Should You Consider DTG Printing?

Should You Consider DTG Printing?

Direct-to-garment, or DTG, printing is a well-known printing technique that produces vibrant colors and complex designs on cotton substrates. Various print-on-demand services offer DTG prints to customers, and different small-scale fashion businesses use DTG prints to make custom shirts for multiple customers.

While many in the industry make a case for DTG printing’s importance, especially concerning its impressive print quality, others believe that making the jump to DTG printing is not worth the time, effort or investment. We’re here to help provide a balanced view on whether you should consider DTG printing for your business.

So How Does DTG Printing Work?

A blue shirt prepped for printing

The process of DTG printing is somewhat similar to a regular printer that prints documents. You’ll first need to create a design that you want to print on the garment of your choice. You can do this using graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel Draw.

Once the design is ready, you’ll use a raster image processor, or RIP, software to translate the image into a set of instructions that the printer can understand.

Before you can start printing, you should heat press the garment for 5 to 10 seconds. Doing so will evaporate any humidity and flatten the garment’s fibers to prevent the design from getting smudged or misprinted.

Next, you’ll need to pretreat the garment. Spray the garment with a pretreatment solution. Doing this will prevent ink from being soaked into the garment. Pretreatment also helps the colors to stand out more vibrantly.

Pretreatment can be applied by manually spraying the garment with the solution using a spray gun (then layering the solution with a roller) or using an automatic pretreatment machine. Most DTG users will prefer the automatic method to maintain pretreatment consistency. In contrast, others have found their way to ensure consistency via the manual spray method (although this takes time to get used to).

Pretreatment using an automatic pretreatment machine
Image sourced from Sublistar

The amount of pretreatment to apply can differ based on the material used. A higher cotton count, for example, will generally mean you need to apply more pretreatment to the garment.

Once the pretreatment solution is applied, you need to dry the garment to allow the pretreatment solution is set into the fibers of the garment. The optimal temperature for heat pressing should be between 320-350℉ (160-177℃). You can do this using either a manual heat press or a curing oven.

After the pretreatment solution is cured, you can load the garment onto the DTG printer’s platen. Make sure it’s carefully adjusted onto the platen so the printing process goes smoothly. If you don’t adjust it carefully, you could cause the design to smudge or be unevenly printed.

Once printed, you’ll need to heat press it to let the inks set in. This process is known as curing. Ideally, you should heat press the garment twice. For the first press, hover the top of the heat press over the garment for about 15 to 30 seconds. Doing this first prevents the colored inks from mixing with the white layer and produces the best results regarding color vibrancy and print softness.

For the second press, place a sheet of silicone parchment paper on top of the garment, then apply pressure to the garment for about 30 to 45 seconds. Once done, let the garment cool sufficiently before you check its overall quality.

Did you know?
You’ll want to experiment with the optimum times and temperatures for heat pressing for curing or setting the pretreatment solution into the garment. We offer general guidelines for timings and temperature levels, but this may not always apply in every situation.

The Origins of DTG Printing

DTG printing began in the mid-1990s when apparel makers sought a new printing method. While screen printing offered many advantages, its core disadvantage was its inability to handle small-scale production runs; the smaller the run, the higher its production costs. Inkjet printers were considered an excellent platform to print on other materials.

Eventually, Matthew Rhome built the first DTG printer, which he dubbed the “Revolution,” in the mid-1990s. He applied for a patent in 1996, which was granted in 2000. From there, newer DTG machines began to appear in the market.

Around this time, some quarters were wary if DTG printing would supplant screen printing as the primary printing solution for apparel, despite its infancy. Eventually, the industry realized it was a parallel printing process that industry players could leverage alongside screen printing – but we’ll discuss that later in the article.

Early DTG printing did see good results with its overall print quality, but it was only until 2005 that you could make DTG prints on black garments. At the time, no one had developed DTG-specific white inks yet. Even when white inks were first introduced, they caused a fair share of issues, especially their fast separation that caused clogs and jams in the printer.

Setting Up for DTG Printing

There are a few core components you need to start printing designs.

The DTG Printer

You’ll need a DTG printer before you can start printing. One option is to get a converted printer. A converted printer is a modified inkjet printer specifically altered for DTG printing, which generally means they’re more affordable than most mid-range DTG printers on the market. You could previously find them on sale from various sellers, but with the advent of direct-to-film (DTF) printing, they’re no longer as widespread as they used to be.

