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Screen Printing or DTG Printing - Which Print Method Is Better?

Updated on July 4, 2017

Planning on creating custom shirts but not sure which method would be best? There are a variety of methods to choose from when it comes to creating custom shirts! Some questions you may think about are:

  • Do you have a budget?
  • Are you on a deadline?
  • Is your artwork complex? Or is it simple with one or two colors?
  • How many shirts are needed?

All these questions are important when choosing a method as these will help determine which method will be best for you. There are two popular types most customers choose between – screen printing or Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing. Not sure what the difference is between the two? Well you’ve come to the right place! Below, I’ll go over both methods and the pros and cons of each.

Screen Printing

What is screen printing, you ask? Screen printing is one of the most popular methods for printing custom t-shirt designs. A special screen with your artwork is created (kind of like a stencil) for each design. Once the screens are created, the screen is then placed above the fabric and then the ink is pushed through the stencil using a fill blade or squeegee to create the design. The process is then repeated using a different screen if your artwork requires multiple colors.

Screen Printing: Step-by-step process
Screen Printing: Step-by-step process | Source

One color can be applied at a time when it comes to screen printing. Multiple screens are created if there are multiple colors being used.Therefore, the number of colors used can sometimes be limited as each layer demand more time and labor, which ultimately means more money. Ideally, screen printing is a great choice if your artwork only involves 1-2 colors.

Most printers offer volume discounts for screen printing. If you're planning on purchasing a bulk order, the cost per unit will become cheaper.

With that being said, let’s do a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of screen printing:

Pros
Cons
Great for large orders
More colors = More expensive
Can place artwork in various places on the shirt
Can only print simple designs
The more you order, the cheaper they become (volume discounts)
Can place small orders, but will be costly
Can print on almost every type of fabric
Process takes time (not a good option for those on a short deadline)

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing

Direct to garment printing, also known as DTG printing, is the process of printing on fabric using specialized or modified inkjet technology. To sum it right up, it’s basically like a printer for your shirts! DTG printing is a fairly new method but it's becoming one of most used because it allows for a lot of variation compared to screen printing. With DTG printing, the ink dries quickly as it is absorbed into the garment and becomes part of the shirt itself. Since it becomes part of the shirt, you do not have to worry about it cracking, peeling, or washing away over time.

Since DTG printing is basically like a printer, you can print images of high quality with more detail compared to screen printing. DTG printing allows for customers to use as many colors as they want when creating custom-printed t-shirts. Unlike screen printing, there is no price break for direct to garment order, as it takes the same amount of time and material to make each shirt. This is also a good option for those who don’t have the budget to spend for a large order because each shirt can be ordered separately.

Please note that DTG printing works best on 100% cotton shirts because the water-based ink used for DTG printing tends to repel on manufactured fibers, blends and polyester.

There are many factors to consider when it comes to direct-to-garment printing. Let’s break down the pros and cons, shall we:

Pros
Cons
Unlimited colors options
Can get expensive with large orders
Can print complex, detailed designs
No volume discount
Great for small orders or start-up t-shirt businesses
Limited design placement options
Easy to customize
Works best only on 100% cotton tees

Well, Which Method Is Better?

Each method has its own pros and cons. To help you decide, let's revisit the questions asked in the beginning:

Are you on a tight budget?

Well, it depends on how many shirts you need! If you're on a tight budget and you need to order a large quantity, then screen printing is the way to go. As mentioned before, most screen printers offer volume discounts meaning the more you order, the cost of each shirt made will be less expensive.

If you're on a tight budget and only need a few shirts, I would suggest DTG printing. DTG printing is usually a set price per shirt and requires less labor for the printers, which means time and money spent.

Is your artwork complex or is it simple?

If your artwork is complex, I would suggest DTG printing since it can capture the smallest of details WAY better than screen printing can. With a simple design, screen printing would be best.

How many shirts do you need to order?

When it comes to ordering shirts for an upcoming event like a fundraiser or corporate event, the most cost efficient method would be screen printing! As mentioned before, the more shirts printed, the cheaper the price per shirt.

Ultimately, you'll be the one to figure out which imprint method works best given the circumstances. Screen printing and direct-to-garment has their advantages and disadvantages but, in the end, are both great printing methods. I'm sure you'll be pleased with the outcome no matter which method you choose.

Which method do you prefer?

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