Digital Garment Printing vs Conventional Printing

Dean Armando

Garment Printer inksDigital Printing vs. conventional methods or outsourcing

As the garment decoration marketplace has matured so has the demand for one stop shopping. In today’s competitive market it is important to maximize your potential with every client. Not too long ago, the vast majority of apparel decorators were specialists (embroiderers or screen-printers, for example). Now more and more companies are adding additional decoration methods to increase their profitability – and more importantly – keep their customer “at home”.

So why has direct to garment printing become so popular the past few years? Unlike other methods of decoration (like embroidery and screen-printing) – the learning curve is shorter. By adding a digital t shirt printer you can concentrate on artwork and not a new skill set.

For years companies have labeled themselves as “embroiderers” or “screen-printers” and not “apparel decorators”. Today’s consumer wants to make as few stops as possible when shopping – I call it the “Super Wal-Mart Syndrome”. Think about it, why go to a grocery store, then to a discount store, followed by a vision center and then on to a nail salon?  You can go to a Super Wal-Mart and get it all done in the same place – you can even grab lunch! These consumers are the same folks that order garments from you!

So, we see the need to expand our garment offerings, but what to do. If you are one of the “labeled” decorators mentioned above – adding the other decoration method means learning a whole new skill set (and probably additional skilled/semi-skilled employee(s)). Chances are, as a screen-printer or embroiderer (or trophy shop for that matter) that you are already creating and/or manipulating artwork on a daily basis. If this is the case, you are a long way towards becoming a good direct to garment printer operator. Simply put, good artwork and consistent garment printer operation equals good quality output. Add to this the small footprint and relative low cost of equipment (under $20,000 in most cases) and you can see why digital t shirt printing is the fastest growing segment of the apparel decoration industry today.

When considering adding direct to garment printing it is important to be realistic in its capabilities. DTG printers excel at high color and short run applications. If your target market is large quantity, one and two color jobs – direct to garment printing is probably not for you. If, on the other hand, you are targeting smaller runs or moderate runs with many colors – a garment inkjet printer may be right up your alley.

A lot of folks seem to think that digital t-shirt printing machines are eroding the screen print market – in reality – they are actually hurting the transfer market to a much higher degree. Transfers come in two basic forms – screen printed and digital. Screen printed transfers are great when time is not an issue and the customer is content with a limited number of colors and one fixed size for his artwork. As with traditional screen-printing – minimum orders and screen charges can make these very expensive. Digital transfers (inkjet and laser) offer the variable size and multi color advantages of direct to garment printing with some significant disadvantages. Digital transfers generally have a “hand” that most consumers do not like, they do not wash well long term (they tend to crack), and there are only a limited amount of options for transferring to dark garments – all of them expensive and with the same drawbacks as those mentioned for light transfers.

While digital t shirt printing is not the only answer to the question “what method of garment decoration should I add to my business?” – it is a very viable solution when your needs fit the abilities of the method. Besides, there is no doubt that digital direct to garment printing is the way of the future – why not start learning it now!

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