DTG Printing vs. Screenprinting | Pros, Cons, How Much It Costs

When you're choosing what type of printing method to use for printing your artwork designs on your garments, it's important that you know the differences between these two techniques so you can maximize results while minimizing costs.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Quick Breakdown

Screen printing is the most commonly used technique for printing designs on textiles.  It's a versatile process that can be used for large or small runs, and it produces high-quality prints with bright colors and intricate detail.  However, screen printing can be expensive, especially if you need to order a screen for each color in your design.

DTG printing is a newer technology that allows you to print directly onto garments without going through a screen printer.  This process uses special dye-sublimation inks that are applied into a pre-designed image by a computer system.  The inks become part of the fabric, allowing for vibrant colors and exceptional detail.  DTG printing is also known as spot or direct to garment printing because it prints only what is needed instead of making a screen as screen printers do.

What Are The Differences Between Screen Printing & DTG?

Screen printing works by screen filler squeegee screen printing ink screen mesh screen, then transferring the image to garment using heat and/or pressure.

DTG Printing is a sublimation technique that allows you to print on textiles directly, without going through a screen printer.  The DTG printer uses special dye-sublimation inks that are applied into a pre-designed image by a digital printing system.  The inks become part of the fabric, allowing for vibrant colors and exceptional detail.  It's also known as spot or direct to garment printing because it prints only what is needed instead of making a screen as screen printers do.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of DTG Printing?

DTG printing has many advantages over screen printing.

First, it's much faster - you can print a fullcolor image in minutes, as opposed to hours for screen printing. Second, there's no set up time or costs involved - you can print any design you like, without having to create a screen first. Third, there's no waste - because screen printers screen print one design at a time, they have to screen each color separately.  If you screen print one shirt with five colors, that's five screens total. Not only are the screens costly to make, but they also produce waste because once the screen is prepared for printing it can't be used again.  DTG printers print directly onto garments so there's no screen making involved and much lower waste production.

Pros of DTG Printing:

- Color reproduction is excellent

- Much easier to print detailed colors on dark garments

- Vibrant designs, colors & exceptional detail

- More cost-effective extensive color options

- Unlimited number of designs in full color

- Cost savings per print for multi-colored designs (vs. screenprinting)

- No need for screen setup or waste - quick turnaround times (minutes vs hours)

Cons of DTG Printing:

- The initial purchase price for the digital printer is higher than screen printing

- Setup cost plus paper costs are higher, because you have to use paper with the dye sublimation inks.  The paper is very expensive and can only be used once.  Once it's printed on, it has to be discarded.

Pros of Screen Printing:

- The initial purchase price is lower than the upfront investment of DTG printers

- You can print multi-color designs one screen at a time instead of having to print each color separately like DTG printing.  This means you get more for your money since screen printers don't have to pay for wasted ink cartridges, screen mesh or screens that didn't come out right.  Screen printers simply prepare their screen then start printing until they run out of product or ink.

- There is a wide range of experienced screen printers all over the world, which can be helpful for beginners.

Cons of Screen Printing:

- It's a slower process - screen printers often have to wait for the ink to dry before they can print the next color

- Screen printers require manual labor, so there's a higher learning curve and it takes longer to produce a high-quality design

- Screen printing isn't as accurate as DTG printing, so you may get some "bleeding" of colors from one part of the image onto another if not done properly.

 

How Does Dye Sublimation Work?

Like screen printing, dye sublimation is a way to selectively apply ink to paper or fabric.  However, instead of using screen mesh as screen printers do, dye sublimation printers use laser technology to transfer your images onto garments or paper.  A heat process transfers the dye from its solid-state directly into the gas phase which in turn fuses it onto fabric substrates when they are rapidly heated to high temperatures under high pressure. The result is an incredibly vibrant and durable image.

What are the Benefits of Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is eco-friendly.  It uses less water than screenprinting, and because it doesn't involve the use of harmful solvents, it's safe for all types of apparel.  The dye sublimation inks are also odorless when cured, unlike screen printers that use harmful chemicals during the screen printing process that leave behind an unpleasant odor.

