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COMPARISON: DTG Printing and Screen Printing

Posted on September 15 2017

COMPARISON: DTG Printing and Screen Printing

Do I need to choose between Screen Printing and Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing?  What's the difference?  Which one holds up the best? Which one is the least expensive? How do I decide?

The good news is we will guide you through the process, and there is no need for you to be an expert on the topic. That said, if you're the curious type, then read on!

Both Screen Printing and DTG have their strengths and weaknesses, naturally. Deciding which method to use really comes down to the art, the quantity and sometimes the fabric type of the shirt.

Below is a quick introduction to garment printing and the differences between screen printing and DTG.


How Screen Printing Works

Screen printing is the process of forcing ink onto a garment through a prepared screen of very fine material so the artwork is then transferred to the shirt. The screen is prepared by using a photo emulsion process like in photography. Each color in the artwork requires an additional screen. For example, a design using Red, Black and White in the art will have 3 screens, one for each color. Once the screens are made, then the printing begins.  The shirt is loaded on the board, also known as a platen, and then the first screen is laid on top.  A squeegee is used to push/pull ink through the mesh screen to transfer the design onto the garment. This step is repeated for each color before the ink and Tshirt are cured through a garment dryer.

There are manual and automatic presses that can be used for screen printing, but both follow the same printing principles and use screens and ink.  

Screen printing has been around for a very long time and is what most people know.


How Direct-to-Garment Printing Works

Direct-to-Garment printing is a process of printing on garments using a modified inkjet technology, much like a printer you might have at home. Instead of using screens, the printer prints directly onto the shirt.  A fixation spray is used on the shirt to help bond the water-based ink to the shirt. The shirt is then cured in a belt dryer, same as screen printing, for 7-9 minutes to ensure its longevity. 

The beauty of DTG is the ability to print full-color images on shirts.  No need to color separate art or prepare art specifically based on spot-colors as in screen printing.  This means that since screens are no longer needed, then printing smaller quantities, even just one shirt, is a much easier task. The sky is the limit with what you can do with art.  Printing a photo from your phone is possible and so is printing a very complex drawing or photograph.

At first, DTG was only available for white or light shirts, but now DTG printers are equipped with white ink to use as an under base for printing on dark shirts.  DTG has come a long way in just 10-15 years.

 

What kind of design do you have in mind?

Designs suitable for screen printing use few colors and are not intricately detailed. The fewer colors your design uses, the cheaper the cost will be. Screen printing designs are often simple shapes and do not contain many layers.  Full-Color Process screen printing is available from some printers, which uses a dot pattern and can get pricey.  Screen printing is great for very large runs of shirts with few colors as the process is a little faster than DTG.


If your design is very detailed or has a variety of colors, DTG printing will likely be required.  What a great advancement to be able to print pretty much anything on a Tshirt?  The feel of the DTG print is softer than screen printing and when printing on white or light colored shirts, the ink is absorbed into the shirt to where you can't feel it at all.  This is a great option for fashion designs or those into fitness or working outdoors who like their shirt to breath underneath the print.


That's all great, but which method is best for my print job? 

We can help with that! We'll walk you through the process of printing and assess your job based on your needs.  The artwork is a big determining factor in choosing a printing method coupled with the number of shirts, the color of shirt and content of the fabric.  

 

Ready to get started? Design your own or learn how to get started with us!