/ Blog / Proto Tech Tips: Graphics: Digital Print vs Silkscreen

Proto Tech Tips: Graphics: Digital Print vs Silkscreen


Every week, Team Protocase is bringing you a Proto Tech Tip video, where we’ll give an informative look at a particular aspect of sheet metal fabrication and CNC Machining.

This week, Janelle from our Engineering & Design Services team makes her Proto Tech Tip debut to discuss silkscreen and digital print. In the video, Janelle breaks down all of the key differences between these two graphics processes, including application process, types of graphics and more.

Watch the full video below – or, if you’d prefer to read Janelle’s Proto Tech Tip, we’ve got the full transcription below.

Be sure to subscribe to Protocase’s YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single Proto Tech Tip!

Hi everyone, Janelle here from Protocase with another Proto Tech Tip. Today we’re going to talk about silkscreen and digital print.

At Protocase we offer two ways to add graphics to your enclosures and parts: silkscreen and digital print. Both use an ink printing process to create a durable vibrant look for labeling things like connectors and switches or branding your custom order with logos and other artwork. Silkscreen and digital print are different in several key ways. I’m going to cover these differences in this video, the application process and the graphics you can achieve.

First up, application process – digital printing is done by blending densities of cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink using industrial printers. As the UV printhead makes passes on the surface of the metal, the ink is then layered and instantly cured. This creates a linear texture that we call banding.

Silkscreen, on the other hand, involves burning graphics into a porous screen that is pretreated with photo emulsion. After burning in the graphics, we pressure wash the screen, which leaves an opening where the graphics were burned in. From there, we lay the screen onto the metal when the epoxy silkscreen ink is passed over the screen. The ink goes through it and is applied directly to the metal surface.

When silk-screening, each color must be laid onto the metal using separate screens and there’s curing time needed between each set up. The parts need to be heated at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes in an industrial oven. Another way that silkscreen and digital print differ is what kind of graphics you can achieve.

I’ve made samples here that show the difference. So if the graphics you want applied have gradient 3D effects or overlap in color, digital print is the way to go. Digital print offers a full spectrum of CMYK colors and you can apply multiple colors at one time.

With silkscreen, we currently stock 16 different colors, you can find them on our website. If your graphics are minimal in color and simple in nature, silkscreen is your best bet. Remember, each silkscreen color must be applied separately using a unique screen, so the more colors you have in your graphics, the more screens we’ll need to create. This will increase your lead time and price.

It’s difficult to get a sense through your monitor or phone, but there is a noticeable difference in how silkscreen graphics feel compared to digital print. Silkscreen ink is self leveling so you can only feel a slight raised surface in silk screen graphics. Digital print on the other hand, you feel the texture of the graphics. So these are some of the key differences between silkscreen and digital print.

Stay tuned for upcoming Proto Tech Tips, where we’ll discuss font sizes, raster versus vector files as well as which powdercoat textures look best with silkscreen and digital print. Feel free to check out our website for more information regarding silkscreen and digital print, including an in-depth look at the comparison between the two.

Be sure to also check out our blog, which outlines many other technical tips or just send us an email at info@protocase.com. Thank you for watching this week’s Proto Tech Tip and we’ll see you back here next week.

Newsletter Signup

Sign up to be the first to know about new blog posts and other technical resources

Stay Updated

Subscribe to our newsletter
to get our latest news.

Social Links

Terms & Conditions

© Protocase 2022 - All rights reserved.