Direct To Garment is a newer printing method which acts much like an inkjet printer you would use to print paper. In fact most DTG printers are large inkjet printers that are modified to print shirts. There are substantial modifications to get this work, and new job-specific printers are being offered by printer manufacturers. In order to print on fabric, a pigment ink is used versus the dye-based inks used on paper. Large quantities of ink must be supplied because of the absorbent nature of the fabric. White colored garments can be directly printed onto the shirts. A heat press is necessary so the blank shirt can be pressed before printing to release any moisture in the shirt. After printing, the shirt is also pressed to set the inks into the fabric. Garments most used for this printing are t-shirts, aprons, pillow cases, golf towels, etc.
For dark colors, a pre-treatment has to be applied first so the shirt can accept the white ink. This is done with a hand-sprayer in small shops, or a pre-treatment sprayer in shops that do a significant amount of dtg printing. In addition, after the pre-treatment application dries, a white under-base is printed on the shirt before the color layer is applied. White ink is used in much larger quantities than individual colors, so most often half of the printer’s ink capacity is dedicated to white. White ink can be problematic in that its pigment can easily settle and cause print heads to clog. Several companies have included circulating and filtration systems to combat clogs.
One hundred percent cotton fabrics are preferred for DTG. Blends of up to fifty percent cotton can be used. It must be noted however that the color will be only adhering to the cotton, so the colors will be lighter on the blends.
While screen printing is one one of the more common ways to print on garments, it doesn’t always meet every customer’s request. That is why DTG printing has become popular today. A full-service print shop would do itself a dis-service and actually loose business if they don’t incorporate direct-to-garment printing as an optional method of printing for its customers.
Below are the benefits and drawbacks of DTG Printing and Screen Printing:
- Soft to the touch
- Prints photos that are crisp and clear
- Unlimited colors
- Great for small quantities (1-12)
- Color matching of inks will not be exact
- Best prints achieved with 100% cotton. Blends will print lighter and faded in appearance.
- Limited print space – Max. of 12.5”w x 14”h
- Not cost effective for quantities over 12.
- Vast array of inks available, incl. glitter and foils
- Best for garments composed of at least 80% cotton
- Print space is larger
- Cost effective for over 12-piece quantities
- The more colors in the design, the higher the print cost.
- Photographic details not attainable
- Small quantities (under 12) are not cost effective
- Printers usually require 12 or 24-piece minimums