Direct to Garment Vs Screen Printing

An Initial Look at the Trend in Customizing T-Shirts

While customizing clothing has been around since roughly 960 AD (starting in China), it is only within the last 50 years that it has become popular and affordable to the general public.

Customizing clothing has become an incredibly popular way of advertising a product or business or expressing humor. It has even become affordable enough for individuals to start having their own customized shirts.

When you step outside, you can see all kinds of businesses advertized on people’s shirts, as well as images of personal photos on shirts.

As more people become interested in personalizing their clothing, regardless of the reason, technology has come up with numerous ways of adding that personal touch. During the late 20th century, paint and stencils were used, but they tended to wash off quickly.

With the advent of the Technological Revolution, customizing clothing has become incredibly easy to do. The most popular and affordable methods are direct to garment (known as DTG) and screen printing. There are benefits and disadvantages with both of these methods.

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Understanding the Two Popular Types of Customized Printing

These two methods are similar, but when you think of printing on clothing, you probably think of the screen method. Since that is the more familiar method, we’ll take a look at it first.


Screen Printing

As the name suggests, screen printing begins with printing to something other than the garment.

The image is pressed against a woven mesh stencil and pressed through the mesh to apply it to the fabric. The stencil remains on the clothing so that the ink only applies to the clothing in the desired shapes and patterns. After the first color is applied, the stencil is changed out so that the next color can be applied. The process is repeated until all colors, borders, and outlines are applied.

Direct to Garment Printing

DTG uses technology to apply the ink directly to the garment – no mesh or layer is required between the application and the final product. This is usually done with a specialized inkjet printer with ink that is manufactured so that it can be absorbed by the fabric.

Just like your regular printer prints the entire document at one time, the process applies all of the colors at one time, streamlining and simplifying the process.


Comparing Screen Printing and DTG

Given how different the two methods are, it is obvious that they both have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Screen printing is not the right solution for single or very small orders.

  • Given the amount of time required and the cost of supplies, it is considerably more expensive than DTG. The more colors you want to add to the product, the more costly the finished product will be.
  • However, if you need a large batch and you only need a single color, this is going to be a much more cost-effective method, as well as being more durable.
  • Eventually, the paint will begin to crack and peel, but it tends to hold up much better under multiple washings.
  • It is also easy to apply it over the entire clothing article as the stencil can be setup anywhere on the garment.
  • You will need to plan for a large upfront investment when you place your initial order, so know what you want before getting started.

DTG is easily one of the less costly methods. Since the entire design can be applied at one time, it is also far quicker to complete small orders.

  • You have a much wider selection of colors since the printer can apply any colors that can be made with the ink (it isn’t limited to clothing ink required by stencils).
  • Your patterns and designs can also be a lot more diverse.
  • If you only need one item, you can have a single shirt created with your design without incurring a large cost. However, most printers will have a minimum order.
  • For larger orders, the price per shirt remains the same, meaning it is less cost effective the more clothing items you need printed.

Making Your Decision

Depending on your design, the number of colors, and the size of the order, there is always a point at which traditional screen-printing becomes the best option, and Direct-to-Garment Printing is clearly the best option up and to that point. The designer at the print shop will be able to review your design and help you decide on the best option.

Ultimately, cost and timeline are the two biggest factors for deciding which is the right method for you. If you would like more information, you can check out our DTG and Screen Printing Services. You can also feel free to contact us if you have questions or would like to learn more.

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Contact Melissa

Owner & President

  • 5 Shirt Minimum Order

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.