Silkscreen Printing versus Offset Printing for your CD or DVD

At Precision Disc we provide two options for printing your replicated discs: Offset Printing (with CMYK ink) and Silkscreen Printing (with Spot Colour ink).

These two printing processes are very different and have very different strengths and weaknesses. Due to this, as a designer it is always in your best interest to steer your design towards the strengths of the print method or printing equipment and away from the weaknesses. By doing this you will get the best printed result.

Designing for Offset Printing is more intuitive than designing for Silkscreen Printing – especially for inexperienced designers – so we see quite a few designs that are set-up for Offset Printing that would have been much better suited for Silkscreen. Before you begin designing your CD or DVD, review this list of strengths and weaknesses and decide which printing method would be best for the design you have in mind:


Offset Printing Silkscreen Printing
Photographic images.
Unlimited colours.
Higher resolution.
Large areas of solid colour.
Bold designs.
Gloss ink.
Large areas of solid colour
    (other than the white flood).
Ink is not glossy.
Photographs and bitmaps.
Rasterized text and images.
Small/fine text and images.
Maximum of 6 colours
    (including white flood).

Example 1 : This 'Stevens Pass' mini DVD is a good example of a design that is best suited for CMYK Offset Print.

CMYK Offset Printed Disc


• Photographic imagery •
• Well balanced text and graphics •
• No large areas of solid colour •


Example 2 : This 'Image Engine' disc is a good example of a design that is best suited for Silkscreen Print:

Silkscreen Printed Disc


• Three colour design (black, white and grey/blue)
• It’s a bold design that isn’t trying to be subtle
• It uses large areas of solid colour
• Created completely in line-art (including the logo at the bottom).


Specifying Colours for Silkscreen Printing

When designing for Silkscreen Print the spot colour values must be specified using the Pantone Matching System (aka: PMS) Solid Coated colour palette. This particular colour palette is referenced by the letter “C”. For example: PMS 185 C

No Clear Cut Choice?

Now, what if there’s no clear cut choice based on the design you have in mind? Some elements are best suited for Offset Printing and other elements are best suited for Silkscreen Printing. Which printing method should you pick?

The answer to that will vary depending on your specific design, but if there is no clear cut answer you might just have to modify your design idea to get the best end-result possible. Having said that, there are a couple of rules that you’ll want to stick with:

• If the key element in your design is going to be a photograph, you’re going to want to Offset Print it – so steer the rest of your design elements toward the strengths of Offset Printing and away from its weaknesses.

• If you want to use the ‘less is more’ approach featuring text and large blocks of background colour you’re going to want to Silkscreen Print it – so steer the rest of your design elements toward the strengths of Silkscreen Printing and away from its weaknesses.

• Even if you have chosen to go with Offset Printing, the white backprint (aka: white flood) is still Silkscreen Printed. Due to this, it's possible to have a large area of solid white colour that looks smooth, consistent and glossy within your CMYK Offset Printed design.

Example 3 : This design has aspects that would be best suited for both styles of printing, but because the main visual element is a bitmap image
(the blue graphic in the dominating the top right portion of the disc) Offset is the printing method of choice. This, despite the solid orange colour at the bottom of the design and the solid white on the left hand side. 

CMYK Offset Printed Disc

Some Other CD DVD Design Examples:

Example 4 : This is a very good example of designing for Silkscreen Print using just three colours (black, red and white). The entire design was done using line-art and the shading inside the skull/wings which looks grey is actually a gradient within the black print.

Note: We do not advise using elements that contain less than 100% solid colour when Silkscreen Printing - such as gradients and drop shadows - unless you know exactly what you're doing. 


Silkscreen Printed Disc

Example 5 : This design is well suited for Offset Printing because the main visual element is a bitmap image, and (as noted previously) the white backprint/flood used in Offset Printing is actually done in the Silkscreen method.

CMYK Offset Printed Disc