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The Ultimate Guide to Direct to Garment Printing

The Ultimate Guide to Direct to Garment Printing


The Ultimate Guide to Direct to Garment Printing: What You Need to Know

In today’s world, if you want your brand to catch up with the fashion industry, you must innovate and stay ahead of the game. To do that, you must embrace innovative techniques that remain relevant through the fashion trends. One method that stands out and is currently popular is direct-to-garment (DTG) printing. Unlike any other method like screen printing, DTG prints deliver higher quality prints, especially with intricate designs, in less time. That said, in this blog, we’re going to be dealing with DTG printing, from its history to its application in your field of work. 

The Basics of Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing or digital printing is a method where the designs that you have are printed directly onto the fabric or textile using specialized inkjet technology. Unlike screen printing or any other methods that require layering and multiple steps, DTG directly applies the ink onto the fabric, creating detailed and vibrant prints. 

It works by first preparing the digital design on a computer and transferring it to the printing machine after it is finalized. Then, the printing machine would apply the ink directly to the surface of the preferred garment. After it's finished, ink is cured using heat to ensure that it is durable, its color is accurate and pops more naturally. 

Direct to Garment Printing

Advantages of DTG Prints 

With DTG prints, intricate designs can be printed with vibrant colors. It is not limited by complex designs, and its costs are lower since it doesn’t need any screens or stencils. That said, its advantage is its lack of limitations with complex design, making it versatile and cheaper than any other screen printing method. Due to its versatility, it's a cost-effective option if you want to go with a small number of prints. 

Popular applications 

DTG printing can be used in various industries, including fashion, merch, and personalized gifts (if you’re an influencer). It can be used on any custom apparel, whether for tees, hoodies, tote bags, or hats. If you look at this image, you will see that this company has used DTG prints to brand itself and place these prints on its apparel, as its designs are more detailed than those of other brands. Other brands have a standard, one-color print, where they can simply use screen printing. That said, there are endless possibilities for this type of printing method for personalized apparel and accessories in 2024. 

The Process of Direct to Garment Printing

DTG printing is divided into only three phases: pre-printing preparation, printing, and post-printing care and finishing. Compared to screen printing, where it needs to be done multiple times depending on the number of colors that are present in the design, DTG printing can be done in one go. The steps on a DTG print are way fewer as there is no need to set up screens. 

DTG Printed Shirts

Pre-printing preparation 

During the pre-printing stage, we need to do two things. Number one, optimize the image and the design, and number two, select the right garment. For the latter, it is important to ensure that the digital design is of high resolution and is properly formatted for printing. This includes adjusting the design for color accuracy and changing the dimensions to match machine-specific printing specifications. Afterward, if that’s done, you must choose the right fabric due to the fact that you need the garment to absorb the ink. The best options for apparel are those that are made out of cotton; however, certain blends of clothing may also work, but at times, issues with the final result may be expected.

Printing Process

During the printing process, a DTG printer is used together with compatible software. Typically, the garment is loaded on the printer’s platen, and a pre-treatment solution is applied to enhance its absorption. Then, the design is printed using an inkjet printer. Once it's done, the apparel is cured using a heat press or a conveyor dryer. One thing to take note of during the process is the formation of water-based inks. This is a specialized ink used in DTG prints to achieve long-lasting and vibrant prints. 

Printing Process for DTG

Post Printing Care and Finishing

To ensure that everything is on point and that the DTG printed apparel will last, post-printing care and finishing are done. This process, like what was mentioned earlier, included curing the ink for durability, washing the garments, and avoiding excessive heat or friction during the laundry process. Friction can easily damage the design at the very beginning; therefore, one should be careful when placing these DTG prints in a washing machine, as it can result in wearing the design off. 

III. Factors to Consider Before Trying 

Costs: DTG printing, though it cuts the hours to do the print from start to finish and is relatively easier to do than the traditional screenprint method, can be more expensive. DTG prints tend to have more colors, intricacy, and large designs, which means that it would need these large printing machines, which could cost you more, depending on the t-shirt printing provider that you’ve chosen. This should be considered more particularly if you have a large order.

Compatibility: DTG prints are not compatible with all garments. Some fabrics and blends do not absorb the ink well, which can give it a faded look or, worse, the printed apparel not looking the way you wanted it to look. Just to be safe, choose cotton, but if you want to explore, you can go for synthetic blends. Just make sure that once you try your explorations, you communicate with your t-shirt printing service provider so they can give you advice and make sure that what you’ve chosen actually works with DTG printing. 

