Everything you need to know about our direct-to-garment printing!
What is DTG?
Direct-to-garment (DTG) is a method where a digital printer is used to print a design directly onto a garment using inkjet technology. Picture a futuristic inkjet printer the size of your bathroom that costs more than a house! With this process, the inks are absorbed by the fibers of the garment. Imagine an inkjet printer, but using a blank garment instead of paper- and that’s essentially how DTG printing works.
Since DTG is printed using a digital printer, it has less color limitations than screen printing, which allows for more versatility since you are not required to match colors by inks and pantones. Because of this, the print stays pretty close to true color. Additionally, with DTG, customization is super simple. Since you are able to print an image directly on a garment, DTG does not require any up-front investment, inventory commitments, or set-up requirements. DTG helps us invest more in artists and less in inventory, providing more opportunities for artists to be creative and take design risks while giving them more canvases to explore.
DTG vs. Screenprinting
Let’s explore the differences between these two printing methods.
You Are My Universe by Lim Heng Swee
Above is the original art file we used to print (sans background). Now let’s look at a side-by-side of the design printed by both DTG and screenprinting.
Let’s take note of the pros and cons of each:
- DTG prints colors more accurate to the original art file, whereas screenprinting has to find the closest pantone match which can cause a bit of variation. If you’ve ordered a reprint of a tee you’ve owned in the past, this is the cause for the variation – DTG will match the artist’s original colors, whereas the old shirt contains colors we thought were the closest pantone matches.
- Saturation is much higher in screenprinting. While DTG can achieve nice and bright colors, there are certain hues (i.e reds) that will print a little bit more toned down. (See color section for more details)
- Halftones with higher frequencies can be achieved nicely on screenprint, but can get lost on DTG because of their small size. On DTG, we’ve found that frequencies less than 25LPI prevent the largest loss of details.
- DTG can more accurately depict details without the compromise of knocking a design down into a certain number of colors. This particularly favors heavily colored and illustrated designs, gradients, and even photography!
The DTG Color Spectrum
Here’s a full color spectrum printed on DTG. As you can see, the hardest hues to hit are the bright reds, cyans, and greens. Let’s explore quick spectrums of these three colors with provided RGB values.
Let’s use this Color swatch template as our reference for this next part. You’ll be able to pull this into Photoshop for easier visuals. On this template, the top row of colors starts with a solid color, and each swatch after it is a % transparency of that color. On the bottom row is if the color was solid of the same value of the above color, but if you were to lay a white background behind it and use the eyedropper in photoshop to get the solid hex value.
Here are some printed versions of this template:
On a black garment:
On a lighter garment:
Since DTG files are printing in RGB, it’s difficult to achieve super bright and neon CMYK colors. Here are our RGB suggestions to achieve those neon and pastel colors:
Black inks on DTG
Although the true black is usually #000000, achieving this on our DTG printers is a bit different. The way to get a nice dark black, especially on lighter garments, is with the CMYK values 55,55,55,100, respectively.
White Transparencies on DTG
Here is a spectrum of different percentages of opacities of white ink so you can visualize how it will print. Our recommendation would be that you stay above 30% opacity, as you can see it is barely visible at any percentage lower than that.
As you can see, any transparencies lower than 30% are either super faint or don’t show up at all – keep that in mind when designing!
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Designing for DTG
Creating an optimal file for print
Let’s start with the basics! There are certain requirements necessary for a successful DTG print:
- 300 dpi, 14×16 canvas (4200px*4800px)
- RGB Mode
- Transparent background (save as .png) – this way it can be used on all garment colors!
Output on Products
Here’s a visual of how that 14×16 file translates onto the actual t-shirt:
*Something important to note: there is a default 1-2 inch offset from the neck already in place in our printers! This means, if your design is justified to be flush to the top of the 14×16 document, the design will start 2-inches down. If you align your document to be 1-inch down from the top of the document, it will print ~3inches down.*
Seen above is a Men’s medium and a Women’s medium. Women’s small and medium tees cannot physically fit on the larger printing palette without distorting and skewing the design. For this reason, we have them on a smaller palette which downsizes the design about 30%. However, with the exception of triblend tees, Women’s large and up will receive the guy’s palette and sizing.
What are underbases?
Underbases / pre-treatments are used on every color t-shirt except white. Similar to screenprinting, this underbase is just a layer of white that your design will get printed on top of. Think of it as the printer turning all of the colors of your design white so that it could print colors on top of it.
Here’s an easy visual of the process:
What types of inks do we use?
All of the inks used in our DTG printing are water-based. They do not contain PVC, phthalates, or AZO dyes.
Why does my shirt smell a little funny?
That odor you may smell on your new tee is a by-product of the custom printing method used to print the design. The odor from printing is just a temporary addition. Now that your tee is out of the confined space of the shipping bag, the printing smell will dissipate after a few days and a wash cycle. We are working with our custom printing partner and the CEO of the company who manufacturers the digital printers to test out a new ink that is less odorous (and double bonus, it has the ability to print colors that are even more vibrant than before!). We are super impressed with the new printing results, and are in the process of switching to the new and improved ink so you won’t experience this odor in the future.