DTG printing stands for direct to garment printing. It may also be called digital apparel printing. It's a process which consists of printing onto fabrics, such as (but not limited to) garments, via inkjet printing technology which has been modified to print apparel.
In the article, we're going to be talking about the types of printing jobs which are best suited to the DTG printing process.
DTG Printing is Great for One-off Jobs
If your client is looking for a one-off printing job or smaller runs of printed items, you'll find that DTG printing is a sensible choice. They will be able to have prints that are very detailed and which include multi-colored elements, in addition to shading and gradients, without needing to order large quantities. Being able to say that you have no minimum orders or advertising that you print shirts within the hour is great for marketing and can be the deciding factor for clients when choosing a company to print with.
Clients who have come to you for DTG printing services have most likely called around and are aware of the set-up fees and minimum orders for screen printing so they are prepared to pay a little more to get their order done. Let's say a parent needs 10 shirts for their daughters 5th birthday party with a picture of her on it and the words “Happy 5th Birthday. If they were to screen print this order they wouldn't have enough shirts for the minimum order, there would be at least 4 screen charges if we were to print a four color process and then the cost of the garment and printing. If the set-up fees were $25 per color, the garment was $2.25 and the printing was $4.25 at a minimum of 12 shirts the total would be $178. If we did the same order with DTG and charged $17.50 per shirt the total would be $175 for the 10 shirts. These numbers are not accurate as most shops will charge more per print, the minimums are usually 24 pieces and set-up fees vary, but you get the point. With a lot less labor you can do the same order in probably half the time, for the same, if not more money.
DTG for Full-color Printing
If your clients want full-color printing which is ready to be sold on store shelves (or online) as soon as it’s delivered, you’ll find that DTG is a smart choice. While there may be the occasional variant (a garment or item which doesn’t feature a perfect print), variants are rare, so this type of full-color printing is a cost-effective and practical choice. In general, if someone orders one hundred t-shirts to be printed in full color, you may expect one or two variants for the whole order. Most printers order a few extra items in order to get the perfect amount of prints. When you factor in labor, set-up and production times for screen printing, DTG is a great option for orders with one or multiple colors.
You or your clients won't need to worry about the number of colors that you want printed and will be able to design without limits as you won't be limited in terms of which colors may be printed. As well, you'll be able to have a variety of print sizes and color changes, without having to charge more for set up fees. Most DTG printers come with a rip software that allows you to easily select the size/location of the print. It also allows you to manipulate the amount of ink laid down, resolution printed and gives you the option to save all your settings for that job for future orders. Some printers come with what is called a one pass printing option where the printer, prints both the white and the color layers at the same time making the printing process even faster. The RIP will also tell you things like the cost per print based on the size and colors used in the artwork.
The water based inks used for DTG printing are eco-friendly and non-toxic and this is why many people who want printed items for babies and kids choose DTG printing as they are much safer for little ones. Most printer manufacturers have a wide range of platens to print on including baby and youth which are the perfect size for smaller items such as onesies and are also great for slim fitting ladies shirts.
These types of orders come from designers who have typically came up with a shirt design that they sell online. They submit the artwork and order specs to you along with shipping details and you print and ship. These type of clients may expect a bit of a break on cost, but could keep your machine printing all day long. When it comes to fulfillment orders or dropshipping, clients love a one stop shop, so if you are able to package their orders for them or even customize it with tag printing it will go a long way. A lot of clients will have accounts with the FedEx or UPS and will have them pick up the shirts directly from you which saves a lot of headaches.
On the spot print jobs
Some of the newer printers are very small and can be transported in the trunk of a car very easily. With this in mind, it is a great idea to take your printer on the road. Trade shows, car shows, concerts or outdoor community events are a great place to make some good money. You can even rent a booth at a flea market on the weekends and print clients artwork or ideas on the spot. Pre-treating your garments prior to attending these events is advisable and with nothing more than your printer, a heat press and some imagination you can make great money all year round.
There are a lot of variables to take into account, but for the most part direct to garment printing is best suited for jobs under 50 pieces or those that have multiple colors or photo realistic images. Anything over 50 pieces and screen printing is probably the best option to save time and money.
James Perry reporting for American Screen Printing Association. Mr. Perry is the owner of T-Shirt Printing Toronto, a provider of screen printing, direct to garment printing, embroidery, vinyl printing, signs, banners & flyers. He is an ASPA member and has been involved in screen printing and graphics arts since 1997.