DTG or screen printing: what is the best technique for printing on fabric?
One of the best-known processes is screen printing. But in recent years another, completely different method has become widespread: direct digital printing (Direct To Garment, also called DTG).
Many printers were fascinated by it and adopted it as their main solution. Does this mean that screen printing is about to be abandoned? Absolutely not: many continue to use it and with quality results.
But what is the best technique for printing on fabric? As we provide screen printing and Dtg printing in Dallas so let’s compare screen printing and DTG printing and see what their characteristics, pros and cons are.
1. How the process works:
The process is based on the use of screen printing frames (squares of permeable fabric stretched over metal squares). A frame must be created for each color present in the design to be printed (if there is only one color, a single matrix is not necessarily enough). Each frame is made waterproof, except for the part where the image is reproduced, and is loaded with ink.
In the actual printing phase, the frame is made to adhere to the t-shirt and the color filters through the permeable part, attaching itself to the fabric. The process repeats for each color level and after each pass the ink must be allowed to dry. Once the work is completed, the frames must be recovered for a subsequent print, normally they are not preserved due to the decay of the covered part over time.
The process is very simple: once the t-shirt has been inserted into the digital printer, simply give the command to print the design. It is necessary to pre-treat the fabric in order to allow the white color to adhere to the fabric.
However, you must be careful about the conditions of the environment in which you print: a certain degree of humidity must be present. If this is missing, the color dries out and does not blend into the fabric evenly. The print must always be dried in special ovens, in order to fix it on the fabric.
2. Printing times
The process is long and consists of numerous phases. It is not convenient when you have to print many different “designs” in a short time: for each image you would have to repeat each step. But it is very useful if you want to print thousands of t-shirts that have the same image: once you have prepared the necessary materials for a print, this can be reused to reproduce the design several times.
The work itself takes little time, you can print different designs faster than you would with screen printing. However, it is not recommended to use it to print thousands of t-shirts with the same image: in this case screen printing is the quickest method.
3. Screen printing costs
. It is the cheapest technique if you have to print thousands of t-shirts with the same design: the more t-shirts there are, the lower the cost of a single print. Another factor to take into account is the number of colors: the more numerous they are, the higher the
DTG cost will be
The best solution for printing small quantities: in addition to being very fast, it does not involve significant set-up costs and, for orders of a few t-shirts, it is cheaper than screen printing. However, the process involves fixed costs that do not change depending on the quantity of t-shirts requested. Therefore it is not possible to reduce the price of individual t-shirts. For this reason, printers do not recommend using DTG printing for large orders.
To give an order of magnitude and understand which of the two technologies is best to use, the convenience ratio is 50 t-shirts for each screen printing frame created. What does it mean? That if you have to print less than 50 t-shirts all the same (with just one colour), digital printing is better for you, if you have to print more than 50 you are better off with screen printing. If you need to print in 4 colors (therefore 4 screens), you need to multiply 50 x 4 = 200 t-shirts.
4. Colors and inks
The final images have a lower resolution than digital. But this technique has a great advantage: it allows you to print on any type of fabric, which is not so easy with DTG (for example polyester, viscose, etc., are not easily printable with DTG). Plus you can decide the thickness of the color layer, depending on the effect you want to achieve. There are various types of inks, but the most used are those based on polyurethane (plastisol). They are the cheapest and most practical ones and are resistant to washing, but they are not suitable for all types of fabrics. The print appears in slight relief on the fabric, a little thick and rough to the touch. The most important opportunity that screen printing offers is that of making functional prints, that is, printing glues, silicones,
You can create images full of colors, shades and small details, such as photographic prints. This is possible because you work in four-colour process (the cyan, magenta, yellow and black tones are present at the same time). The colors are very resistant over time and the new OEKO-TEX compliant inks also hold up well to hot water. The print is soft, you cannot feel the difference between the ink and the fabric: the color covers the fibres, it does not simply adhere to the surface of the t-shirt. This method makes use of water-based inks. The quality of the result is excellent and water-based inks are less harmful to the environment, but also more expensive.
5. Types of fabric
The choice of fabric and t-shirt design depends on the type of product you want to sell. Some prefer soft and light fabrics, others more rigid and heavy. Not all fabrics are suitable for every technique.
Screen printing. You can print on any type of fabric.
You can easily print on cotton t-shirts only. There may be a percentage of synthetic fibres, but cotton must be the main component and at least 80%. But we are not limited to t-shirts, we can print: polo shirts, sweatshirts, shirts, cotton shoppers…