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What is Direct-to-Garment Printing?

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Anita Sharma

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, also known as D2 printing, is an apparel decoration method in which designs and pictures are printed directly onto pre-sewn T-shirts, hats, hoodies, garments, shoes, tote bags, pillow covers, and other fabric products. Many DTG printers are utilized in screen-printing enterprises that embellish higher numbers of garments for brands, sports teams, and shops.

 What is DTG Printing?

DTG printing allows screen printers to take on tasks with shorter runs and quicker turnaround times and embellish garments with changeable data or full-color photographic graphics. DTG T-shirt printer are also utilized in home-based businesses, promotional products companies, and gifting shops.

DTG printing eliminates the need for many screens, which means that it may be done in a smaller space and without the hassle of frequent maintenance. Moreover, the learning curve for DTG printing is a little less steep than screen printing, particularly for younger creative professionals or direct-to-garment printer for beginners who have grown up with digital cameras and graphics tools.

How does DTG Function?

Considering DTG can accurately capture complex images on a surface as pliable as a shirt or sweater, it is surprising to analyze how simple the working function of direct print to garment is. DTG is best conceptualized as computer-based home printing, except the paper is a shirt.

The direct-to-garment printer is similar to home printers in that they do not require a unique setup for each task and can produce infinite colors. Some DTG printers are also made by businesses that make normal inkjet printers but are simply adjusted to fit the increased bulk of clothing and employ inkjet textile inks rather than the ones you buy for your printer at the shop.

The CMYK color model is utilized in the printing process to replicate a computer image’s colors onto fabric accurately. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and K for black. For this reason, this model is also referred to as “four-color processing,” after the four ink colors that are typically combined to form the various shades used in the digital layout.

The inks attach directly to the fibers of the garment’s material, resulting in cotton, a fibrous material that is better for DTG printing than polyester – a much smoother substance. When a design is finished, and all the colors have been added, the ink is often dried using heat. An entire minute may be all it takes to accomplish this.

History of DTG printing

The technology of Direct-to-Garment printing (DTG) emerged in the USA in 1996 with Matthew Rhome’s first commercial DTG printer, the “Revolution.” Revolutionary for its time, stemming from injection printers (1950) that were available in every workplace. Rhome started exploring if they could print on diverse materials besides paper. Matthew Rhome was given the first DTG patent in 2000. In 2005 white ink was introduced to the market, overcoming the difficulty of printing on dark clothes. 

How is DTG comparable to other conventional printing methods?

1.   Screen printing:

Unlike DTG, which requires essentially no setup, screen printing requires a costly and time-consuming first phase. However, for “small” orders (less than ten of a garment), where this expense is not spread amongst several items, DTG becomes more cost-effective.

Screen printing is more cost-effective for bulk orders since its per-unit cost is lower than DTG’s after initial setup. Screen printing is limited compared to direct-to-garment printing (DTG) in terms of detail and number of colors, but the screen-printed colors are more vivid.

Pros:

  • Incredibly useful for mass production
  • A spot-on match per Pantone standards
  • Useful for a wide variety of textiles
  • The highly polished final product.

Cons:

  • Cost prohibitive for lower volume purchases
  • Very pricy for even the most basic of designs.

2.   Dye sublimation:

Both Dye sublimation and direct-to-garment (DTG) printing use a computer to transfer digital pictures onto fabric. The primary distinction is that dye sublimation skips the liquid phase altogether by using heat to transform the ink directly from its solid form into a gas. As a result, polyester may be printed on because the gas produced by heating it permeates the fibers.

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