You could always buy a pre-owned machine for a fraction of its original cost, but this has its share of caveats. Most notably, you won’t really know the actual condition of the pre-owned machine until you see it for yourself. The worst case scenario is that you end up buying a faulty heap of junk; buyer beware!

You could also convert an inkjet printer on your own, but the biggest problem is the risks associated with making the conversion yourself. You can find many conversion tutorial videos on YouTube, but they always come with the standard warning disclaimers. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might not want to consider doing it in the first place!

yoprint dtg printer costs

Entry-level printers you can consider include:

Nonetheless, you can still find a wide assortment of entry-level printers on online marketplaces, most of which are China-made DTG printers. You might be able to find a decent printer for under $3,000. Once you can scale up your business, you can invest in mid-range printers that offer better output quality, faster printing speeds, and many other benefits to improve your production.

With mid-range printers, you can consider the following:

Larger-scale printers, such as those made by Kornit, are best suited for commercial businesses printing larger quantities. However, these order sizes are nowhere as numerous as a screen printing bulk order. You’ll also need to pay a hefty sum to afford some of these machines from well-known brands such as:

Printing Inks

Inkjet cartridges

DTG inks are primarily water-based and more transparent than screen printing inks. They bind directly to a garment’s fibers thanks to fusing agents in the ink’s composition. These fusing agents allow the inks to set into the garment permanently, creating a design with a very smooth feel. As such, DTG printing works best on cotton or similar fibrous substrates.

DTG printing uses both white and CMYK inks. If you’re unfamiliar, CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black; the ‘K’ represents black or simply ‘Key.’ CMYK delivers the best results on printed materials, as it is how we replicate colors with inks. You can combine these four colors to make any color while also maintaining prints with many different colors, gradients, and shading.

Meanwhile, white ink serves as the foundation, or “undercoat,” for the CMYK color inks, which helps bring your design to life. White ink is a heavily used ink for various reasons, such as serving as an underbase for black or dark-colored shirts or mixing with other colors during printing.

White ink is essential to DTG printing because you can’t simply produce the color white by combining colors; there’s no “formula” to create the color white. Moreover, since DTG printing applies a thin coating of colored ink onto the garment’s fibers, having that white underbase prevents the inks from blending into the garment (primarily black or colored garments) and affecting the overall color scheme.

Epson and Brother produce their own inks for their range of DTG printers and are generally viewed as the gold standard for DTG inks. There are other ink manufacturers as well, such as Dupont. Third-party ink providers generally ensure their inks are compatible with most DTG printers, but it’s always good to find out more to prevent future complications with your printer.

A big downside is that DTG inks are expensive; you might find small 250ml bottles sold for at least $40 per bottle. Larger quantities can go as high as $200 per bottle, especially branded inks.

Pretreatment Equipment & Solution

Pretreatment equipment
Image sourced from Omniprint

Pretreatment is viewed as the most critical starting step for any DTG printing. Proper pretreatment ensures that a DTG print lasts long after many washes while retaining vibrant colors.

Pretreatment is usually not needed for light-colored garments. However, some experts recommend it as a way to improve the print’s overall characteristics, such as its color vibrancy and print durability.

Pretreating dark-colored garments is vital. Doing this ensures that the white ink adheres to the garment, providing the colored CMYK inks a proper base to “lay on” instead of being soaked up by the garment. Without pretreatment, the colored inks will only be absorbed by the garment and look faded or washed out.

Special pretreatment solutions can also be found, which are more suitable for particular substrates such as polyesters. These unique solutions make it possible for DTG prints to work well with polyesters and other substrates. For example, DTG printing has difficulty printing on polyester garments due to polyester’s water-repellent properties (and DTG inks are all water-based).

You can apply the pretreatment solution using a spray gun or an automatic pretreatment machine like the ColDesi PTM. Using the former method is cheap and labor-intensive for pretreating, but you risk having inconsistent pretreatment applications on each garment. On the other hand, using an automatic pretreatment machine saves you precious time on pretreating, but these machines have high purchase costs.


