Digital Garment Printing (DTG), also known as digital direct to garment printing, direct to substrate printing, and apparel printing, is a relatively new technology for tshirt printing. Digital printers provide a lot of printing capability in a small space, but they aren't a complete replacement for traditional screen printing yet. So what’s DTG really good for? Read on…
Digital garment printing utilizes a highly modified inkjet printer to print photo-realistic art directly onto t-shirts, much like your desktop printer can print a photograph onto regular paper. Emily (above) loves how simple the digital printers are to operate. A heat press is used to cure the image after it prints - and it only has to be heat cured once for each image applied to the shirt. Compare that to traditional screen printing, which uses a series of stencils (aka “screens”) to apply each color in your design separately, with a heat cure in between each color application, for each image.
One of the things that makes digital garment printing special is that it doesn't require the same elaborate preparation that’s involved in creating the “stencils” or screens used in screen printing. With digital printing, your artwork can be processed directly onto the garment once it is prepared on the computer. So you (or your graphic artist, or your screen printer) doesn’t have to go through the labor of creating color separations and preparing individual screens for printing each color. You may not be familiar with the details of what labor is involved in preparing artwork to print via the screen printing process, but common sense says that “less labor” means “less expensive.” Suffice it to say, that for most artwork, digital garment printing is simpler and faster than traditional screen printing, making it ideal for small runs.
Digital garment printing is also ideal for those with environmental sensibilities, as the ink is water based, with almost zero waste, and low VOC. It’s much more environmentally friendly to print tshirts digitally than to use traditional screen printing.
If you have elaborate, multi-colored artwork, or artwork that incorporates photographs, digital printing is almost always the way to go if you only need a small quantity. Screen printing setups are very expensive under these circumstances. Digital garment printing is also economical for situations with a variable imprint (say where each shirt is customized with a different name or number).
There are some limitations to digital printing, the most significant of which is the pre-treatment that is needed to make digital printed artwork come out right on dark colored shirts. So while digital printing is a slam dunk on white or light-colored tshirts, it can lose it’s hallmark advantages of being economical and quick to produce when it comes to printing on dark colored shirts.
Thoroughly confused? Don’t worry – that’s why we’re here. Every custom tshirt job is just that – custom. Figuring out which method of reproducing your custom artwork (digital printing, screen printing, or even heat-pressed custom vinyl) is most economical for your particular project is something we do every day. The answer varies depending on:
- How many shirts are needed
- What type of shirt fabric you want (cotton blend or moisture wicking polyester)
- What color shirts you want (dark shirts will be more expensive)
- How many colors are in your artwork
- How large and where you want your artwork printed on the shirts
If you know the answers to these questions, we can give you a
specific quote. If not, just give us a call at 858-571-0574 and we’ll be happy to give you some general guidelines and make recommendations
based on your budget and timeframe.