What Are the Different Methods for Printing on Glass and What’s the Best Option?
As discussed earlier, there are 4 different methods of printing on glass. They all come with their own sets of benefits and drawbacks, making them suitable for different purposes. Here’s a quick overview of each of them:
Screen printing is the oldest glass printing technique. It’s quite versatile and can be used to print on flat, slightly curved, as well as cylindrical glass surfaces. It makes use of a stencil and mesh screen, alongside a squeegee to allow ink to pass through only specific areas that need to be printed. Once the ink sets, it’s “fired” to make it stick to the glass, making a thin film on top of it.
Screen printing is a labor-intensive method and requires extensive setup before each round of printing. So, it’s usually used for printing 1 to 2 color prints, rarely going above 4 colors. It’s the most expensive method of printing on glass and is best suited for high-volume applications where the setup and preparation time can be spread across multiple prints.
Pad printing essentially transfers a 2D image onto a 3D physical object. It’s a high-speed glass printing process that usually employs 1-2 colors. Some of the more advanced machines make use of up to 6 colors.
In this method, a silicone pad compresses onto an in-filled etch to capture the image. The pad is then compressed onto the object on which the image is to be printed. The soft pad fits the contours of the 3D object perfectly and transfers the image or design.
For more complex projects, such as printing photos on glass, pads of specific shapes must be used. For this reason, pad printing is generally used for large-volume batch production applications.
Digital printing is the go-to option when you are looking to print pics on glass. It’s a highly versatile printing method that offers virtually limitless possibilities for glass photo printing. Digital printing can print graphics and photos on most types of glass surfaces – flat, curved, cylindrical, spherical, conical – you name it.
Digital printing makes use of organic inks that are cured on glass surfaces using ultraviolet light. It’s relatively less labor-intensive and can use a full gamut of colors to produce vibrant, eclectic, and HD prints on surfaces. In fact, some of the advanced digital printers can print high-resolution, full-wrap prints on glass objects like candle holders, wine glasses, vases, and other glassware.
Digital Ceramic Printing
Technically, digital ceramic printing is a subcategory of the digital printing method, but it deserves a special mention for reasons you’ll understand soon. It was developed to solve one of the major shortcomings of digital printing – durability. UV printing does not produce long-lasting prints, which come off easily after a short while. But, digital ceramic printing addresses it.
Digital ceramic printing makes use of ceramic ink, which contains microscopic glass particles mixed with pigment. So, when the ink is printed on glass at high temperatures, the glass in the ink fuses into the surface, creating a near-permanent print. It can produce outstanding glass photography prints with accurate and vivid colors.