DTG vs Screenprinting and which one is better?

DTG Printing: The Future of printing?

You might be asking yourself, “what the heck even is a DTG?” DTG stands for Direct to Garment. In other words, a digital printer much like the one you have in your office, but bigger. Try and imagine if you will, a desktop printer that prints directly onto a t-shirt! Pretty cool huh? For the last 12 years, DTG printing has been the “the kid” on the block. Over the years, DTG technology has made great advances. Thus positioning itself as a top player in the garment decoration industry. DTG seems to be the newer hot printing process, however, each print method has its pros and cons. Join me while we discuss and finally discover: DTG vs Screen printing and which one is better!

In 1996, an engineer by the name Matt Rhome invented the DTG printer. However, the new print process would not catch much traction until Brother put out its own DTG printer in 2004. Big corporations such as Brother, Epson & Ricoh have thrown their hat into the DTG arena. The process of DTG entails loading a single t-shirt onto a platen or table and then sending a print job from a Rasterize Image Processing program. Once the DTG printer receives the print job, you press the PRINT button and you’re off to the races. The size of the print and the settings used will dictate how long the print will take. Typically you can have a small print completed in 40 seconds or a big print completed in up to 2 and a half minutes.

Because the DTG t-shirt printing process is fully digital, this means you can print photographic images in less than a minute (if on a light t-shirt). Achieving the same effect through traditional screen printing would entail much more work (several screens/inks required). THIS is the beauty of DTG t-shirt printing; convenience and time saved (in some cases)

Pros of DTG:

  • Usually easy to get into business with  a DTG machine as they are affordable to most business owners
  • You don’t need a lot of space (basically a desktop machine)
  • Easy setup
  • Great for printing photographic images

Cons of DTG t-shirt printing:

  • Must print on 100% cotton fabric as waterbased inks will only adhere to natural fibers
  • Any image that includes white ink, the garment then MUST be pretreated with a special pretreatment liquid. This pretreat makes it so that the white ink bonds do your t-shirt. Without the pretreat, the white ink will just fall and bleed right into the shirt and the results will not be favorable.
  • If too much pretreat is applied to the shirt, this may cause staining to the garment. If too little pretreat is applied, the white ink will not adhere to the shirt and the print will be ruined.
  • When printing on dark shirts, it will first print a white layer of ink or “Underbase Layer” and then the color on top. This two-layer process, depending on the size of the image can take anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes per print (far exceeding the time it would have taken to screenprint in some cases)
  • Maintenance of the DTG machine is a huge factor when it comes to the print quality and life of the printer. Without proper maintenance, the DTG printer will yield poor print results (banded lines through print, missing color, fuzzy prints, print head clogs). Lack of maintenance could be a high cost in repair, should a print head or ink tub clog.  DTG machines are a use it or lose it type of equipment in that if the machine is left sitting with ink in the system and not being used, the machine will most likely clog and will require time and money in repairs in most cases.

Screenprinting: A process tried and true

Screen printing, on the other hand, is as old as dirt! Not quite but almost! You might be surprised that the screen print process has been dated as far back as 960-1279 AD. This print method was used in China around the time of the Song Dynasty. Screen printing made it’s way to the western world during the 18th century but did not become as popular in Europe until silk mesh easily accessible. Let us time travel to the present time where today we have screen printing very much dialed in with photo-reactive chemicals and equipment to make the process much easier.

With screen printing, 1 screen must be created per color within the graphic to be printed. So you’ll find that screen printers tend to base pricing based on how many colors are within the image. If you have a great deal of color within your graphic, this could more than likely drive up the cost significantly. Because with screen printing plastisol ink is the main type of ink used, you can expect the life of the print to really go along way, decades even! The quality usually has a texture to it that you can definitely feel, and visually the quality is very favorable. Nice and solid!

While screen printing is a manual process of a squeegee pulling ink across mesh screen of negative space, these days, there are automatic presses that will do most of the work for you, which is a screen printer’s dream! However one would still need to set up the t-shirts and create/set up the screens which do take some time. After screen setup, you’re ready to rock and print very easily.  

