Direct to Garment Printing vs. Screen-Printing

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Direct to Garment Printing vs. Screen-Printing

So, you need some custom printed t-shirts. Direct-To-Garment or “DTG” printing is the new digital option for t-shirt decoration, and has quickly given Screen-printing a run for the money. So what’s the difference? Imagine a DTG printer as a larger version of a home Inkjet printer, where your designs are printed onto the garment from a printhead. Instead of a paper tray and toner cartridges, there’s a sliding t-shirt table and special garment ink cartridges. Once printed, the garment is heat pressed to cure the ink and ensure washability. As with most inkjets, DTG printing allows for MILLIONS of colors to be produced with vibrant, photo quality details. The possibilities are endless! Added bonus: garment inks are water-based, so your shirt feels soft to the touch.

A Screen-printing machine, on the other hand, is vastly different. In essence, it is a form of stenciling. It is an actual mesh screen where your artwork is chemically transposed onto the screen. Ink is then physically pushed through the mesh, in the form of a design. Each screen only uses one ink color, therefore many customers typically limit their artwork to less than three colors to avoid added screen costs. Screen-printing inks can be water-based, but the most commonly used are called plastisol, which give a plastic-like feel.  Screen-printing is still widely used, but it is most well served for specific purposes and mass quantities.  If your t-shirt artwork is very simple, and multi-color photos or details are not important for your purpose, then screen-printing may be a more reasonable choice for you.

See the comparison below. It’s apparent that DTG Printing has several advantages, especially for small to medium sized orders that can be very expensive to screen-print…

  • No minimums. Print 1 shirt or 100 shirts
  • No set-up fees
  • No screen charges
  • Full vibrant color, photo quality gradients and halftones
  • Size of printed design can be adjusted according to shirt size, at no charge.          
  • Quantity minimums from 12 pieces & up per design
  • Set-up fees
  • Screen charges: $15-$30 per color per design
  • Pay per color, print quality low for gradients & halftones
  • Artwork size change = new charges and screens
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