Home ETC DTG Printers and How to Use Them to Print on T-shirts

DTG Printers and How to Use Them to Print on T-shirts

Most people want to somehow express their individuality and very often they use their clothes to do it. That’s why printed, personalized clothing is a branch of business that’s growing in popularity these days. One of the most popular methods to print custom t-shirts is direct-to-garment printing (or DTG for short). It’s not perfect and it will not always be the most efficient. That’s why it’s good to know what it is all about in order to choose the right method for your needs – design details, colors, quantity, etc.

How does it work?

A DTG printer applies the ink directly to material thanks to inkjet technology that is very similar to printing on paper. The inks are water-based, that’s why they can be easily absorbed by various fabrics. It’s usually not very expensive, as you don’t need anything except a printer and some ink, but since t-shirts can only be printed one at the time, it’s not a perfect option if you’re thinking about wholesale printed t shirts. DTG printing is quite precise so it’s the best choice when you aim for some complicated and detailed designs; the only limitation here may be the colors.

Direct-to-garment printing: a step-by-step guide

1. Pretreatment

If you’re a painter—before you start painting on canvas, you need to use a primer; t-shirt printing is no different. You have to remember about pretreatment. Thanks to it, the fabric is able to absorb the ink better which makes the colors and the design look more bright and vivid. It also allows it to stay that way longer, no matter how many times you wash it. In short, you don’t want to skip that part if you care about your reviews.

You can apply pretreatment in two ways:

  • Hand spraying – you can do it manually with the sprayer that’s normally included when you buy a direct-to-garment printer. Spray it smoothly, using a back-and-forth movement. Make sure it’s as evenly done as possible; too much or too little treatment will make your design look different from what you wanted and it will affect its washability. Don’t do it close to your printer and be positive that the room is well-ventilated. It takes some time to master the skill so don’t beat yourself up.
  • PreTreat Machine – it’s the best option if you don’t handle the sprayer well. When you own that device, all you need to do is load your shirt inside and press the button. You can alter the amount of used pretreat, plus it doesn’t take too much time. What’s more, there’s a certainty that it’s applied evenly, which can be hard while doing it manually. Another advantage is that the machine is enclosed so it doesn’t matter where it stands and if the room is well-ventilated.

2. Graphics

Even when you want to sell custom t-shirts with your customers’ designs, you have to provide them with some samples – examples of your work and artwork. The designs are normally done on computers because you need a good quality, detailed and completely clean piece of artwork in order to print it on a t-shirt successfully and get a desirable effect – you can use any graphics software, e.g. CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. If you’re not particularly artistic nor talented, there are templates available for you to choose from and modify. You can try printing a potential design on paper in the same size as it will be on a t-shirt to see if it looks good – then you can be sure it looks good on a garment. However, if you’re planning to make money on printing t-shirts, it’s better to take a graphics design course – you never know what clients you may be forced to deal with in the future and you don’t want to lose them.

3. Printing

In order to print with a direct-to-garment printer properly, you need a software called Raster Image Processor (RIP). RIP serves as a kind of translator of images into a format required by the printer while allowing you to stay in control during the whole process. A printer usually comes with a configured software – it’s up to you to take a class or learn it on your own to use different settings. RIP controls the amount of white under base (used when you’re printing on dark t-shirts), the amount of ink and color matching; it can also provide you with an ink cost calculation.

4. Finishing

A printer may be already done with your t-shirt but there’s still something to do. You need to remember about the cure to make sure the inks are all set. It’s an extremely important step – the washability of t-shirts will affect your sales in the future. Normally, you will cure fabrics for a couple of minutes (usually 2-3) at 170 °C but sometimes it may range (higher temperature, a shorter period of time) so test different materials and pay attention. Depending on the type of garment, you can use various curing sheets, e.g. Teflon, release sheets, embroidery backing material or parchment.

Now that you know what a direct-to-garment printing method is all about, you can think about your needs and decide if this is the right method for you. Good luck!

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