DTG Print on X2

Comparing DTG to Alternative Printing Methods 

Ready to dive into the world of garment decoration but unsure of which method to go with? Starting a new venture can be difficult enough, but to make things a little bit easier, we’ve
created a list with the top 5 start-up t-shirt printing methods for you to review
and consider. Each process has its strengths and weaknesses, which should help narrow down your decision depending on your business needs.

DTG (Direct to Garment)

DTG Print on X2
DTG Print on X2 DTG Printer

Direct to Garment printing (DTG) has been around since 2005.  It uses water-based inks that are long lasting and have a great, soft hand on the final print.  DTG is a “what you see is what you get” type of printing process.  You can create graphics with unlimited colors and the printer digitally prints it directly onto your garment.  Since everything is done digitally, DTG has the capability to offer no minimums in terms of quantity orders.  However, due to the type of inks being used, it works best with 50-100% cotton garments and is not the ideal choice for 100% synthetic fabrics. DTG printers are also considered “hybrid’ printers nowadays since you are able to use the same printer and same inks to do Direct-to-Film (DTF) sheets as well. 

DTF (Direct to Film)

dtf printing
DTF Printing onto Roll

Direct-to-film (DTF) is the newest type of garment printing process.  DTF
printers print onto a transfer sheet and then coated with a polymer melting
powder to help the ink adhere to a garment.  You still get the full color
range similar to DTG and you are able to use it on both cotton and
synthetic fibers.  DTF has a papery feel once transferred, so you’d want
to avoid printing images that cover a large area or learn how to do halftones.
Also, due to its lack of stretch, it doesn’t last as long as DTG or Silk
screening. There are a wide range of DTF printers on the market: small desktop
versions and large industrial machines that can print large square footages.
However, if you invest in a DTG printer, like the X2, you would have the same
capabilities available to you.

Screen Printing (Silkscreen)

Screen Printer
Multi Screen Screen Printer

Screen printing or silkscreen printing methods have been around for thousands of years.  A majority of shirts you see on the market use this technique.  Silkscreen uses thick plastisol inks which produce vibrant, longer lasting prints with both natural and synthetic fibers.  However, since a single screen is needed for each color used, you are limited on the number of colors you can have in your design and the setup time and fees can get very high due to this process. Also, for large areas of ink or photos, you would need to learn how to halftone colors and certain images with a graphics program. Silkscreen equipment can range from a single manual press up to an 8-screen automatic press. Along with the screen press, you would also need to invest in tunnel dryers, washing stations, and a large assortment of ink to get started. Silkscreen is the fastest and most cost-efficient printing method if you have large orders of 500+ that use 1-3 colors. However, the cost per shirt can be higher for smaller orders compared to digital printing methods such as direct-to-garment.  

HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl)

Weeding Heat Transfer Vinyl
Weeding out the excess vinyl for HTV

Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) has been around since the 1970’s. HTV contains a polyurethane with a heat-activated adhesive backing which allows the vinyl to adhere onto the garment with a heat press.  HTVs are sold in solid color rolls and patterns which would need to go through a cutter machine (such as a CriCut) to cut the outlines of the graphic out.  Once cut, you would need to weed out the excess vinyl to leave behind the image you want to press onto a shirt.  Due to this process, you’d need multiple colors of vinyl, all individually cut in order to create a multicolor design.  The process can be laborious and time consuming for large orders. HTV transfers have the lowest wash durability amongst the other garment decoration techniques.


Industrial Sublimation Printer
Industrial Sublimation Printer

Dye-Sublimation was invented in 1957.  Sublimation is a digital printing method that only works on poly-coated substrates and polyester fabrics.  The inks turn into a gas under heat which allows it to be fused to the material so it doesn’t fade or crack.  There is no white ink in sublimation, so you are limited to using only white poly fabrics. Since sublimation inks are a solvent, you would need plenty of ventilation in your workspace to vent out the gas as the ink dries.  Sublimation machines range from desktop transfers to industrial machines that print roll to roll – directly onto the fabric.  For those larger industrial printers, you would also need to cut and sew afterwards to complete a sublimated garment. 

While considering the options above, ask yourself these questions: 

      • Who are my customers and what method would they prefer?
      • What is my start up budget?
      • How much space do I have to run my business? 
      • Which printing method would suit my business model? 

The X2 DTG/DTF Hybrid Printer is a great standout option for beginning start-ups and growing garment businesses alike due to the lower equipment start-up costs, minimal space, and the large range of capabilities that it has to offer:  Little to no minimums, high quality digital color prints, and the vast number of substrates that you’ll be able to offer by owning just one machine. 

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