Differences Between Direct to Garment Printing vs Screen Printing

Direct to Garment Printing vs Screen Printing

Everyone who deals in the textile industry has heard about the DTG or digital printing. Most of the industry is well aware of the screen printing process, which is a key printing process for the garment industry.

Let’s understand the key differences between direct to garment printing vs screen printing, the pros, and cons of each. How each one works and also where you use each application and why it is better than the other.

Screen Printing

Screen Printing

1. Traditional Method for Printing on Textiles

It’s been around for a long time invented by the Chinese at some point in time. As the name suggests a screen or stencil is used as the barrier to transfer the inks on the desired area of the garment.

The screen or stencil of the intended design has to be prepared in advance. The screen printing process can use only one color at a time. To print multicolor designs one has to print with multiple screens using color separations.

2. Utilizes – Squeegee a Screen and Stencil

A squeegee a screen and stencil have a mesh stretched over a frame which is your screen then create a stencil on that screen then get ink in the squeegee and push the ink through the stencil onto the t-shirt to create the image on the shirt.

3. Water Based or Plastisol Inks

In the simplest level of how screen cream works it utilizes water-based or plastisol inks. Which the name suggests water based are based on water. They contain water and as that water evaporates they cure and view themselves into the shirt plaster. So inks they require heat to get the plasticizers to a certain temperature which then they cross-linked and then cure.

Direct-to-Garment Digital Printing

DTG Printing

1. Recent Technology

It’s a relatively recent technology. While it has been around for almost two decades, it is commercialized only in last 7-8 years.

2. Utilizes an Inkjet Printer, Modified for Textiles

Utilizes an inkjet printer, modified for textiles which are basically at the simplest level the same as your inkjet printer at home Instead of printing on paper it prints onto t-shirts.

3. Specially Formulated Ink

DTG printers use specially formulated ink that fixes with textiles. Your standard inks from your printer at home wouldn’t do that so. DTG printers offer a white ink as well which is a bit special so far as inkjet printers go.

This ink can print on dark colored garments to provide a white base. If you just print the cyan magenta yellow and black inks they wouldn’t show up on a dark colored garment. So that’s what you needed to create a white ink to print down first as the base and they print the colors then over the top of that.

Pros – Screen Printing

1. Best Quality Print for Longevity and Vibrancy of Color

It lasts a long time. Your screen print should last as long as you’re a t-shirt. You may get a little bit of cracking over time but when it comes down to it, it should last forever.

2. Only Retail Quality Option

Your only retail quality option, you go into any store and most of the t-shirts there will be screen-printed. So instead of screen printing sometimes they’re done with digital technology like a transfer or something and applied to the shirts. But the major majority of t-shirts are screen printed that you’d buy from a shop.

3. Low Cost for Larger Runs

You get a lower cost for the larger run so as the volume increases the costs come down which is standard business practice. With most things, the larger runs people do in the shop and charge less and less for them.

4. Ability to Print Specialty Finishes

You also have the ability to print specialty finishes things like metallic inks, foils, tough inks, flocking, suede inks things like that you have a lot of flexibility with the different effects you can achieve with the screen printing inks.

Cons – Screen Printing

1. Usually Higher Entry Cost

You have to pay set up the cost. Screens need to be set up for the job. Jobs with higher color amounts have a higher screen set-up cost. It’s there’s that barrier;

2. Not Suitable for Short Runs

It’s not suitable for short runs. If you came to me and said Hey I’ve got five shirts, I need them printed tomorrow. It’s not something that would be practical to do. It’s just not practical to print small numbers of shirts with screen printing process because of the setups and everything involved.

3. Photographic and Multicolor Images are Also Difficult to Replicate.

The effective resolution of screen printing is very low, so there are only so many little dots you can put in that in a certain area of print. You have to fit millions of little dots in your design to fit hundreds of the most. So the reproduction of very precise photographic colors is a little bit difficult with screen printing.

You’re also putting on a very coarse surface at the microscopic level. It’s not a smooth flat surface like paper or something, so high color images are expensive. Photographic images are difficult to replicate color accurately.

Pros – Digital Printing

1. Good for One-offs and Short Runs

It is very easy to customize each and every print with If you need one t-shirt for your mate for his birthday or something it’s very difficult to screen print there and make it cost-effective. While that’s perfect for digital print where you have five or ten shirts and they’ve got high color amounts which are the next point.

2. Good for The Photographic and High Colors

Direct to garment ink is good for the photographic colors and high colors. Since it is high resolution (typically 600-1200 dpi) printing, it’s very easy to print photographic colors. That’s perfect for digital printing that sort of situation because you’d only have known five, ten shirts and they have a full-color photographic image on them.

Cons – Digital Printing

1. Productivity

DTG printers tend to have higher upfront investment against the desired productivity. Vis a vis screen printing is more productive.

2. Print Performance

Earlier DTG inks were really wanting on performance parameters like wash fastness & rub resistance. But the continued advancements in technology, new DTG inks offer comparable performance.

The difference in screen and DTG print performance is quite minimized nowadays. Direct to garment printing inks suit a really good area of work like the short runs, high color counts.

The Take-Away

Basically, you need to determine what you need? Whether you need a short run of t-shirts? Do you need a long run of t-shirts? What you need the finished result to be?

You also need to know, what you’re getting. You need to know what results you’re going to get with screen printing. How much will it cost you? If you only get a short run and would it is worthwhile doing digital?

In general, if you offer custom or personalized designs to customers, its good idea to invest in DTG printer. If you plan to cater to businesses that get their designs printed in bulk from you, screen printing is the way to go. Of late a lot of screen printers offer hybrid options of DTG printer integrated with the screen printing set up. It is combining the benefits of both the technology. All in all, a promising future for those who embrace DTG digital printing now!

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