Acrorip software
Image sourced from Acrorip Forum

DTG printing can easily print out digital designs that are complex and full of tiny, intricate details. Using the right software allows you to adjust the needed print characteristics, color performance, and overall print quality post-transfer. Moreover, the RIP software you plan to use must be able to handle CMYK and white colors.

AcroRip is one well-known RIP software used for various printing methods, while many DTG printer manufacturers do provide their in-house RIP software to handle your designs. You can purchase a copy of AcroRip for at least $300 or more from authorized resellers. Some resellers also offer onboarding support packages, allowing you to get help to set up the software to work with your printers.

It helps to familiarize yourself with color management and ICC profiles to ensure you’re maximizing the capabilities of your software and avoiding potential mistakes when applying the colors to the prints. Practice makes perfect, and as you find ways to minimize errors, you’ll be able to confidently deliver high-quality goods to your clients.

Heat Press/Curing Oven

A person using a heat press on a shirt

The heat press is a labor-intensive device used to pre-press garments before pretreatment, after pretreatment, and after printing on the garment. A curing oven, on the other hand, helps cure the ink on the garment or can be used to dry your garment after pretreatment and/or printing. For best results, you should ideally have both pieces of equipment in your shop.

Heat presses are relatively inexpensive, though there are recommendations to get heat presses with adjustable platens, built-in timers, and other convenience features that can improve your productivity.

Curing ovens would be a good choice, but not for newcomers, as they can be expensive to acquire: the minimum price is around $5,000 and above. Ensure that your curing oven is in a well-ventilated area; your staff will also need protective masks while using a curing oven as it may release chemical vapors during the curing process. Safety first!

Setup Costs for DTG Printing

Most entry-level printers tend to be converted inkjet printers, although some companies offer their proprietary entry-level printers for beginners.

DTG Printer

At one point, you could find entry-level converted printers sold for between $500 to $1,000, depending on the model used (some converted Epson printers could go above the $1,000 price point). With DTF printing becoming more popular, converted DTG printers are now a rarity. You may need to look at pre-owned printers for an affordable option; otherwise, expect to spend at least $5k on a DTG printer alone.

At the very least, with that much of an investment, you’ll get a reliable printer from a known brand and accessible customer support if you have any issues. The major drawback of converted printers is that they can cause numerous technical problems owing to their converted nature. Some parts may unexpectedly stop working, leaving you to go through frustrating self-maintenance to figure out the problem.

Brother GTXPro DTG printer
Image sourced from Brother

A good starter would be Roland’s VersaSTUDIO BT-12 printer for between $3,000 to $4,000 (Roland’s official store retails it at $3,495, but it’s currently on offer at $1,922.25 as of 28th April 2023). It only prints on white/light substrates but is well-regarded as a good starting option for newcomers to DTG printing.

If you’re willing to take the risks, pre-owned printers up for sale on eBay, Amazon, or other online marketplaces might be a good bet. You could be lucky enough to find a relatively new printer model up for grabs for a far lower price than its MSRP.

Heat Press

A decent heat press can cost you about $200 and above. If you’re on a budget, Cricut sells small-scale heat presses from $50 to $250; they may be small but could be a good starter for DTG’s print-on-demand scale. Larger, reliable flatbed heat presses like those made by Fancierstudio and Vevor would make better choices if you want something more reputable. Stahl’s sells some good quality presses, too.

If you’d like to go for quality, Hotronix is considered by many to be a gold standard for high-quality heat presses. Their basic heat press retails for $599 for a 15″ x 15″ heat press.

A person using a heat press

Pretreatment Equipment

A Wagner pretreatment sprayer can cost only $99 and is the best option if you’re on a tight budget. If you have the cash to spare and would much rather automate the pretreatment process (as it can be very time-consuming), then an automatic pretreatment machine would be a good long-term investment.

Basic pretreatment machines retail for about $2,500 and above. On the other hand, top-quality ones like the PTM can go for more than $5,000.


You might find DTG inks to be a rather costly affair. For example, authorized resellers of Brother DTG printer inks may sell Brother inks for $89 or higher – and that’s for a single bag! Most times, you can save costs by purchasing compatible inks. Despite their name, compatible inks aren’t always compatible with every type of DTG printer on the market. Do your research, or contact the seller to find out more about compatibility.

