WHAT IS DIRECT-TO-GARMENT PRINTING?
DTG (Direct to Garment) printing involves using a modified inkjet printer to apply digital designs directly to fabric.
Direct-to-garment printing, also known as DTG printing or digital printing, has only been around for about 20 years. But in such a short time, this printing technique has revolutionized the fashion world in an unexpected way.
The first time anyone heard of DTG printing was when a little-known company, DIS, of Bradenton, Florida unveiled a printing machine called “Revolution”. At the time, the only popular printing options for mass production were heat transfer, sublimation, and screen printing, but the ‘Revolution’ turned the industry upside down by introducing a way to transfer images directly onto garments without silk screen or transfer paper.
After a few years in the market, it was clear that DTG printers produced higher resolution images than any other fabric printing method out there, and the market quickly learned that this method of printing is much cleaner and more easy to set up than screen printing. While other apparel printing techniques still exist, DTG has become the preferred printing method for thousands of professional apparel printers worldwide.
So you want to produce clothes with printed designs. What are the best ways to print designs on clothes and what are screen printing, digital printing, thermal transfer printing, and DTG printing? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the different printing processes available, and explain how much clothing printing costs and how long it takes. Read on to learn everything you need to know to launch a new line of high-quality custom clothing, complete with your favorite color prints.
As a designer, there are many processes you can use to take your idea from initial concept to final product. If you are planning to print a design on your clothes, there are different printing options that you should consider before making a decision. Whether you’re looking for incredible detail, high volume capacity, or a soft-touch print finish, there’s an option that’s perfect for your needs, and you can trust the experts at Falzon.
HOW TO PRINT ON FABRIC?
People have been laying down patterns on fabrics since the dawn of the fashion industry. In the past, people used herbal dyes to put designs on clothes, and embroidery was also a popular method for putting images on shirts, jackets, and pants.
Nowadays, clothing manufacturers use high-tech devices like industrial screen printing and modified inkjet technologies to transfer incredibly vivid images onto T-shirts, hoodies, and all kinds of other garments. The various printing methods available on the market today all produce certain types of results, and consumers have learned to recognize good methods from bad ones.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY
If you want to impress your customers with personalized t-shirts or promotional products, you must use the best fabric printing methods on the market. You won’t be able to get away with consumer printing methods for long; whether you’re doing a short-term project or need promotional items for years to come, you’ll need to find a print shop that has access to a DTG printer or high-tech sublimation or screen printing technologies.
Choosing a printing company is only half the battle. Whether you want to print simple one-color designs or plan to make T-shirts in multiple colors, you’ll need to create a beautiful design and format it so your print shop can use it. Throughout this guide, we’ll give you all the information you need to find a print shop and make the perfect design for your project.
Learn all about the pros and cons of different printing methods before deciding which method to use for all your garments.
HOW DOES DIRECT-TO-GARMENT PRINTING WORK?
DTG printers operate on the same basic principles as inkjet printers. These printers use specialized printheads to apply water-based ink to fabrics. As this type of ink works well only on natural fibers, DTG printing is best suited for fabrics like bamboo, cotton, and hemp.
Before using this type of modified inkjet printer to print a design on your garment, your printer will use a process called pre-processing. To pre-treat your garment, the print shop applies a heated press that compresses the fiber. Fibers such as cotton and bamboo typically pull away from the garment, and this compression process flattens the fibers, making the printing process more efficient.
While pre-treatment is not necessary for all garments, this process is essential when applying light or white ink to dark garments. After the garment has been preprocessed, your printer transfers it to a special type of table that holds the item in place during the printing process. Then the print head applies the exact pattern that the print shop has loaded into the connected computer.
MAIN DTG PRINTING TECHNOLOGIES
Since the ink used in DTG printing does not leave the printhead until it hits the garment, this printing process is highly efficient and virtually mess-free. However, DTG printing is generally time-consuming compared to other printing methods and like all other inkjet printers, DTG printers are prone to issues such as clogged ink nozzles and printhead errors.
At present, the Epson F2000 printer is the most popular DTG printer in the market. The design of this printer has solved many problems that plagued previous DTG printer models, and the F2000 is more efficient and cost-effective than any other DTG printer.
Print shops face a serious barrier to entry when it comes to DTG printing. These printers are expensive and can be expensive to maintain. However, the results obtained by DTG printers are not to be neglected. Clothing models printed by DTG have higher resolution and are richer in color than any other models on the market.
While the F2000 remains one of the most popular DTG printers, Epson has just released an upgrade: the F2100. To learn more about this newest printing technology, visit the Epson website.
