Direct To Garment Printing in Seattle (DTG)
The Foundry Offers DTG Printing to Service Low Quantity Orders
So first what is DTG? Direct to Garment Printing also known as digital textile printing is basically a jet printer that prints on fabric. The technology is very similar to what you would find a commercial print and copy business using to print high resolution images onto paper stock.
Like all printing systems the prints are only as good as the inks, techniques and equipment used to produce them. In the past DTG was considered a lesser alternative to screen-printing but recent tech innovations have really closed the gap between the two. With today’s DTG printing machines it’s difficult to distinguish a digitally printed garment from a screen-printed one.
This would be a good time to talk about in what scenario we would recommend DTG over screen-printing. While screen-printing is awesome and the most commonly used method of garment embellishment, it has its drawbacks. With screen-printing you have to create the stencils, manually mix the ink colors and register everything together on press. We call this setup and it can be expensive at around $30 per color in your art. It’s also difficult to simulate gradients and photo realistic images with screen printing. In other words screen printing involves a lot of setup work where DTG involves very little with no additional setup costs.
Wow! You’re thinking “what a magical process!”
If DTG is so great why not use it on everything? Well although direct to garment printing takes little setup it’s not nearly as economical as screen printing once it’s running. DTG inks are rather expensive and since the inks have to pass through a print jet head the print application process is rather slow. Just for perspective a DTG print on a dark colored garment can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes per unit where automatic screen printing presses can do the same work in seconds.
This is where you’ll find the divide, it’s time and material costs from start to finish. At low quantities although DTG is more expensive to operate per unit it circumvents the setup costs required for screen printing making it more affordable on lower production runs. Let’s say this; you have an art file that contains 4 colors. To screen print that you’ll need 4 screens @ $30 each = $120 in setups. In this scenario say your shirts printed would cost $12 each using screen printing but you only want to make 15 of them. Divide your setups over 15 units and that’s an additional $8 per print bringing your landed cost to $20 per shirt. Where something like this with DTG would cost around $15 each finished. This puts the break at 24 units when DTG and screen-printing would cost about the same.
Not all Direct To Garment printed shirts are the same.
If you’re worked with a DTG printer in the past you may have reservations about using direct to garment printing on your projects today. This is probably due to poor quality prints and a poor customer service experience. In the early stages of DTG you would likely only see it in the mall print shop that sells single use shirts and cell phone cases. It’s come a long way since then as it’s evolved into more of an industrial process worthy of our most high profile customers.
Sustainability at lower volumes
Another notable condition of DTG is the sustainability aspect. Creating and reclaiming the stencils used in screen printing requires a decent amount of water and creates solid waste. Although we use water out filtration systems and recycle what we can of the solids, creating a lot of screens to print a few shirts is not good for the planet.
The technical details
Our direct to garment printing system can print on 100% cotton and poly blended garments. It’s not compatible with any material that has a waterproof coating or is full synthetic. DTG can print on the front and back of tee shirts but we do not recommend it for sleeve and other unique locations. You can use DTG on fleece garments and we can recommend what styles work best. Like all printing processes the print quality is only as good as the image quality so please submit your art at the size and resolution you want it printed if you can. There’s a great article on print resolution here if you would like to learn more.
We try and inform more than we try and advertise to our customers and you can count on us to make the recommendation that will best suite your project needs. There are going to be scenarios where DTG is just going to outperform screen-printing based on technical elements within your art or vice versa. As a business we strive to maintain a flexible and modern approach to garment decorations and DTG is a great tool on our quiver.
Thanks for reading!