You may find some sellers even offer preferential rates for larger orders. This could help offset the higher overall costs of purchasing new or replacement consumables. For example, from here, you could buy a set of 500ml Dupont CMYK inks and 1 liter of white ink for about $380.

A significant portion of ink cost comes from white ink, as you’ll use a lot of it if you print on dark garments. Some printers also use white ink as part of the regular maintenance cycle to keep the inks from condensing and separating, which could cause unpleasant printhead clogs.

Pretreatment solutions also vary in cost. We’ve seen 1-liter bottles go for as low as $18, but do be mindful that not all pretreatment solutions are the same. Some pretreatment solutions are meant to be used for white or light-colored garments only, while others cater to black or dark-colored garments. Make sure you read the labels carefully before making a purchase.

Labor Considerations

A shop with an "open" sign on the door

DTG printing is a relatively time-consuming process owing to the number of steps you must go through to print a shirt. As such, you’ll need to carefully determine your labor cost and decide on your overall profit margin from sales.

  1. Sales Time – looking for customers is also a labor cost. It can depend on whether they’re walk-in customers recommended by previous clients or cold-call customers.
  2. Accounting Time – how much time you spend settling your business accounts, be it preparing quotes or sales orders, contacting vendors, or even negotiating with customers.
  3. Shipping & Handling – how will you deliver your orders to your customers? What considerations should you weigh when it comes to shipping orders?
  4. Maintenance – how often should you clean the printers? Will you need to run daily cleaning cycles or only if they’ve not been used in a while?

You’ll need to be realistic about your assessments of labor costs, especially if you have a team of people helping you with the day-to-day operations. You’ll need to factor in their salary and overhead expenses, such as utilities, when everyone works hard in the shop.

Getting Your Return On Investment (ROI)

DTG printing’s strength is servicing customers looking for short-run/print-on-demand orders. That means small-scale orders, no bigger than 20 to 30 shirts per order. Larger orders only drive up your costs higher than the profits you’ll earn, owing to the increased overhead costs for consumables and the slower printing time compared to screen printing.

Let’s use an example to calculate your ROI. We’ll assume you already own a computer and have bought a used but well-maintained Epson SureColor F2100 printer for $12,500 (MSRP is $18,995) through a friend – a lucky investment. On top of that, you’ve also acquired:

  • A pretreatment machine for $3,000
  • A heat press for $300 (recommended by a friend who’s been printing for years)
  • An AcroRip package from DTGPro amounting to $400 (offer price; retail price at $799)
  • A DTG supply pack, comprising of inks, pretreatment liquid bottles, and other useful items, for $400 (sample offer price)
Entry-level DTG printing costs infographic

All in all, that’s a total investment of $16,600. However, this excludes other additional costs, such as purchasing blanks, lease payments, overheads, labor, and extra consumables.

Under ideal circumstances, you want to have something similar to the following setup for a small-scale order:

Infographic on small order of 30 shirts

Your mileage may vary, but these estimates are viable for small-size orders or print-on-demand sales and printing on black or colored garments with a white underbase for the design.

One key point to remember is that the cost you’ll be spending on inks can exceed the price of your shirts and your labor costs. You can save a lot more by using compatible inks that are more affordable than proprietary/original inks but expect to see slightly higher ink use per print (which could translate to frequent restocks of ink supplies).

Your Business Model Can Affect Profitability

How you operate your business can affect how much profits you can rake in from your DTG prints. Specifically, we’re talking about:

  • Wholesale/direct sales where you operate a physical storefront and take walk-in orders from customers
  • Print-on-demand allows you to personalize products without needing to purchase any physical inventory; a company you partner with makes them and ships them out to your customers.
Three people discussing about their online platform

Your business will fill a particular niche for specific types of customers. If you’re in wholesale/direct sales, you’ll compete with various brands, big and small, across the fashion industry to sell your garments. Besides having a physical storefront, exciting designs, and excellent customer service, your pricing can mean the difference between a potential customer purchase or otherwise.

Having your own business gives you much control over what and how you sell. With online sales seeing a big boom in the last few years, having an online store can help you reach a wider audience. But it still comes with various caveats: handling logistics, cataloging inventory, and more.

