Ink Wars : DTG vs Screen Printing Explained

Ink Wars DTG vs Screen Printing Explained

Digital-to-garment (DTG) printing and screen printing are two prominent methods in the world of custom apparel. Each technique has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, and choosing between them is a crucial decision for businesses and individuals alike.


In the world of custom apparel, the choice between DTG and screen printing can significantly impact the quality, cost, and overall success of a project. Understanding the differences between these two methods is essential for making informed decisions. Let’s delve into the nuances of Direct to garment printing and screen printing to discern which might be the better fit for your needs.

DTG Printing Explained

DTG printing, or Digital-to-Garment printing, is a modern method that involves directly applying ink onto the fabric. Unlike traditional methods, DTG uses specialized printers designed to handle detailed and colorful designs with precision. The process is similar to printing a digital image on paper but adapted for textiles.

How DTG Printing Works

In DTG printing, the garment is loaded onto a flatbed printer, and the design is directly transferred from a digital file onto the fabric. The ink is absorbed by the fibers, resulting in a vibrant and high-resolution print. This method is particularly suitable for intricate designs and smaller production runs.

Screen Printing Unveiled

Screen printing, also known as silk screening, is a more traditional method that involves creating a stencil (or screen) for each color in the design. Ink is then pushed through the screens onto the fabric, layer by layer, to build up the final image.

Traditional Process and Materials Used

Screen printing involves a more manual setup, with screens being prepared for each color in the design. This method is well-suited for bulk production due to its efficiency once the screens are set up. However, the initial setup can be time-consuming.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Screen Printing

Screen printing excels in large-scale production, offering cost efficiency for high quantities. It provides vibrant colors and durability, especially on darker fabrics. On the downside, the setup costs and limitations in color gradients can be drawbacks for some projects.

Quality Comparison

When it comes to print quality, both DTG and screen printing have their strengths. DTG printing is praised for its ability to reproduce intricate details and gradients with precision. On the other hand, screen printing is known for vibrant and opaque colors, making it an excellent choice for bold and solid designs.

Color Accuracy and Resolution

DTG printing often surpasses screen printing in color accuracy, capturing subtle shades and gradients more effectively. Screen printing, while offering impressive color vibrancy, may struggle with intricate details and color subtleties.

Production Speed

For businesses with tight deadlines, the production speed of each printing method is a critical factor to consider. The time it takes to complete an order can influence customer satisfaction and overall efficiency. DTG printing is known for its quick setup and turnaround time, making it ideal for on-demand or small-batch orders. The digital nature of the process eliminates the need for extensive setup and cleanup.

Discussing the Production Speed of Screen Printing

Screen printing can be more time-consuming in terms of setup, especially for multi-color designs. However, once the screens are prepared, the actual printing process is fast, making it efficient for large quantities.

Versatility of Design

The design flexibility offered by each printing method can significantly impact the creative possibilities for custom apparel. Understanding the strengths and limitations of DTG and screen printing in terms of design is crucial for achieving the desired results.

Exploring the Design Options with DTG Printing

DTG printing excels in reproducing intricate and detailed designs, including photographs and complex artwork. The digital process allows for a wide range of colors and gradients, providing ample creative freedom. Screen printing is versatile in its own right, especially for bold and solid designs. While it may face limitations with intricate details, it compensates with vibrant and opaque colors, making it suitable for specific design styles.

Durability and Longevity

The longevity of prints is a crucial consideration, especially for apparel that will undergo regular wear and washing. Both DTG and screen printing offer durability, but the factors influencing longevity differ. DTG prints can be durable, especially when applied to high-quality fabrics. However, the longevity may vary depending on factors such as the type of ink used and the care instructions followed. Screen printing is known for its durability and ability to withstand multiple washes. The thicker layers of ink provide longevity, making it a preferred choice for items that will see frequent use.

Environmental Impact

As sustainability becomes a growing concern, the environmental impact of various printing methods is gaining attention. Both DTG and screen printing have their eco-friendly aspects and considerations. DTG printing is generally considered more environmentally friendly than some traditional methods. It uses water-based inks, reducing the use of harmful chemicals, and the digital process minimizes waste. While screen printing involves more manual steps and may use plastisol inks, advancements have been made to reduce its environmental impact. Water-based inks and eco-friendly practices are becoming more prevalent in screen printing.

