3 Misconceptions about DTG printing

Design files for direct to garment printing

3 Misconceptions about DTG printing

Nowadays, DTG printing has become a popular and profitable printing process for both T-Shirt printers and T-Shirt designers. And with the advent of e-commerce, anyone can have their online store and put their art on a T-Shirt. So if it’s a fact that DTG has made T-Shirt printing easy and (fairly) accessible to the masses, it’s also a fact that there are a few myths and misconceptions about direct-to-garment printing that make it a sometimes “dubious” option for people looking to get started with this technology. 

In this article, we will examine and “demystify” three of the most common misconceptions, namely that DTG printing …
… is too expensive
… has poor washability
… is too slow and only produces a small output 

And as you may have heard, DTG is most often compared to screen printing. That topic is beyond the scope of this article. We’ve already covered it in the video: DTG vs. Screen Printing – Which one should you use? which we posted on our DTGMerch YouTube channel.

DTG Misconception #1 – It’s too expensive

First, let’s take a look at the machinery. 


You don’t necessarily need to invest in a workhorse if you’re just starting out. There are many affordable options on the market that are accessible to any budget.

Let’s say that an industrial DTG printer can cost €500,000, but smaller tabletop models can start at €5,000. Instead of investing in a large printer right away, it might be better to start small. If you find that your printer can’t keep up with production demand, add another one. Many people start with several small printers before they even think about investing in an industrial machine with huge output.

By the way, there’s another advantage to this approach. If one of your machines breaks or has downtime, it’s not a big deal because the other machines will still be running. If you only have one large printer and production is down for a while, it’s not as easy to continue operations as usual. 

However, you should be careful with some low-cost machines. Do you know the saying “buy cheap, buy twice”?

Maybe the machine prints well and is quite reliable, don’t get me wrong. But as with everything in life, the components, build and resources used may not last long or are very limited. Just think of car models for example. You should always consider after-sales service. And the availability of spare parts. And how quickly you can get in touch with service technicians and how quickly they can get to you when you need them.

Another good piece of advice is to be extra careful when buying a used DTG printer.

Buying a new DTG printer can be difficult for most entrepreneurs just starting out. Even a small printer can cost a few thousand dollars. If you still want to give it a try, have an expert or a technician take a look before you finalize the purchase. Pay special attention to the print heads.

Invest your money in a good DTG printer that meets your needs, and you can be sure that you will get good results. 

Now let’s talk about the second cost: The printing cost.

You also need to consider the best value for production rate and ink cost.

In terms of cost per print (not including depreciation for T-Shirts, staff, and machinery), it’s honestly pretty affordable. 

Of course, printing costs and ink usage can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Always make sure you get this information before you buy a printer from them, or better yet, from an independent source that owns and operates a printer.

And don’t forget to ask about the cost of the other fluids involved, such as cleaning supplies and how much ink is used for the head cleaning cycles that the device performs on a regular basis. And then do your calculations based on your own research.

As an example, Omniprint shows the following number on its website: 

“Let’s take a look now on how to price a 15 shirt job on a FreeJet and make a profit.
Black Shirt: $3.00
Ink Cost per print: $0.90 plus $0.10 to cover waste ink, total cost $1.00
Pre-treat per shirt $0.50
Labor, 1 hour $15 labor per shirt $1.00
Total cost $5.50 x 3 = $16.50
15 shirts at $16.50 = $247.50 + $5 set up fee $252.50”

Source: https://www.omniprintonline.com/blog/are-you-pricing-prints-properly/

And when you think of larger printers, Kornit refers to the following costs on their website: 

“The cost per print depends on the size and resolution of the prints. When printing on light garments, only CMYK is needed. For an image 8 inch X 8 inch (20cm X 20 cm) the cost per print is 10-12 US cents. When printing on dark garments, you must print a white layer first and then apply the CMYK colors. For the same size image, the white ink will cost 30-40 US cents, meaning, the total printing cost will be 40-50 US cents.”

Source: https://www.kornit.com/faq/much-ink-cost-per-print/

So yes, especially if you’re printing large runs of the same designs, DTG printing may not be the most cost-effective way to do it. But direct-to-garment printing has its own advantages, such as giving you the ability to use a different design on every T-Shirt, without the setup costs and time.

DTG Misconception #2 – Poor washability:

Another concern we hear regularly is that DTG prints wash poorly. 

It’s true that you can’t compare the print durability of screen printing and DTG, but it’s not as much worse as people claim. DTG printing has seen many improvements over the years, but some misconceptions are hard to get out of the heads of the people. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that DTG printing requires a little more expertise and fine-tuning of the production process to get it right. If you don’t cure the ink well, it won’t wash well either. And that’s true for any printing process. But if the ink has been properly cured during the production process, the prints can be amazingly robust. 

And one more thing: 

Screen printing with plastisol is like transferring plastic onto your T-Shirts. In contrast, DTG printing involves spraying water-based ink, basically “colored water,” onto the T-Shirt. Plastisol printing has a thicker coating and often can last longer than the T-Shirt in most cases.

Since all DTG printers use water-based inks, the prints should be compared to water-based screen prints. And in this case, the T-Shirt fabric will start to deteriorate due to wear and tear from repeated washing, as will the ink on its surface.

Washability also depends on the textile used. The most suitable material for DTG printing is usually a 100% cotton fabric. 

However, it is also possible to print on mixed composition textiles that contain some cotton and still get good results. There are also new DTG printer technologies on the market that improve printability on polyester and other water repellent materials.

Another factor that can increase washability is pretreatment. If you are printing only white or light-colored T-Shirts with CMYK inks, pretreatment is optional, but may result in better washability than a T-Shirt without pretreatment.

The truth here is: For long-lasting prints and good washability results, you need to fine-tune the printing process and check the quality regularly with a wash test.

PS: If you need any help with this, have a look at our online course Introduction to DTG Printing

DTG Misconception No. 3 – The process is too slow

In terms of prints per day, there are high output DTG printers these days.

In terms of processes, again it depends on the setup of the print shop and the quality of the equipment. Normally, the workflow of a DTG printer consists of 4 processes:

  1. Applying the pre-treatment.
  2. Sending the design file to the printing machine
  3. Printing
  4. Curing

Compared to screen printing, the setup is much faster: You don’t have to mix the colors, make screens, set up the machine, have a minimum quantity per design and color…

Our verdict on these misconceptions about DTG:

While some machines, inks, and pretreatments are better than others, in my experience, with the right knowledge and practice, DTG printing is just as good as screen printing or any other printing method. DTG printing may have a higher learning curve, as results can vary depending on the type of garment used, which of course makes screen printing, for example, more manageable. But again, only through experimentation and process control will your DTG business take off, making it a success in DTG printing.

We hope this article on the 3 misconceptions about DTG will clear up some doubts you may have.

Want to learn more?

Get your free copy of “Beginners’ Guide to DTG Printing” or, better yet, sign up for our DTG printing online course.