How Does Sublimation Printing Save Money?

Since there's no need to screen print garments using screen filler and screen mesh screens , screen printers save money on materials like ink, paint, brushes and acetone. They also save money on costly equipment like exposure units since dye sublimation printers don't require a UV exposure unit or a flash cure oven that is typically used in screen printing.

 

What is direct to garment printing (DTG Printing)?

DTG printing is a digital screenprinting process that prints directly onto fabric using specialized inkjet printers. DTG printers are similar in design to home inkjet printers, but they use special cartridges filled with textile inks instead of regular printer ink. DTG printing offers many benefits over traditional screenprinting, including the ability to print photographic quality images, greater color vibrancy, and the ability to print designs on darker fabrics.

How does DTG printing work?

DTG printers work by heating the textile ink until it turns into a gas. The gas then permeates the fabric, bonding with the fibers to create a permanent print.

What are the benefits of DTG printing?

DTG printing offers a number of benefits over traditional screenprinting, including:

-Prints images with incredible detail and clarity

-No set-up costs or screen charges

-Prints on a variety of fabrics, not just cotton

-Produces less waste than screen printing

-Can print small quantities without additional cost

What type of designs work best on DTG printed shirts?

DTG printers are capable of printing any type of design, however designs with lots of small details and thin lines tend to work best. Images that include large areas of solid color or screenprinted designs may not produce as good results when printed using a DTG printer.

DTG printing is perfect for designs with lots of intricate details, as well as photos. Screen printing is better for large areas of solid color or designs with fewer details. Dye sublimation is best for prints with continuous tones and subtle gradients, as well as black and white.

What is Screenprinting?

Screen printing is a manual screen-printing process in which ink is forced through a prepared screen mesh to transfer the image onto apparel or other products, such as ceramic tiles.  The screen print method uses an application of photo emulsion onto the screen mesh that allows for high detail artwork, photographic images or dye sublimation transfers.  The screen can be reused multiple times with proper care and cleaning procedures, making it ideal for custom t-shirt shops who work with small quantities of shirts or large orders alike.  It's also known as silk screening because the first screens were made out of silk.

The process has been in use for over 100 years, with early versions tracing back to 19th century Europe when printing shops started offering transfer services to local businesses. Screenprinting is ideal for printing large quantities of shirts and other items, as it is a relatively low-cost method that doesn't require high-quality artwork.

How Does Screen Printing Work?

A stencil or mesh screen covers portions of the fabric that will not receive ink, creating a pattern when ink is pushed through the areas not covered by screen mesh. The screen is reusable and can be used many times before needing to be replaced.

DTG vs Screen Printing: Cost Breakdown

When comparing costs on which printing process to use, screen printing is usually the most popular option. However, with screen printing's popularity comes its disadvantages - mainly in the price of prints and setup time involved.

Direct to garment screen printing can be more expensive because screen printed garments are priced per color & print position rather than by the piece like DTG or sublimation prints.

While screen printing can commonly yield higher quality results, it also takes 3x longer for each print compared to DTG. This means that screen printers are constantly sitting at their presses waiting for jobs to come in before they work on them. With screen printers only being able to produce 6-12 pieces per hour depending on complexity, can add up quickly and become a costlier option than DTG printing.

One of the most common screenprinting materials used is white ink, which can add $0.25-$0.75 onto screenprinted garments per color & print position on screen printed garments, depending on what screen mesh count is selected.

The main reason screenprints are a higher cost is because screen-printed shirts cost by the piece and can require significant setup charges to get started that don't apply with DTG or dye sublimation printing methods. The DTG costs are more even across the board, but screen printers can charge more for intricate designs.

DTG printing is quickly becoming the most popular option for printing custom t-shirts and other apparel because of its low cost and high quality. With no setup fees, DTG printers are a great option for small businesses and individual customers who want to print a few shirts without spending a lot of money. Additionally, there is no minimum order quantity, so print shops with these digital printers can produce one shirt at a time without any additional charges.