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Rotary Printing vs Screen Printing

Looking to achieve bold colors and vibrant designs for your project? In printing, this is possible through two prominent techniques. But what is the difference between rotary printing vs screen printing? Join us in this guide to learn more!

As leaders in top-grade printing services, we will explore the characteristics of both printing methods. We will cover factors like speed, cost, and print quality to help you understand which option best suits your needs.

Rotary Printing vs Screen Printing
Source: Photo Contributor: boitano

Exploring Rotary and Screen Printing Methods

Printing technologies have significantly evolved over the years. The printing world now encompasses diverse techniques, enabling businesses and artists to bring their designs to life. Two methods are supreme for creating lasting results and eye-catching designs on various fabrics: rotary and screen printing.

Both have unique advantages, making them suitable for different applications depending on the specific project. So, how do you decide which method to choose? It is crucial to consider their key differences, which we will analyze in more detail below. 

Once you decide between rotary and screen printing, look for a reputable company that can handle your specific job. Researching the best commercial printing service providers can ensure quality results. 

Rotary printing

Rotary printing is a high-volume method commonly utilized in the textile industry. This method is versatile and suitable for printing on a variety of substrates, particularly cylindrical items like glassware. 

Rotary printing facilitates quality printing by using various color options and contrasts. It involves a cylindrical screen that rotates as the fabric passes through it, transferring the design onto the fabric as the screen moves. 

How it works

  1. The cylindrical screen features the desired printing pattern.

  2. The ink for printing is pushed through the screen onto the material.

  3. The cylinder then starts to rotate.

  4. It continuously applies the pattern as the fabric moves beneath. 

What is rotary screen printing?

While the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between rotary and rotary screen printing. In fact, rotary printing is a broad term that encompasses any printing technique using rotating cylinders to transfer ink onto a substrate.

That said, rotary screen printing is a specific type of rotary printing used in textile and industrial printing. It involves the use of cylindrical screens made out of mesh material that have a pattern engraved or cut into them.

These screens allow the ink to pass through the mesh where the pattern is open. The substrate moves continuously under these rotating screens, enabling high-speed printing that is useful for textiles and wallpapers with repeating patterns.

Screen printing

Screen printing, also known as silkscreen printing, is a widely used technique that produces high-quality, vivid colors. It requires a flat screen to transfer ink onto the material.

Screen printing is commonly used on almost every substrate, even, uneven, and rough surfaces. You can screen print on textiles, wood, metal, plastic, and glass with special ink.

How it works

  1. The screen featuring the desired pattern is prepared.

  2. The screen is placed onto the material.

  3. The ink is spread across the screen with a squeegee.

  4. The squeegee pushes the ink onto the material.

Rotary Printing vs Screen Printing - Methods Comparison

Print speed

Rotary printing is known for its speed and efficiency. Due to its continuous printing process, it is generally faster compared to screen printing. The fabric moves under the rotating cylinder at a steady pace, enabling a high-speed production rate. 

In comparison, screen printing is a step-by-step process. This is because the screen must be aligned and pressed for each print. That said, automatic screen printing offers better production speed than manual screen printing.

Print quality 

Rotary printing offers excellent print quality, especially for high-volume runs. The consistency of the rotary process ensures uniform prints. As the method allows for continuous printing, it is beneficial for long runs of the same pattern. 

As one of the most used printing techniques, screen printing is known for the quality of prints it provides. It can produce vibrant colors with sharp details. However, it can be less consistent when it comes to printing large volumes.

Print Quality
Source: Photo Contributor: KOKTARO

Print volume 

Rotary printing can produce hundreds of meters of fabric per hour. Once it is set up, it can print without stopping. As a result, this type of printing is ideal for continuous runs and large-scale production runs

Conversely, screen printing is flexible and better suited for small to medium orders. While you can change designs during printing, setting up each screen can be time-consuming, thus possibly less efficient for large volumes. 

Complex designs

Rotary printing is a technique that can handle complex, multi-colored designs with high precision. It supports various fabrics and ensures constant quality throughout production. It is beneficial for patterns that need to be repeated over long distances. 

Furthermore, screen printing excels in intricate designs with bright and vibrant colors, even on dark fabrics. This printing technique works well with a wide range of substrates. It makes visually appealing and durable prints. 


Given its efficiency, rotary printing is cost-effective for large print qualities. It significantly reduces the cost per unit. Yet, the initial setup can be expensive due to the specialized equipment and screens used for printing.

Unlike rotary printing, screen printing comes with a lower initial cost. This makes the technique a more affordable option for small print runs. However, the cost for larger print runs may be higher.

Rotary Screen Printing vs Flat Screen Printing

As we have already mentioned, rotary screen printing uses cylindrical screens that rotate to transfer ink onto the substrate. It is fast and efficient for producing long print runs of fabric with consistent quality. It is particularly suited for continuous patterns and designs that need to be printed over extensive lengths without interruption.

Flat-screen printing, on the other hand, involves the use of a flat mesh screen placed over the substrate. The ink is applied to the screen and is pushed through the mesh onto a material with the squeegee. Each color in the design requires a separate screen, print run, and drying. 

Rotary vs flat screen printing - Ideal uses 

Rotary screen printing excels in scenarios where high volume, speed, and continuous design are required. Examples include textile manufacturing for bed linens and upholstery fabrics. 

In contrast, flat screen printing suits lower volume runs and highly detailed or custom designs. It allows for greater flexibility and control over small print runs, making it suitable for custom apparel, art prints, and other niche markets.

Difference between flatbed and rotary screen printing

The main difference between the two types of screen printing is the screen structure and the movement of the substrate. Flatbed screen printing uses flat mesh screens, while rotary cylindrical, rotating screens.

Moreover, flatbed printing involves placing the substrate under a stationary flat screen and pressing the ink through. Rotary printing involves a continuous feed of the substrate under rotating screens for continuous and faster printing.

Difference Between Flatbed and Rotary Screen Printing
Source: Photo Contributor: Moreno Soppelsa


So, what is the difference between rotary printing vs screen printing? As observed, both options have their strengths and ideal uses. Rotary printing is suitable for high-volume production, particularly for longer runs and continuous patterns.

In comparison, screen printing is versatile for smaller prints and intricate designs. It offers vibrant prints of excellent quality at a lower initial cost. Thus, choosing between the two depends on your specific needs, including volume and budget.


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