HOW MUCH DOES DIRECT-TO-GARMENT PRINTING COST?
Before explaining to you how much direct-to-garment printing will cost you per garment, it is important to understand the costs that printing companies incur to offer this type of service. There is no other solution: DTG printing simply costs more than other types of fabric printing services, and even the most successful print shops will have to make sacrifices to offer DTG printing.
The best DTG printers cost over $15,000. For example, the brand new Epson F2100 costs around $16,000-17,000 when new, and the older F2000 still costs around $12,000-14,000. Even if you’re making millions of dollars a month, $17,000 isn’t a drop in the ocean, and small print shops won’t be able to justify the expense of this high-tech equipment.
DTG printer ink isn’t cheap either. Print shops can buy this type of specialty ink in bulk and save money, but companies that print large volumes of DTG apparel will end up spending thousands of dollars a month on ink.
There is no getting around the high cost of DTG printing, but the more a print is printed per month, the lower its prices. Look for a well-established DTG printing company to get the best price.
The price of printing a design on a garment by DTG printing varies depending on several factors:
- First, you need to consider the volume of the business. High-volume companies charge lower prices, and low-volume companies charge higher prices.
- Next, you need to consider the DTG printing technology that each company uses to print the garments. The Epson F2000 and F2100 printers are considered the benchmark for direct garment printing. Companies that use other printers may charge lower prices, but their results may not be as impressive.
- Keep in mind that print shops can save money on DTG printing, even though this method of printing garments is more expensive overall. Since this type of printing does not require a lot of preparation, print shops can save on labor when using DTG printers.
- Finally, the volume of your order changes the cost of printing the designs on your garments. Most companies offer bulk order discounts that increase with order volume.
Print shops charge between $3 and $7 per garment for DTG printing. This price varies depending on the size of the printing area, the minimum order size, and the overall volume the company processes per month.
HOW LONG DOES DIRECT GARMENT PRINTING TAKE?
Printing a single garment with DTG takes about three minutes. This print time will vary depending on the printer model used by your print shop and the complexity of the pattern. Some DTG printers can print multiple shirts or other garments in a row, but a technician may need to remove the printed garment and replace it with a blank garment to continue the printing process.
CONSIDER THE SIZE OF THE COMPANY
The turnaround time for your order depends on the capabilities of the printing company. For example, imagine you have an order for 100 hoodies with designs on the front and back sides.
If the print shop you have chosen only has a DTG printer, it may take several days to complete your project. Your order may take even longer if your print shop has other customers waiting before you.
On the other hand, when working with a larger print shop, you can expect better print times. In some cases, it’s possible to receive your order of 100 hoodies the same day you ordered, but you should expect 24-48 hour turnaround times for orders of this size when working with established print shops.
Wait until you have a large order to submit your first DTG printing project. Although DTG technology is not the most cost-effective for large print jobs, you will still get a high volume discount if you submit larger orders.
DTG AND SCREEN PRINTING
Before the advent of DTG printing, screen printing was the biggest and worst printing process. That’s not to say there’s any animosity between these two apparel printing technologies, but DTG printing certainly stole the show from screen printing.
These two types of clothing printing are similar in many ways. Like DTG, screen printing involves applying ink directly to a garment. This type of printing leaves no film or residue, and the screen-printed designs usually last a long time.
Printing multicolored patterns in screen printing, however, is quite difficult. If you want to achieve a photo-realistic design, for example, screen printing is probably not the method for you. DTG printing, on the other hand, applies designs directly to your garments that can look incredibly realistic. It is therefore an alternative to thermal transfer and sublimation printing, which used to be the best option if you want truly realistic prints.
WHAT IS THE BEST METHOD FOR PRINTING T-SHIRTS?
The answer to this question will be different for each clothing manufacturer. Every apparel printing technology has its pros and cons, and no one technology has emerged as the clear winner in the apparel printing race. That said, there are several reasons why you might prefer DTG printing over other types of apparel printing.
1. PRINT QUALITY
The print quality of DTG printers is insane. Compared to thermal transfer printing, the appearance of garments printed with DTG technology is totally different. With DTG printing, you never have to worry about your designs peeling off after a year or two, and this type of printing leaves no trace of using a garment printer. While most types of garment printing leave a particular texture on each design, DTG printing is similar to screen printing in that it looks completely natural.
2. CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY
There is no denying that DTG printing is the latest technology at the moment. New technologies are always more efficient, and supporting new technologies helps to advance the story of human innovation. The high-quality designs produced by DTG printing are perfect for graphic tees that display intricate images.
