Q and A
Q What is direct to garment printing?
A. Direct to garment printing is a process by which garments are printed directly from a computer using advanced inkjet technology. While the inks and hardware are different than your desktop printer, the artwork used and the method of printing from your PC are virtually the same. Gone is the need to generate or reduce your our artwork to a small number of colors to meet the limitations of printing by screens.
Q. Why DTG over other traditional methods of t-shirt decoration?
A. Digital direct to garment printing allows a much wider range of colors, tones and effects than traditional screen printing at the same time it produces much higher quality output than you can get through transfers. Direct to garment inks are water based which means that the prints have a much softer “hand” (softer to the touch) than plastisol screen prints. Most importantly, direct to garment printing allows you to offer your clients on demand instant prints from one off designs and prints to small and medium sizes production runs. There are no film and screen setups involved and control over inventory are just a few examples of the benefits of DTG printing
Q. What kind of learning curve should I expect?
A. The learning curve with digital direct to garment imaging varies based on your experience and the amount of time actually dedicated to the process. Individuals with a good background in graphics and textiles will generally have a shorter learning curve. Just as in any type of apparel decoration – being acceptable and being skilled are two different things. Most people find themselves able to generate acceptable work on their DTG within 30-60 days. Regardless of your skill levels, it is important to know that everyone who has started in this industry has been able to learn the technology and be successful .
Q. How much does it cost to print a t-shirt?
A. This is a very difficult question to answer as there are so many variables to consider. How much area of the garment does the image cover, is it on a light or dark shirt, are you printing using the One Pass technology and what ink saturation levels give you the desired print results? Typically the average size A4+ image printed on a t-shirt will range from 10-35 cents on a light colored shirt and the same image will cost $1.00-1.50 on a dark garment – these are ink costs, other factors like labor and garment cost need to be calculated in as well. To help you with projection of ink cost on specific jobs the DTG Print Pro software also incorporates a user adjustable ink cost calculator.
Q. How many colors can I produce using a DTG printer?
A. Direct to garment printers use process inks in cyan, magenta, yellow and black to generate the colors you send from your computer. These colors allow for the generation of millions of colors. Additionally, DTG direct to garment printers also include white ink which is used as a base on dark garments to allow for the reproduction of this same range of colors on dark textiles. Think of it like your desktop inkjet printer – only printing on t-shirts instead of paper.
Q. Do I need to do anything to the garments before printing with a DTG printer?
A. It is a good idea to briefly prepress any garment before printing it on your DTG. This accomplishes two things – first it will help remove any wrinkles in the shirt, secondly, it will also remove any excess moisture in the shirt prior to printing. Direct to garment printing uses water based inks – a dry shirt will absorb these inks better than a moist one. If the garment you are printing is going to be printed with white ink or if it is a light colored polyester or poly blend then you will pretreat the shirt with a spray on treatment specific to the application and press again to dry before printing the garment.
Q. What do I do with the shirts after they have been printed?
A. Fixation of the inks to the garment is done by pressing the printed garment in your heat press. Details on times and temperatures varies depending on the type of garment as well as whether the garment is printed with white ink. Specifics are covered during your training. Average time/temperature is 1-2 minutes at 186′C or 340’ F.
Q. How does the printer know to print white ink under the colors on a dark shirt?
A. The DTG Print Pro software that comes with your printer allows you to select whether the garment requires white ink or not as well as how heavy the white ink should be. The actually white ink layer is generated by the RIP software so you do not have to have any special knowledge of underbase channel creation in your graphic software to generate great looking dark garment prints.
Q. Do the prints stand up to washing?
A. Yes, with proper curing in your heat press after printing you will get excellent washfastness out of your DTG printed garments. Better grade t-shirts will be more washfast than lower grade garments. The ink technology used in direct to garment printing is nearly a decade old and very proven. With proper treatment after printing you can rest assured that your customers will be very satisfied with the wear of the images you print for them.
Q. I’ve heard a lot about maintenance on a DTG printer – how much is required?
A. Any inkjet printer used in a commercial environment to produce graphics will require time spent daily, weekly and monthly to keep it in optimal running condition. A direct to garment printer is no different. The WIMS (White Ink Management System) [link] on your DTG Brand printer eliminates a lot of the machine operator manual daily maintenance, however, there is still 5-10 minutes of maintenance that should be committed to every day that the machine has printed. On idle days you can simply let the WIMS system take care of itself. The routine cleaning and maintenance procedures are clearly covered in your manual and training. When performed as recommended the maintenance will give you a dependable print system that you can rely on.
Q. Is training important?
A. Training is a vital component that helps to guarantee your success with your DTG machine. Your commitment to understand all aspect of your DTG machine can only serve you to prosper in your business ventures. Please contact you dealer for detailed information of the training facilities provided with the purchase of your printer.
Q. Can you print on items other than t-shirts and other garments?
A. Yes – there are many products that can be printed easily and profitably on your DTG printers, mouse pads, aprons, cotton carry bags just to name a few.
Q. Is there anything else I should give consideration to?
A. Yes – there are many aspects to successful printing on your DTG machine, take the time to find out about ink curing systems, PC requirements and print room conditions by contacting your local dealer.