At Print Eco, we offer a range of commercial garment printing solutions. In the latest in our ‘what is’ series, we look at DTG (Direct to Garment) production and its advantages and disadvantages.
Printed customised clothing and accessories are a popular choice for marketers and retail brands who are looking to communicate a message or identity.
With choices of garments and production methods dictated by material, quantity, number of colours, turn around and budget, it can be overwhelming.
Traditional methods of garment production include transfer printing, screen printing, cad cut vinyl and embroidery, all of which have their own pro’s and cons.
This is perhaps the most common technique. It’s simple, versatile, and fairly durable. It also offers scalability, so you can print high volumes of t-shirts and hoodies for a low unit price. It is, however, very limited in colour mixing, meaning you can’t get many intricate designs and the overall quality of images is not as effective compared to other methods.
Transfer printing involves permanently transferring an image from one surface to another. It was previously used to add fine details to things like glass and ceramics, but the method has been adapted to work on fabric as well. It typically requires heat to transfer an image from surface to surface. It’s simple and can produce complex designs, but it’s slow and has some limitations on what type of fabric can be used.
Cad Cut Vinyl
Despite being a printing technique, no actual printing is involved. A machine cuts high-quality vinyl into the shape of your desired design, then it is applied to a shirt using heat. Due to its complex nature, it’s not ideal for mass printing and bulky designs do not work very well. Transfers and Vinyl often separate from the garments in tumble dryers or after multiple washes.
Embroidery also doesn’t require any printing. Instead, a design is stitched into the fabric by a machine or by hand. This is one of the most popular methods for long-lasting garment branding due to how professional it looks. Sadly, the use of thread can sometimes reduce the quality of a logo design and it’s very difficult to do small and intricate designs.
Increasingly popular and primarily used in custom sports garments such as cycling lycra and printed performance t-shirts. dye sublimation heats the ink into a vapour to permeate the fabric.
Direct to Garment
Now that we’ve seen the alternatives and their pros and cons, let’s take a look at direct to garment printing and how it compares to all four of those options.
Direct to garment is a relatively new technology that emerged in the 90s. It became commercially available in 2005 but has only recently become a viable alternative to traditional production methods, but is still only offered by a handful of t-shirt printers.
As the name implies, direct to garment uses ink to print directly onto the fabric or item of your choice. It goes straight into the fibres of the fabric, meaning you don’t feel the design or ink when you touch it.
Advantages of Direct to Garment
Direct to garment offers a large number of advantages over other traditional printing methods.
- Large range of colour options
- Can be used for detailed and broad designs
- Extremely fast process
- Available for both mass production and short production runs
- Low setup costs make it easy to access
- Works on coloured garments as well
- Accurate reproduction and high-quality results
- Water-based, making it eco-friendly
- Can use digital software to create designs
Disadvantages of Direct to Garment
- Limited to cotton garments
- Limited to white garments
- Not cost-effective for mass production
- Can be a little slower than other methods
- Limited design placement
Cotton garments are some of the most popular due to their various uses. This means you can use direct to garment on things like tote bags in addition to shirts. Cotton is also hypoallergenic, meaning it doesn’t cause allergic reactions. It’s also weatherproof, comfortable and extremely durable. This makes the cotton garment limitation one that isn’t as detrimental as it seems.
While not the most cost-effective for mass production, direct to garment printing is fantastic for short production runs. This is essential for product test runs or when you only need a couple of shirts or bags for business purposes, such as uniforms or gifts to your clients and customers.
Though it’s slow, it makes up for it by being incredibly detailed and long-lasting. In addition, since it’s not geared towards mass production, the speed is usually a non-factor.
The limited design placement is perhaps the only downside that can be a make-or-break factor. However, unless you’re going for unique designs where the image is printed on the sleeves or all across the shirt, this usually won’t bother you.
Why Should You Use Direct to Garment?
Direct to garment specialises in highly detailed short production run prints on cotton garments. If you run a fashion label or want to provide customised clothing for an event or business, then direct to garment is a highly cost-effective option that gives you plenty of options. Since you can use digital images, it means you can easily create a design using software, upload it to a supplier’s website and easily print out shirts or bags with that exact design. There is almost no loss in quality and accurate reproduction means you always get a high-quality design.
The large array of colour options means that you don’t have to compromise like with other printing methods, and the low setup costs make it perfect for one-time production runs or infrequent use. Being eco-friendly, it also helps to ensure that your company is green and this can be a huge factor when advertising to specific crowds.
Although there are limitations to direct to garment printing, with the right garment and quantities, it is an effective choice for high-quality promotional garments.
If you would like to find out more about DTG printing and the services offered by Print Eco, please contact us.