3. LASTING PATTERNS
The designs you print using DTG printers will last as long as the screen-printed designs. These designs will not peel or fade, meaning you can print high-definition images that will last the life of the garment.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF DIFFERENT GARMENT PRINTING TECHNOLOGIES
Before making a long-term decision, you should review the different types of apparel printing methods available to ensure that you are choosing the best technique for your brand. Let’s take a look at some of the clothing printing options:
1. SCREEN PRINTING
Screen printing is one of the most popular and common techniques used by apparel manufacturers to print designs onto garments. The method involves applying the ink directly to the fabric through a silkscreen, and printers use a different screen for each color in the design. Screen printing is the best method for very high volumes, and because you can get the exact Pantone color you want, it’s ideal for promotional items or branded prints.
- Excellent for large volumes
- Perfect Pantone Color Match
- Versatile: Works on almost any fabric
- Very professional finish
- Expensive for small order quantities
- Expensive for very simple patterns
2. SUBLIMATION PRINTING
Sublimation is a transfer printing technique widely used in the fashion industry, especially for printing T-shirts. This process involves adding the design to the transfer paper and heat pressing the paper to the fabric. Sublimation printing is a fantastically quick way to transfer a complete photographic image onto clothing.
- Perfect for printing full covers
- Can be produced very quickly and in small quantities
- Ideal for creativity; photo quality patterns
- Only works on 100% white polyester fabric
- It is impossible to obtain true blacks.
3. THERMAL TRANSFER PRINTING
Although thermal transfer printing and sublimation printing are very similar, these two garment printing processes use different chemical reactions to apply the designs to the garments. With sublimation printing, the ink is transformed into a gas by heat, and when it is transferred to the garment, it becomes solid again. This process does not leave an extra layer on the garment, which means that sublimation prints generally last longer.
Thermal transfer printing, on the other hand, uses a heat press to push solid or liquid ink onto the garment. This process leaves an extra layer on the garment that can wear out over time.
- Cheaper than sublimation printing
- Ideal for large-volume jobs
- Patterns can be fleeting.
4. DIRECT TO GARMENT (DTG) PRINTING
As its name suggests, this technique consists of printing directly on a garment using a printing machine. Direct-to-garment printing is a relatively new technology, which offers the best print quality out of all the methods we have mentioned. However, DTG printing is not a cost-effective method for bulk orders.
- Excellent and high-quality results
- Perfect for small batches
- Wide range of color options with maximum possible detail
- Not profitable for large volumes
- Limited placement options for your pattern
5. CAD PRINT ON VINYL
This printing method involves cutting your design out of a sheet of vinyl and heat pressing it onto a piece of clothing. This technique can only be used for patterns that have a maximum of one or two colors. CAD printing on vinyl is a great option for printing the same design on multiple types of garments.
- Excellent results for simple designs and lettering
- No setup fees and are ideal for short, quick runs.
- Can be used on almost all clothing and fabrics.
- Limited to one or two color patterns
- Not the best option for mass orders
WHAT TO PREPARE BEFORE CONTACTING A GARMENT PRINTING COMPANY
It is not enough to have an idea of the pattern you would like to see on your clothes to start your new printing job. Learn more about the items you’ll need to bring when you’re ready to hire a professional garment printing company to produce quality prints.
Make sure you have the print design in the correct format you will need for your chosen technique. For example, does your print shop need .ai, .eps, or .png files? Also, make sure you have the relevant information regarding the maximum print area and the minimum number of digital pixels per inch (DPI). Don’t make assumptions about these details; contact your printer in advance.
Be clear about the end results you expect. When you have decided on your printing method and supplier, discuss your overall vision with them so that everyone’s expectations remain manageable. Be sure to check out this helpful article on how to talk to clothing manufacturers as it will definitely help you close the deal.
PREPARING FOR DTG PRINTING: THE ESSENTIALS
Whether you’re looking for incredible detail, high volume, or a soft-touch print finish, there’s an option to suit your needs perfectly, and you can find your perfect match right here on Sewport. In this guide, we’ve introduced you to the different printing processes available and explained how much DTG apparel printing costs and how long it takes. You will learn everything you need to know to launch a new line of high-quality personalized clothing, with your favorite color prints.
There are many options available for apparel printing (even more than we could list here), so the most important tip for successful apparel printing is to do your research before you start. Make sure your expectations are clear and keep in mind the quantities you need, as this factor can affect your production company’s MOQ.