Screenprinting and Direct To Garment Printing(DTG) are two very different methods of printing onto t-shirts. In this article we will explain the differences between each of these methods, the pros and cons of each, and how to decide which one is right for you.
Screenprinting is exactly what the name states, printing with a screen. Your artwork is first broken down into separate layers, one color on each layer. Each of these layers is then transferred on to a screen, and the design is burned in. This burning process makes holes in the mesh of the screen so that when ink is pulled across the screen, it gets pushed through the mesh and onto your tshirt. This is repeated for each of the layers(and colors) until the whole design is finished.
Direct to garment printing is a digital print of your artwork directly on to the shirt(hence the name). Think of a huge ink jet printer with your shirt inside of it, that is basically what happens when using this method of printing. Unlike screenprinting, all of the colors are printed at the same time and there are no screens or different kinds of ink involved.
So what are the pros and cons? Well, both methods have quite a few…
Screenprinting is high quality, it lasts basically forever, there are more options as far as what you can do with your artwork(foil, puff ink, fuzzy ink, and so on), its great for larger orders of shirts(for bands, clothing lines, etc.) But, it is more complicated to design for, each color has to be on its own layer, which sometimes the printer will do for you. Also, color matching can be more difficult and can cost extra on top of having limited colors(usually around 6-12 max). Screenprinting costs more in general because you have to pay for the screens, and the set up. Keep in mind though, you’re paying for higher quality, so it can be worth it.
DTG has its own pros and cons though. Unlimited colors is a pretty big plus. It costs less. Its a faster process. Its a great choice for someone printing just a few shirts, but for someone printing many, it isn’t the best choice. The quality of the print is much, much lower. It will fade in the wash. Its even more difficult to match colors since the printer(not the person printing the shirts, the actual printer) has to mix everything itself. If you want to print on dark colored shirts it costs extra to pretreat the shirt and do a white under base that is probably going to show through on the edges of your design anyway. I guess if you don’t care about print quality, DTG is okay.