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What is Digital T-Shirt Printing?

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Digital T-shirt printing, also called DTG or direct to garment, is one of the two main ways that custom shirts are created. The other is screen printing. Digital printing is a newer addition to the printing field that requires specialized equipment and does not involve as many steps as screen printing.

Digital T-Shirt Printing

Digital T-shirt printing technology is very similar to the way ink-jet printers work. An image is created - with no restraints to the number of colors or type of artwork used - and the image is printed directly onto the shirt. With screen printing, screens are involved that help to stencil the design onto the T-shirt. However, the more colors involved, the longer the process. A different screen is required for each color to be used in the design. The ink is literally squeezed through the screen and applied onto the shirt, with additional screens used depending on the number of colors in the shirt.

Digital T-Shirt Printing Benefits

  • Great for photos or colorful designs. There is no limit to the number of colors with digital T-shirt printing. The process is faster and simpler when colors are involved, as opposed to the labor-intensive approach with screen printing.
  • Great for details images. Digital T-shirt printing generally picks up details, particularly in photos and other designs, better than screen printing.
  • Affordable for small orders. If the order is for a single shirt or just a few shirts, digital T-shirt printing is affordable. Unlike screen printing, which requires additional screens for every color in the design, digital printing can easily take care of small orders no matter the detail or amount of color involved.
  • No setup costs. There is no special preparation for a photo or design with digital T-shirt printing, but that's often the case with screen printing, where the preparation of a number of screens to accommodate all the colors in a photo or design often requires a separate preparation fee.

Screen Printing Benefits

  • Great for larger orders. The cost per shirt goes down with screen printing for larger orders. Using a large number of screens for a photo or colorful design becomes more cost-effective when more shirts are involved. Many printers will go to digital T-shirt printing for smaller order and rely on screen printing for bulk orders, if the company has both types of printing equipment.
  • Works on many surfaces. While digital printing is best with shirts, screen printing is equally effective on things like hats, bags and coats or jackets.

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