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  • Writer's pictureNick Anscombe

Screen Printed vs Heat Transferred Skateboard Decks

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

When skateboarding became a mainstream phenomenon in the 90s, board graphics became crucial for brands to stand out against their competition and showcase their team of professionals. The most common way of printing at that time was screen printing, as skateboard decks tended to be completely flat, or with just one kicktail, making it easier to run a squeegee over them to create a perfect graphic.

As skateboard shapes evolved, they became less flat with the introduction of noses, tails and deep concave. This prompted skateboard manufacturers to look into newer, more modern printing methods, including digital graphics transferred with heat.

These are the two primary methods of printing skateboard decks: screen printing and heat transfer printing. In this blog, we’ll explore the differences between these two methods and help you decide which one is best for your brand.

Screen printed skateboard decks

Screen Printed Skateboard Decks

Screen printing is the traditional method of printing onto skateboard decks. This method involves making a stencil, or screen, that is placed over the deck and ink is applied on top. The ink is then pushed through the screen and onto the deck using a squeegee. The process is repeated for each colour in the design, with each colour requiring its own screen.

Screen printing is a highly effective and durable printing method for skateboard decks. It produces vibrant, long-lasting colours that won’t fade or peel/crack easily. The ink sits on top of the deck, making it more resistant to wear and tear and giving you a better slide when skateboarding.

As with screen printing anything, there are some limitations to what you can and cannot screen print on skateboards. However, screen-printed decks are versatile when it comes to design and can accommodate intricate designs and a wide range of colours.

screen printed skateboard decks

Screen Printing Techniques

CMYK Prints

CMYK prints are made by printing blue, pink, yellow and black on a white surface. By mixing these base colours, practically every other colour can be created. Get yourself a newspaper and take a close look - the images are made of tiny blue, pink, yellow and black dots.

Spot Colour Prints

Spot colour is used by simply mixing ink into the desired colour you want in your print project, instead of using the mixed CMYK process to achieve it.

Spot Colors VS CMYK Prints

Unlike CMYK prints, Spot colour prints are made by using the original colours. For example, instead of printing the colour green with yellow and blue dots, green ink will be used. Therefore Spot colour prints are much more vibrant and accurate.

digital heat transfer skateboard deck

Heat Transfer Printed Skateboard Decks

Heat transfer printing is a newer method of printing onto skateboard decks. This method involves printing the design onto a transfer paper using a digital printer or screen printing method and then using heat to transfer the design onto the deck. The transfer sheet is placed on the deck, and heat and pressure are applied. Once the deck has had heat and pressure, this allows the sheet to peel off the skateboard, leaving the graphic on the deck.

Heat transfer printing is a faster and more cost-effective printing method when working with a high volume of decks. You can print the transfer through a digital printer or a screen printing flat-stock bed. It’s also a good option for printing photographs or designs with a high level of detail. However, it’s not as durable as screen printing, as the ink sits below the surface of the deck and is more susceptible to wear and tear.

screen printed skateboard deck

Which Method is Best for You?

When it comes to choosing between screen printing and heat transfer printing for your skateboard deck, it ultimately depends on your preferences and needs. If you’re looking for a more durable and versatile option using graphics with striking spot colours, screen printing is the way to go. If you are working with a lot of boards and want a more cost-effective option or need to print a design with photographic detail, heat transfer printing might be a better choice.

It’s worth noting that both methods of printing can produce high-quality results, and the final product will largely depend on the expertise of the printer. At Back & Forth Prints, we work with a vast portfolio of global and local companies, printing professional standard skateboards for some of the world’s most recognised brands.

If you want to find out more about our skateboard printing services or if you have any questions, get in touch here.


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