For print-on-demand or PoD, in short, PoD service providers offer an online-driven platform to sell your garments, customize them to your needs, and then sell them to interested customers. You can do this without opening a physical store or meeting customers in person. You only need to focus on maintaining your online store, handling marketing and promotions, and responding to customer inquiries or concerns.

However, PoD services come at a premium since these providers do most of the “grunt work” for you, such as printing and shipping the garments to customers. As such, your prices will also need to account for said service costs.

Look at the catalog of PoD providers, such as Printful or Printify, and you’ll find men’s cotton T-shirts going from $8 per piece in various colors and sizes. Customizations to the shirt based on customer requirements can also affect pricing.

Important Considerations for Choosing DTG Printing

DTG printing has its fair share of pros and cons. Over the years, DTG printing has been associated as a printing solution that best caters to small, custom orders for individuals, usually under 50 shirts per order. If you’re considering getting into it, consider the following points before deciding.

Costs of Starting Up

Accounting calculator

As mentioned in the earlier sections, the main challenge most newcomers face is the high entry ceiling where cost is concerned. With converted printers that are much harder to find on the market, reliable entry-level printers will set you back at least $5k and above.

If you’re fortunate, you can afford an entry-level setup consisting of a DTG printer, a starter set of inks and pretreatment solution, a pretreatment spray gun, RIP software, and a good quality heat press for approximately $8,000 or above. Meanwhile, mid-range printers like a Brother GTX Pro and a starter kit of inks, consumables, and other equipment can easily exceed $25,000.

Industrial-level setups have a much higher entry cost, especially if you invest in top-quality DTG printers like a Kornit. When you’re done looking around, don’t be surprised if your shopping list hits a six-figure sum. We only recommend going big if you have the financial means to do so; even then, we’d be hesitant to recommend jumping headlong into DTG printing.

DTF and even screen printing remain popular choices considering the lower entry ceiling in terms of cost and comparable printing quality to DTG. Screen printing may be more laborious, but with sufficient practice, it can still create some vibrant, lasting designs. As such, these options are more viable to allow amateurs to start printing designs for custom garments in good time and without needing to break the bank.


Your general consumable use can potentially be high depending on the number of orders you receive. Your main concern lies with white ink usage; if you’re printing on dark substrates, white ink is vital as the underbase of your CMYK color inks. White ink may also be used during regular maintenance cycles to prevent the inks from building up and solidifying when not in use.

White inks and pretreatment solutions are essential components of the DTG printing process, so you’ll need extra supplies if you’re handling many small orders. However, both of these are rather costly. For instance, the price of one DTG bottle is roughly equal to two bottles of DTF ink of the same quantity.


Various repair tools

DTG printer maintenance is usually referred to as a tedious, repetitive process. Some printers require daily maintenance cycles to be run at their allotted times, even if you’re not using them because it might be a holiday. Those who don’t do this will end up dealing with a clog or some other issue.

There’s quite a fair bit to do where maintenance is concerned, which can also be based on your type of printer. If you’re unsure how to do it, you might have more problems than you began with. Always read the manual on troubleshooting common printer problems, or contact your printer’s manufacturer for live customer support.

Protecting your DTG printer from the elements is also part of maintenance. As these are delicate machines, they’re susceptible to dust, heat, and humidity. Keep them in a clean, well-insulated room under optimal conditions, and that’s already half the battle won. Ensure you declutter the area where the printer is placed and connect it to a surge protector to protect it from electrical issues.

There are many misunderstandings surrounding DTG printers. One such misconception is that they’re plug-and-play machines; that’s hardly the case. Regular maintenance is crucial to making sure your prints turn out fine and your printers don’t break down every so often. Setting aside five minutes of your time for regular maintenance will be very beneficial to keeping your machines running optimally for much longer.


Shirts lined up on platens

DTG printing has a relatively slower output time than other printing methods. Investing in automation systems, like an automatic pretreatment machine or a conveyor dryer, can help improve your productivity and efficiency. Still, you’ll need to fork out a lot of money to get your hands on these tools.

Printing speed, however, greatly depends on the printer you’ve invested in. Because DTG printing is all about small runs, you won’t need to fuss over needing to pump out hundreds of shirts daily. Ideally, an entry-level DTG printer can pay for itself within three to six months, and you only need to sell between 20 to 30 shirts per day.

