowing you to design whatever your heart desires!

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