What is Direct to Garment DTG printing?

Direct to Garment or DTG printing is the most modern way to print designs on custom products.

Whether you’ve only just heard of the DTG printing technology or have been wearing Direct To Garment printed clothing for a while, a working knowledge of this revolutionary printing method can benefit you in many ways – especially when starting a print on demand business.

In this article, we take a closer look at direct-to-garment printing – its strengths and weaknesses, how it works, and which is the best fabric to print on.

Additionally, we’ll provide some practical tips for creating a successful direct-to-garment design and explore some of the best print on demand products that are the perfect canvas for direct-to-garment printing.

Table of Contents

What Is DTG Printing?

A DTG print grey hoodie with a colourful image of a tiger.  The image is a graffiti style with dripping paint.

Direct-to-garment or DTG printing is a printing process that sprays water-based inks onto apparel using modified inkjet technology.

Unlike screen printing, with the DTG Direct To Garment process – which is less labour intensive – very little setup time is required, making it perfect for even small-quantity orders. If necessary, you can easily get a single shirt printed.

As a cost-effective way to create detailed designs, DTG is a go-to printing method for many businesses and entrepreneurs worldwide.

With DTG printing, the cherry on top is that there are no order minimums, allowing people to order as few or as many products as they like.


DTG Printing: Pros and Cons

When it comes to printing for profit, it’s no surprise that Direct To Garment printing has become the preferred choice among entrepreneurs, artists, and other creatives.

However, to get the full picture and better understand digital printing, let’s look at some of its strengths and weaknesses.

a female worker using an Epson F2100 DTG printer


The Pros of Direct-to-Garment Printing

High-detail image quality, unlimited colours. DTG prints are exceptional in their quality. This method can recreate intricate colour designs in the full spectrum of colours, resulting in very detailed and high-quality prints.

No minimum order quantity. With DTG printing, you can order as few or as many products as you like. DTG printers offer a cost-effective way to print products on demand.

Environmentally friendly. Today’s technology has paved the way for using environmentally-friendly inks, and the process is highly energy-efficient.


The Cons of Direct-to-Garment Printing

Although the DTG machines have revolutionized the apparel industry and have various strengths, they also have some weaknesses. Here are some of them. 

Typically, it doesn’t work on all types of fabrics. Although it depends on the DTG machine, garments used for DTG printing should have at least 50% cotton to aid in the absorption for better quality.

However, technology has advanced – digital printing on garments made from polyester is no longer a distant dream.

Limited application surfaces. Unlike sublimation printing, which allows all-over-prints, DTG printing surfaces can be limiting. Additional DTG print areas require a lot more manual setup.

DTG is not optimal for bulk orders. DTG printing is slower than other printing methods. However, it’s ideal for Print on Demand and eCommerce businesses – you can easily print a few shirts and still make a profit.

multiple images of DTG printed clothing


How Does DTG Printing Work?

Although the DTG printer and their models may vary, when it comes to the DTG printing process, there are a few basic steps that should always be followed.

Pre-treatment Process

Pre-treatment for DTG printing is essential. With it, DTG printer inks are going to adhere better to the garment. On top of that, it’ll prevent the ink from washing off and enhance the vibrancy of colours.

Here are two ways it’s applied:

  • Hand spraying. A manual pre-treating using a sprayer, which should be done as evenly as possible, using a smooth back-and-forth motion.
  • Pre-treatment machine. A device that you put your shirt into, press a button, and have it pre-treated automatically.

Printing Process

After the pre-treatment has dried, it’s time to place the garment in the DTG printer and begin the digital printing.

All garments – except white ones – have a white under base applied first. It’s done to enhance the vibrancy of the final print.

As soon as the under base is printed, the DTG printer adds the rest of the colours. Like an inkjet printer, it uses a mix of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Curing Process

When the custom DTG printed shirt has been printed, it must be dried for the final time to cure the ink. By doing so, the garments are better able to resist washing, so they don’t look dull after only a few washes.

Here are two ways DTG custom printed apparel can be cured:

  • Conveyor dryer. Typically, most industrial manufacturers cure ink using a conveyor dryer.
  • Heat press. A good option for small businesses with only a few products to cure. If there’s more, it becomes a rather labour-intensive and time-consuming endeavour.

The Best Fabrics for Direct-To-Garment Printing

A clothing rack full of colourful T-shirts

Since DTG printers use water-based ink, you can get the best results with natural fabrics. This is because they can absorb ink very well, creating vivid colours printed directly onto the garment.

These are the most suitable textiles for DTG:

  • Cotton
  • Ring-spun cotton
  • Combed and ring-spun cotton
  • Organic cotton
  • Linen, other natural textiles

Generally, for the best results, when the fabric is not 100% cotton, any garment used for DTG should have at least 50% cotton to absorb the ink.

However, it does not mean digital printing on garments made from polyester or poly-cotton blends isn’t possible.

DTG printed T-shirts one black one white with a colourful image on the front


Tips for Your First DTG Design

DTG printing allows great precision in image reproduction, which means you can go as complex as you like in terms of colours and details in your designs.

To create a great design, you should:

  • Search for inspiration online. You can draw inspiration from AmazonEtsyPinterest, and many other sites to see what kind of designs other people are selling.
  • Ensure high-resolution image quality. When creating designs for shirts or any other apparel, ensure you have a high-resolution image. This way, the DTG printer can create a clear, sharp, and colourful print.

The key is ensuring your designs are saved in the highest resolution possible for the best print quality.

  • Meet the print file requirements. When designing, ensure you’re following the print file requirements to get the best DTG printing possible.

In the side panel of our Artwork Guide, you can view specific file requirements for each design area of the garment.

  • Create a mock-up of your product. Make sure to create mock-ups to view how your printed garments will look in real life.

After you’ve finished your design, our customisation tool allows you to preview the final product and create realistic mock-ups that you can use on your digital storefront.

Whatever your goals are, you should always strive to make a connection between your brand and your customers.

close up of a T-shirt inside label


Best Shirts for DTG Printing

Shirts are perhaps the most common products chosen for DTG printing. Whatever design you choose, it won’t do you any good if the t-shirt itself is of low quality. The fabric and supplier of t-shirts matter as much as the printing method.

With Rebel Printerz, you can choose between various shirts you can customize to your heart’s content. Our shirts are sourced from reputable suppliers such as the Bella Canvas, Gildan, AWDIS, and many other popular brands.

Closing Thoughts

In the world of on-demand manufacturing, the DTG printing method remains unrivalled. If you’re just starting your entrepreneurial journey, DTG printing offers a hassle-free way of easily printing one of a kind products for your customers.

With many strengths, it’s the go-to printing method for print on demand entrepreneurs of all calibres. Here’s why:

  • Cost-effective. No investment is required, and anyone can start printing today.
  • High detail print quality. With DTG, the entire design looks photorealistic.
  • No minimum order quantity. Order as few or as many products as you wish.
  • Environmentally-friendly. With eco-friendly inks, printing is more sustainable.

Whether you want to start a print on demand business, simply print something for yourself, or scale your existing venture, DTG printing offers something for everyone.

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