Hopefully this article will help those that do not understand the pricing difference between Direct to garment printing and screen printing. I am asked this question often and thought I would give a more in depth description of the why.
Direct to garment printing is a printing method that can print directly from the file image to the fabric being used; usually cotton. It is a really great option for those that are looking for small quantities, with great detail, or many colors and gradations. DTG inks also have a very soft feel due to them being water based inks, not including plastics in the ink.
When you are getting a price from a printer for Direct to Garment printing, it should be considered how many garments you are getting printed, how many colors, does your image have great detail, does it have a lot of gradients? These are all great qualities of Direct to garment printing and any of these items might be why you may choose it.
Pricing for direct to garment printing is usually higher unless you are having larger orders printed. It is a great printing method for small runs, as well as something that you may order small amounts over an over, with many different designs.
Another great thing about direct to garment printing is that if you have an item that you need a small change on each garment such as different names for each shirt, this is a perfect example of where Direct to Garment shines. Or maybe you have many different designs, but only want one of each or even a couple of each such as for samples. This is also a great technique for having this done.
Some may think the pricing is high for direct to garment printing, but you really need to consider what goes into printing this method. First lets talk about shirt color. If you are printing on white shirts, then what it entails is getting the graphic ready, loading the shirt on the platen, printing the garment, and then heat pressing it to cure the ink, this needs to be done on each individual shirt one at a time. If you are printing a dark shirt, then there is much more work involved. you have to pretreat the shirt first, which usually starts with spraying the pretreatment on the shirt with a Wagner sprayer, or a pretreat sprayer machine, then you have to heat press the shirt laying parchment paper on top of the shirt to cure the pretreatment, and then go to the steps involved with printing a white shirt. This takes time, and it also costs for the supplies such as the pretreatment and the parchment paper.
Then you have to consider the difference in ink cost itself. Direct to Garment ink is very expensive. It costs close to ten times the amount as ink that is used in screen printing. On screen printed shirts it is cents compared to dollars that it costs for the ink in a direct to garment printer.
So in short, the benefits of direct to garment printing are low quantities, high amount of colors or high amount of detail with the ability to be able to customize each and every shirt. If any of these above criteria are involved it is worth taking direct to garment printing into consideration. Remember though it will cost more per shirt. If you are considering doing large quantities, then direct to garment printing may not be the method you are looking for.
Now lets take a look at Screen printing, which for so long was the industry standard. Screen printing is an awesome method of printing as well and has its own set of benefits. Its main benefit is large quantities for a much lower cost, great choices of inks with many that have special effects such as metallic and the like. There is also process screen printing which can give you fairly good detail as well. They also have water based inks like dtg, so you can get a very soft feel to the shirts, but be prepared to pay more for these specialized inks.
Screen printing is a great method to use when printing large orders because once a screen is burned, and you have paid your set up fees for your artwork, you can go back over and over and use the same screens for each reorder. Your initial order will always usually include fees for these services.
This is the reason that screen printing is not the ideal choice when printing only around 10 shirts or so, because when you add in the charges to burn screens, and remember there will be a screen that needs to be burned for each color in the design, these fees can add up and it is not really worth the screen printers fees to do this for small orders, and would not make sense. That is why direct to garment printing fits this model better.
Screen printing shines when you are doing larger orders with special effects inks, as well as being able to order quickly after the initial order. The cost is much better on these orders once the screens have been burned and the printer has them prepared for future orders. I am not a screen printer, nor do I know as much about it, but I am sure others can add to that portion of this article to help out with its benefits. But in short you will save a lot of money when ordering this way as long as your orders are large enough to make it worth your while.
Screen printing inks also hold up much longer than Direct to garment inks, as most of them have plastics in them which are called plastisol, and this method has been around for many many years, and that is the reason, because the inks will usually out last the shirt itself. What is also really cool about Screen printing is getting those special effects with Metallic and others types of ink. You will never get these effects from Direct to Garment inks as they are all water based and done with a digital printhead, which would clog the printhead, where as with screen printing, the inks are applied by hand and a squeegee so that problem does not arise.
With screen printing it is not worth it to the screen printer to print small orders, as the cost of the burning of the screens, the separation of the colors, and the setup costs, all of that on top of the actual printing is just not cost effective. It is not the method to use to make samples or small orders, nor the personalization of each shirt itself.
It is very easy to have an idea in your head and design it, but there are many things to take into consideration before choosing your method of printing and I will make a list here. Please other members feel free to add to this article as I think it would really help others to understand what to take into consideration when designing their shirts and what they hope to achieve
List of items to consider:
1. How many shirts do you plan to print
2. How much detail and gradients are in your design
3. Do you plan to print samples first
4. Do you need to customize each shirt
5. How many colors are involved in your design
6. What type of effects would you like your design to have
7. What is your budget per shirt
8. What is your timeline for getting your shirts printed
9. Have you already determined your demographic that you will be selling to
These are just some of the things to take into consideration when deciding on what print method between the two is best for you. Remember you can always get samples printed by DTG to see how your designs sell, and if they do well, you can then have them screen printed in larger orders as long as no special inks are needed. The printing method is up to you, but remember when designing that is not just about the design but the printing as well. You can have the best design in the world but the printing is going to make it successful and you need to make sure of what to expect and what type of printing best fills the needs of your order.
I hope this article will help those getting started, because it really does start with the designing process. You must always consider when designing, what method of printing you will use as two go hand and hand
In closing, Direct to garment printing and Screen printing really fill two completely different markets, there for they have very different pricing per technique.