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We often find as we talk with our customers on the phone or in our shop that many of them know the term Screen Printing and have never heard of Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing and how it could benefit them. What is Direct-to-Garment Printing? It is just putting ink directly onto an item of clothing? What sets it apart from any other form of printing then? Also referred to as DTG and inkjet-to-garment printing, Direct-to-Garment Printing is the printing of digital images from a computer onto a shirt or other garment through the use of an inkjet printer. And while the name may seem vague, the advantages, disadvantages and ideal uses for DTG are quite specific. Read on to see how it works and whether your project is right for Direct-to-Garment Printing. DTG is less complicated that you would expect given that it can capture complicated images so accurately on something as soft as a shirt or sweater. Put simply, DTG printers are bigger versions of your desktop inkjet printer (with specially tested water based inks) but instead of taking paper, they can take T-Shirts, or other garments, as the print media. The inks contain a "fusing agent", so when the design has been printed and heat pressed on the garments, the "fusing agent" enables the inks to permanently adhere to the fibres of the fabric. The outcome is a high quality, vibrant coloured print that is extremely durable and long lasting. So if you are worried about instant fading of your design, fear no more, as the inks have been developed and vigorously tested to prevent such problems occurring. But still Direct-to-Garment(DTG) Prints will suffer from fatigue quicker than Screen Printed garments though the technology has come a long way in recent years. Digital prints are fully wash and colour fast to 40ºC in all popular washing products, can be dry cleaned and even tumble dried at low temperature. The process used for translating the colors from the digital image into ink to print onto the garment relies on the CMYK color model. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and the key color, which is black. This model is also referred to as four-color processing because it uses combinations of these four ink colors, usually applied in the order in which they appear in the acronym, to create all the colors in the digital design. The inks bind directly to the fibers of the garment's material, which is why Cotton - a fibrous material - is better for DTG printing than Polyester - a much smoother material. Once all the colors have been added and the design is complete, heat will often be used to dry the ink.
Advantages of Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing:
There are no setup costs, as compared to Screen-Printing.
Small orders and one-offs print at a reasonable price.
Print images on direct to garment printers are highly accurate and detailed.
Unlike Screen-Printing, Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printer shops do not have to charge by the color, so full-color printing is extremely affordable.
Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printer inks attach directly to fibers, with a superb hand that almost feels like part of the fabric.
Prints will remain just as bright and soft and won’t crack when properly cared for.
The ideal Direct-to-Garment Printed projects are:
One-offs or small quantities.
Highly detailed prints with gradients, shading, or various colors.
The main feature of Direct-to-Garment Printers is that they are less complicated than what you normally expect. Many people are surprised with the complicated images that render so accurately on something as soft as a T-shirt or Fleece Hoodie. With DTG you don't have to order in bulk to get competitive pricing on your custom-print needs, and you also don’t have to sacrifice quality and durability. Essentially, Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing allows personalised T-Shirts to be produced at a cost effective price for once-off events, or for customer's who don't require a large quantity of garments. By learning the differences between Direct-to-Garment and other types of printing, you will see that DTG is the ideal method for virtually every project! To help you understand the advantages, disadvantages and ideal uses of Direct-to-Garment(DTG) Printing i will compare it to other printing methods:
Screen Printing is expensive and labor-intensive, especially with setup. Direct-to-Garment Printers have almost no setup at all. That makes DTG Printers much more cost effective for one-offs and smaller orders (up to about 150 garments). With Screen Printing, several garments need to be in a minimum order, to make up for setup costs. With Screen Printing, after setup, cost of Screen Printing can be less than Direct-to-Garment Printer designs. However, Screen Printing does not reproduce the accuracy or the range of colors of DTG. Screen Printing also uses a variety of different types of ink, such as metallic or glow-in-the-dark. On the other hand, Direct-to-Garment printer inks work with DTG Foil if you want a shiny designs with a DTG Printer.
Heat Transfer Printing
Heat Transfers use heat with pressure to bond ink on the surface of a substrate, whereas DTG binds directly to a fabric’s fibers and does not need the heat component, except to dry the ink. Direct-to-Garment Printers provide a much better quality product than heat transfers.
Dye Sublimation Printing
Direct-to-Garment Printers and dye sublimation are both types of digital printing, so they each convert digital images from computer to the substrate of a garment. Dye sublimation uses heat to transform ink from solid directly to a gas, bypassing the liquid form of DTG Inks. Heat creates the gas that infuses the substrate’s fibers, so they can print on polyester that Direct-to-Garment printers can only do with proper pretreatment.