What is Digital or DTG printing and how is it different than Screen Printing
Direct to Garment (DTG) is a relatively new technology that enables us to produce full-color custom apparel almost as easily as it is to print to your printer at home. We utilize an inkjet printer that was engineered and built specifically for printing on fabric using water-based inks. It works exactly the same as your inkjet printer at your desk, using the same colors, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, plus white, which your printer doesn’t use. With these colors we can reproduce any image on any color fabric, using White as an underbase when needed (see other questions below).
You will find that the image produced by this process is a little different than screen printed shirts. Screen printing typically uses a plastic-based ink, laying it down on the surface of the fabric, and heating it to bond it to the fabric. DTG applies less ink and the ink actually bonds with, and is partially absorbed by, the fibers of the fabric. This results in a softer ‘hand’ or feel than screen printed. In some cases, this may also result in a softer looking image as well. White and other bright colors may not be as bright or vivid as with Screen printing. We also can’t produce neon or glitter colors.
There will always be certain jobs that just look better screen printed. However, unlike DTG, screen printing always has a minimum job size and the cost is very dependant on that quantity as well as the number of colors in a design.
With DTG, we can also scale the image to different size products. For example, a small youth T-shirt and an adult 4XL sweatshirt really should have very different image sizes. Screen printing would require a separate job for different sizes.
One more thing, DTG and Screen Printing are equally durable when handled correctly, If you wash your custom apparel inside out in cold water on a relatively gentle cycle, and dry on low heat, it should last for years.
If you are unsure whether your job should be DTG or Screen printed, ask us. We’ll help you understand the options, costs, and differences, and you can decide.
Is there a minimum or maximum requirment for an order?
There is no minimum order size. We can print 1 item or we can print thousands. In fact, our specialty is orders of 24 and fewer shirts, which is the kind of order that is too small for most traditional screen printers to handle cost effectively.
How much does shipping cost? Can I pick up my order?
Because many of our customers pick up their orders in person, and in order to keep our prices low and fair, we do charge separately for shipping. We will use the most cost effective method of getting your product to you, and you are charged whatever it costs us. For very small orders, we will typically use first class mail or Priority Mail. For larger orders, we will usually use UPS Ground. You are welcome to request a specific shipping method, and even provide your own UPS or Fedex account number. You are welcome to pick up your order at our offices provided you make prior arrangements. We do not operate a ‘store front’, and therefore, you should always make an appointment ahead of time before coming to visit us. At the very least, call ahead to make sure someone will be there.
Why does white ink cost more?
First, a little background on the reason for white ink. The Direct to Garment printing process works exactly the same way your desktop inkjet printer works. We use combinations of four colors of water based inks (CMYK or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) to produce millions of different colors and shades of color. This ink is essentially a dye, and is absorbed by the fibers of fabric onto which it is being applied. This means it also blends with the color of that fabric, whatever it happens to be. So, unless you are printing on a white shirt, the resulting image will be influenced by the color of the fabric (Except for true black printing, of course). When printing on a colored shirt, it is usually beneficial to print a layer of white ink first, followed by printing the colored image on top of the white ink.
So that brings us to the cost. First, printing white ink requires an extra pre-treatment step in which we spray a special solution onto the shirt. This solution allows the white ink to adhere to the surface of the fibers rather than being absorbed. Second, white ink is far more expensive by than CMYK ink, and is used at more than twice the rate of CMYK. Lastly, printing with white ink requires more production time per shirt because of the extra pre-treatment step and the extra printing time.
To keep costs down, keep these in mind. White shirts are the least expensive to print. Light colored shirts with dark and black designs usually come out great without white ink. Medium colored shirts with all black or dark blue designs will also work great without white ink. Anything else will probably need white ink.