Turnaround Time: Go for DTG if you want quick turnaround times. DTG prints have to set and preparation time; it’s simply getting your design, finding the right apparel, and then printing. This is also the reason why DTG prints are ideal for print-on-demand services and for smaller batches of production. The only thing that could increase your turnaround time in this case is the complexity of your design and the printer capacity. If your design has a lot of colors and is placed on a lot of places apparel, then it would take relatively a longer time to do. Additionally, if your t-shirt printing service provider doesn’t have enough printer capacity to handle your prints, then you’re going to take time to find the right one to place your order for you.

Order Size: DTG prints are not ideal for medium-sized orders. Unless you have the budget, the costs can easily pile up. If you need one shirt or maybe a couple (less than 12), it should be ideal to use DTG, but above that, you should consider screenprint as it could save you a lot of money. 

IV. Tips on Using Direct-to-Garment Printing

Choose the Right Printing Company

When you’re going with DTG printed apparel, it is important to choose a reputable company that has a lot of experience with DTG prints. It is also important that there are t-shirt printing companies that don’t have these services; however, some still offer them to you. These companies outsource them to other printing companies who have that capacity, and it's important that rather than go to them, you must do your research and find those DTG printing companies at the get-go. This is very important as the company with DTG printing services should have the appropriate state-of-the-art equipment and they have the people who have the skills to achieve the results that you want. 

Consider your design properly. 

During the pre-printing phase, it is important for you to really hammer in the image resolution, color management, and print placement. You need to make sure that the resolution is high enough so that when it gets printed, it does not appear blurry. In addition, the colors should be matched properly because after you’ve printed it, you’ll never be able to print it again. It is important to use vectorized graphics or high-resolution images to achieve highly detailed prints, as they are more color-accurate than the traditional JPEG format or PNG format, and they can be scaled to higher resolutions. 

Color Management and Reproduction. 

While it isn’t really your problem to find the right colors for your design, as they can be found on a spectrum, it is important that you double-check them to ensure that you get the results that you want. Some DTG printers apply different color systems; therefore, make sure that you get a mockup first before with the right colors so that you can double-check if it is consistent with the final results that you’ve wanted. 

Color Management for T Shirts

V. Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

DTG prints are a pain if they don’t go the way that you want them to go, and there are a lot of instances where they could go wrong, such as color inconsistencies and print quality variations. You don’t want any of that, which is why it is important that you double-check everything during the pre-printing process and also be meticulous enough with the t-shirt printing provider that you’ve chosen. Make sure that they are able to deliver you the results that you want and that you’re able to communicate with them the things that need to be adjusted (if there are any) or inconsistencies that they’ve done after you’ve received your apparel. More so, after you’ve reported these inconsistencies, they should be able to provide you a set of new ones. 

VI. Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How to Care for DTG Printed Items?

A: One thing to really consider if you’re going for the longevity of these items is the way you wash them. Avoid washing them with bleach and harsh detergents. Also, avoid washing it inside out in cold water and then air drying it, as it can result in your design fading over time.

Q: Can any design be printed?

A: Yes. Any design can be printed, especially complex designs that have multiple colors on it. Examples of these are gradients and photorealistic images; however, you must consider the t-shirt printing company as it may need special processes and attention to achieve it. 

Q: Is DTG printing recommended for Large Orders? 


A: No, typically, it is not. It’s simply not a cost-effective option for larger orders as it can be more expensive. However, if you have the budget, go for it. If you don’t, you can try to make your designs less complex, with fewer colors and intricacies, and try screenprinting them instead. 

Q: What is the Average Cost of DTG prints? 

A: The cost would vary depending on several factors, such as the garment used, the complexity of the design, and the order quantity. While it can significantly cost more for larger orders, it could be the cheaper option if you want on-demand printed apparel or if you’re going for a small order.

Wrapping Up:

DTG prints are a substantial upgrade to the current traditional methods, especially when dealing with intricate designs and designs that would take more time to do if done the traditional screenprinting route. Try DTG prints if you’re going with designs that have high detail and you’re going for a small order. It could save you money and time. More so, be meticulous with the t-shirt printing company and the pre-printing process before actually printing process because after you’ve printed your designs on apparel, there is no going back. Now, if you’re a brand that wants prints that have intricate designs, don’t miss out on DTG prints, as it could be the right option for you.

Tee Vision Printing
920 E Hunting Park Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19124
(267) 538-5331


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