Costs aren’t just restricted to finances, after all. Time is an all-important cost factor as well. While necessary, pre-pressing garments, pretreatment, and drying pretreated garments can eat into your work time. You can optimize your equipment and staff arrangement to reduce time for pretreating or pretreating garments.

With the right equipment and an ideal setup for a team of two, you can pretreat and print a shirt within 6 to 8 minutes. Assuming it takes 8 minutes, you’ll have seven shirts ready in an hour.

While you might think that seems relatively slow, you must remember that you’re catering to short but highly customized printing runs. Once you can scale up, you can quickly increase your overall outputs by a considerable margin with better equipment.

Print Quality and Durability

Shirts hanging on racks

DTG prints are some of the best you’ll get compared to the other printing methods. Because the inks are injected directly into the garment, and designs are created straight from your computer, you’ll create high-quality, full-color designs with the softest hand among the competition.

The outstanding print quality of DTG printing is its most substantial advantage. You’ll be printing garments at incredible speeds without sacrificing the overall quality of your prints. Complex designs, shading, multiple colors, and various gradients are no challenge for DTG printing. You’re also getting very flexible and breathable garments since the inks don’t clog up the fibers.

With proper pretreatment and curing and after-care for your customers, your prints can last a reasonably long time after multiple washes. In some cases, DTG-printed garments can last up to 40 washes or more!

While the printed designs won’t tear or fade very quickly, nor are they easily damaged from stretching, your mileage will still vary. The type of inks, the pretreatment solution, and the curing method are among the factors that can affect the overall print quality; experimenting can help you find a good balance to get the best results from your printing.

Contrast this with screen printing. The significant difficulty comes from having to screen print multiple layers of color one after the other. Not only does the number of colors increase the overall print time, but it also becomes quite costly and heavily labor-intensive to print out multicolored prints as consumable costs ramp up with larger orders.

However, the durability of DTG prints still can’t match the excellent quality of screen-printed designs. Screen-printed designs might have a somewhat plastic-like feel, but when done correctly, they’re much more washable than DTG.


Screen with Adobe Illustrator featured

DTG printing allows many customization options, especially for print-on-demand services. Custom items, whether garments, phone cases, or more, have a vast appeal. You can leverage sales from colors to design choices by giving your potential customers a wide selection of products.

When it comes to printing, you can easily make on-the-fly changes to the design for customers who want the same design but have different colors or slight modifications to the pattern. You could even allow customers to share their own designs instead of sticking to a pre-curated library of your own.

Whether someone’s making an order for a special birthday bash or for a team-building event, or just a single shirt as a special little gift for one person, you’ll find no shortage of customers looking for custom orders.

Color Vibrancy

DTG prints use CMYK, accurately conveying colors once printed onto a physical medium. However, it still lacks the bright vibrancy and saturation that most customers prefer, which varies from customer to customer.

Digitally printed shirt with dog design

You’ll be hard-pressed to compete with screen printing’s ability to match the Pantone color range. It can meet the needs of corporate clients who require their corporate logo printed with the correct color gamut.

What you do get, however, is excellent color blending properties in DTG prints. It’s very easy for DTG printing to capture or replicate gradient changes and subtle elements in the design, thanks to its water-based nature and transparency properties. Inks can easily be combined to create this intricate blending effect.

Various factors can influence the color vibrancy of your prints, including the inks you use, the pretreatment method, the ICC profile for prints, and many others. It’s always good to experiment with color blends before printing anything, especially if you need to change any aspect of your printing process (such as changing ink brands due to a shortage of the inks you usually use).


Maintaining consistency can be a tricky process. Sometimes, the slightest change or mistake to the garment, the pretreatment layer, or even the inks can mess up a print. If you don’t conduct a quality control check for newly printed garments, you might waste time, effort, and money on a few (or a lot of) poorly printed products.

One prime example concerns manual pretreatment consistency. If you apply too much pretreatment, you might have a stiff print feel and a visible area where you sprayed the pretreatment. Apply too little, however, and you might have less vibrant colors or poor washability.


Grey cotton collared shirt

DTG printing’s major roadblock is its difficulty working with non-cotton-based substrates, such as nylon or polyester. Cotton and some cotton blends (think canvas or hemp) is usually where DTG prints shine best because the water-based inks are easily and permanently absorbed into the fabric.