Customization Options

Customization is often a key factor for those opting for personalized apparel. Understanding the customization options available in both DTG and screen printing can help individuals and businesses make informed decisions. DTG printing allows for detailed and personalized designs, making it suitable for one-off or small-batch orders. The digital process enables easy customization without additional setup costs. Screen printing offers customization options, especially for large quantities. While the initial setup may incur additional costs, the per-unit cost decreases with higher quantities, making it a viable option for bulk customization.

To grasp the strengths of each printing method, it’s essential to understand where they are commonly employed. Recognizing the popular applications for DTG and screen printing sheds light on their respective niches. NW Custom Apparel, DTG printing is favored for applications that require detailed and intricate designs, such as personalized apparel, custom merchandise, and limited-edition items. Screen printing excels in bulk production and is often chosen for items like team uniforms, event merchandise, and promotional products. Its vibrant colors make it suitable for bold and impactful designs.


In the dynamic world of custom apparel printing, the choice between DTG and screen printing is not a one-size-fits-all decision. Each method has its strengths, and the best choice depends on the specific requirements of your project. Whether you prioritize intricate details, vibrant colors, cost efficiency, or sustainability, understanding the nuances of DTG and screen printing is crucial for making an informed decision.

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Antonio Massey

Production Team: Folder

Antonio Massey recently joined NWCA in June of 2022. His role on the Production Team has greatly improved our processes and productivity. Antonio is always willing to lift heavy boxes or help his co-workers during busy times. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dog and mastering video games.


Alicia Wada

Shipping Clerk

Alicia Wada is passionate about helping her co-workers at Northwest Custom Apparel in any way that she can. She works in our Shipping and Logistics department. Alicia, who goes by Ali, has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. She lived in Japan for ten years and recently brought her family to America in 2019. She is interested in learning crafts and textile art from around the world.


Erik Mickelson


Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.



Ruth Nhoung

Production Manager

Ruth Nhoung is our Production Manager and Northwest Custom Apparel is lucky to have her. Thanks to her vast knowledge of machine embroidery and dedication to creating a comfortable and supportive work environment, the production plant runs smoothly and customers are pleased with our work. She is a loving mother and grandmother and enjoys spending quality time with her siblings. She says, “I love everything about Northwest Custom Apparel: the people, the atmosphere, the work, and the customers. I love what I do and I embrace all of NWCA’s core values”.


Steve Deland

Art Director

Steve Deland has been our amazing Artist since 2017. He loves working at Northwest Custom Apparel because he appreciates the goal-oriented, progressive-thinking management style. He is most passionate about his art, which includes scroll saw woodwork, and his five grandchildren.



Taylar Hanson


Taylar Hanson is a highly acclaimed Saleswoman at Northwest Custom Apparel. She has a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles from Washington State University. “Go Cougs!” The best part of Taylar’s job is getting to work with longtime customers who trust us to do the best work and take care of their needs. She is passionate about appreciating nature, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Nika Lao


Nika Lao is very knowledgeable in how the business is ran because she began as an Embroidery Machine Operator and has worked hard to become the excellent and personable saleswoman she is today. She enjoys the stress-free environment and the many chances to connect with her co-workers over potlucks, BBQs, and bowling parties. Nika is a proud sister of two highly successful brothers and can boast mastering three languages herself: Khmer, Thai, and English. She is an avid camper, enjoys going to farmer markets, and loves cooking.


Bradley Wright


Bradley Wright has been a vital team member of NWCA since 2017. As our accountant and knower-of-all-things, Bradley is proud to work closely with his wonderful colleagues. He studied at the University of Washington. These days he dedicates his free time to his new house.


Dominic Nguyen

DTG Operator

Dominic Nguyen recently joined our Direct-To-Garment department. He says he loves the family work environment at Northwest Custom Apparel. In his free time, Dom likes to listen to music, hangout with friends, and play video games. He comes from a very big family which can be very chaotic at times, but is always exciting.


