What's Digital Printing?
Digital Printing, DTG, or Direct-to-Garment Printing all refer to a printing method where the machine prints directly onto the shirt using specialized machines and CMYK inks. Unlike screen printing which prints in spot colors, digital printing works with CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) colors. It is an affordable way to get custom printed shirts when you are purchasing a small quantity.
When digital printing started gaining momentum in the early 2000's, it was a monumental shift in the t-shirt world. Prior to this development, ordering a small amount of t-shirts printed with multi-color graphics or photos simply wasn't possible. The only option was transfer paper, which feels like paper ironed on a shirt (so it obviously wasn't a popular solution).
When a white shirt is digitally printed, the ink is absorbed into the cotton fibers. The shirt and ink become one and feels very soft.
When a dark shirt is digitally printed, the shirt is pre-treated with a transparent solution that is sprayed onto the t-shirt; this is necessary so that the ink is not absorbed into the fabric and it allows the print colors to be as vivid as possible. It will have a soft vinyl-like texture with a slight sheen to it.
Screen Printing vs. DTG
See below a side by side example of the same design printed digitally and traditional screen print.
Benefits of Digital Direct Printing:
- It makes purchases of small quantities affordable and possible.
- Preferred choice for printing detailed artwork with multi-colors.
- Excellent option for printing on dark colored t-shirts.
- Digital printing is permanent and will not wash away when laundered.
Drawbacks of Digital Direct Printing:
- Low quality art files may have a white outline around them.
- Color matching is not possible and bright or neon-like colors will not be as vibrant.
- Special inks such as metallic color or metallic silver ink colors are not possible.
- Print consistency from shirt to shirt is less likely.
* Artwork printed by either method goes through the same review and proofing process by our experts.