When should shops use DTG versus screen printing?

A lot of shops offer multiple imprinting options like digital printing and screen printing. There are definite advantages to each, depending on the type of artwork you’re using, substrates you’re decorating, and quantities your customer wants.

So, to help you decide if direct-to-garment (DTG) or screen printing is better suited, here’s a simple breakdown. Remember, the more knowledgeable you are, the more likely your customers will be to order from you, on repeat.


Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing offers extensive color options, and you can easily print detailed designs and photorealistic images.

1. Smaller runs and one-offs. Your DTG printer loves smaller orders and one-off jobs. You can advertise that your shop provides no (or low) minimums and full-color prints on light or dark garments. Plus, if a customer asks for three to five or 10 more shirts, you can fill re-orders quickly with little to no setup time.

2. Precise, photorealistic images. A DTG printer lets you render high-resolution images, high-quality details, and many color options.

3. Quick turn time. Since you don’t have to color-separate or vectorize artwork, you can offer a quick turn time with DTG with almost no setup costs. With DTG, you can prep, print, and cure 10 shirts in under 30 minutes. Comparatively, screen printing a five-color job on 10 shirts could take up to four hours, from separations to clean up time.

4. Custom is your new first name. With customization and personalization trends continuing to be top of mind at retail, you can fulfill highly custom and personal orders with your DTG printer, competing with online T-shirt companies and even open your own online stores.

5. Start sampling. With a DTG printer, you can print lots of sample T-shirts and give them out to prospects and customers so they can wear your work and experience its quality.

6. Affordable investment costs. Depending on the type of DTG printer you purchase, your initial investment can start in the lower five figures. As printers increase in price, they operate at higher speeds. Generally though, for your investment, you could see profit with the first 150 shirts you print. While DTG comes with a minimal upfront investment, DTG isn’t always the most cost-effective for very large runs.


Screen printing is cost effective for larger runs of simpler designs with fewer colors. However, this method isn’t as budget-conscious for multiple-color designs, and you can only print one design run per set of screens you set up. The upfront investment is also greater than other imprinting methods.

1. Kick it with one-color designs. Screen printing is an ideal choice for simple designs with one color, like logos, graphics, or text. Be aware that screen printing might not be the right fit for designs with a lot of colors or photographic accuracy. And while you can get fairly accurate and very vibrant spot colors, gradients or shades might be harder to achieve.

2. High-volume runs. With each color you add, setup takes more time, because screen printing has more steps than digital printing methods. However, the more T-shirts you print, for example, the lower your time, labor, or other cost investments. For example, if you’re printing in bulk for a summer camp, sports team, or big event, screen printing would be the ideal decorating method.

3. Works on lots of substrates. Screen printing allows you to print on almost any flat surface and material, including fabric, plastic, metal, and wood. This variety means that the design you create can go on T-shirts, signs, business forms, and more.

4. Fast production. If you invest in an automatic screen printing press, you can print a shirt and get it on a dryer belt every three to five seconds if you’ve satisfied your pre-press requirements.

Today, it’s important for shops to diversify and offer multiple decoration options. We recommend that when you offer more than one type of printing, you’re very vocal in when to use each to benefit your customer and your shop’s profitability.

—Hirsch Solutions Inc.

Ed Levy, Hirsch Solutions Inca

Ed Levy

Ed Levy is an industry veteran and director of software technologies and marketing at Hirsch Solutions.

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Charlie Fox

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