direct to garment vs screen printing

What Is Screen Printing?

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Screen printing, or silk screen printing as it is also known as, has been around since around 1907. It basically involves pushing a type of ink through a woven mesh stencil onto the fabric. Negatives are used to create the screen, and every single colour in the design gets its own screen. Traditionally the ink was pushed onto the fabric manually with a squeegee, but these days there a machines that can do most of the work for us. Once the ink is on the fabric, it is heated up to between 325 and 375 degrees, and then is dried and ready to be worn by your customers. Since many designs use more than one colour these days, the setup costs can get a little high, but once everything has been setup, the process is much more quicker than DTG printing. Screen printing is often the choice for bulk orders since each screen can print a large number of shirts before being changed.

Pros Of Screen Printing?

Screen printing can be very cost effective for large orders since once all of the screens have been setup, printing is performed quite quickly. There are also many types of different inks to choose from, such as metallic, discharge, waterbase, and even glitter, which can all be printed on more than just fabrics – consider keychains and even glass bottles! The inks printed through screen printing will be longer lasting than other printing methods, especially if you are able to source a printer who knows there thing.

Cons Of Screen Printing?

The time to setup can add additional costs to the order, especially if you are using more than one colour, since screen printers generally charge per screen (each colour) which is also an added cost per shirt. Because of the time it takes to setup, most printers will have a minimum order quantity which makes it worth their while to spend time on, so don’t expect to have 10 shirts printed unless you pay through the roof for a small-run order. Lastly, the biggest con is that the design that you see on your computer screen may not always look the same on the shirt through screen printing. This can come down to how well the graphic designer was able to separate colours before making screens, but also for the fact that screen printing does not always allow for the most complex and intricate designs. Speak with your printer first to see what type of jobs they can handle before you outlay any cash.

What Is Direct To Garment (DTG) Printing?

direct to garment machine

DTG is a reasonably new printing method which has not been around for that long. It basically uses inkjet printers to print your designs directly onto the fabric. The ink absorbs into the fabric, usually meaning that it cannot be felt, and requires only a small amount of time to setup, meaning that it can handle much smaller orders than screen printing and can print “on-demand”. Although DTG printers are not that cheap, if your business becomes successful, you could always consider purchasing one yourself and being in charge of the entire printing process.

Pros Of DTG Printing?

The biggest pro of using DTG over screen printing is the fact that multiple colours can be printed at once instead of one at a time. Also, unlike the problem of intricate designs not showing up so well in screen printing, you can print anything you like via DTG such as photos which will come up nearly as good as the original. DTG printing will also cost much less should you need to print only 10 shirts, since there are no setup fees involved. Fabrics printed through this method are also much lighter to feel as the ink absorbs into the shirt.

Cons Of DTG Printing?

The best prints only come out when using 100% cotton-based fabrics, and ideal only for lighter colour shirts with the older machines, although the newest machines are doing a pretty good job that their ancestors could not. Another problem is that you are limited by size of the printed design. Printers are only so big, so they can only print a limited size within their capabilities. In addition, there has been cases of colour matching having a few problems with DTG machines so there is no guarantee that you will get the same colour as you required. Lastly, ink can be rather costly as you can probably see for yourself with your inkjet printer at home, so make sure that your printer has clean heads or else it will be sucking out ink quicker than a vampire.

Whenever in doubt, always speak with your printer first. By telling them what you need they will be able to advise you on the best route you should take. Both types of printing have their benefits, so it really comes down to the type and feel of the design that you think best matches your brand.