If you want to create first-rate printed garments, one of the techniques worth considering is direct-to-garment (DTG) printing. It has also been called digital apparel printing and even inkjet to garment printing. Whatever you choose to refer to it as DTG is a fast and efficient way to create all kinds of images on t-shirts and other promotional product items.
Why Choose Direct to Garment Printing?
There are quite a few techniques for printing on garments. Each has its pros and cons. Ultimately, the best choice depends on your needs, the type of design you’re using, and any budget you may have to work within. DTG is a great method for creating custom apparel designs. It’s also a good choice when you have a complex image or an image with many colors. In fact, DTG printers can print over 16 million colors directly onto the garment in one pass. If you have a distinctive, small, or multi-colored design, DTG might be the way to go.
Here are the steps involved in the DTG process.
With DTG printing, the garment to be printed on should first be pretreated so that it absorbs the ink in a specific way. Pretreatment serves a similar purpose as does priming a wall before applying paint. Pretreating involves applying an aqueous solution that ensures the ink adheres to the fibers easily and securely. Some still use a power sprayer by hand to do this pretreatment. Still, obviously, for larger quantities, it is better to use a fully enclosed pretreatment machine to make that process faster and more efficient. After the pretreatment process, it is important for the garment to dry before you begin printing on it, as this will produce the best results in the end.
To print, you’ll need a direct-to-garment printer, which is the biggest expense required to do this type of printing. While you can find cheaper printers in the $5,000 price range, a professional DTG printer will start at around $12,000. It can go all the way up to $250,000, depending on quality, capacity, and capabilities.
Since DTG uses a type of inkjet technology, it’s also possible to convert a quality inkjet printer to DTG. However, if you are going to be doing this kind of printing regularly and want to turn out the best possible graphics on the garments, it certainly makes sense to invest in a nicer DTG printer, as it will produce better custom printing for your projects.
When it’s time to start printing, you place the garment on the printer’s plate and lock it into place. Then you adjust the settings in the printing program for your printer and get it started. In many cases, printing the design you want is similar to how you’d print a document on a traditional printer. The printer is fed the information from the file you gave it and begins to print out the image onto the garment accordingly.
Drying and Curing
After printing, it’s necessary to dry out the freshly printed garment to cure the ink and ensure that it adheres properly to the fabric. This helps to keep the design intact as it interacts with daily use, elements, and washing. While some use a heat press to dry and cure the garment, most feel that a conveyor dryer is a better option, as it is a bit more efficient.
Benefits of DTG Printing
Why would you choose DTG printing over other printing methods?
- Fast for small orders — Compared to other methods such as screen printing, you can create t-shirts quickly with DTG printing as there’s minimal set-up involved.
- Simple printing process – As DTG printers are very similar to the kind of inkjet printers everyone is familiar with, there’s not much of a learning curve to operate them. You can easily train members of your team on how to print your t-shirts or other items.
- Quality results for complex designs – Due to the high number of colors a DTG printer can handle, it can print complex images such as photographs or illustrations with lots of detail.
- Economical for small orders – Since there’s no screen setup involved, or having to run colors independently, it doesn’t cost any more to print a few t-shirts than doing a larger run of them.
- Smaller space requirements – DTG printers require less space than screen printers do. This is good for expanding your capabilities without the need for the additional square footage of office space.
Drawbacks of DTG Printing
DTG printing isn’t the right choice for every printing job. The following are some potential drawbacks.
- Expensive – While DTG printing produces quality, detailed results, you have to pay for this. It’s not the most economical choice if you want to sell large quantities of low-cost garments.
- Less efficient for large volume orders – While you can quickly create small custom orders, if you need to print hundreds or thousands of t-shirts at a time, the better and overall cheaper approach would be to go with screen printing.
Is DTG Printing the Right Choice For You?
How can you determine whether it makes sense to use DTG printing or another method? Ask yourself the following questions.
- What quantity of orders are you printing? For quick, small orders or print-on-demand (POD) products, DTG printing is often the best choice.
- What kind of design are you printing? As mentioned above, many printing methods aren’t as capable as DTG for rendering complex and detailed images. If it’s a straightforward design, it may be more economical to choose another method like screen printing.
- What kind of fabric are you using? DTG printing is most suitable for natural fabrics such as 100% cotton. It is possible to get good results with synthetic fabrics provided that you pretreat them before printing.
- What budget do you have to work with? As noted, direct-to-garment printing is fairly expensive. So, if there are budget restrictions, it may make sense to opt for a more economical printing method.