Pros of screen printing:

  • A tried and true process
  • Solid quality print that will last a very long time
  • You can print 1 color print lightning fast
  • Various types of plastisol ink can be used (glow, puff & metallic ink)

Cons of screen printing:

  • 1 color per screen, multiple colors will result in higher price
  • Longer set up a time
  • Messy cleanup
  • Lots of expensive equipment needed
  • You must learn how to use all of the equipment
  • You need a lot of space for all of the equipment

So DTG vs Screenprinting, which one is better? This question actually cannot be definitively answered as both processes are great for different things! Instead of asking which print process is better, ask yourself, “which print process is best for this graphic?”.  If you have a photographic image with tons of color, this is not a graphic you will want to screenprint has you will need to generate many screens to even get close to an accurate depiction of what the actual image is. DTG would be a far greater option to consider for a very colorful image.

Now say you have a 1 color graphic on dark shirts, which print process would you choose?? If you answered “screenprinting” you are correct! Screen printing would be the preferred print method as you will easily be able to knock out the print job as fast as you can pull a squeegee across the screen.

Questions to ask yourself

While both print processes have their own pros and cons, as do most things in life, you want to look at your graphic/print job and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Is this a high quantity order
  • Does this have minimal color

Then it is probably a screenprint job.

  • Does this print job have a low qty
  • Is this graphic over 5 colors

Then you’re most likely looking at a DTG job.

At any rate, you can always reach out to us at Blanskstyle.com to help steer you in the right direction should you have these questions regarding which print method would be best for your design or project. Once you submit a quote on Blankstyle we will review your print order and from there we will be better able to determine which print method would be the best to proceed with. We would be more than happy to help point you in the right direction.

Cotton Heritage: A Lesson in Entrepreneurship

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Some people seem to have entrepreneurship in their blood. Neeraj “Mickey” Sachdeva, CEO and founder of Cotton Heritage came by both his entrepreneurial sense and his understanding of textiles honestly.

The Sachdeva family has a strong tradition of working with textiles. Mickey was actually raised in a city, which is considered to be the capital of the knitwear garment industry in North India. And the family business, Roochi Traders, a leading distributor of sportswear and active wear, was founded by Mickey’s father, Vishwa Sachdeva, back in 1982, the year that the Sachdeva family came to the United States.

In a true immigrant success story, Vishwa landed in the US with only $25 in his pocket, and looked to textiles to help provide a living for the family. He started importing fabrics from Japan with the help of some relatives. Then in 1986, when the Japanese yen turned strong, and it was no longer profitable to import from Japan, Vishwa began selling garments to Indian shops in the Los Angeles area. It was a true family business. Mickey’s mother, Prem, would sew from 6 AM to midnight every day, making the clothes that Vishwa would later sell.  Both Mickey and his brother, Vikram (Vik), helped out with the family business when they weren’t busy with schoolwork.

hoodies

Mickey was only 14 when the family left India and moved to California, but it didn’t take him long before he jumped straight into American commerce.  First, he took on a newspaper route. Then he got a job washing recreational vehicles. He flipped hamburgers at Wendy’s, and worked as a cashier at Knott’s Berry Farm. He got a job at a General Motors plant and then as a bank teller. He was just a teenager, but Mickey already had had more jobs than most people twice his age. Mickey says that initial work experience was critical to his later success. “It gave me an insight into a lot of different things,” says Mickey. “How to deal with people, how to handle money, how businesses work.”

By 11th grade, Mickey, was anxious to take the jump from working for others to working for himself and so he began pressuring his father to let him take on a bigger role in the family clothing business. “But my dad, a typically Indian father, wanted me to concentrate on my education first,” says Mickey. “I was very persistent and told him I would bug him every day about it. So Mickey was put to the test.  He was dropped off at the Los Angeles flea market with a box of 24 dozen undergarments and told to sell them. Only seventeen, Mickey wasn’t given any instructions about how to make the sales, but he still managed to sell nearly all of the undergarments in the box, and the experience only whetted his appetite for more.

