Printing vs Embroidery

When it comes to leaving a permanent imprint on a T-shirt, hoodie, or some other piece of apparel, or whatever other pieces of fabric you want to personalize, there are two major ways you can go about doing it.

The first would be to print it.

The second would be to have it embroidered.

Now, as far as picking the technique to go with is concerned, several factors are considered.

In this article, we will highlight some of the most important differences between printing vs embroidery. These two types of ‘enhancing’ fabric talk about the different situations where these two are appropriate to use.

Without further ado, here’s the deal.

Printing Vs Embroidery

More often than not, most people typically go for the printing solution because it’s usually less expensive, quicker, and there are many different sub-techniques within the digital printing technique, so to speak, from which you can choose.

For example, fabric printing can be a great solution if you simply want a T-shirt with your favorite band logo on it. Or, if you want to make fun of your friend for something funny he said or something comical that happened to him, simply having a bunch of T-shirts printed out with the message or image you want to be on it would typically be your weapon of choice.

On the other hand, if you work for the police force or you’re in the army, you probably already know that whatever insignia and other symbols of these organizations need to be imprinted on the clothes you’re wearing will typically be embroidered rather than printed out.

So, while the two methods are pretty similar in the sense that both will leave a permanent (although this is debatable when it comes to digital prints) mark on a piece of fabric, it’s also true that these two methods are used for different purposes.

How Does Embroidery Work?

printing vs embroidery

Put simply, embroidery is when you use special fabrics in the form of threads and then use needles to embed them into the fabrics you want to enhance, so to speak, visually.

The main thing with embroidery is that you achieve different shapes by creating smaller or bigger stitches. This is also the most important difference between embroidery and sewing. With sewing, you create a new fabric from scratch, using different threads and various colors and designs.

With embroidery, the idea is to work on clothes and fabrics that are already complete to enhance them further. Other than the visual enhancement itself, the goal of embroidery is also to assign a special meaning to the piece of clothes or other materials that this is done on.

Let’s take a typical military uniform as an example.

Without any special symbols or insignia embroidered on it, the uniform is merely a piece of clothes. Anyone can wear it, and it doesn’t tell a story about the job or position the wearer is holding.

However, when such a piece of apparel is embroidered, you can see that this person belongs to a certain military branch (infantry, marines, airborne forces, etc.), what rank they are, and some other pieces of information.

The same principle is also true for nurses, police officers, football club members, and many other professions from the world of sport and other services.

Of course, this is not mean that embroidery is only reserved for professionals, as anyone can have their clothes embroidered if they want to.

What’s more, embroidery used to be one of the most popular ways of decorating clothes in the past across many different cultures, and while its popularity has decreased somewhat nowadays, it is safe to say that embroidery will never disappear as a form of clothes and fabric enhancement, so to speak.

How Does Fabric Printing Work?

printing vs embroidery

As far as fabric printing is concerned, it’s probably safe to say you’ve seen people walking on the street wearing clothes that have been visually enhanced using the fabric printing method.

Rather than using threads and needles to create a permanent emblem or some other symbol on a T-shirt, for example, with fabric printing, the idea is to have the image or message (or the combination of the two) imprinted on the shirt by one of the many different techniques that would all fall under the umbrella term of ‘fabric printing.’

For example, here, you can count in such methods as thermal printing, reactive printing (where special colors are used that ‘react’ with the fabric to create a more long-lasting visual effect), transfer printing, and many other methods.

Now, if we take a closer look at how to transfer printing works, for example, you can see that this type of printing uses a printer and some special paper that can transfer colors from the printer and onto whatever piece of fabric you’re working on with.

So, all you need to do to make an imprint is print out the image or message you want using an ordinary printer and then simply transfer the printed sheet of paper onto a T-shirt, let’s say.

As long as the T-shirt is perfectly flat with no wrinkles or other imperfections and you’re using the special sort of paper called ‘transfer paper’ to do this, you can rest assured that you will be able to transfer the image you printed out in its entirety to the T-shirt.

So, it could be said that leaving an image on a piece of clothes gives you much more options than embroidery. That said, this method is also not without its shortcomings, and we’ll discuss these in more detail in the passages below.

Pros & Cons of Embroidery

Printing Vs Embroidery

Pros:

  • Professional-looking garments – One of the biggest advantages of using embroidery over fabric printing would certainly be the fact that this way of leaving a ‘mark’ on your clothes looks way more professional than the case is with thermal printing, transfer printing, or any type of printing for that matter.

Since the threads are added to the already-existing fabrics, you can rest assured that they will not tear easily. In a certain way, it’s like welding. It’s more difficult to destroy a weld than the other metal parts around it.

The same logic works for embroidered logos or symbols – it would be easier to tear and otherwise destroy the rest of the garment than to remove the embroidered thing forcefully.

  • Durability – Speaking of the devil, one of the best things about embroidery on clothes is that it’s pretty much indestructible. (At least when it comes to normal wear and tear.)

