Direct To Garment Printing Vs. Screen Printing

by Karen Jones

T-shirt printing is one of the most thriving businesses across the globe today. However, not everyone who starts this business is guaranteed success because many have shut down due to poor decision-making. One of the most crucial mistakes people make is choosing the Direct To Garment Printing Vs. Screen Printing (DTG) method. Several factors should be kept in mind first before you start t-shirt printing design.

DTG and screen printing share the most common features, but they also have notable differences that you need to consider before choosing your business type. For instance, DTG is good at printing bulk t-shirts; therefore, when choosing which method to go for, you should ensure that you choose the method to suit the number of orders. Several factors also count, read on; they are all explained here.

Direct To Garment Printing Vs. Screen Printing – Details

Direct To Garment Printing Vs. Screen Printing – Details
Direct To Garment Printing Vs. Screen Printing – Details

Screen printing and Direct to garment are print processes that both have distinct advantages in different situations. Screen Printing is a relatively inexpensive process with quick turnarounds on orders but can not be used for photo-quality images or colors due to the limitations of the surface it’s printed on.

On the other hand, direct-to-garment printing has high accuracy because each garment must go through prepping before being able to accept ink from an industrial printer onto fabric; this means exact color matchings throughout all garments ordered as well as fine details like wrinkles and elements such as buttons will show up flawlessly resulting in superior product image representation.

Direct to Garment Printing

Direct to Garment printing is a new technology when compared to other garment printing alternatives. This technology began in 2005, but it has become a popular method recently replacing several traditional productions like embroidery, dye sublimation, transfer printing, and Cad cut vinyl.

As the name suggests, direct to garment printing uses printing directly to fabric use ink. The ink goes into the fiber of the material. Therefore, you cannot feel the design on the t-shirt, and neither can you feel the ink.

To understand how direct to garment printing works, imagine a printer at home or in the office. The printer works on paper the same way DTG works, but only this time, there is no paper involved. The printing in DTG is printed on a t-shirt.

Pros of Direct to Garment

  • Direct to garment printing has several pros. They include
  • Allows for a wide range of color options
  • Can be handly for broad and more detailed designs
  • Prints at an extremely high speed
  • It can be used for both sizeable bulky production and short runs
  • It needs low setup costs making it more accessible
  • Prints also on colored garments
  • Guarantees accuracy with results of a high quality
  • Eco-friendly since it is water-based
  • Uses digital software to come up with different designs

Disadvantages of Direct to Garment

  • Limited to white clothes and cotton garments
  • Relatively slower as compared to screen printing
  • Limited design creations

Disadvantages Explained

Although direct to garment only works on cotton material, this disadvantage is not as bad as it seems because cotton is a prevalent material.  Cotton is popular because they have different uses. Cotton makes products like tote bags instead of only t-shirts alone. Cotton is also the most loved because it is hypoallergenic. Cotton is also weather-proof, durable, and highly comfortable.

While DTG is not a cost-effective choice for mass production, it is the best for minimal production. Direct to garment printing is best when doing product tests or when all you need are a few numbers of bags or shirts that could be uniforms or gifts.

The DTG is slow, it is highly detailed, and its designs are long-lasting. Also, since it is best for small productions, speed is not a critical factor to consider.

Having limited designs can be the most critical factor that can limit you from choosing DTG. However, unless you are looking for a unique design that needs you to print the image across the shirt or on the sleeves, this downside is not a huge factor that will bother you.

Why You Should Choose Direct to Garment

Direct to garment is the best when it comes to a short production run on cotton. If you have a fashion line and you think of producing customized shirts for an event or a business, then DTG is the most cost-effective option that offers you a plethora of options. Because you can use digital images, it is easy to create a software design and quickly transfer it on shirts and bags of that exact design. DTG does not affect the design quality in any way, so you are guaranteed to get high-quality designs.

DTG also offers a large number of colors. You do not need to worry like you would when using a different printing method. This printing also has low setup costs, perfect for a one-time production.

Since this type of printing is eco-friendly, it will ensure that you run a green company that helps with advertising in some communities.

Direct to Screen Printing

There are notable differences between screen printing and DTG. The most striking difference is the method used to put ink on the fabric. Screen printing is a traditional method. This method incorporates the use of a stencil that pushes ink onto the fabric of the shirt. Direct to garment is a newer technique where a printer pushes the ink into the material.

History of Screen Printing

Since old stenciling, screen printing has revolutionized, which took place towards the end of the 1880s. Several modifications have made this method evolve into a vast industry.

During the 19th century, screen printing was still a simple process that used fabrics as organdy stretched on a frame to secure the stencils when printing. Until the twentieth century, the process became computerized, commonly used to print flat posters, fabrics, and packaging.

