Screen Printing VS Direct To Garment

Posted by Patrick Patterson on

Screen Printing vs Direct to Garment


Being in the printing industry, we get asked many questions.  The one question that we find is asked the most is “What is the difference between Screen Printing and Direct to Garment (also known as DTG).”  Some folks even wonder if there is a difference.  I am here to tell you that “Yes”, there is a difference.  The difference lies in the technique, materials and quality.  Which one of the options should you choose? This all really depends on the image you are looking to get printed.  Let’s get into the differences. After we finish explaining hopefully you will have a better understanding of the two and which one will work for you.


What is Screen Printing?

Screen Printing is a technique that has been around the longest when it comes to putting an image on a garment. At one point it was the only option available to get your images printed on garments or apparel.  The colors of the image are split into layers and are applied accordingly. So how is it done?


In the screen printing process, ink is pushed through a mesh screen onto the surface in which you are printing on.  Special screens have to be made for each layer of color your image has. The image is burned onto the mesh screen, then rinsed to wash away residue and leave you with the screen with your image (or layer) burned onto it.  Because of this technique, it is very important that you understand that it is recommended that if you use screen printing that your image is not so detailed.  


During the screen print process, shirts are pressed and treated to provide a smooth area that will hold the ink that is to be applied.  If printing on darker color shirts, a base layer (usually white) is laid to ensure that the colors will be visible against the darker surface.  After the base is put down, it will run under what is called a Flash, which is almost like a heater which will cure the under base. Each color is then applied one by one, after which will be run under the Flash to cure the final print.  Depending on the layers, the quality of the print can be amazing.


Although screen printing is recommended to have basic designs, this does not mean that you cannot make some amazing designs using typography and your logo.  You can have multiple colors just be aware that each color will have a screen and each screen costs money. Also be aware that with screen printing most printers will require you to order a minimum amount of shirts up front.


What is Direct to Garment (DTG)?


Direct to Garment is a process that is exactly what it sounds like.  The image goes directly from the computer to the garment using a special DTG printer.  This printer is almost like the printers you may have at home, but much bigger and with more ink cartridges (and a lot more expensive).  First the garment must be pressed to provide the printer a flat surface to print on, then the printer will print the image directly onto the shirt.


With DTG you are able to print anything you want on a shirt.  Even full photos can be printed on a shirt using DTG. The image quality is almost perfect.  Like screen printing, if you decide to use a darker shirt, an under base must be applied in order to grab the inks and really make the colors pop.


Print shops usually don’t require a minimum when going this route since no screens are needed.  They are literally uploading your image and making sure the settings are set then sending the image to print.  That’s about it. The process is much easier and really gives you more freedom when deciding what you want to use as an image.


Which one should I choose?


This all really depends on your needs and what type of image you are using.  Screen printing images usually can withstand more washes than DTG printed garments.  Obviously this really depends on how the garment is used and how it is treated. If you have a basic design and want to print shirts for a team or your business then screen printing might be the way for you to go.  If your design is detailed and has a photo like quality, I would advise that you get your garments printed using DTG. Take into account your needs and your budget. 


We print using Screen Print and Direct to Garment


Patterson Print ShopsOur shop, Patterson Print Shops, can fulfill either one of your needs because we have the equipment, materials and years of experience using both techniques.  We also offer different options of garments and items you can print on. We take our time and really focus on providing you with a quality print that will display your image in the best way possible.  We use the highest quality of inks to make sure that your prints will stand the test of time against washing and wear. If you have any questions about our printing processes or inquiries about a possible order, please feel free to contact us.


Are you looking to have some apparel embroidered?  We also provide that service. Contact us now for more information.


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