DTG vs. Screenprinting
min read

DTG vs. Screenprinting

Discover the printing method for your custom apparel with our DTG vs. screen printing comparison.

Selecting a printing method for custom-designed apparel is pivotal in bringing your vision to life. Two widely utilized techniques, DTG (Direct-to-Garment) printing and screen printing, each come with their characteristics, strengths, and considerations. 

Let's delve into a detailed exploration of these methods to help you make an informed decision tailored to your needs, shall we?

What Exactly Is DTG?

DTG (Direct-to-Garment) printing is a digital method that uses specialized inkjet technology to print full-color, high-quality designs directly onto fabric, typically cotton or cotton-blend garments. Unlike traditional printing methods such as screen printing, which involves creating stencils and using different colors for each layer, DTG printing allows for detailed and complex designs with a full spectrum of colors without needing multiple screens.

The DTG printing process involves pre-treating the garment with a special solution to ensure proper ink absorption and adhesion to the fabric. After pre-treatment, the garment is loaded into the DTG printer, and the design is printed directly onto the fabric. The inks used in DTG printing are water-based and absorbed by the fabric's fibers, resulting in a soft feel and vibrant colors.

DTG printing is commonly used for custom apparel, such as T-shirts, hoodies, and other garments, and it is particularly suitable for small-batch or one-off production runs. It's a popular choice for businesses that offer personalized and custom-designed clothing items, as it allows for quick turnaround times and the ability to print detailed and intricate designs.

And Screen Printing Is…?

Screen printing, also known as silk screen printing, is a traditional and widely used method of printing designs on various surfaces, including fabric, paper, glass, metal, and plastic. It is commonly used to produce high-quality prints on items such as T-shirts, posters, signage, etc. 

Here's an overview of the screen printing process:

Design Preparation

The first step involves creating a stencil, a screen or screen mesh, representing the design to be printed. Traditionally, screens were made of silk, but nowadays, they are typically made of polyester or other synthetic materials.

Screen Coating

The screen is coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. Once the emulsion dries, the prepared design is placed on the screen, and the entire assembly is exposed to light. The areas of the emulsion covered by the design block the light while the light cures the remaining areas.

Washing Out

After exposure, the screen is washed with water. The areas of the emulsion that were exposed to light hardened, creating a stencil on the screen. The unexposed areas wash away, leaving openings through which ink can pass.


The prepared screen is mounted on a printing press, and the item to be printed (e.g., a T-shirt) is placed on the printing platen. Ink is applied to the top of the screen, and a squeegee is used to force the ink through the stencil onto the substrate. The screen is lifted, and the printed item is removed.


The printed item is then dried or cured to set the ink. This can be done through air drying or using specialized drying equipment.

Repeat for Multiple Colors

For multicolor designs, each color requires a separate screen and printing pass. The colors are layered on each other to create the final design.

Screen printing is known for its durability and versatility, making it suitable for large production runs. It's often used to produce custom apparel, posters, and promotional products. However, it can be time-consuming for complex designs with multiple colors, and setup costs are involved for each color.

Design Complexity

DTG Printing

DTG printing stands out for its prowess in handling intricate designs with finesse. The technology allows for a full spectrum of colors, making it an ideal choice for reproducing photorealistic images, gradients, and intricate details. This method excels when your design demands precision, fine lines, and a broad range of colors.

Screen Printing

While screen printing can produce vibrant and bold designs, it thrives in simplicity. This method is well-suited for solid colors and designs with fewer details. The process involves creating separate screens for each color, limiting its ability to reproduce intricate elements compared to DTG.

Color Variation

DTG Printing

DTG's primary strength lies in its ability to render many colors without incurring additional setup costs for each hue. This makes it the preferred choice for designs that require a rich palette, intricate shading, and color gradients.

Screen Printing

Conversely, screen printing demands a separate screen and setup for each color in the design. While it can produce vivid colors, it is most cost-effective when dealing with solid color areas and fewer color variations.

Print Run Size

DTG Printing

DTG printing is exceptionally well-suited for small to medium-sized orders. Its efficiency shines when dealing with low-volume production or one-off prints, making it an economical choice for short runs.

Screen Printing

Screen printing becomes more cost-effective as the order size increases. It is particularly efficient for large production runs, making it the preferred choice for bulk orders.


DTG Printing

DTG inks are water-based, resulting in a softer feel on the fabric. While the prints are durable with proper care, they may not match the longevity of screen printing in certain high-wear situations.

Screen Printing

Screen printing employs plastisol-based inks, offering a robust and durable finish. This makes it an ideal choice for frequent wear and washing items.

Turnaround Time

DTG Printing

DTG printing boasts a quick turnaround time, especially for small orders. The minimal setup time allows for rapid production, making it an attractive option for projects with tight deadlines.

Screen Printing

Screen printing involves a longer setup time, especially for multiple colors. However, its efficiency shines when dealing with larger orders once the initial setup is complete.

Cost Considerations

DTG Printing

DTG printing proves economical for small to medium quantities, making it a cost-effective solution for full-color designs. Its suitability for short runs aligns well with budget considerations for smaller businesses and custom projects.

Screen Printing

While screen printing may have higher setup costs, it becomes cost-effective for larger quantities. The expense of multiple screens for each color is offset by efficiency in producing bulk orders.

Now Comes The Question… What’s Best For YOU?

In the nuanced decision between DTG printing and screen printing, your choice should align with the unique requirements of your project. If you seek a quick turnaround, vibrant full-color designs, and flexibility with smaller orders, DTG printing is the answer. On the other hand, if you prioritize durability, cost-effectiveness for larger quantities, and simplicity in design, screen printing emerges as the optimal choice.

Consider the intricacies of your design, the size of your production run, and your budget constraints to make a decision that meets and exceeds your expectations. Elevate your custom apparel endeavors by choosing the printing method that resonates with the essence of your vision.

We’re here to help you determine which method, DTG or screen printing, is best for you. Contact our team of printing pros; they’ve got it going on and can help point you in the right direction.

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