Screen Printing vs Direct to Garment: How Do I Choose?
Figuring out the best method for custom printed T-shirts can be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be! While each option is different, Mindzai offers both Screen Printed apparel and Direct to Garment printed apparel.
Creating custom apparel is supposed to be easy and fun! Leave the stress and keep reading to find the pros and cons of both Screen Printing and Direct to Garment printing, and find which process is better for you and your project.
First, what exactly ARE these two methods? Isn't printing just, printing?
Screen Printing is the most popular method of apparel printing, and it's something we've been doing in house for the better part of a decade. It's probably what you are most familiar with, and our entire Apparel Line is printed with this method as well. While everyone could use a little history lesson here and there, we won't go into too much detail about the origins of the screen printing process (just know the Chinese invented it a long, long time ago).
Earliest known appearance of screen printing has been traced back to the Song Dynasty in China, circa 960-1279 CE -- aka a very long time ago. Here are some folks from the Song Dynasty straight up chillin' and making all the damn things.
First, we take your digital print file (usually a PDF or TIFF file) and we digitally print it on transparency to make a film. We have to color separate each layer of your file, so depending on how many colors your design is we may have to make 2-3 different films, and thus, 2-3 different screens.
The film is then burned into a "screen" using MAGIC!
The actual printing process pushes ink through a woven mesh stencil (we call them screens) onto fabric. The ink is then pushed over the mesh, typically pulled by a squeegee. As it's pulled, the ink is pushed through the mesh, onto the garment. And viola! That's the gist! Sounds simple enough, right?
Here's where a few cons can come into play. Because of the technique of screen printing, only one color can be applied at a time. Therefore, the number of colors on a t-shirt are limited, and each layer demands more time, another screen, and ultimately, more money. Screen printing is a good choice for simple designs, a few solid colors, and when you’re making many t-shirts of the same design at a time. That being said, we can definitely knock it out of the park when it comes to 7-8 colors, too!
The main benefit of screen printing is quality. Our screen printing process is top-notch, meaning it lasts through multiple washes and will last years and years.
Direct to Garment:
Direct to Garment (or DTG) is a method where a physical printer directly applies the ink onto the t-shirt, basically an inkjet process. A specialty printer prints the design/ink directly onto the garment. DTG uses specialty inks, which are absorbed into the fibers of the garment.
With Direct to Garment, we can print images in much higher detail than screen printing, and you’re not limited in color. This process is great for photo-realistic designs, or designs that are considered "full color." Direct to Garment is also a really great option for those who want to "prototype" their designs to shop to wholesalers, or only want to make a few at at time without a large investment. With Mindzai, you can order as few as 5 Direct to Garment items. For Screen Printing, our minimum is a little higher, at 25.
Here's an example of the Direct to Garment printing process, as well as the type of detailed designs that work best.
It should be noted that while DTG is great for designs with a lot of detail, the quality is not as high and durable as Screen Printing. And there is a flat rate per shirt, instead of any price breaks, so it's best that you reserve this process for orders of less than 25.
To Sum it Up (AKA TL;DR)
We usually recommend screen printing for most jobs. It's a process we've got down to a science, and it's the best way to create vibrant, bold designs that last. But, we know that time and budget is of the essence, so Direct to Garment is a perfect process for a small run, heavily-detailed or photo-realistic images.
If you have any questions about screen printing, Direct to Garment, or want a quote: Contact Us Today!