DTG vs Screen Printing: The Complete Guide

DTG vs Screen Printing, which option is best for your business? In this article we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each option to help you make the right choice.

Selecting the ideal printing method is an essential part of setting your company up for success. Not only will the right printing strategy ensure you can deliver high-quality designs and garments to your target audience, but it could save you time and money too.

Each printing method offered by Print on Demand manufacturers and clothing creators across the globe has its own pros and cons to think about. Some are more cost-effective, while others are considered more sustainable, eco-friendly, or durable.

The only way to ensure you’re really making the right decision, is to weigh up the features and benefits of each solution as carefully as possible. Today, we’re going to be discussing everything you need to know about DTG and screen printing.

What is Screen Printing? An Introduction

Let’s start by looking at screen printing. One of the best-known solutions for placing designs on garments and other products, screen printing is one of the oldest methods of printing out there. It involves pushing ink through a woven screen or stencil onto fabric. Rather than trying to get the ink to “soak in” to the fibers, screen printing simply allows the design to sit on top of the product.

The method requires the use of thicker inks, which can sometimes create a different texture on top of the garment. You’ve probably purchased a shirt or sweater with a screen printed design in the past.

In screen printing, a special screen is made for every element of the design. Once the screens are made, the colors and elements of the design are placed onto the garment individually. The process involved in screen printing means the more layers and components your design has, the longer it will take to print, and the thicker the design will look on the product.

What Designs are Suitable for Screen Printing?

The relatively long setup time involved in screen printing is one of the reasons why this method is usually chosen to print items in bulk. It’s less cost-effective to only print one or two t-shirts if its already taken several hours to create the stencils for a design.

The thickness of the ink and the resulting design with screen printing also means this process tends to work best for solid graphics which don’t have a lot of details. Basic designs using a combination of shapes, symbols and geometrics are more effective with screen printing.

Since each color is applied to the design separately, screen printing is also typically used for designs which only have a few colors. Many printers will even limit how many colors are permitted in a screen printed design.

Crucial Questions About Screen Printing

When choosing a printing method for your designs, it’s worth thinking carefully about a multitude of different factors – not just how much your design is going to cost, but also whether it’s durable, eco-friendly, and so on.

Is Screen Printing Eco-Friendly?

Many companies producing unique designs and garments are becoming more concerned about how their products influence the environment today. Sellers who use screen printing typically order their items in bulk, which does mean there’s a risk for over-production and waste. If the items you produce aren’t sold they may end up in landfills. Additionally, screen printing does use a lot of water, and can include inks which don’t naturally degrade.

Is Screen Printing Expensive?

The price you pay to screen print designs will depend on a number of factors, including how many items you order. Usually, this option is relatively cost-effective if you’re ordering solutions in large quantities. This is because specific stencils need to be used for each design. Additionally, some producers will offer discounts on bulk sales.

Are Screen Printed items durable?

Screen printing technology produces relatively high-quality designs. The colors are usually rich and vivid, particularly if you’re producing items which don’t have too many colors or details. Additionally, most screen printed shirts are relatively durable and long-lasting if they’re cared for correctly. Most of the time, garment creators will advise customers to avoid washing their garments in hot water, or using bleach, as this can cause the designs to fade or crack.

Should You Consider Screen Printing?

Screen printing can be a relatively effective and inexpensive choice for companies who want to create garments using simple designs and graphics, using only a handful of colors. However, it does require significant upfront investment. Most third-party printing services have relatively large order minimums, to help keep the costs of creating stencils low.

The price you pay for this service will depend on the number of colors in the design, and the number of screens used for printing. For some creators, the process can be a little expensive. Ordering in bulk also means you may need to figure out where you’re going to store your items until they’re sold.

It’s worth thinking about whether you can reasonably expect to sell all of the items that get printed, so you’re not contributing to a high amount of textile waste. If you’re a relatively new business owner, it can be difficult to predict just how successful each design is going to be.

What is DTG Printing? An Introduction

Now we’ve taken a closer look at screen printing, it’s time to explore the benefits and features of DTG printing. DTG printing is otherwise known as “Direct to Garment” printing. It’s a unique form of printing which has grown increasingly popular in recent years.

With DTG printing, inks with a large amount of water content are sprayed onto a garment, after a specific pre-treatment solution has been applied to the material. The ink soaks into the fibers of the garment to ensure a long-lasting result. The garments you produce need to be mounted onto a special product called a platen, and placed into a printer, which issues the design.

