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Should You Switch from Traditional Screen Printing to Direct to Garment Printing?

There are a lot of ways to decorate garments. You can screen print, embroider, applique, and heat transfer. Truly the list can go on and on. One of the most popular ways to decorate garments is to use a method called direct to garment (DTG) printing. Many traditional screen printers have faced the dilemma of switching from their tried and true method and move to DTG. Here are some things to consider when exploring this topic.

What is Direct to Garment Printing?

There are printers on the market that can print an image on clothing. So it’s just like printing on a piece of paper, but instead of paper you are printing on something like a t-shirt. The image is on a file in your computer and now you are just printing it out directly onto a garment. The ink is still plastisol, but it comes in cartridges like you would find in a normal printer.

What kinds of images can you print with DTG printing?

You can print the same sorts of images that you would print with a normal screen printer. You can also print pictures. One of the unique features of DTG is that you can have unlimited colors. So with that being the case your options expand. You can print family photos, colorful artwork, and much more. The options expand with a DTG printer. The quality and the resolution allow for very intricate images.

Will the DTG replace traditional screen printing?

The short answer is no. At least not anytime soon. There are advantages to both types of printing. One must do a cost analysis to see when it is more advantageous to use traditional screen printing as opposed to DTG. It is more advantageous to print large amounts of shirts with traditional screen printing. However, as a business owner you don’t want to turn away small orders. DTG is perfect for small orders. If you have a customer that just needs a few shirts then this is the perfect option.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Screen Printing

Startup costs are lower with traditional screen printing. You can easily start with a small press and work your way up. In that respect you don’t need a lot of money. You don’t even need to have a large space to produce shirts. In theory, you can do it on your tabletop at home.  However, as your screen printing enterprise grows you will need a larger space. You don’t need expensive machinery to enter the industry. It grows with you.

One of the problems with traditional screen printing is that there is setup time. It takes time to produce screens for screen printing. This can turn into increased costs if you have to pay staff. Making screen negatives and washing out emulsion takes time. This is the primary reason that traditional screen printers do not want to print small runs of shirts. If you are going to take a considerable amount of time to set up a print job then you need to recoup your costs by printing a large number of shirts. 

You can keep and reuse your screens, but this means that you will need to purchase new screens when you intend to use your old screens again. This can be expensive, plus you will need a place to store your screens. 

There is also the issue of proficiency. It takes time to understand the intricacies of screen printing. From the issues with plastisol to dealing with humidity. There is a lot to learn. Not only would you need to learn all of this on your own, but you would also need to train any future employees to screen print as well. This can take time. Time is money. The time you spend on training a new screen printer takes away time that you can use printing and selling shirts. 

Pros and Cons of DTG Printing

We’ve already stated a number of positives for DTG printing. Unlimited colors and catering to small orders are fantastic. You can use DTG printing as a home based business. It doesn’t take up that much space. There is not much of a learning curve to learning the direct to garment process. You can start working immediately. 

Storage for your business should be a breeze. All of the images for your screen printing business can sit on your printer. There is no need to have a screen room. You can use a hard drive or even removable storage to hold all of your designs. That makes things easy. When you need to print a new design you just need to load the design and print. Simple.

While there are many reasons that DTG is awesome there are some drawbacks to it as well. Cost is the first consideration. DTG printers are expensive. A decent  printer can set you back $15,000. That’s for starters. You may need to purchase additional equipment such as a DTG pretreatment machine or even a heat press. You’ll need to plan on how to finance these purchases. Some dealerships will allow you to finance the equipment, but that is an ongoing bill. Remember that this is a decent DTG printer. There are better DTG printers. Those printers can run up to $250,000. They have higher resolution and increase productivity. That’s a lot of money for one printer. Just remember that you can start small with the cheaper model and it will serve you well. For a home based business this is a great option. 

Combining Both Into One Garment Decoration Business

The best option is to combine both traditional screen printing and DTG printing into one business. It can be costly, but you can do both in one business. You start with one and then add the other in. Most people begin with traditional screen printing and then they add the DTG printing in later. It’s a natural transition for a screen printer. A screen printer will start adding up the dollars from the smaller orders that they are turning away and adding a DTG printer will make perfect financial sense. 

When DTG printers decide that they want to expand they can purchase a larger DTG printer, or they can move into traditional screen printing to take on larger jobs. This will take more effort, but with more effort comes bigger rewards. 

What’s great is that you will be able to take on both large and small orders. You won’t have to turn customers away.


Both options are exciting and can bring you rewards. It is best to determine your ultimate goals and the pathway that best suits you. There is plenty of information on the business of traditional screen printing on this website. If you are looking for additional information on screen printing then head over to to find out more information. 

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