While you are likely familiar with the idea of screen printing (that is, you know the term even if you don’t know how it works), you probably are’t nearly as familiar with direct to garment T-shirt printing (or DTG). Gone are the days when you needed an airbrush artist to created highly detailed T-shirt designs. Many people do not realize that DTG has been around for many years, and the technology and methods behind it have matured to the point that it can produce amazing graphics. Here are some of the more common questions we get about DTG printing.

How Does the DTG Printing Process Differ from Screen Printing?

In screen printing, the design is applied to the garment one color at a time by pushing ink through a screen, which works much like a stencil. While it does provide vibrant, long-lasting graphics, screen printing requires significant setup time and is limited in the amount of detail. DTG printing, on the other hand, involves inserting a garment into a printer that applies special types of ink through nozzles – much like an office inkjet printer. Also like an office printer, the design and setup is largely handled on a computer, which allows for extremely detailed images in a very short time.

When Should I Use DTG Printing Instead of Screen Printing?

Here are some examples of when DTG printing is preferred over screen printing:

  • A detailed design or photographic image (the stenciled nature of using screens limits detail)
  • Using more than 15 colors (screen printing is limiting because each color is applied separately; DTG is really just like your printer at home, so it has no color limitations)
  • You want them, like, yesterday! (DTG setup and production time are shorter)
  • Low quantities (creating screens is material and labor intensive, so it’s not cost-effective for only a handful of shirts; DTG is largely a digital setup – almost like hitting “File/Print”!)
  • Samples & prototypes (again, because DTG requires less raw materials and time to set up, printing just one is a snap)

What Is the Best Type of T-shirt for DTG?

white cotton t shirtFor direct to garment T-shirt printing, 100% cotton is the best fabric to use. Natural fibers do an excellent job of absorbing the water-based inks DTG uses. It is important to keep in mind that not all cotton fabrics are going to provide the same level of quality in the results. When selecting a cotton fabric for DTG printing, look for a smooth surface – otherwise you will end up with unpredictable stray fibers that can compromise the crispness of the final image.

In addition, avoid carded open-end shirts (also called COE) because they will be scratchy, heavy, and cheap. In most cases, you will also want to use a lighter-colored background for the graphics on your DTG to really show up well. That said, it is still possible to print on darker colors and triblends, but it will take more trial runs for the printers to achieve the same quality of print.

Does DTG Hold Up Well To Washing?

If a direct to garment printed T-shirt is worn often and heavily laundered, it will begin to fade more quickly than a screen-printed one. DTG garments are not really meant for everyday use but can hold up well if they are laundered with care and not abused – which includes following the general washing and drying guidelines for the fabric and taking extra care to use laundry detergents that are not harsh on colors (and certainly never using bleach).

Also note that most DTG garments are going to have a “shine” to the image when you first receive it because of the pre-treatment process used. That shine will disappear after the first wash and in no way affects the appearance of your shirt.

How Does DTG Differ in Price?

When comparing price, it is important to keep in mind that screen printing is far more economical for larger production runs while DTG works best with short production runs, samples, and print-to-order one-offs. That said, DTG prints usually range from $12 to $15 per unit.

High Detail. Low Quantity. Quick Turnaround.

direct to garment t shirt printingDirect to garment T-shirt printing is a viable alternative to screen printing, achieving extremely colorful and detailed graphics that are quite durable when laundered and cared for properly. DTG printing works best on light-colored, 100% cotton fabrics, but others can be accommodated. And while DTG may initially seem more expensive, it is the more economical choice for short production runs with tight turnaround times.

A.I.R. Conway – Your Solution for DTG Contract Printing Needs

At A.I.R. Conway, we have state-of-the-art DTG printing equipment along with knowledgeable, experienced technicians who can advise you on processes, materials, pre-treatments, and more. Our technicians have a reputation for quality and speed — and we even throw in free shipping for good measure. A.I.R. Conway provides the very same level of customer service and quality regardless of your order. Contact us today for a quote!