Sothea Tann

Production Team: Trimmer

Sothea Tann recently joined the Production Team in 2022. She finds Northwest Custom Apparel to be a good working environment with helpful and friendly staff. In her free time, Sothea spends quality time with her family and, overall, focuses on a peaceful and happy lifestyle.


Brian Beardsley

DTG Supervisor

Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.


UT Tri Tran

Embroidery Machine Operator

UT Tri Tran loves Northwest Custom Apparel so much that, although she has already retired after a long career in machine embroidery operations, she is happy to return part time. She says, “I love the family style work environment and how everyone shares food, laughter, and fun on a regular basis.” In her free time she is dedicated to living a healthy and peaceful lifestyle with her friends and family.



Embroidery Machine Operator

BunsereytheavyHoeu, who goes by Theavy, won our Operator of the Year in 2021. She takes on many roles in the production team. She says, “These are not my co-workers, these are my family! I cherish all the memories we make together”. When she goes home to be with her family, she makes the most of her time with them by holding family get-togethers and even karaoke competitions.


Sreynai Meang

Embroidery Machine Operator

SreynaiMeang is a hard-working Machine Operator. She is most passionate about helping people. Sreynai, who goes by Nai, likes to exercise in her free time and talk with her family in Cambodia.


Kanha Chhorn

Embroidery Machine Operator

Kanha Chhorn has been an Embroidery Operator with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. She is delightful and always makes everyone smile and laugh. Kanha takes on additional tasks that allow us to exceed our customers’ expectations. In her free time, she can be found at her local temple or spending quality time with her family and friends.


Savy Som

Embroidery Machine Operator

SavySom is one of our Machine Operators who is passionate about embroidery and sewing. She enjoys working at NWCA because of its flexibility. She has two teenage sons and loves spending time with her family on the weekends.



Embroidery Machine Operator

SorphornSorm has been a Machine Operator since 2011. One of her four sisters works here as well. Her other relatives are in Cambodia. In her free time, Sorphorn studies English, listens to music, and enjoys exercising.


Jim Mickelson


Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.

Northwest Custom Apparel
Northwest Custom Apparel
163 Google reviews
Steve McMains
Steve McMains
Great place to do business with.
Hector Aponte
Hector Aponte
Splendid service by this team. I needed a job done in one day and without hesitation I was helped. Besides the no notice, need now accommodation, the overall quality of the job of superb.
anthony mckenna
anthony mckenna
Amazing service and quality of work.
katie latimer
katie latimer
This small business is excellent! Great turnaround times and pricing. We've completely switched over to them for our uniform needs. The embroidery looks amazing and very professional. We have gotten jackets, vests, safety vests, hats and uniform polo shirts with them. The screen prints are very resistant to numerous washes. They have been super flexible and patient with us and going through getting PO set up with our company.
Dave Lambing
Dave Lambing
I am the Quartermaster for the Tacoma Fire Buff Battalion. We use Northwest Custom Apparel to produce our uniform articles. Their work is always perfect and done is record time. I can't recommend them highly enough.
Kyle Keehnel
Kyle Keehnel
Our company has been going to NWCA for years and have always encountered friendly service and quality products.
Smokey B3ar21
Smokey B3ar21
Super friendly staff , wonderful products for our company and couldn’t be happier with them
Chuck Schilling
Chuck Schilling
Working with NWCA was like hitting the EASY button! Ten days from our initial meeting to completed shirts and we couldn't be more pleased.
Bret Lauritzen
Bret Lauritzen
Prompt service
Cassandra Johnson
Cassandra Johnson
Words can't describe how much I appreciate the outstanding customer service I received from Northwest Custom Apparel! I placed an order for two coats that I needed in one week for a Valentines' day gift and Nika made it happen! She was proactive, quickly responsive, and understanding of me needing to see different looks of our company logo. She was incredibly sweet, accommodating, and made every effort to make my order the way I wanted it. A part of me felt bad asking to see the different looks, but she reassured me it was not a problem and was on top of her game! Every staff member I interacted with when I came to their shop was very pleasant, welcoming, and attentive as well. All around great work! Will absolutely use them again and highly recommend!!! Thank you Northwest Custom Apparel!!!