If you head up a small business and want to sell branded merchandise, we’d say direct-to-garment printing is one of the best decorating methods out there to get high-quality, full-color artwork on t-shirts quickly and affordably. Get ready for eight reasons why DTG prints top our list.
8 Reasons Why Small Businesses Love DTG Prints
Nick DeLorenzo, sales director at Los Angeles-based Family Industries, a multifaceted print shop that does live screen printing and events, digital printing, embroidery and promo products, recommends DTG printing for some key reasons to small business owners, apparel brands, bands and more to help you effortlessly grow your brand.
But first, here’s how direct-to-garment (or DTG) printing works: A DTG printer resembles the inkjet printer sitting in your home office that prints on paper, but it imprints t-shirt fabric instead. DTG printers have a platen designed to hold the garment in place while the print head applies ink to your garment. Then, the DTG printer head sprays or jets specialized aqueous ink onto the garment, which absorbs the inks.
1. You’re not limited to a certain number of colors in a DTG print.
DTG printing allows you to achieve eye-catching, full-color printing with intricate details and gradients in your graphics, so the sky really is the limit on your digital artwork. If you need four shades of blue and every other color of the rainbow to capture an image, you can do it without incurring higher costs since you’re working with a digital image and a DTG printer.
On the other hand, screen printing requires separate screens for each color in the design, making it more complex, time-consuming and expensive, especially for multicolored designs. “There are a lot of multicolored jobs that, if you were to screen print, would be very expensive,” DeLorenzo says. “A 12-color print would be out of your price range, and your screen printer might not even be able to handle that.”
2. You can get amazingly photorealistic images with DTG.
DTG is a great option if you want to reproduce a photo you’ve taken with your iPhone on a t-shirt. “The image is going to come out very well if you go that route with it,” DeLorenzo says. You’ll also be able to achieve 10 times the resolution with DTG than you would with screen printing, since DTG printing hits 600 dpi for crispness and clarity.
3. DTG is a great option for printing small t-shirt quantities quickly.
“We recommend DTG to our customers over screen printing when they have a small quantity run under 24 pieces,” DeLorenzo says. You can enjoy the flexibility of printing one-off pieces, along with medium and full production runs with DTG printing. That’s because a decorator can set up a DTG printing machine quickly for different designs, so there’s a faster turnaround time if you’re in a rush or need some tees to bring to an event.
On the other hand, with screen printing, turning out a design requires formatting artwork in a design program and creating individual screens for each color in the design. The actual printing process also takes longer because it requires prepping screens by applying emulsion, exposing the design onto the screen, and aligning multiple screens to achieve the desired result. With no screen prep to worry about for DTG, your decorator can print low quantities of high-color, precise design reproductions for you, and then offer quick and easy reprints when you need them. Screen printing is more economical for larger runs, since the setup costs get spread across a larger quantity of prints.
4. DTG printing on 100% cotton tees produces the best result.
Many decorators, including De Lorenzo, tell us that DTG printing a 100% cotton garment gives you crisp, clear artwork. “Cotton just retains the ink much better,” DeLorenzo says. “We’ve tested certain things, and we’ve definitely come to that clarity when we bring in a customer who wants to set up a store with us” to use 100% cotton garments.
For small businesses and online stores, Family Industries relies on three main BELLA+CANVAS go-to styles: the Unisex Jersey Short Sleeve Tee (3001), the Women’s Slim Fit Tee (6004) and the Unisex Jersey Tank (3480). “As a unisex piece, the 100% cotton 3001 works for everyone,” he says. “The 6004 offers a great cut for women, and if they want a boxier t-shirt, we just shoot them over to a 3001.”
At BELLA+CANVAS, we use a proprietary Airlume combed and ring-spun cotton to create super-soft tees. The Airlume process creates an exceptionally smooth print surface for the highest-quality canvases imaginable that display your DTG artwork in the best possible way.
5. DTG printing can be more eco-friendly than screen printing.
The screen-printing process uses plastisol inks containing phthalates and chemicals for screen preparation and cleanup, which can be harmful to the environment if they’re not disposed of properly. On the other hand, DTG printing typically uses water-based inks, reducing the environmental impact.
“Keep in mind that DTG colors might not come out exactly the way they would with a screen-printing Pantone system though,” DeLorenzo says. “But if you work with your DTG printer, they can test and find the right ways to hit the color match you need.”
6. If your goal is to start a clothing brand, hire a reputable decorator to print your artwork on tees, so you can focus on marketing and selling your product.
“If you’re starting a brand and you don’t want to spend any money upfront, we’d recommend using our on-demand fulfillment program where we print the orders as they come in for you,” DeLorenzo says. “You can resell a t-shirt on your chosen ecommerce platform for double what your decorator charges you!”
7. You can price your DTG t-shirts to sell at a nice profit.
As an example, if DeLorenzo’s shop is DTG printing a 3001, you’d be looking at spending $12 to $14 to launch it on your t-shirt shop. “That way, you can resell it in the $25-to-$30 range, making a nice profit and not carrying any inventory at your business,” he says. “We recommend doubling your margin on all t-shirts.”
8. Start small, then grow.
Rather than splurging on a $1,000 screen-printing run, DeLorenzo recommends testing the waters with DTG-printed 3001 and 6004 tees in your shop. “You can see your dreams come to reality with your store, but not pay for any inventory or overhead” since your decorator fulfills the orders, he says. “That gives you the creativity to do the things you want to do.”