Although this process was not popular, screen printing reduced the gap between hand-feeding production and printing an automated process. The method achieved quick advances; it transitioned from being a handcraft to mass production. The advancements gave rise to a new era of massive printing capabilities and transformed the fashion industry and the advertising industry.

Today, screen printing is a very sophisticated process involving advanced fabric, ink, and computer tech. Screen printing is primarily used in place of other methods. The screen printing technique can print images on almost all surfaces, including paper, glass, wood, fabric, leather, and cards.


The screen printing technique involves using a woven mesh that supports a stencil that blocks the ink to achieve a required image. The stencil creates open areas of the mesh that transfers ink, or any other printable products, by pressing the image onto the substrate. A substrate is an item that ends up bearing the desired image.

A squeegee is then passed across the stencil forcing the ink through the mesh’s gaps wetting the substrate when the squeegee strokes. As the screen bounces away, the ink remains to display the desired image.

Screen printing, therefore, is the process that incorporates the use of a mesh stencil to apply ink on the substrate. The substrate can be a t-shirt, stickers, posters, wood, vinyl, or other surfaces.

When using several screens, one can produce multi-colored images or designs.

Where to Use Screen Printing?

Most people use screen printing on t-shirts, balloons, merchandise, and lanyards. This process can also be used when adding latex to promotional scratch cards or spot UV, which is decorative printing.

The image is then exposed to U radiation lamps to dry up.


  • Cost-effective when dealing with bulk production
  • The best fit for simple designs
  • Excellent for bold graphic designs


  • Simple designs only
  • Prints one design for a huge batch of t-shirts
  • For multiple colors, this is not the best in terms of cost
  • Simple designs only
  • One design for every batch of t-shirts

DTG and Screen Printing Comparison


Screen printing produces vibrant colors that are bright and saturated. If you want a design that stands out and pops, you need to go with screen printing. DTG has developed over the years. However, it still results in a duller appearance when compared to screen printing.

The difference occurs because screen printing uses very opaque plastisol ink. This ink also comes in different colors, so it is easy to find ink that matches the color of your choice.

DTG uses water-based ink that lacks plastisols’ opaque and vibrant nature, especially for garments with a darker shade.

DTG depends on cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) colors to make different shades.

Colour Blending

Color blending is the ability to develop smooth ascents and color range achieved by mixing fewer colors. DTG printers are good at color blending.

A DTG machine only uses four colors that are blended to create a broad spectrum of colors. DTG is more reliable when you want to achieve different gradients.

Screen printers can use their spot colors to create a spectrum. The technique of achieving this is called the simulated process.

DTG uses water-based inks that are more transparent than plastisol. The DTG ink, therefore, enables the ink to blend well, creating beautiful and smooth gradients.

Colour Matching

Screen printing has precision in color-matching. Screen printing can create a color that the client needs.

Corporate branding needs accurate color matching; therefore, it is better to use the screen printing method to deal with such clients. When a company specifies that they need Pantone colors, trying to match the colors with DTG will mostly be off because the under-base is usually not opaque enough. The color of the shirts bleeds through changing the actual color from the one on the design.

While several DTG manufacturers claim that they can create a Pantone match, they can only use CMYK. Some advanced DTG machines have two more hues; bright green and bright red. However, this does not make it produce more colors, like is the case with screen printing.


In the fabric printing industry, detail means minor design parts that include fine lines, tiny elements, and textures. Several factors can affect screen printing details. They include:

  • The tension of the screen
  • The sharpness of the squeegee

Ink Viscosity

Nature of the surface being printed

All this makes achieving the perfect details to be such a challenging job.

DTG has tiny dots that you can hardly see; therefore, it is best to provide a detailed design. DTG is consequently the best when it comes to achieving even the smallest of the details.


Screen printing can achieve consistency, but this is only possible if you set up the job perfectly to ensure that all items are printed uniformly. Many variables are involved in screen printing.

The variables include the tension of the screen. The ink’s viscosity, the temperature of the dryer, clogged mesh, squeegee pressure, squeegee sharpness, and angle all these aspects combined are likely to cause a variable that will affect some shirts. While some shirts may be looking good, some may get variations that will affect their quality.

DTG, on the other hand, has perfect consistency since it uses a digital file and prints direct to the fabric. The results do not have any variables, so you need not worry when using DTG to achieve consistency.


When it comes to quality, both screen printing and the DGT method ensure that they provide the highest quality. While DTG is ideal for the smaller batches that need more designs and color, screen printing leads to superior and large runs.

No matter which t-shirt method you choose, you will love the results.

About Karen Jones

For the last decade, Karen Jones has worked as a freelance writer and social media marketing consulant. As an gourmand and avid traveler, she publishes cutting-edge articles about traveling that really attracting readers into her wonderful journeys. If you can't find Ms. Jones around her friends and family, she's definitely busy in her home office refining her writing composition and printing press.

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