What is Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing? | Printing Terminology 101

There are many different printing methods, but DTG printing and screen printing are the two most popular methods for apparel.

Direct to garment, or DTG, and screen printing are two of the most popular printing methods for branded apparel. These two printing processes are very different, and depending on your project, one will make more sense than the other. Choosing the right method comes down to a few key elements of your project– quantity, design detail, and the number of colors.

What is DTG Printing?

DTG stands for “direct to garment” printing. With DTG, a printer directly applies the ink to the clothing item with inkjet technology. This concept is similar to printing on paper, except that it’s on a t-shirt or sweatshirt. The desired design is printed directly onto the garment, hence direct to garment, with a special printer using water-based inks, which are absorbed by the fibers of the garment.

DIY DTG printing

What is screen printing?

Screen printing is a method that consists of pushing ink through a woven mesh stencil onto the garment. The stencil is created though coating the mesh screen with an emulsion and allowing it to dry.  An original image is created on a transparent overlay, where the areas that will let ink through are completely opaque. This is then placed on the screen and the mesh is exposed to ultraviolet light, hardening areas exposed to the light and allowing the blocked areas to be dissolved and washed away.

The area’s that are washed away are the spaces that the ink will go through to create the design. The ink is then pushed by a fill blade or squeegee over the screen to flood the open holes in the mesh .Then, as the blade is pulled back over the mesh, the ink is pushed through the mesh onto the garment.

DIY Screen printing

DTG vs screen printing

Both printing methods produce quality prints, though depending on your project one method may make more sense than the other.

Cost Effective

DTG printing
For small batches or one-offs, DTG is the option for you. Garment printers work like a regular printer and can only print one garment at a time. Since the process does not require the creation of a screen, a single garment is much cheaper this way.

Screen printing
For large batches with a single color and simple design, screen printing is the way to go. A special screen stencil has to be made for the design, so the more garments the better to make it worth your while.

Design

DTG printing
Since DTG printing is more precise than screen printing, you can achieve designs or even photographs with much more detail.  There are fewer limitations on color an design when using a DTG printer.

Screen printing
Screen printed items require a special stencil for each design. The more intricate and colorful the design, the more stencils needed for a single garment. It’s best to keep your design simple if you are going with the screen printing method.

Color capabilities

DTG printing
Since DTG printing does not use a stencil, the ink is applied in thinner quantities to achieve the high detail of many designs or photographs that are desired. A DTG printer works the same way as a regular printer in that it applies all the inks at one time. When printing on fabric colors other than white, a white underlayer is included to allow the colors to pop more.

Screen printing
Only one color can be printed at a time and per stencil when screen printing. That means for each color you want, a new stencil needs to be made, which means more time and money. Screen printing is the best option for achieving high levels of vibrancy as the inks are applied thicker than DTG inks.

Printi now offers DTG printing!

T-Shirts
Hoodies
Tank Tops
Pillows

We do not currently offer screen printed apparel.

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Featured image by Lauren Fleischmann on Unsplash
Content Specialist at

Jackie Vlahos is the Content Specialist at Printi. She is an expert in design, marketing and anything in between. When she's not blogging her life away, she can be found with a camera in one hand and a coffee in the other.

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