When it comes to the t-shirt business, two printing methods have become widely popular. Both methods have pros and cons, and, depending on the focus of your t-shirt printing business, one method will work better than another.
We’ll break down the differences between each and discuss the reasons why DTG or Screen Printing may or may not work best for your business.
Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Basics
Direct-To-Garment printing uses an inkjet printer to apply ink designs directly onto t-shirts.
This option has become increasingly popular due to its availability and ease of set-up. If you’ve ever used a regular printer in your home office, you’ll have no issue with using a DTG printer.
Ink is laid onto fabric in a single layer and is quickly absorbs, reducing the time it takes to cure and dry. Because the ink absorbs into the fibers of the shirt, the design is long-lasting and fade resistant.
The DTG method works best for highly detailed designs with multiple colors. DTG printers on the market can handle nearly any design and size garment.
Screen Printing Basics
Screen printing uses a labor-intensive method of pressing ink through a mesh screen onto a t-shirt.
This is one of the most popular t-shirt printing methods, despite the level of set-up required. It creates vivid designs on t-shirts that are fade-resistant and vibrant. Several steps must be taken to print your design on a t-shirt.
First, a mesh stencil must be created for each layer of color in your design. Next, pieces of the design are applied to the t-shirt by pulling ink across the mesh stencil onto the shirt, one color at a time.
Screen Printing works best with bold, simpler designs, designs with a few colors, and bulk orders. Once a screen is set up, the printing process can be easily repeated for large orders.
DTG vs. Screen Printing Design and Cost
Both DTG and screen printing work well for transferring designs onto t-shirts. Depending on the design, color, budget, and size of your project, one method will be a better choice than another. The most significant factors in choosing between printing methods ultimately come down to design and cost.
Design Pros and Cons
This will produce full-color designs with a slightly faded look popular for many t-shirt styles. There is no limit on how many colors can be used with this process. Light-colored shirts accept print jobs the best.
If you’re not a fan of the slightly faded look, this isn’t for you. DTG printers struggle to create light-colored designs on dark colored shirts.
Screen Printing Pros
The process produces long-lasting, vibrant, full-color designs with higher saturation than DTG printing. After the initial set-up, bulk printing is relatively quick.
Screen Printing Cons
A separate mesh stencil is required for every color needed for a shirt design. Intricate details and complicated designs do not work well with the stencil process. Setting up each mesh screen is labor-intensive.
Cost Pros and Cons
DTG is a cost-effective solution for small-batch orders. On-demand orders are made easy using a DTG printer. The number of colors needed for the final design, or the detail of the design, has little bearing on the final cost.
Large batches of t-shirts will take a larger quantity of ink, and will require more time, due to the one-by-one nature of DTG printing. Bulk order savings are not typically available.
Screen Printing Pros
Screen printing is most cost-effective for larger batches of t-shirts. Set-up cost is initially high due to the number of screens needed, but the cost is reduced as more shirts are printed. The more you print, the more cost-effective your project.
Screen Printing Cons
Small batches are more expensive to produce due to the higher set-up costs. Each color also requires a separate mesh screen, increasing the total cost of your order.
Direct-to-Garment vs. Screen Printing: An Overview
We know this is a lot of information to think through, so use this chart below to easily compare features and decide which printing method is best for your business.
|Good for Small Batch Orders||Yes||No|
|Good for Large Batch Orders||No||Yes|
|Good for On-Demand Orders||Yes||No|
|Good for Bulk Orders||No||Yes|
Making the Right Choice
Both Direct-to-Garment and Screen Printing offer top-quality printing jobs for your t-shirt business. Choosing the right option comes down to what services you want to offer.
Decide whether you’ll need to be able to handle detailed designs, a wide variety of colors, or whether you need a cost-effective method for bulk printing. Once you think through your t-shirt business priorities, come back to this chart and determine which option is best for you