4 Misconceptions About DTG Printing
Direct-to-garment is a great option for small decorators that outsource screen printing but want to offer something in-house for smaller runs. It's also a good choice for those who want to use inkjet technology, since it doesn't have a color limit, a large equipment footprint or setup charges. However, there are some fallacies regarding this decoration method, which has evolved tremendously over its approximately two-decade existence. So let’s dispel four misconceptions of DTG printing. You can also read more about DTG and related topics in The Promo Distributor's Guide to Apparel Decoration.
1. Production is too complicated
There’s a learning curve to any decoration method, but DTG isn’t as complicated as others and has a relatively low entry cost (approximately $15,000 to start). Yes, distributors need to understand which fabrics work better and how to design the artwork, but new equipment purchases should come with not only a warranty, but technical support. DTG manufacturer OmniPrint International Inc., Costa Mesa, Calif., offers ample training and recommends taking time to learn the process anyway, Victor Pena, the company’s president and CEO, said.
His team puts a lot of effort into newbies because within a month or so, technical support requests reduce drastically. On the other hand, OmniPrint doesn’t push an inexperienced decorator into an equipment purchase. Instead Pena encourages outsourcing until the distributor builds up to five shirts per day.
“The reality is the customer that gets more orders makes more money, and they also become more of an expert on their equipment, which lowers the support and maintenance,” Pena said. “It's that customer that prints once a month, once every two months that always has constant issues. So there’s customers like that that are better off outsourcing, and we don't sell to them until they’re going to have some kind of volume. … Our most successful customers are the ones that print every day.”
2. Printers require too much maintenance
As technology in general has evolved, so has DTG printing—both the machines and the inks. Previously, maintenance was a big part of the process, but OmniPrint uses a wet-cap system that prevents the print heads from drying out, as well as a filtration system that keeps the inks flowing throughout the machine to virtually eliminate clogs. This technology also resolved white ink issues as well. A decade ago, white ink—which contains a heavier pigment called titanium dioxide that needs to be agitated to avoid settling—was new, so machines weren’t equipped to handle it, Pena said.
“Now there's a lot of successful customers that are using this technology that don’t have issues with maintenance, and it’s just going to get easier and easier as we push not only the machine forward but we push the [ink] chemistry forward,” he said.
However, confirm the DTG printer has all the technology advancements before purchasing. Some printers may still require a lot of maintenance, and steps like manually circulating ink will force you to spend time on maintenance as opposed to selling.
3. Print quality is substandard
In fact, the opposite is true. Not only will it provide a photographic-quality print, but a properly pretreated and cured imprint will stand up to multiple washes with no fading.
The pretreatment spray allows wet-on-wet printing. In other words, the white ink base printed on dark shirts won’t seep into the fabric and the color layer printed on top won’t run. Also, there’s no need to cure between layers. But curing the print with a heat press at the end locks everything in place and ensures an item's washability.
“It’s kind of like the magic that makes all this direct-to-garment thing work is making sure that the ink stays on top of the shirt, and that it’s bright and it’s washable,” Pena said. “Otherwise, the pigments that are heavier would go through the fabric. It would look grayish, kind of like a worn look, and it wouldn’t be that bright type of print, so that’s why you have to do the pretreatment.”
4. Costs are too high to make a profit
At OmniPrint, Pena has designed a complete vertical system to make the entire process easier and boost ROI for its customers. Instead of cartridges, OmniPrint sells ink by the liter, allowing decorators to pour it into their machines, which he estimates reduces the cost per print by about 50 percent.
The machinery also comes with software that helps with color matching to eliminate cost-straining test prints, as well as figuring out pricing by indicating how much ink is used in a given print. Pena noted this not only eliminates unexpected costs, but allows distributors to nail down costs faster when quoting a project, especially if blank goods prices have been pre-negotiated with the vendor as well. Distributors can input exact charges for each cost, including each print location or per square inch of print, which will allow for automated and on-demand quotes, which Pena sees as an important feature with consumers becoming less patient.
“Some customers are focused on quoting so much that they forget to just have a clean offer,” he said. “So, I see that a lot and I think in the future, there’s going to be no room for people to wait, so make sure you have a clean offer and you have your pricing ready to go so you can focus on closing instead of quoting.”
Want more on DTG printing? Check out The Promo Distributor's Guide to Apparel Decoration, a free resource for distributors looking to find the right decorating partner, add in-house decoration or build business through e-commerce stores. Download it here.