Usually, a seal treatment is placed on the garment after the printing process is finished to ensure long-lasting results. In most cases, DTG printing works best on 100% cotton garments, but it can be suitable for cotton-mix products too.

In most cases, DTG printing is chosen because it’s easy to print one-off garments. There’s virtually no set-up time involved. Additionally, most printing providers won’t require customers to place large bulk orders. Instead, you can produce items whenever an order is placed by a customer, using a connection to your DTG print on demand company. It’s still possible to order garments in bulk if you like with DTG, but it’s less common than in screen printing.

What Designs are Suitable for DTG Printing?

DTG printing is a relatively versatile choice for companies and creators. The printers in this landscape are powerful, and can offer a huge variety of color options. This means it’s easier to print highly detailed designs with photorealistic images. This is crucial for companies looking to experiment with a lot of different colors and designs.

DTG printing isn’t ideal for “transparencies” in designs. Elements which aren’t entirely opaque rarely work well with DTG printing, as the printing systems attempt to make up for the missing colors by spreading the ink, which can lead to patches and gaps.

If you avoid transparencies, you can produce virtually any designs you like with DTG printing, almost without any limitations. However, most printing providers will recommend creating graphics using the sRGB color profile, as it matches the needs of DTG printers best.

Crucial Questions About DTG Printing

Overall, DTG printing has a lot of benefits, particularly when compared to the somewhat more restrictive process of screen printing. However, it’s still worth making sure you understand all of the components of this method before you dive in.

Is DTG Printing eco-friendly?

Compared to screen printing, DTG printing is considered a far more sustainable solution for fashion companies. The main reason for this is that this kind of printing allows companies to produce one-off garments in short runs, so they can avoid overproduction and waste. When you work with a print on demand printing provider, you can ensure products are only created after an order has been placed. This also reduces the number of items you need to store.

It’s worth noting that many DTG printer manufacturers have created more advanced tools over the years, with a focus on sustainability too. For instance, some DTG machines are created to produce almost no waste water, and consume a lot less electricity overall. Some printers can even use vegan-friendly water-based inks which don’t include any hazardous or toxic ingredients. Many of these inks are naturally biodegradable and don’t contain any animal by-products.

How much does DTG printing cost?

Similar to screen printing, the amount you spend on DTG printing will vary depending on a number of factors. The cost of your items will vary according to the complexity of your design, what kind of garments you’re producing, and how many items you want to create. However, most print on demand providers offer DTG options for a relatively low price.

Are DTG items durable?

DTG products are designed to be as long-lasting and durable as possible, but they do need to be cared for correctly. Most printers will include labels with each item which provide insights into how customers should wash and use their garments. For the most part, it’s best to avoid hot cycles in a washing machine, as well as bleach and certain fabric softeners. Some DTG garments may not be suitable for ironing either.

Should You Consider DTG Printing?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for choosing the best possible printing method. However, Direct to Garment printing could be a good option if you’re looking for a hassle-free way to produce items in small quantities for your target audience. Many printers offering DTG options don’t have any minimum order requirements for these products. You can simply use printing services on demand whenever your customers make a purchase.

With DTG, your full design is created and printed in one go, and there’s no need for multiple screens and tools. What’s more, because DTG doesn’t have any specific limitations on colors, you can produce more unique designs and complex creations for your audience. This printing model will give designers the freedom to explore new ideas and enter new markets without spending a lot of money.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Which is Best?

Now that we’ve explored the basics of both DTG and screen printing, let’s look more closely at which solution is best suited to each business. As mentioned above, the right option for you will depend heavily on your specific needs and printing requirements. DTG and screen printing are two of the most popular methods for creating custom apparel, but they use very different technologies.

With DTG, you’ll utilize a unique fabric printer, similar in style to a computer printer to spray ink onto your garments which soaks into the fibers. With screen printing, inks are layered onto the surface of the fabric. Both of these printing methods lead to the production of high-quality garments, but there are pros and cons to each. Let’s explore how the options compare in a few crucial areas.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Quality

Whenever you produce custom garments for your audience, it’s important to ensure you’re delivering excellent results. Whether you’re printing custom t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, or anything else you can think of, you’ll need to adhere to your customer’s expectations. Screen printing offers fantastic, high-quality, and vibrant prints, but it’s limited to offering specific color options.

