DTG Myths Debunked
Here are answers to questions that might lead decorators into a different perspective when looking at the decoration method
My experience in garment printing began with screen printing, so naturally, some of these myths derive from that perspective. In 2004, before white ink was available, I was introduced to DTG (direct-to-garment) printers. From my screen printing mentality, I asked the person whom I was talking to, “Who in the world, would buy a printer that is slow, doesn’t print on dark garments, and costs $11,000?” After he showed me how it worked, my thinking on it changed forever. Instead of debunking DTG myths, these are answers to questions that might lead decorators into a different perspective when looking at the decoration method.
DTG printing is slower than other methods: If I want to remove a screw from a board, I don’t use a hammer’s claw, I use a screwdriver. To remove a nail, I don’t use vice-grips, I use a hammer’s claw. Of course, these other tools can work, but they aren’t the right tool for maximum efficiency. DTG printing is no different. It’s a tool. If I wanted to print numbers on the back of a black shirt, I would use vinyl. If I printed those same numbers on the back of a white or light gray shirt, I would use a DTG printer. Due to the process, white ink printing with a DTG printer takes longer than cutting vinyl, weeding it out, and heat pressing it. If I was printing an intricate single color design and I only needed 10 garments, DTG is the better option than vinyl, but screen printing could also be a viable option. Take that same design and bump it up to full color and DTG now may be the best option. In today’s DTG environment, printers, the speed of prints, and processes are always improving. In any case, my advice would be to use the right tool for the job. Don’t rely on one technology. In the end, it’s about efficiency.
A DTG printer is more costly to operate: Again, this is relative to the project. If you wanted to print 1,000 shirts, the obvious choice would be screen printing, then again, is it? What if they were 1,000 different designs? This would be a nightmare to use a screen printing method. If the print costs $0.25, your ink costs are only $250 for the entire job. If the prints were all the same design, and you printed 45 shirts an hour, this would take over 22 hours to complete. If you have a manual screen press and you print 200 shirts an hour for a single design, after 5 hours, it’s complete. Of course, there is set up, tear down, etc., but again, this is all relative to your method of garment decorating. Sometimes running a job on a DTG printer costs more to operate, while other times it’s less.
DTG prints are not as durable as other prints: When I entered the screen printing market in 1996, I was obsessed with looking at other printed garments. I would go to department stores and notice how the prints were off-center, crooked, out of register, or simply just poor quality. It was my goal to produce better than what I had been seeing. In the current state of DTG inks, the durability is excellent. It comes down to properly pretreating and curing your garment. Throughout the years, I’ve purchased a lot of screen-printed clothes off the rack-some of which cracked after one wash. The best screen-printed piece is one that uses spot colors, as well as the correct ink on the fabric and ensuring a proper cure. If you move onto full-color screen printing, whether process or simulated process, less ink will naturally be used. Even with a proper cure, this type of print will never be as durable as spot color printing since there isn’t as much ink on the garment to bond to itself. DTG printing is similar in this regard. Some inks and pretreatments are better than others, but in my experience, with proper pretreating and curing, a final DTG print can rival any screen printed process or simulated process print. DTG printing may have a higher learning curve due to various results based on the style of the garment used, naturally making screen printing more forgiving. This is why experimentation and recording your results are essential to continued growth, and consequentially, success in DTG printing.