DTG - Direct to Garment Printing
Direct to Garment Printing (DTG) Explained
Direct to garment printing (also known as DTG or digital printing) is the newest and most advanced type of apparel decoration. Instead of using screens for each color like screen printing does, direct to garment printing uses a specially designed inkjet printer to print full color images directly onto the garment in minutes. In other words, direct to garment printing doesn’t print on another medium first. For example, heat transfers, sublimation, and vinyl all have an additional step in the production process.
There can be large variances in the quality, capabilities, and speed of DTG printers (from modified ink jet printers to custom built industrial machines). In other words, some machines do not have the ability to print white ink or on materials other than cotton. Additionally, most printers cannot pre-treat the garment. Ours can do both! Advantages of direct to garment printing over screen printing are quick setup times and affordable, vibrant, full color prints. Additionally, using CYMK+White inks, you can print a one-off photograph on a shirt for under $20. With traditional screen printing using 4 color process printing, this same job would likely cost you well over $200 with screen charges and printing minimums.
Below you will find tips on how to setup your files to get the best looking print possible, and also things to look out for when choosing a company that offers direct-to-garment printing.
For best results, artwork should ideally come in the following formats:
- Vector: Corel Draw (.cdr), Adobe Illustrator (.ai), .svg, or .eps files CMYK. Files should be converted to curves/outlines so font’s are not an issue.
- Photoshop (.psd): 300 dpi image sized to be the actual print size you want on the shirt; 8-bit; CMYK; merge all files to a single layer, and MUST be on a transparent background. It should not have background images, and should be setup so there is less than 1/8″ space between the image and the edge of the art board. (Don’t send a 3″ x 3″ image on a 12″ x 10″ art board)
- Items downloaded from the internet (unless purchased from artwork sites) are generally only 72 dpi-low resolution files, and in most cases, illegal to reproduce. If you don’t have professional graphic design software, you can have us create something for you.
- Artwork submitted not following these guidelines will result in artwork charges.
Due to the sensitivity of the inks and printing process, the colors you see on the screen are not what you will get when printing. We have print charts with hundreds of colors (and their CMYK values) for you to choose from, along with a list of codes for popular colors. Using these codes when designing your art to print on our printers will give you the best results. For example, see how different red and blue appear on the screen compared to how they look when printed.
First, when designing your artwork for use on our printers, please use the following CMYK values for common colors so the results are what you expect:
- Royal Blue-100/46/0/0
- Golden Yellow-1/19/100/0
- Hot Pink-0/96/20/0
- Navy Blue-100/44/0/76
- Old Gold-16/27/84/16
- Light Pink-0/50/0/0
For other colors, please come in and check out our color charts. Next, when designing, CMYK values should add up to be below 260. For instance, never make black 100/100/100/100. It will result in too much ink being printed on the shirt and the ink will bleed into other colors. Finally, remember that what you see on the screen is not necessarily what you get when printing digitally.
Our machines can print up images up to 13.5″ x 17.5″ in size. We offer different print size price points. Please see our pricing for more information.
DTG was designed to print on 100% cotton or cotton blends. 100% ringspun cotton works best, as the fibers are smoother and the ink lays down flatter. Cotton/Poly blends will also work, but the less cotton in the garment, the less vibrant the colors will appear. 100% Polyester can be printed, but we typically will chose a different print method for this material. For printing on white and other light colored 100% Polyester garments, sublimation is the recommended method.
When digitally printing, there are many settings to choose from. Those settings result in thousands of ways to print the same file. For instance, these settings include print speed, ink levels, number of coats of white ink (for the underbase), print resolution, etc. While many online fulfillment centers use budget settings and choose quantity over quality, we will choose the best settings for your file and garment. Additionally, we don’t use automated systems that just print the file as is regardless of how it will look when completed. For instance, we review art files for quality before we print them. There can be drastic differences in print quality between budget settings and quality settings.
Curing the ink is just as important as the printer and print settings used to print a design. Proper curing must occur to achieve wash-ability and a long-lasting print. Many decorators rush this step and while the design looks done, it will not make it through the wash. A good way to know if a print is cured is to stretch it. If the ink stays in place, the print is cured. If it cracks, the ink has not bonded to the shirt. This will fall off in the wash prematurely and you will not be pleased.
Once you have received your garment, proper care is necessary to maintain durability and print life. For all garments, we recommend washing in cold-water, inside out, and hang drying. You may tumble dry on fluff (no heat). Never iron over the decoration. Following these steps will help you achieve the maximum amount of life for your garment. Furthermore, no garment or print is designed to last forever!