DTG vs Screen Printing for T-Shirt Printing

If you’re looking to sell your t-shirt designs online, then you’ve probably heard of Direct To Garment (DTG) printing and Screen Printing as two methods for applying your custom designs to your shirts. In this post, we’ll look at how these two printing methods work and how they vary to help you choose which one is right for you.

What is DTG printing?

Direct To Garment printing is a newer t-shirt printing method that’s become really popular with online sellers thanks to the great quality, high level of detail, and ability to print-to-order, making for a great way to get into selling t-shirts online.

Direct To Garment technology is very similar to the inkjet printer you may have at home. Water based inks are applied to your t-shirt in a single layer, which absorbs into the shirt’s fibres. DTG printing has come along way in recent years and has gained a strong reputation for precise printing with high quality results, particularly for intricate designs.

When it comes to t-shirt designs, the main thing to consider with DTG is due to the single layer of ink, designs may not come out as vibrant compared to screen printing, for example intricate designs on dark fabrics. Take this into account when creating your t-shirt designs and plan your colour choices appropriately.

One area where DTG printing comes into it’s own for e-commerce. With this technology, designs can be printed one by one, and unlike screen printing, there’s no set up costs for each design. That makes DTG printing ideal for low-volume runs.

As a result, we make extensive use of DTG printing here at Lost Divide, as it’s an ideal fit for most of our sellers. Because each shirt created using DTG is custom made, there’s no need to invest in stock up front if you want to sell your designs through us. We handle all fulfilment and shipping, all you need to do is provide your designs!

What is screen printing?

Screen printing is an older technology that’s more labour intensive than DTG, meaning it’s best suited to higher volume production where economies of scale can make it a cost-effective option for t-shirt printing.

Screen printing also allows for more vibrant designs with saturated colours, making it a great solution for high-contrast prints. However, there are still some limitations with designing for screen printing, as it’s a more complicated than DTG.

The first is that each colour is printed to the shirt individually, which means designs need to be provided in a layered format such as a Photoshop file. A woven screen stencil is used to apply a single colour at a time, so the more colours you have, the higher the cost.

The result is that screen printing is best for bold graphics using a handful of colours. For complicated designs with lots of colours, DTG is often the better choice, and can be more cost-effective even in high volumes when printing intricate designs.

At Lost Divide, we use screen printing only for higher-run products that require bold, vibrant designs with minimal colours. But remember, unlike with DTG printed tees, there is an initial fee to cover the first run of your screen printed tees, as well as warehousing costs when you sell on our store.

However, they’re a great option for our designers who need their shirts available to sell offline, for example on their merch stand at gigs. We can also help you stock up with a run of tees, even if you don’t want to sell online with us – which means no warehousing fees!

Key takeaways

Direct To Garment and Screen Printing both have their pros and cons, depending on your designs, sales expectations, and whether you’re looking to sell online or offline. For the majority of the designers, bands and artists we work with, we would recommend starting with DTG printing, as there’s no need to invest in any stock up front, before moving on to screen printing once we calculate the profitability for both you and us to do so.

Are you looking to sell your branded merchandise online? Learn more about how we can help sell your designs online here, we’d love to hear from you!