Direct to Garment printing problems

Direct to Garment printing problems.

I am going to try and summarize some of the problems which  do occur with DTG printing.

Same Day Shirts
Are you in a rush and need shirts by 5pm the same day? Try Same Day Tee’s and you will be impressed. Submt your order by 10 am and pick up by 5 pm. This is offered by Northwest Custom Apparel

Purchasing a DTG Printer

One big problem is purchasing a machine which is designed for hobbyists. I won’t name them but you can figure out who they are by the price. There are distributors and manufacturers who are trying to crash the DTG market by offering a machine which looks competitive because of the low price.


One thing never believe is the amount of production you can get from a lower priced machine. It just isn’t there. When you see the demo the trick is for the sales rep to print a simple left chest design on a white tee. It looks great and you are sucked in by the productivity.


Not included in the demo is that fact that there is a pre treatment process which has to be done before printing the garment. The pre-treatment consists of spraying a pre-treatment on the shirt and then heat pressing it to prepare it for printing. Generally the demo will have all the shirts pretreated before to evade the fact that there is a process which takes time before actual printing. you should contact NWCustom Apparel if you have any serious questions.

Curing and finishing

Once the shirt is printed the design has to be cured. You can do this with a heat press machine or a dryer used for curing screen printed tees. This is all a part of the production cycle.

When you are told 50 pieces per hour don’t believe it. It just won’t happen for the lower priced machines.

You must pay for production

If you want production you must consider spending around $500,000.00 for two top of the line DTG printers. (never buy one) This will get you a machine which pre-treats and prints in one cycle.  All that’s left to do is run the shirt through a dryer. Productivity with this machine will give you a 40-60 production for left chest white tees. This is a license to print money.

I will continue to update my thoughts on DTG and this is just a brief summary of my feelings.

Marketing DTG and selling DTG

Marketing DTG printing

Direct to garment printing is not exactly new to the decorated apparel industry. However it is starting to get recognized as a decoration of choice. The benefits for DTG need to be incorporated into any marketing program a decorator choosing.

The best way if you are a newbie is to start printing sample shirts. Taking advantage of easy production should let you do at least two shirts a day and present Saleto your client.

At Northwest Custom Apparel we have a program called the WOW program. We print sample shirts on the fly and send them to our customer data base. The results are really good. We let our customer know it is easier for us to send a free sample and stay away from a time consuming sales call.

Sales calls are expensive

Our customers who are business owners see our logic. They agree that the days of making sales calls are expensive and time consuming. In the Seattle area we are rated number 5 in bad traffic. Going to Seattle is a half day event for us. Why should we go when we can get UPS to do the driving?

Another marketing tool we like to use is direct mail. There are so many companies offering printing and mailing services that it would be crazy not to take advantage of this bargain.

Post Cards

We like to design a nice post card and then send to our targeted customer data base. On average a 1,000 piece print and mailing will run about $800.00. This is a bargain when you can stay in front of your customers on a regular basis.

E Mail marketing

E-mail marketing will work if you have a strong customer base who will open your e mails. One thing to be aware of is the fact that you might get a lot of spam bounces. This can hinder your whole direct mail program if start getting a lot of rejection.

In summary we recommend first actual samples, the direct mail and finally e-mail.

Same day screen printing

Screen Printing vs Digital Printing

The question always asked is what process is better for decorating tee shirt?

Quality of the print

One feature of digital to garment printing is the quality of the print. The detail on DTG printing is far superior to screen printing With dtg you can choose as many colors as you want and not have to set up a separate screen for each color. This allows DTG to print small orders.

High cost for multicolor small orders

The cost for multicolor screen printing on small orders is very high. This is why a DTG print will knock your socks off.

However if the order is large lets say over a 144 pieces the screen print method becomes cost reasonable. You can amortize the cost of the set up over the price of the large order.

Fill in orders are killers

But one disadvantage is when the customer wants you to do a fill in order. A fill in order is a post order when the customer realizes they need an additional three pieces. The set up gets quite expensive.

Carcinogenic Compounds.

One problem with screen printing inks is that they have carcinogenic compounds in the ink. This never was a problem until someone discovered that these inks can be harmful to kids. Government regulations dictate that only water based ink should be used for youth. The cutoff age is generally 12 years. This is a hard one to enforce but the day will come when enforcement will become mandatory.

Soft hand to the touch

DTG printing using water based inks is very soft to the touch. Screen prints inks generally are plastisol and hard to the touch. It’s a crime to screen print a soft cotton top with plastisol inks. The feel is horrible.

DTG gives the garment a very soft and comfortable feel when it is worn. Women especially like the soft feel on a cotton garment on their chest.

At Decosource all our inks and materials are environmentally safe.



Tee, Tees and More Tees

Tees, Tees and more tees

Our investment in a Kornit printer was a wise move. We purchased the unit with some reluctance because of the price.

