Entry-Level DTG Printer Buying Guide [2023]

Entry-Level DTG Printer Buying Guide [2023]

When direct-to-garment (DTG) printing was still new, one of the most affordable ways to get started with it was to use a converted printer. A converted printer is an inkjet desktop printer converted to print using DTG inks and apparel substrates. They are also known as repurposed DTG printers.

A seller of these repurposed printers usually buys inkjet printers for cheap from various online platforms and then converts them into a DTG printer. To get the printer to emulate one-pass/two-pass white, they use third-party RIP software to trick the printer into printing white on specific print head channels.

However, with the advent of the more cost-effective direct-to-film (DTF) print method, repurposed DTG printers have become a rare sight. To get your hands on an entry-level DTG printer, you’ll need to spend a little extra money to get a proper DTG printer, either from independent companies or reputable brands like Epson and Ricoh. If you’re still interested in starting small with DTG, this guide will be a quick intro to entry-level DTG printers.

A List of Known Entry-level DTG Printers

Currently, there are three entry-level DTG printers available on the market.

Roland DG VersaSTUDIO BT-12

Roland DG VersaSTUDIO BT-12
Sourced from Roland DG
  • Estimated Price: $3,495
  • Pros: Very affordable, compact size, two-year warranty coverage, up to 1,200 dpi resolution, three-step printing process, safety guaranteed
  • Cons: Only works on light-colored substrates, single-shirt printing only

Ricoh Ri 100

  • Estimated Price: At least $4,000
  • Pros: Very affordable, compact size, two-year warranty coverage, up to 1,200 dpi resolution, three-step printing process, safety guaranteed
  • Cons: Only works on light-colored substrates, single-shirt printing only

PolyPrint TexJet shortee2

Polyprint TexJet shortee2
Sourced from Polyprint
  • Estimated Price: At least $9,000
  • Pros: Small size, works on many substrates like cotton, denim, and even nylon, also prints on dark-colored substrates, plenty of options for various print needs, up to 1,440 dpi resolution (using CMYK +4K option), an available knowledge base for users
  • Cons: Expensive for an entry-level printer, single-shirt printing only, slow printing for dark garments, requires specific inks

We’ve covered these in our previous extensive article on DTG printers.

You might still be able to find cheaper variants, such as this one sold on Amazon, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll function properly for a long time. There’s also no guarantee that you can get sufficient support if your DTG printer runs into trouble that you can’t resolve on your own.

The Perks of Entry-Level DTG Printers

An entry-level DTG printer is the obvious choice to get started with DTG printing, especially if:

  • You’re testing the waters with DTG printing
  • You’re starting your very first garment apparel business
  • You only plan on starting on a small scale first
  • You have some technical skills to run the needed maintenance/self-cleaning cycles

Consider the following pointers:

Why buy entry-level DTG printers?

Affordable Third-Party Inks

While manufacturers won’t advise it, you can use compatible third-party inks with your DTG printers, and it will print just fine. Most – if not all – compatible inks are cheaper than buying OEM inks; some OEM inks can cost a significant amount for just a single cartridge! Having to buy multiple cartridges can inevitably incur a hefty expense, and for a brand new DTG print shop, that can be bad for business.

Some inks are usually marketed as being compatible with specific DTG printers, so if you use a Ricoh DTG printer, you should use Ricoh-compatible inks. You should always test print with compatible inks you’ve never used before so you can eliminate printing issues (like mismatched colors) before you start on a customer’s order.


These entry-level printers are suitable for starting an apparel decoration business on a budget. Their price tags are below the 10k mark, leaving you with sufficient funds to get the rest of the business setup done (paperwork, location, etc.) and acquire other equipment and the required consumables for DTG printing. Leasing options may also be available if you want to save even more.

Customer Support

Buying from a named brand is usually a good idea, not just for the branding but also for the customer support they offer. That can be a lifeline when your printer is having issues, and you have no idea how to resolve them. A quick call to your supplier or to the dedicated support hotline provided by the manufacturer can mean shorter downtimes and less lost profits.

Easy to Use

Entry-level DTG printers are made with newcomers and amateur printers in mind. The manual will teach you everything there is to know, and it has all the basic functions of a DTG printer to get you familiar with the printing process. Once you’ve mastered the printer, you can easily make the transition when you upgrade to a better-quality DTG printer.

What to Look for in an Entry-level DTG Printer

Technician showing empty t-shirt with blank space for insert print
Professional graphic print technician showing empty t-shirt with blank space for insert print. Printing production shop

When you’re looking for the right entry-level DTG printer for you and your shop, you’ll need to make sure you carefully consider the following aspects.

