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Inside the Print Studio: Differences Between Direct to Garment and Screen Printing

Vladimir Sumina, 10/06/2016,

When it comes to owning your own online store, knowing the techniques and processes of various printing types can often mean the difference between your desired product coming out just right, or just wrong. Needless to say, it’s better for your wallet and nerves to eliminate these problems before they even occur.

As your resident print manufacturing expert, let us help you get informed beforehand so that you won’t have to deal with issues later. There are two important print techniques you should be especially aware of – Direct To Garment and Screen Printing.

The Main Differences Between DTG and Screen Printing

First of all, you should know how both of these techniques actually work. Screen printing is produced by using a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil onto fabric. The stencil has openings in the mesh, through which the ink is applied to create the design. DTG printing uses a special type of printer to directly apply the ink using inkjet technology. Naturally, this results in big differences in production, cost, quantities and design choices between the two.

Screen printing

The way that screen printing works imposes certain restrictions. Since only one color can be applied to the fabric at a time, it is recommended for simple designs made up of few colors in large quantities. An additional benefit is that the design can be placed on pretty much any part of the fabric, while DTG usually has a reduced area where printing is possible.

Did You Know: Credit is generally given to the artist Andy Warhol for popularizing screen printing as an artistic technique. Warhol was supported in his production by master Screen Printer Michel Caza, a founding member of Fespa, and is particularly identified with his 1962 depiction of actress Marilyn Monroe, known as the Marilyn Diptych, screen printed in garish colors.

Andy Warhol screenprinter

DTG, on the other hand, is better for smaller orders, where design quality and easy customization of each individual article trumps cost and quantity. If you have a complicated design consisting of many colors, and you want every detail on it to be clearly visible, then DTG is for you.

direct to garment printing

Fabric Matters

Screen print can handle polyester, nylon, teflon coated fabrics, burlap, bamboo, you name it. DTG is another story. Its more or less limited to 100% cotton and printing on polyester is okay as long as no under base is needed. So, that means white or very light garments only.

Screen printing is the best option for designs that require a high level of vibrancy, when printing on dark shirts, or for specialty products. The ink in screen printing is applied thicker than digital printing, which results in brighter colors even on darker shirts.

The fact that the digital printer does not use screens allows for a photographic print, with much more detail than traditional screen printing. As the ink is applied thinner (to achieve such detail), digital printing is best used on lighter colored shirts to allow the design to shine through.


So, to sum it up – screen printing works best for bulk orders, with simple, uniform-colored designs. DTG is ideal if you have a complicated, high-quality design on just a few pieces of clothing.

Let us know in the comments section if you have any follow-up thoughts or questions, we’d love to hear from you!

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