DTG Pricing

You can expect to spend close to $300,000.00 for a new machine. We bit the bullet and purchased three.  We never looked back.

Some say we could get more production if we purchased the less expensive DTG printers available. This argument sounds good if you are shopping price.

Bargin Priced DTG printers are suspect

We found that the lesser priced printers are not fit for production. These machines work real well if your market is geared to single shirt printing. The margins are great for one off printing.

If you are going to use a lesser priced model you have to be aware of the time to print a shirt. They just do not perform as advertised.

DTG Production time

We found that the printing process is slowed down due to the application of the pretreatment. Each shirt has to be pretreated before printing. The process is to first spray the pretreatment on the garment and heat press to lay the fibers of the garment down for printing. With the Kornit the pretreatment is included in the printing cycle. This is a important time saver to consider if you are going to do production. The pretreatment process generally takes about 2 minutes vs no time using a Kornit.

The next step after pretreatment is to print the garment. Time in a Kornit is around 2 minutes or less in the new machines. In a mall style printer the time is about 4 minutes.

Finishing the shirt

After printing the garment has to be heat pressed again to finish. Using a Kornit we run the garment though a dryer and the project is complete. The dryer does take a little longer but it does not eat up labor time like a heat press machine does.

In summary we make tees, tees and more tees than a lower priced DTG printer.

tees, tees and more tees

Both systems are good but you can make some real money with the Kornit.


Direct to garment printing has arrived

Direct to Garment printing is coming

Direct to garment apparel printing is still a nascent industry. Right now it is so new that we have a hard time understanding of what DTG printing is.

Essentially it is printing apparel using water based inks which contain no chemicals or toxic substances. The process is 100% environmentally compatible.

A few tips

A few tips to remember about DTG printing is that a quality printer is approximately  the size of a small car. But this small car is actually a ink jet printer that can print on apparel.

The most popular item to print on is 100% cotton tees. Preferably a ring spun cotton with a tight knit. A 50/05 cotton poly garment will work but the results will not be as vibrant as a 100% cotton tee.

Computer does all the work

Because the designs are processed using a computer the art work should be clean and camera ready. We prefer a 300 dpi jpg or a higher resolution the better. Drawing programs which are great for designing are Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator and photo shop. The soft ware can process these programs very easily.

The nice part of having a computer do the processing is that you don’t have to work with messy screens. This allows the design to contain as many colors as needed in the design. Screen printing requires a separate screen for each color in the design. The set up process is much longer than a Direct to Garment set up. DTG set up is just enter design into the computer, press the start/stop button and commence printing.

End result is beautiful

The end result of DTG printing is a thing of beauty. The shirt is so soft to the touch. The soft hand does not rub on your skin. A DTG garment will also survive at least 50 or more washing. We have been testing tees in our plant for over 6 years and the shirts are as vibrant as ever.

To summarize direct to garment printing is eventually going to be the decorator’s choice. It is so easy to do. Mistakes will be reduced when pre-approval is done on a computer. The actual design can be shared with the customer prior to production.

The demise of screen printing

Screen printing is dying a slow death

The last trade show I attended the big promotion was companies selling direct to garment printers (AKA DTG printers).

The traditional screen print equipment companies were well represented but their booths were not as crowded as the DTG manufacturers. This new process draws a crowd.

An interesting story I want to share with you:

A friend of mine owned a very successful photo finishing company in the Midwest. His company would process the pictures for professional photographers. He had 3 facilities for developing film. He was very successful and all his competitors were chomping at the bit to buy him out. This was about 20 years ago.

Then one day he happened across a very elementary digital camera. He bought it to try out. It was at that moment he saw the future. He had a real epiphany.  He put his photo labs for sale. One  of his competitors bought him out.

Today that competitor is out of business. My friend had the foresight to see the future of photography. Digital cameras ruined the photo processing business.

The digital print era is coming

We are now in the beginning of digital printing where anybody can have ease of entry. Basic DTG printers can be purchased for less than $10,000.00. Every one of these printers entering into the decorated apparel market takes a little bite out of the pie. Right now it seems they are not a threat. Just wait.

Our company has always contracted out our screen printing. We did this because we didn’t want the hassle of smelly inks, solvents, and crap in our embroidery factory.

We took a big step and purchased Kornit DTG printers. (3 to be exact). Since we got them on line it has been all uphill. We print on lights and darks. As many colors as the customer wants. We can do small orders. (Even one at a time). The set up costs are minimum.

The process is so simple.

Vulcan, Kornit, DTG
The new Kornit Vulcan Printer will be available We have two operators running three machines, a dryer and then folding and packing.

We have transferred most of our screen printed work in house. We have all but left our screen printer. Our business is up. We made a wise decision and we see the future in DTG.

This is why I feel screen printers are on the demise.