  • Print speeds: The faster the print speeds, the more garments you can print in a day. This is still influenced by other factors, such as the design’s complexity, the print area’s size, and so forth. Some printers may have adjustable speed settings for specific print tasks tailored to specific substrate types and other factors.
  • Print area: This is the printable area that a DTG printer can work with on a substrate. This is augmented by different platen or tray sizes, which are used to mount the substrate for printing. For example, the Roland VersaStudio BT-12 has three different tray types going up to an area of 11.5 x 8.0 inches.
  • Resolution: Resolution defines the “clarity” of a printed design in the context of how many pixels can fit within a square inch – measured in dots per inch (dpi). While 300dpi is considered the optimal amount to maintain good image quality, you’ll see many DTG printers boasting resolutions as high as 1,400 dpi. In simple terms, you can convert art at 1,200 dpi into 300 dpi, but you can’t increase it from 300 dpi to 1,200 dpi.
  • Print quality: The quality of a DTG printer relies on a combination of elements, including its print speeds, print area, max resolution, and so forth. Faster print speeds don’t always mean a print will turn out nicely; sometimes, seeing is believing. It’s good to check out samples provided by manufacturers so you can gauge the overall print quality: look at not just its color vibrancy and print accuracy (i.e., no misprints), but also its texture and ink retention, among other attributes.
  • Supported substrates: Some DTG printers will specify only certain types of substrates. Most, if not all, entry-level printers can print on the most common substrates like cotton and cotton blends. Make sure to check this out before buying a DTG printer, especially if you’ve already identified what type of substrate(s) you’ll use for all your prints.
  • Printer size: Most entry-level printers are big enough to print on most substrates but small enough that they won’t take up too much space in your shop. This can be a factor that determines the available functions of a DTG printer, but it differs between manufacturers.
  • Additional equipment: Some DTG printers may come with extra supporting equipment that can be beneficial to your printing needs. Both the VersaStudio BT-12 and Ricoh’s Ri 100 come with a finisher, which helps set the inks into a printed garment.

Caveats to an Entry-level Printer

There are a few caveats to take note of, though these may not necessarily be bad things, depending on how you view them.

Caveats to entry-level DTG printers


The DTG printer scene is always seeing new innovations, so the new DTG printer you purchased may not be new by next year. It doesn’t necessarily mean your printer is obsolete, but you will be missing some new features or improvements that your current printer (sorely) lacks.

The one plus point is that if you haven’t bought a printer yet, you can get a relatively new (say, between two to three years since it launched) DTG printer model at a discounted price. If you’re lucky, you might even score a mid-range printer at a bargain (if that’s up your alley). Again, it will lack the bells and whistles more recent printers will have, but for entry-level DTG printers, the basics are more than sufficient.

The downside, of course, is that selling off your existing equipment will have to be done at a loss.


Most entry-level DTG printers will have some form of self-maintenance feature heavily touted so you can focus on printing and less on maintenance. This is a misunderstanding on the part of the buyer, as any DTG printer will require regular maintenance cycles to prevent clogs and other problems from halting your printing. “Plug-and-play” printers unfortunately don’t exist. Additionally, it can be stressful when you encounter a problem and can’t seem to get support from the manufacturer themselves., which only exacerbates your business downtime.

Be sure to follow the maintenance instructions for your DTG printer and always run its cleaning cycles when you’re done for the day or when it’s advised to do so. Leaving it for tomorrow will only increase the risk of something going wrong later.

Unexpected Gotchas

If it gets to a point where you’re spending more time maintaining your DTG printer than growing your business, that’s a major problem on your hands. It could be due to any number of reasons, such as hardware faults or manufacturing defects, and these gotcha moments can take a lot out of you and your fledgling business.

This is even more obvious if you’re using a repurposed DTG printer. It usually involves a Digital Rights Management (DRM) issue to prevent people from modifying an OEM printer, preventing the printer from operating effectively. This is another reason why repurposed printers aren’t as popular, considering the hefty costs associated with getting them back in running order.

Feature Limitations

Entry-level DTG printers have their share of limitations to what they can do. A common limitation is their inability to print on dark-colored garments with consistency, though this may usually be alleviated by making a second-pass print to improve the vibrancy of inks. It’s good to know what your printer can and can’t do and to experiment within the constraints of the limitations and see what you can do.

Be sure not to push your printer too hard when running these trials or you might end up with far more issues than you need.

When to Avoid an Entry-level DTG Printer

Entry-level DTG printers are suitable for small-scale print orders as the print times for a DTG printer aren’t as fast as screen printing, be it manual or automatic. The relatively slower print speed is because you’re printing directly onto the substrate of your choice: the more detailed the artwork is, the longer it takes to finish the printing process. Higher-grade DTG printers will have faster print speeds as they’re built specifically to service medium-volume orders; you’ll need to pay a pretty penny in order to afford such a printer.

As such, you’d best get a mid-range or industrial DTG printer over an entry-level one if:

  • You have a high number of small orders, or a few high-volume orders, for DTG prints
  • You need more powerful DTG printers that can print faster without losing print quality
  • You need the DTG printer to do more or have specific capabilities