What is Direct To Garment printing?
Also referred to as DTG and inkjet-to-garment printing, direct to garment printing is the printing of digital images from a computer onto a shirt or other garment through the use of an inkjet printer. And while the name may seem vague, the advantages, disadvantages and ideal uses for DTG are quite specific. Read on to see how it works and whether your project is right for DTG.The Benefits!
- No setup costs
- No minimum order - low quantities
- Access to high quality garments by AS Colour
- Print on light or dark garments
- Print a one colour logo to a full colour detailed design or graphics
- No extra charge on colour
- Direct to garment - ink is printed directly in the garment's fibre so it has a smooth finish
- Print up to 1200dpi high resolution
- Brother eco-friendly inks
- Discounted AS Colour garments including the print
- If you want to show detailed artwork or graphics ie. full colour, shading and with gradients
- Small to medium quantities
- Fast turnaround printing time - print on demand
- Ever changing artworks or graphics
- Great value for money
Ability to print over seams, pockets, zippers and other items commonly found on garments
DTG is less complicated that you would expect given that it can capture complicated images so accurately on something as soft as a shirt or sweater. The best way to think of DTG is like at home printing from your computer, except that the paper is replaced with a shirt. Like your at home printer, DTG printers do not need to be set up for individual jobs and can render millions of colours. Some DTG printers are even manufactured by companies that make standard inkjet printers like Brother, but are simply modified to accommodate the additional bulk of garments and use inkjet textile inks, instead of what you buy for your printer at the store. The cost of ink is a little bit more, which is why printing on coloured garments (black and vivid colours) is so costly; an underbase of white ink has to be laid below the actual colours of your design to ensure that the colours look like you intended.
The process used for translating the colours from the digital image into ink to print onto the garment relies on the CMYK colour model. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and K for black. This model is also referred to as four colour processing because it uses combinations of these four ink colours, usually applied in the order in which they appear in the acronym, to create all the colours in the digital design.
The inks bind directly to the fibers of the garment's material, which is why cotton a fibrous material is better for DTG printing than polyester - a much smoother material. Once all the colours have been added and the design is complete, heat will often be used to dry the ink. This entire process can take as little as a minute to complete.
How DTG compares to other printing techniques.
Screen printing has an expensive and labour intensive setup, while DTG has almost no setup at all. This makes DTG more cost effective for "small" orders (less than around ten of a garment) where this cost is not divided between many garments. However, once setup is complete, the per unit cost of screen printing is much cheaper than that of DTG, which makes it more cost effective for larger orders. Screen printing cannot capture as much detail nor as many colours as DTG, but the colours that are screen printed are more vibrant. Screen printing also allows for the use of more different types of ink, like metallic, and can be used on polyester materials that DTG inks cannot bind to. However, DTG can print polyester when combined with cotton ie. 30% polyester and 70% cotton.
Heat transfers use heat and pressure to embed ink into the surface of the garment's material, whereas DTG binds directly to a material's fibers and does not feature a heat component. DTG is a much higher quality printing method than heat transfers.
Both DTG and Dye Sublimation are forms of digital printing, meaning that both translate digital images from a computer onto a garment. The main difference is that dye sublimation uses heat to push ink straight from the solid form to a gas, thus skipping the liquid form that DTG is completed in. The gas that results from the use of heat infuses the material's fibers and allows for printing on polyester.