New pretreatment methods have been developed and shared to allow other substrates to be used for DTG printing. However, this varies based on factors such as the pretreatment method or solution used, the time needed to cure the garment, the inks used, and many others. Your mileage will vary, so take note of that.

While you have a fair amount of customization options, it doesn’t always translate well to certain parts of the shirt, such as the collar or the cuff of the sleeves. It could be due to the different materials used to make those parts or the small area they present for printing, which is difficult for a standard DTG printer to accomplish.

You could contact your printer manufacturer and send them substrate blanks for them to test with. They should be more than willing to share the results of printing on those substrates, and it might even help them devise better ways to allow more substrate types to be used for DTG printing applications.

DTG Transfers

A novel way of overcoming DTG’s versatility issues is to adopt heat transfer techniques – basically, to do what DTF is already doing. DTG transfers are indeed possible by printing with your DTG inks onto special transfer film/paper, then transferring the design to the substrate via heat press.

You’ll need to tweak some settings to ensure your print turns out nicely. For one, you may need to avoid applying too much ink to the transfer sheet; too much may end up causing the inks to blend with one another. You might also have to adjust the position of the platen so that your DTG printer can print the design on the sheet. Note that the design must be printed in reverse to appear the right way up when you transfer it to the substrate.

Once your printed sheet is ready, the next few steps are the same as DTF’s: apply hot melt powder to the sheet while the inks are still wet, then cure the inks with either a conveyor dryer or heat press and finally, have it heat pressed to the desired substrate.

DTG transfers are an easy way to expand your capabilities, as transfer sheets can be applied to virtually any substrate that DTG printing normally can’t print on. This also means you can start printing on various non-garment items, such as water tumblers, giving you plenty more opportunities to expand your core services. Moreover, you won’t need to spend a lot on new equipment or invest in a completely different decorative printing method; you’ll be able to retool your printing services quickly.

The Verdict

A stack of shirts on someone's hand

With all that’s been said about DTG printing, the question remains: “Should you invest in DTG printing as a start?” Or perhaps, if you’ve been using other printing methods for your business, “Should you invest in DTG printing as an additional revenue source?”

Let’s answer the first question. It’s our take that, considering the significant investment cost you’ll need even to get started, we’d instead suggest that you start with the relatively affordable but equally robust DTF printing method.

We believe that DTG printing has a lot going for it in terms of its top-notch print quality, color blending, and excellent soft feel of the prints. Despite that, would you be willing to invest almost $20,000 or higher just to print small order runs? $20,000 is a lot of money – contrast that to the approximate $3,000 investment cost to get started with a simple converted DTF printer that also comes with a starter kit and a basic heat press.

Entry-level DTG printers have already increased in price now that converted DTG printers are much harder to find on the market. Even basic DTG printers are limited to specific types of garments, like the Roland VersaSTUDIO BT-12 being able to print only on white or light-colored garments.

You can still pursue DTG printing if you’re interested in it and can afford the equipment and consumables. However, do note that its learning curve is pretty steep. Extensive research will help you learn the ropes to successfully making DTG prints, allowing you to better understand how it works, what it’s good at (and what it’s not), and how to make the most of your equipment, arrangement, and maintenance cycles.

If you’re using screen printing or some other printing method, and want to expand your horizons, then DTG would be a great investment. You’ll be able to take on small-scale custom orders from customers who don’t need 200 shirts for their small team-building event for 30 folks. Screen printing already has difficulty handling short runs, so having a system dedicated to tackling short runs will be a great addition to your shop.

You can always start small to experiment with the printing method and see how it’ll fit into your business model. Once you get used to it, you can start thinking about leveraging its strengths to your advantage, attracting customers with a new range of products for small-scale orders. In fact, potential clients who you’ve had to turn down could be attracted to your latest offerings. With the possibility of DTG transfers, there’s more that you can do it with it.

DTG printing offers a highly accessible niche for small order sizes and highly detailed custom designs that appeal to many people. It comes with its fair share of caveats, such as lackluster versatility. Still, if you can leverage its advantages and be prepared for potential difficulties in getting it to work optimally, you’ll quickly reap the rewards from your newfound business over time.