Direct to garment vs Screen printing

In this guide we will explain each printing technique, the biggest advantages and disadvantages of each style. Read until the end to find out which one you should use and why.

Quick Links:

  1. Why you should know the difference
  2. Direct to garment (DTG)
  3. Screen printing
  4. Which printing technique should I use?

Why you should know the difference

Printing garments and selling them online for your business or clothing brand is very profitable, however, if you don’t know which print shop to use, and the biggest difference between the main printing techniques, you will end up with less money in your pocket or even lower quality final product.

Considering your design, garments you use and desired end effect, choosing the right printing technique is very important. You can get the same artwork printed with each printing style and get a totally different end result. Not all print shops will always advise you on the best way to produce your garments which is why you have to know them yourself.


Direct to garment (DTG)

DTG is a new style of printing that only started dominating the printing world around 2005. The technology behind this technique is very similar to the standard home paper printer, just a lot more advanced and complex.

Your artwork is printed directly onto your garment, hence the name, this also means the end result is a soft feel, smooth and vibrant print which gives direct to garment an edge over its competitors. DTG machines can print your design in high resolution, 1440 x 1440 DPI, which makes them ideal for multicolor images, complex designs and photos.

There are a lot of pros and cons of this printing technique so here is a list of them all.

Main Advantages:

  • It can print in Hi-resolution
  • 100% eco-friendly water-based inks
  • The end product is smooth and soft
  • No limit to the colours you can use
  • Best for printing complex Artwork
  • Ideal for orders up to 200 pieces
  • No minimum order quantity
  • Fast turnaround times
  • Very accurate colour matching
  • No setup costs

Main Disadvantages:

  • Is limited to cotton garments
  • Cannot print transparent pixels
  • Requires a flat area for printing, No zip or pockets
  • Inks are thin and won’t cover the garment wave
  • Not cost effective for mass production


Screen Printing

This style of printing is very old and has seen very few changes over the past years. Your artwork has to be colour separated into single layers and burned onto screens which later will be printed individually onto your garment to form your design.

This means there are Artwork separation costs, screen costs and setup costs, which makes this a very expensive printing technique for anything less than 200 pieces and samples price range can often be around 100£.

Once setup, your order can be printed at a very high speed which is why it’s ideal for big amounts. Inks used for screen printing are thick, which gives them good durability and brighter end result, however this also means the surface is not soft and quite heavy in some cases.

Each print shop that uses this technique can give you a different result since your artwork will only be as good as the artist separating it and the printer setting up your order. Here is a list of the main pros and cons of screen printing.

Main Advantages:

  • Fast production time for big amount
  • Bright end results
  • Good durability
  • Can print on any material
  • Can also print on any surface
  • Offers a range of inks, gold, reflective, glitter..
  • Can match colours well if the designer is experienced
  • Cost effective for mass production

Main Disadvantages:

  • High setup cost
  • Minimum order quantity, usually 50
  • High prices for less than 200 pieces
  • Inconsistent colour matching
  • Thick and not soft end result

Which Printing Technique Should I Use?

With so much information it can be hard to decide which printing technique is best for you so here is some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide better.

Is your amount less than 200 garments?

In this case you should use Direct to garment in almost all cases. This goes the same for orders of 200+, almost always you should use screen printing.

Are you printing on at least 80% cotton garments?

If YES, then Direct to garment is your option, if NO then you need Screen Printing.

How many colours does your image have?

If your Artwork is very detailed like a Photograph then DTG is the best option. If your design is a simple text, then both printing techniques will do unless you have less than 50 garments, in that case Direct to garment is best.

How complex is your design, details wise?

In case you are looking for the highest amount of details and a very precise end result, then Direct to garment is for you.

Answering the top 2 questions should be enough for you to decide between direct to garment and screen printing. However, if you are still undecided and wish to place an order, but don’t know about the best printing technique for you, then click on this link to contact us and we will be able to assist you. We print t-shirts in London however we ship to all UK for the same price, so you can order from any UK location.