If you’re looking to design and print your own custom t-shirts, you’ve likely encountered these two terms — DTG printing and screen printing.
Both screen printing and direct to garment (DTG) are methods of printing custom designs onto fabrics.
But what’s the difference between these two t-shirt printing methods? When should you use one versus the other? The topic can get a little confusing if you’ve never printed your own custom t-shirts before, so we’ve compiled this quick guide. We’ll answer these four most common questions:
If you’ve never printed your own custom shirts before, follow thesebest practices and study up on the different ways your shirts can be produced. Whether you’re creating custom t-shirts for a creative project, a fundraising campaign, or another reason, understanding the printing process will help you make the best possible decisions.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!
- 1 What’s the Difference Between DTG and Screen Printing?
- 2 What is Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing?
- 3 How Do DTG Printed Shirts and Screen Printed Shirts Compare?
What’s the Difference Between DTG and Screen Printing?
Screen printing is the more traditional technique that involves pushing the ink onto the t-shirt fabric through a stencil, while direct to garment is a newer method that uses a printer to apply the ink to the shirt.
What is Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing?
DTG printing involves the use of a digital printer to apply ink directly onto the fabric of the apparel you’re customizing.
This is a newer t-shirt printing method that’s gained a lot of popularity in recent years thanks to technological improvements in DTG printers.DTG printing creates a precisely printed design with a high level of detail.
What Type of Designs Work Best on Screen Printed Shirts?
Designs with just a few colors
This makes custom screen printed shirts a smarter choice for larger fundraisers/events like charity races, 5Ks races, walkathons, or a mission trip fundraising campaign.
How Do DTG Printed Shirts and Screen Printed Shirts Compare?
Since these t-shirt printing methods are so different, there are naturally a few pros and cons to each.
Depending on the specifics of your custom printing project, one will likely be a better choice than the other. The biggest differences that you should consider when choosing a method fall into two general categories — design andcost.
Differences Between Screen Printed Designs and DTG Designs
When produced by a professional using the right equipment, either printing process will result in a high-quality t-shirt, but a few important differences still come into play depending on your design.
DTG printing leaves a single layer of ink to create your final design, while screen printing produces several layers. This has a few important effects, particularly on how you use color in your design:
Screen printing will produce a vibrant, durable design with more saturated colors than the DTG process. However, the labor-intensive process of turning your design into multiple stencils limits the number of colors you can use.
DTG printing produces a slightly more faded design with a single layer of ink, but with no limits on the number of colors you can use. There are some limitations that make certain color combinations difficult, though. For example, it can be tricky for digital printers to create designs with light-colored ink on dark fabrics.
This means that certain types of t-shirt designs are better suited to each method. Simpler, stylized designs with graphics or text in a handful of colors are great for screen printing, while DTG printing can handle more elaborate designs in more colors, usually on light-colored fabric.
Difference Between DTG Costs and Screen Printing Costs
The fundamental differences between each process also translate to differences in final costs. Again, both can be great choices, but it depends entirely on the specifics of your project. Here’s how they stack up:
Screen Printing Costs
Screen printing is most cost-effective for larger batches of shirts. The stencil process means that set-up costs are a little higher, but it also makes screen printing more efficient for large orders of one design.
Using more than the recommended number of colors slows down the process, though, resulting in higher final prices, since each color used needs its own screen stencil created.
But with screen printing, there are typically cost savings built in as you print more t-shirts! Having master stencils for each layer streamlines the process as more shirts are printed.
DTG printing is most cost-effective for small batches of custom printed t-shirts. The number of colors used won’t seriously affect the final price.
However, large batches will use more ink and time — the printer can only handle one shirt at a time — resulting in higher prices. DTG printing typically does not offer bulk savings the way that screen printing does.
The scope of your custom t-shirt printing project should be a consideration as you choose a printing service to handle it. Some custom apparel services offer just one or the other, while some offer both DTG and screen printing options depending on the size of your project.
If you choose a DTG only service, your cost per shirt does not drop as you purchase more, whereas you typically will pay less per shirt as quantities increase when screen printing.
Finding a custom t-shirt printing service that can offer the best of both techniques — DTG and more traditional screen printing — will get you the best value in the long run. Understanding the differences between the two methods will help you to better determine exactly what you need from a partner as you get started with your custom t-shirt project!