What is DTG Printing? Direct to Garment Printing

Find out why DTG Printing is an Efficient Printing Technique

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What is “DTG”?

If you’ve ever considered running your own clothing store, experimenting with “print on demand” dropshipping, or simply designing bespoke garments, you may have seen this term. DTG or “Direct to Garment” printing is one of the most common methods of applying designs to materials.

Often offered alongside alternatives like screen printing, embroidery, and dye sublimation, DTG printing is a simple way for designers to bring their creations to life.

Today, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about Direct to Garment printing, how it works, and why it might be the right tool for your business.

What is DTG Printing? An Introduction

Direct to Garment, or “DTG” printing is a form of printing method used in the clothing production landscape. It involves spraying a specific type of ink onto a garment in a predetermined pattern. The ink then soaks into the fibers to create a unique result.

So, how does DTG printing work?

To enable DTG printing, digital printers, similar to the ones used for printing paper, spray water-based inks onto a fabric. To ensure the design doesn’t run, a pre-treatment solution is applied to the garment in advance to help the ink bond with the fibers.

The garment is then placed on a product known as a “platen” and inserted into the printer. Finally, the ink is cured using a special method to make the overall design more durable. The technology used in DTG printing is quite similar to an inkjet printer you’d use for your computer.

While it’s possible to use DTG printing with multiple forms of fabric, the process usually works best with garments made entirely of cotton.

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What are the Benefits of DTG Printing?

There are various advantages to using DTG as a printing method for your clothing or garments.

The main benefit for most creators is that it’s relatively easy to print one-offs because there’s very little set-up time required. If you run an online store with Shopify or WooCommerce, and you connect to a DTG print provider using “print on demand” technologies, it’s easy to rapidly create items whenever a customer makes a purchase.

Companies using DTG can still place bulk orders for designs if they want, and some providers will even offer discounts on bulk orders. Other “pros” of DTG printing include:

  • Lots of color options to choose from for dyes
  • Suitable for broad range and detailed designs
  • Fast and simple process
  • Great for both short production runs and mass productions
  • Low setup costs for most businesses
  • Works well on colored garments
  • Accurate reproduction for most designs
  • Water-based and relatively eco-friendly process
  • Works well with digital software packages

Used correctly, DTG printing can be an excellent way to produce a wide variety of different clothing items with unique designs and patterns. You can produce high-quality products without having to worry too much about expensive set-up processes. Plus, many of the top POD and dropshipping suppliers will already offer DTG as a printing method.

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Are There Any Downsides to DTG Printing?

Although DTG printing has a vast number of benefits, it can also suffer from some disadvantages too. For instance, many DTG printers will be limited to printing your designs on either fully cotton or cotton blend garments. While cotton garments are very popular in the fashion landscape, they’re not always cost effective for large production runs.

Cotton is comfortable, hypoallergenic, durable, and often quite resilient for a range of weather conditions; however, it can be expensive to produce entirely cotton garments. Additionally, some DTG printing providers may be limited in the customization options for your garments.

For instance, you may only be able to place your designs on certain areas within a piece of clothing. This could be a problem if you want to produce something extremely unique. DTG printers do offer a lot of color options, which means users can print detailed and even photorealistic images with virtually no limitations, but it doesn’t work well with “transparencies”.

Elements of a design that are less than completely opaque rarely translate well into DTG printing. In most cases, the printer will end up trying to make up for the missing color by spreading the ink, which causes the fabric to have an unusual appearance. This is why most designers use either solid colors with DTG, or workarounds for semi-transparency like halftoning.

Despite this, direct-to-garment printers do offer a great deal of versatility when it comes to multiple color designs, whether you’re printing one-off items or large quantities of the same product.

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Is DTG Printing an Eco-Friendly Option?

A lot of companies and business owners planning on getting involved with the clothing and garment industries are paying more attention to the value of “eco-friendly” and sustainable printing. In recent years, consumers have grown increasingly concerned about the wasteful nature of the clothing landscape, and the impact it has on the environment. If you want your business to stand out and connect with your customers, it’s often a good idea to choose sustainable processes.

While DTG has various pros and cons to consider, it’s generally regarded as a more sustainable fashion business model than some other printing options. Compared to options like screen printing, for instance, DTG can be more beneficial for the planet. This is because it’s excellent for printing one-off designs or short runs, which allows businesses to avoid “overproduction” and waste.

According to some studies, around 92 million tons of textiles go into landfills within the fashion industry each year, as a result of companies failing to sell all of their products. DTG can help to reduce the risk of wasting textiles.

At the same time, a lot of DTG printer manufacturers have been working on the development of more advanced technology, designed specifically to support sustainability. For instance, some machines can produce almost no wastewater, and also keep their energy or electricity usage as long as possible. Some manufacturers even use vegan, and less chemically infused water based inks, which are less hazardous to the environment.

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How Much Does DTG Printing Cost?

This can be a difficult question to answer clearly, because there are a lot of factors which influence how much any printing method will cost. In general, the price of printing products using a DTG supplier will vary depending on the kinds of designs you want to create, the types of inks you’re using, and how many garments you’re producing at any given time.

The cost of your printing strategy can also increase depending on whether you’re using 100% cotton as a material, or you’re using a cotton blend. With a POD provider like Printful, most businesses can expect their DTG expenses to start at round $8.75 for a standard t-shirt. The overall cost of the item you produce will depend on the number of colors you want in your print designs.

If you’re producing your own DTG system from scratch, then the cost of producing your garments will be much higher. For instance, you’ll need to purchase specialist machinery, equipment, and inks, which could end up costing thousands of dollars. You’ll also need to pay for the labor costs involved in running your printing space.

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Do DTG Prints Last a Long Time?

The question, “How long do DTG prints last” is common among consumers and business owners alike. When selling garments to customers, you’ll need to ensure the designs you create will continue to look fantastic for as long as possible, even after your clients wash their clothes.

As mentioned above, DTG printing machines and companies use various methods to help ensure the print will last for as long as possible. In most cases, DTG prints will stay vibrant and beautiful for a long time, provided you follow the care instructions carefully.

To stop prints from cracking or fading, most manufacturers will recommend users follow specific cleaning strategies, such as washing clothing on a gentle cycle and avoiding fabric softeners and bleach. It may also be a good idea to avoid ironing DTG prints.

As new technology is introduced into the market, DTG printing could become an even more durable option than silk screen or screen printing services.

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Is DTG Printing a Good Idea for Your Business?

If you’re looking for a way to create full-color images for garments with a straightforward, and eco-friendly printing process, DTG could be the perfect solution. Compared to other digital printing methods, from heat press to embroidery and screen printing, DTG gives companies more freedom to create the best possible custom t-shirts and clothing items.

You don’t have to create unique stencil cut-outs every time you invest in an apparel printing strategy. All you need is some CMYK files, and access to the right printing provider. What’s more, with DTG printing, you can place your digital image onto virtually every type of garment you can think of. You’re not limited to just t-shirt printing. You can also create hoodies, aprons, socks and shirts with virtually no limit on your print designs.

As printing technology in the DTG environment continues to evolve, this printing option will only grow more appealing to small businesses and larger companies alike. For unlimited colors, photorealistic quality prints and no minimum order requirements, DTG is definitely the way to go.

Bogdan Rancea

Bogdan is a founding member of Inspired Mag, having accumulated almost 6 years of experience over this period. In his spare time he likes to study classical music and explore visual arts. He’s quite obsessed with fixies as well. He owns 5 already.

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