T-shirt screen printing is one of the longest repeating manual print processes. While many forms of print production have moved into the digital age textile screen printing for apparel has stood the test of time as the most cost effective method of printing on to t-shirts.
With the absorption of heat transfers and direct to garment digital printing, and the consistently improved ability to digitally print on to dark t-shirts, it would be easy to assume that the manual screen printing process will die out. While the digital methods are a fantastic and cost effective solution for short runs of t-shirts with a high color content it is still far more cost effective to screen print on larger runs of t-shirts.
Rather than see the digital t-shirt printing advances as a threat, screen printers should see them as an added opportunity to offer services and capture customers that maybe they could not previously. When that kid comes in with a full color photo of their favorite band and wants to print it on a shirt, in the past we would have had to turn them away. With the advent of the digital processes we are now able to offer them that service of a one off full color t-shirt and with the right equipment, even on a black t-shirt !!
So rather than fear these digital advances I believe screen printing professionals should embrace the added revenue they can bring to their existing businesses and the plethora of new products they can now offer.
I think it will be a long time before a digital print on 1000 t-shirts will be a cheaper and longer lasting option than a screen printed image.