DTG / Direct-to-Garment Printing

When in comes to printing techniques, digital or Direct-To-Garment (DTG) is a relatively new process. A majority of the printing Indigo Clothing does for clients is screen printing but from time to time certain designs are better suited to using the
digital printing method.

Normally, Indigo will take a look at your design and tell you which print technique will produce the best results. We are skilled at selecting the best print process for the job.

Compare with other t shirt printing methods

When to use DTG printing?

  • One-off samples for client meetings or press events
  • Small volume jobs below the 20 piece minimum we have for screen printing.
  • Multicolored logos, CMYK or photographic designs.

DTG printing is a relatively new print process, however it does have a number of advantages over screen printing. Garments can be printed using multi-coloured images (instead of spot colours associated with screen printing), and the fact that you don’t need to have, or pay for, separations, films and screens – you quickly see the advantages of the DTG method.

Furthermore, as printers ourselves we don’t have to turn away those of you who want smaller quantities. In the past, because of the long process in creating the films, screens, etc. for screen printing, doing small quantities was just not worth the time and expense. However, the process for DTG is so quick and easy to do, that small quantities are now possible for those of you who just want a few items produced as opposed to set minimums.

The colour of garments best suited to this DTG printer are whites, but it can also print onto light pastel colours dependent on the design. So to confirm if it is possible, we would need to check your design before we could proceed with any printing.

How direct-to-gament printing works

Put simply, DTG printers are bigger versions of your desktop inkjet printer (with specially tested water based inks) but instead of taking paper, they can take t-shirts, or other garments, as the print media.

The inks contain a ‘fusing agent’, so when the design has been printed and heat pressed on the garments, the ‘fusing agent’ enables the inks to permanently adhere to the fibres of the fabric. The outcome is a high quality, vibrant coloured print that is extremely durable and long lasting. So if you are worried about instant fading of your design, fear no more, as the inks have been developed and vigorously tested to prevent such problems occurring.

Artwork is sent to the printer via a USB cable, the t-shirt goes into the machine, the print heads move left and right and in under a minute the t-shirt comes out again with a bright, vibrant and soft print.

Are digital prints durable?

DTG prints will suffer from fatigue quicker than screen printed garments though the technology has come a long way in recent years. Digital prints are fully wash and colour fast to 40ºc in all popular washing products, can be dry cleaned and even tumble dried at low temperature.

What artwork can be used with digital printers?

We can use most file formats e.g. jpegs, .eps, .pdf, .ai, .png etc and therefore doesn’t require vector based programs that are essential for other forms of printing , However, the quality of the image produced is directly related to the quality of the image supplied. In other words, the higher the quality of the image, the better the print result will be. If you have a poor quality image it will print out the poor image. So ensure the quality of the artwork in terms of resolution is high!

Indigo uses the best digital printing machines

There are many suppliers of digital printing machines and the cost and quality of the machines makes a big difference to the print quality. Prices for machines start at approx. £10,000 going up to £100,000. Indigo went along to the major industry trade show called FESPA, Berlin (2007), to check out the quality of all the machines side-by-side. We went away realising there was a big difference in the output quality of the different machines. In the end we opted for a Brother GT541.

Brother GT-541

brother-dtg-printing-gt-541The DTG garment printer we have inhouse is the Brother GT-541. It has a small footprint and it’s adjustable material platens have proven to be truely versatile. For example, garments that have buttons and/or zippers are no problem for our machine – it simply prints right over them. As well as standard platen for t-shirts and sweatshirts, there are various special formats available, including for light coloured jeans/trousers, canvas bags, napkins, towels and much more.

When choosing a DTG print machine, there were many out there in the market, especially new smaller ones that could print onto dark garments, but unfortunately the quality of print was poor in comparison to the GT-541. They would initially come out OK, but were prone to eventual cracking (due to the white under base) and fading (due to the nature of their inks)- and we require high quality prints for our clients. So for our inhouse needs we opted for high quality printing over a machine that could print onto dark garments.

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