The thing is, since every piece of embroidery is secured to its base fabric by many different stitches, you won’t have to worry about it accidentally falling off or otherwise getting damaged.

Also, the colors of the embroidered part are less likely to come off than the case is with different symbols that were added using the fabric printing method.

By the way, this is also the reason why embroidery is commonly used instead of fabric printing for creating uniforms for police officers, firefighters, the members of the military, and for other professionals working in an important field, so to speak.

  • Works great on thick garments – One other great thing about embroidery is that it works wonders when it comes to putting logos, symbols, or some professional insignia on thicker fabrics.

Typically, digital printing doesn’t work that well on thicker garments because the color cannot penetrate that deep. This, in turn, causes the garment to ‘reject’ the print, which can ruin it in the long run.

With embroidery, on the other hand, as long as the thread and the needle can penetrate the fibers of the fabric you’re working on, the logo or whatever other pieces of embroidered design you want to put in your hoodie or some other thick piece of apparel – will stick there. It won’t budge no matter how many times you wash this piece of clothes.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work as well on thinner fabrics – While embroidery works like a charm when it comes to thicker fabrics or even some thinner fabrics that are high-quality, so to speak, it typically isn’t the best solution for thin cloths or pieces of clothes.

The reason behind this is that thin, low-quality fabrics can easily tear around an embroidered emblem or a logo. So, even if the logo itself is fairly durable and can survive for way longer than something that’s been printed on a piece of fabric, the fact that this piece of fabric might tear itself because it’s made out of low-quality fibers in a way defeats the purpose of using embroidery as the method for visually enhancing it.

  • Doesn’t look good when large – Although embroidery is well-liked as the ‘input’ method for making different pieces of clothes both look good and for adding a professional air to them, this all works as long as the logo or the emblem is not too large. Large patches of embroidery on clothes tend to look messy and they can hamper the elasticity of the garment, too.

Pros & Cons of Fabric Printing

Printing Vs Embroidery

Pros:

  • Quicker results – In terms of getting a cool image or a message on a T-shirt and doing it quickly, nothing beats fabric printing.

Although certain fabric-printing methods typically take longer when using them to make an imprint on a piece of clothing, most methods are typically fairly easy to use so that you can get excellent results pretty fast.

This is also great for people who need many printed T-shirts for an upcoming celebration or some sort of event. Especially if the longevity of this design is not that important and if the shirts or some other garments are specifically meant to be used on this occasion only. (Of course, this does not mean that fabric printing is always a low-quality method of visually enhancing your clothes. But for the record, if you want an image on your shit cheap – fabric printing is the way to go.)

  • More creative freedom – Say you’ve painted an elaborate piece of artwork that you want to put on your T-shirt for everyone to see as you’re walking on the street. With fabric printing, you can ‘transfer’ the thing you drew and painstakingly painted it in great detail onto a piece of clothing of your choice. With embroidery, on the other hand, you probably wouldn’t be able to do this. (Even if you could, as we already stated above – large pieces of embroidered fabric typically don’t look that good on clothes anyway.)
  • Low costs of ‘production’ – … play a major role in choosing fabric printing over embroidery if you want to promote your brand, for example, and at the same time don’t want to spend an arm and a leg doing it.

Since there’s no elaborate stitchwork you need to worry about, as long as you can afford the ink or paint pigment in the form of powder (depending on what sort of printing method you’re using), you can rest assured that you will be able to print out massive amounts of customized pieces of clothing for a relatively low price.

Cons:

  • Low print quality – … is one of the biggest downsides of fabric printing, generally speaking. The thing is, not all fabric printing methods produce low-quality clothes and imprints, but compared to embroidery, these images typically don’t last that long as they can get compromised easily with washing and also just general wear ‘n’ tear.
  • Doesn’t look as professional – In case you’ve just opened a restaurant business and you want all of your cooks and waiters to carry your logo on their work clothes, using embroidery would be the best way to make them look professional and to give the customer the impression that your establishment is doing well.

Of course, you can also try to do this with fabric printing, but you run the risk of these logos and emblems fading after a while, which won’t look that good as your staff is wearing the clothes with such insignia so to speak.

All in all, whether your fabric-enhancing goals revolve around creating a memorable brand, or you just want to wear a T-shirt with your favorite underground metal band, the great thing is that you will have plenty of options at your disposal to make it happen.

As for the broad connotations of embroidery and fabric printing, the general rule of thumb can be:

  • Embroidery – more expensive but more professional-looking and long-lasting, and
  • Fabric printing – less expensive, more casual-looking, but also more freedom for creativity and also faster printing process.

Final Words

After reading this blog, you’ll have a better understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of each option. The decision is yours to make! Embroidery may be more expensive upfront but can save money in the long run by not having to replace shirts as often because they are durable. Printing will allow for customization with different logos or pictures on your shirt which could help increase brand recognition and awareness.

Keep these considerations in mind before making your final choice! We hope you found the difference between printing vs embroidery; this article helpful, and we wish you plenty of success with enhancing your clothes visually, whichever method you choose.

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