DTG printing offers more or less the same quality in terms of printing, with more options for color and less cost. You can produce more detailed designs without having to worry about extra expense. Because of this, the quality can be a lot better.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Durability

People want the items they purchase from your brand to last as long as possible. Well-made items which are built to last are more likely to appeal to your target audience, and keep them purchasing from your company for longer. Fortunately, both DTG and screen printing offer an excellent level of durability, provided care instructions are followed correctly.

DTG printing can produce extremely long-lasting designs, but they generally don’t last as long as screen printed garments, simply because the ink is more durable. However, there is a risk that thicker prints on screen printed garments could crack quicker.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Design Options

As mentioned above, there’s a big difference between the detail you can use in screen printing, and the options you’ll have with DTG printing. While screen printing is a relatively versatile printing method, you will only be able to experiment with a small number of colors. Detail is difficult to achieve with screen printing, due to the number of screens that would be required.

Using DTG printing gives you a lot more freedom to work with complex designs, with extensive detail. You can create photorealistic images with minimal effort, and be as intricate as you like.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Sustainability

Most consumers today are becoming increasingly focused on sustainability. We’re all growing more aware of how our actions impact the planet, and customers don’t want to contribute to excessive waste, chemicals, or carbon emissions. If you want to show your customers you care about the planet, and reduce your own carbon footprint, DTG printing is the best option.

DTG printing is more sustainable because it allows companies to create items on a one-off basis, whenever their customer places an order. This reduces the risk of waste, and ensures you don’t have endless products sitting in a warehouse. DTG printing machines also use more environmentally-friendly water-based inks which are more likely to naturally degrade.

On the other hand, screen printing tends to have a lot of issues with overproduction, because companies mass produce items to keep costs low.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Order Quantities

One of the main reasons why companies opt for DTG printing over screen printing, is the lower minimum order quantities. In many cases, DTG print producers won’t require you to purchase a specific number of items with each order. You can produce products one at a time.

DTG printing is ideal for smaller orders, when you’re not sure how well a new product or design is going to sell. While it is possible to find companies with lower minimum order quantities offering screen printing, smaller orders are less cost-effective. It makes more sense to produce multiple products at once using the same series of specific screens.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Production Times

Faster production times in the garment landscape mean you can get your items to your customers as quickly as possible. Screen printing is a lot faster than DTG printing overall, because it can take a while to add all the detail you want to your design with DTG printers. However, the set-up time involved in screen printing can reduce the speed of production too.

This is one of the reasons why screen printing is best-suited to bulk orders. After stencils have been created, the production process can move ahead rapidly. While DTG is slower than other printing methods, it’s still possible to get your items to your customers relatively quickly.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Costs

Every business has a budget to think about. The more it costs to create your product, the more you’ll need to charge your customers in order to make a profit. In the case of both screen printing and DTG printing, the exact price of producing your items will vary depending on a number of factors.

If you’re going to be using screen printing for your products, you’ll need to prepare to buy items in bulk, which means you might have a larger initial cost to think about. The final price of your product will also depend on the number of screens your production company needs to create, and the number of colors you want to use. DTG printing has fewer setup costs for a single garment, and allows for a more affordable production process.

Of course, it is worth noting that the cost of a DTG printing machine is pretty significant, so it would cost a lot more to choose this method if you were making prints yourself. This isn’t an issue if you’re looking at Print on Demand manufacturing however.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Which is Best?

When it comes to choosing the best digital printing strategy for your POD business, there’s no one-size-fits-all. The right solution for you will depend on your business goals. For instance, if you’re looking for a t-shirt printing solution which allows for full-color flexibility, without the need to pay for custom mesh screen designs, then DTG via a digital printer (similar to an inkjet printer) might be ideal for you. However, DTG can struggle when it comes to creating blends and bulk orders.

If you like the idea of buying numerous garments at once as part of your apparel printing process, the screen printing process may be ideal. Otherwise known as silk screening, screen printing makes it easy to create a host of vibrant, high-color designs with screen printers and specialist technology. You can create gradients and high-quality prints one layer of ink at a time.

Just keep in mind, if you want to run your print shop with screen printing, lots of colors and low quantity prints can be less cost-effective and more labor-intensive. You may end up paying more for printing ink and vibrant colors with traditional screen printing.

Ultimately, compared to other options like sublimation and embroidery, both screen printing and DTG printing offer excellent versatility. However, DTG is a more cost-effective, eco-friendly solution for short runs, while screen printing is intended more for bulk production.

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