Starting your own fashion line is a big deal, and as t-shirts are so popular, it makes sense to have them as a part of your line. One of the most significant decisions that you have to make – after deciding the cut and style, of course – is the printing method that you want to go with.
There are more options for t-shirt printing than ever before, but there are still two options that win the race more than the rest: Direct to garment (DTG) printing and screen printing.
These are the two popular methods of printing, but what’s the difference? Is there a difference? Is one better than the other? It’s a topic that gets confusing if you haven’t ever printed your own t-shirts before. Many companies do prefer one over the other, so it’s essential for you to study the differences between each method before go ahead.
What Are The Differences Between Screen Printing & DTG?
There are some significant differences between DTG and screen printing, but the most significant difference is the technique of putting ink onto the fabric of the t-shirt. The traditional method is screen printing, which uses a stencil and pushes the ink into the material of the t-shirt with that. Direct to garment is newer, and the ink is pushed into the fabric using a printer.
All About DTG
The printing method direct to garment uses digital printing to apply ink and designs onto the t-shirt fabric that you are making. Given we are a digital world in every sense, it suits most people that this newer printing method is used. It’s why it’s gained so much in the way of popularity in recent years. The design is precise, with neat edges and a high-quality level of detail.
Imagine the home printer that you have in the office; well, DTG printing works the same way. The only difference is that there is no paper involved; you’re printing onto t-shirts. The printer transfers your digital image onto a blank t-shirt, and they are able to handle designs in a range of different colors. The ink is water based, with a single layer absorbed into the fibers of the t-shirt. It’s an exact method of printing, and it offers you the following pros and cons:
- You can print very detailed photographs and designs directly to the fabric
- Excellent for individual projects or one-off t-shirts for an event
- Ideal for smaller batches of t-shirts
- Very little in the way of investment up front
- It’s not particularly cost-effective in large quantities
- There is a minimal design placement
All About Screen Printing
It’s the classic method of printing that is favored among most fashion gurus out there. You can create custom t-shirts while transferring the detailed designs of your choice onto the fabric. The production of durable, aesthetically pleasing clothing has evolved over the years, and while screen printing is a process that requires more labor, the saturated colors and authentic appearance of the t-shirts that you have as a result are always worth it in the end.
DTG printing is a much simpler process than screen printing, as each color that is chosen in the design for screen printing is printed separately. So, you have to break the entire design down into individual colors layer by layer, which is usually done with computer software like Photoshop. Once this is done, a stencil is then used to apply single colors of ink at a time, one stencil for each color. It’s a process, but the ink is pulled across the stencil with a blade which gives a fully saturated color.
There are specific t-shirt designs that are more suited to this method than others, and screen printing provides the user with a high-quality result that has always been popular among clothing creators. Let’s look at the pros and cons:
- Screen printing is cost-effective when it comes to bigger batches
- It’s ideal for the simpler designs required
- They’re cheaper when batch made
- Great for the bold graphic designs
- For multiple colors, these aren’t the best in terms of cost
- Simple designs only
- One design for every batch of t-shirts
- Bigger investment up front
Comparing The Two: Time To Find A Winner
Now you’ve read some more about each method of t-shirt printing; you can see how different they are. There’s always going to be a better option, and it’s going to depend on your individual needs as to which is the best for you. Your custom projects will dictate which printing method you use, and the primary consideration has to be the impact on the design of the t-shirt, with cost a close second.
Professionals who choose to print shirts for their business are looking for the highest possible quality, and the impact on the design does matter for your preferred method. Let’s look at both:
Produces vibrant designs with colors that are saturated into the fabric. The process is, however, more labor intensive, and the process of making your t-shirts limits the number of colors that you can choose.
A single layer of ink can mean that the design is more faded. However, you don’t have a limit to the choice of colors.
With all the differences between both methods, the last to consider is the cost. It will significantly dictate your choice if you cannot afford a particular way to print your t-shirts. Let’s take a look:
The most cost-effective method for large t-shirt batches, as you print more t-shirts, you save more money.
Cost-effective for smaller batches as larger ones will use more ink. Digital printers cannot handle huge batches, which means higher prices!
When it comes down to it, you need to decide your printing method based on the t-shirts that you require in the first place. Now that you understand the differences between the two, the choice is yours!
Printing Methods Used At Spreadshop
At Spreadshop, there are a variety of printing methods that can be used. This goes beyond the dtg vs screen printing conundrum. Instead, you need to think about whether you want digital direct printing. This is the standard option. However, you can also consider plot printing, if it is available for your particular design. There are a variety of requirements for the different printing methods that you should keep in mind. However, Spreadshop makes it easy, automatically providing options for special foil, flock and flex printing where available.
If you are interested in learning about the different options beyond dtg vs screen printing, you need to decide the type of impact you’re trying to create. For instance, flock is going to provide a velvet finish that stands out and is textured. You can also have flex printing that is completely smooth with no texture at all to the final design. In contrast, another special flex printing option can deliver a final design that is really big and bold. It could be glitter or even glow in the dark!
Digital printing can be used on a wider range of apparel and have stunning effects. For instance, you can use this printing option to add images to mugs, phone cases and other forms of apparel beyond the typical tee. There’s digital direct too which is the favoured choice for creators.
You can watch this video to learn more about printing methods and take a peek at Spreadshop’s unique production process.