Direct-to-garment printing, commonly referred to as “DTG” in
the industry. This form of printing
basically uses digital printers to print words or drawings directly onto
accessories and clothes, and the process is now turning many heads because of
the quality of the final product. Direct to garment printing is often the best
option for single or short runs. DTG usually makes garment designing and
printing simple, cheap, and accessible, particularly when compared to the
Direct-to-garment print using the popular inkjet technology
is usually attractive since the process of creating printed garments from
scratch with the aid of traditional technologies could be lengthy and
complicated. The inkjet printers used for this digital printing process are
incredibly affordable, easy to use, and they print high-quality images directly
onto an array of small to medium format accessories and shirts quickly.
A Brief History of Direct-to-Garment Printing
As mentioned earlier, DtG is a new garment printing
technique, particularly when it is compared to ancient screen printing. The
history of direct-to-garment printing begins with injecting printers which will
take us down memory lane to the early 50s when experts began developing this
technology. It would not be until the 80s, though, when printers were first
available to the public. The reason why it took so long to hit the printing
market was that the experts could not come up with a way through which the
heads would not get clogged with dry paint.
It was not long until some experts wondered whether it was
possible to print onto another material other than a piece of paper. T-shirt
and fabrics manufacturers were highly interested because they were looking to
upgrade their garment production process. At this time, screen printing had
already been automated, although it also had its limitations.
What is now considered the first direct-to-garment printer,
was introduced in the early 90s and titled “Revolution.” The prototype was then
created by Matthew Rhome who requested a patent, and it was granted in the year
2000. It was this patent that would turn him into the father of
The Properties of Direct-to-Garment Digital Printing
Thanks to being the most recent of all other printing techniques, direct-to-garment printing can achieve things that no other technique can.
1. It Prints Directly Onto Fabric
Differing from other printing techniques that apply vinyl or ink on top of a material, DtG usually injects color pigments into fibers. As a result, the feel of the final product typically has a soft touch. And due to its potential with color mixing, direct-to-garment printing is often reserved for artwork which is considered too sophisticated for other printing methods. These printers are capable of recreating colors, gradients, and minute details that is not available through traditional printing.
2. It’s Easier to Set Up
There are no individual screens or intermediary steps.
3. There Are No Limits In Coloring
With DtG, it is possible for you to print whatever designs your heart desires, all thanks to the power to reproduce a full-color spectrum with zero limitations on the number of tones you could choose for a single job.
4. Intricate Designs Are Also Accommodated
Since it is able to reproduce the most intricate of details,
direct-to-garment digital printing produces some of the highest quality print
products on the market. However, it is equally important to note that the
higher the quality settings on the printer, the longer it takes to produce the
final product. Perfection takes time.
5. It’s Expensive
The main drawback about direct-to-garment digital printing
is that it is rather new and relatively expensive. Like other technologies, we
expect that this kind of printing will become more affordable and more
ubiquitous with time. With this technology,
you could be wearing a Monet or Michelangelo—or the image of a beloved
grandchild or pet.
6. Not Ideal for Bulk Printing
This is not the method for producing mass marketed
merchandise; it is currently too slow and too expensive, but we expect that to
change with time.
Best With Cotton
Since direct-to-garment digital printing normally works with
water-based inks, it isn’t compatible with polyester garments or other
materials that repel liquid. For excellent results on the final print, it is
advisable that you use 100% cotton. This, however, does not exclude a
cotton/synthetic blend, but the rule of thumb is that the more the percentage
of cotton, the more vibrant your final print will be.
Direct-to-Garment Printing Step by Step
Of course, for you to DtG, you will need a
digital-to-garment printer. The models, attributes, and prices will vary
immensely so the model that will be used eventually will depend on the printer
as well as their needs. Some of the most common DtG printer brands are Kornit,
Brother, ColDesi, and Omniprint. A majority of the digital-to-garment printers
could be categorized into two groups:
• Based on
the already existing printer engines
from scratch using already available print head technologies.
For a large part, direct-to-garment printing used
water-based inks. Initially, these inks used to be expensive, but with time,
manufacturers were able to optimize the production process and eventually
reduce the prices.
This refers to the Raster Image Processor and while it is
not a necessity, it usually helps a lot for those who are approaching
direct-to-garment printing at a professional level. Raster Image Processors let
you simplify printing work flow, maximize media, accurately match colors, and
control multiple printers from one computer.
As you might have guessed, the process is usually very
straightforward, and it is the reason why this printing method is preferred
over others. Here are the direct-to-garment digital printing steps.
To guarantee optimal final results, all garments should be
sprayed with a pre-treatment liquid. This step is particularly vital if you are
working on dark t-shirts. This pre-treatment liquid lets the ink attach well to
the garment fibers for an excellent result. Many people use a special spray gun,
which adds the coat of the pre-treatment liquid, but some machines have this
step already integrated.
For the pre-treatment liquid to serve its intended purpose,
it needs to dry properly. If you are not in a hurry, you could just hang the
t-shirt and let it dry on its own while others will use a heat press to dry the
t-shirt in just a few seconds. Whatever method you choose, it is vital to
ensure the garment has fully dried before you can proceed.
At this stage, the design should be prepared for printing
using the special software. If you will be working on a dark garment, this is
where you should add the additional layer of white ink. Similar to screen
printing, if you want to print on any dark garment, you will need to create an
under base of white ink, onto which you will work over later. This is the stage
where you need to set up the white layer.
4. Load to
Your Printing Machine
With great caution, the garment should be loaded onto the printing machine. And for you to reap the best results, you should ensure the
garment remains completely flat. Even the slightest of wrinkles could ruin the
The most advanced printers will have a device that helps
stabilize your garment while the simple printer models will need you to use a
cardboard to create a sturdy, flat surface where your machine can do the
This is where you hit the power button and print, monitoring the print to be sure it's opaque and sharp.
of the Garment
It is not sufficient to let your piece of garment dry. For
the ink to set properly, it should be cured, and this is normally done using a
heat press. A piece of silicon paper is placed between the press and the
garment and left there for two minutes for excellent curation.
Is DTG Your Best Choice?
Different types of fabric possess different characteristics
and are best suited to specific applications. Using DtG, we produce a printed garment
that should withstand frequent washing, whether machine washing or hand
washing. The inks should stick to the garment fibers and resist fading despite
how frequently they are washed or the weather. DtG is indicated where precise
image duplication is wanted while preserving the natural look and feel of the
Cost is also another major driver when it comes to selecting
the appropriate technology for mass- market campaign. For example, if you will
be printing several hundred t-shirts, all of which will be similar, your best
choice is usually conventional screen-printing. However, if you want superb and
intricate reproduction on your garment, DtG is the perfect choice. This is
particularly the case if you intend to create a multi-layered, half toned
design and will not use any specialty inks like metallic.
When compared to the standard garment printing,
digital-to-garment printing usually has a shorter supply chain in addition to
having quicker production turnaround times. Contrary to screen printing which
will often require the preparation of a screen per color, digital printing lets
you print your multi-colored images directly to your garment in only a few
minutes. Besides, with a direct-to-garment production path, the digital color
management ensures that the colors the designer has chosen exactly match the
colors on the finished product.
Direct-to-garment digital printing systems are available
which handle all the pre-treatment and post-treatment to produce sportswear,
t-shirts, and other items of accessories and clothing like hats, bags, and t-shirts. Manufacturers, both small and large, are
venturing into direct-to-garment printing.
Thanks to our 45 years of experience in apparel printing
industry, we are capable of offering printing services that are geared to meet
the needs of creative directors and designers. We can do it all!