While enrolling in college, Mickey started selling garments out of the family garage. That small business grew and grew until finally a neighborhood complained about the large trucks showing up to the Sachdeva residence on nearly a daily basis. Instead of being defeated, the push out of the family garage gave Mickey the momentum to move to a real warehouse, an 800-square foot space in Santa Fe Springs, California.

Today, the company is based in a 110,000-square-foot warehouse in the City of Commerce, its
headquarters since 1996. The company also has distribution centers in New York and Miami, for a total of 165,000 square feet of warehouse space. A far cry from that initial start in the family garage.girls

And Cotton Heritage still remains true to the Indian heritage of the Sachdeva family. All the goods are manufactured in South East Asia and in other Eastern garment industry hubs. Because they can speak the language and understand the cultures of these countries, it makes it an easy place for the Cotton Heritage brand to be manufactured. Mickey says that these days, his only goal is to make clothes that he wants to wear. That means, using the best yarns and dyes possible and making sure that quality control is top notch.

This commitment to quality means that Cotton Heritage shirts are considered to be one of the best shirts for direct to garment printing. Mickey says that they achieve this by choosing the right quality yarns, knitting them tightly and then by choosing the right dyes and chemical suppliers and enzyme helps the product to create a flat and good surface for printability. They also use an enzyme wash to keep the clothes extremely soft (The enzyme removes all the impurities from the surface of the fabric and gives it a better appearance, surface, and hand feel.

DTG Printing: What, When and Why

 

Custom DTG Printing

Brother DTG Printer

Direct to Garment printing (also known as DTG printing or digital apparel printing) is a method of printing designs directly onto t-shirts and textiles using a modified ink printer.

Direct to Garment printing is a direct descendant of ink jet printing. That means no screens, no mess, no thick plastisol ink–yet great detail and stunning color possibilities. How it works is a t-shirt is loaded onto the machine, and your design is printed directly onto the shirt using specially formulated water-based inks. The design is then heat set using either a heat press or a tunnel dryer. In the same way that your inkjet printer can print extremely detailed image, a DTG printer is able to produce photo-quality images on shirts that still have a soft feel.

Custom DTG Printing

No color limitations with DTG Printing means you can print what you want without the price going up. Photo courtesy of Behind the Blank

Sounds great, right? Well, Direct to Garment printing can does have it’s limitations. Specialized ink means it’ll end up costing a little more. It’s also a lot slower than screen printing (think of standing in front of an ink jet printer and waiting for a piece of paper to come out), so labor costs are higher as well. And the printable area is a little smaller, too.

So with so many factors to consider, the real question is when to use Direct to Garment and when to screen print. The basic formula is if you’re printing a multi-colored and detailed design with less than 50 shirts, Direct to Garment is the more efficient and cost effective choice. Once you start hitting quantities over 50, then screen printing becomes the faster and cheaper option. DTG is also the go-to option if you’re looking to print a photo-realistic image.

 

Custom DTG Printing

Print your illustrations right onto a shirt with DTG Printing

When printing DTG, the fabric content of the garment is by far going to be the main factor to consider when choosing which shirts to use. Lots of printers insist on going with only 100% cotton (like the Cotton Heritage MC1040 and the gildan 5000 ). We recommend going a step further and and choosing ringspun cotton (like the Next Level 3600 or 11600 Delta Apparel), which is much softer and smoother–and thus prints better. You could also choose an organic cotton shirt, which is great for marketing.

In general, screen printing is going to be a better choice for blended t-shirts if you’re looking for vibrant colors. This is because DTG Inks are best absorbed by 100% cotton, and the color won’t take as well to man made fibers. However if you’re looking for more of a subdued print with vintage-style faded colors, DTG could be the perfect choice for your design. White blended shirts print very well, but if you’re using anything other than that we suggest consulting with one of our print reps to be sure there won’t be any issues.

Next step–generating your custom DTG print quoteblankstyle.com is your one stop shop for all of your blank and printed apparel needs!

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