Direct to Garment Tees are the way to go

Two proven methods of decorating tees

There are two methods of decorating a tee shirt with ink. One is silk screening and the other is Direct to Garment printing.

Silk Screening is a method where the ink is applied to the tee shirt via a mesh screen with the design area cut leaving a open area for the ink to flow freely on to the garment. This is a very efficient process for large scale orders. The above is an example of what we have done for the MWR on Diego Garcia. This was done with embroidery.


One major drawback is that the design is limited to the amount of colors which can be used in the design. There is one screen for each color in the design.

Because of the amount of color in some designs the order has to be large enough to absorb the cost of the screen set up.

For example a six color design would cost around $120.00. This is why multicolor screen printing needs at least 144 pieces to make the order feasible.

No screens in digital

The digital to garment printing technique does not require any screens at all. This makes this process very inviting for a small order. For example a design with over 12 colors does not require any complicated set up like screen printing. It prints whatever is on the computer screen. An order of six pieces is very easy to do.

The set up is very easy and basic. The key is to have good finished art. The easiest format to use is Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator. These two drawing programs are very popular and are used exclusively in the apparel decorating industry. Also, there is a great deal of designs available for sale on the internet which can be linked up with a basic lettering system to produce some very acceptable art work.

Popular designs

Seattle Seahawk Playoff Shirt 2015. The Road to the Championship goes through Seattle
Seattle Seahawk Playoff 6.1 oz Navy T-Shirt. This was featured on KOMO 4 News on December 29th 2014

The most popular designs available on the internet are mascots. Everyone has a mascot and you will find many schools teams use and enjoy the same mascot design. The only difference is the lettering used in the design.

This blog was intended to introduce the reader to the two techniques for custom decorating apparel. For more information contact NW Custom Apparel.

Branded apparel increases sales

St. Patrick's Day Irish Pub Shirt Customized with your last name created by NW Custom Apparel. This t-shirt is 100% cotton.

Branded Apparel increases sales.

Direct to Garment printing (DTG) is a new method of decorating apparel. The most common item decorated using DTG is a tee shirt or a hooded sweat shirt. Historically apparel decoration was done by silk screening. This is still a popular method of decorating especially for large volume orders.

There are specific differences when choosing between DTG and Silk Screen printing.


The main difference is large orders. These would be orders larger than 144 pieces. Especially one color designs. The DTG excels for multicolor orders less than 144 pieces.

One major advantage DTG has over Silk Screen is the set up process. Silk screen requires a separate screen for each color in the design. The more colors the more expensive the set up.

DTG requires only a good piece of art. We prefer EPS, Adobe illustrator or a 300 dpi or better art.  Small multicolor orders are cost prohibitive for screen printers.


The process is very simple with good art work. The process is the art is scanned, ripped and sent to the printer. Ripping is a process to ready the DTG printer for printing on dark colors. The rip part of the design is a white back fill. The white back fill is printed and prepares the DTG printers substrate to accept the colored portion of the design.

Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has implemented new safety rules which specifically address printed apparel for youth under 12 years of age. What the rules are is that no inks with carcinogenic compounds can be used is the printing of shirts in the youth market. DTG printing is 100% in compliance because the ink is water based and can be cleaned up with water. Screen print inks do not meet these regulations and will soon find themselves under the watchful eye of the CPSC.

Child Safety

Child safety has always been at the end of the pack in the silk screen decorating industry.. This is why the water based inks for Kornit are and always be in compliance with the CPSC regulations.

Choosing DTG is always the best choice if you are selling to the youth market. There are other reasons why DTG is superior to Silk Screen. The most obvious one is chemicals in one and no chemicals in the other.


How to make a DTG emblem

How to make a printed emblem.

This blog is to explain how we at Northwest Custom Apparel make printed emblems. The advantage of a printed emblem is that it can be made much quicker and offers more detail in the the design.

The first step in the process is to have all the materials necessary to manufacture a printed emblem.

Tools necessary are:

  • Digital Printer (We use the Kornit Hexa)
  • Die Cutting Machine
  • Heat press
  • MG3U merrow machine
  • Sharp Scissors
  • Materials
  • A good solid twill fabric to print the design on.
  • Acceptable art in a eps or 300 dpi jpg format.
  • Heat seal material (5mm or thicker).
  • Fusible backing to make emblem firm for finishing
  • Merrow thread with the correct color

The process is

  • Scan the art and adjust size to meet the emblem requirements
  • Load design into the digital printer
  • Print the design on a sheet of material. You should be able to print 24 emblems per sheet of material.
  • Apply fusible backing to sheet of emblems
  • Cut the emblems to size or use a die cutter with the correct size die.
  • The printed emblem now needs to be finished with a over lock border. This over locked border is achieved using a 3GU merrow machine. The Merrow machine was designed to apply a heavy stitched border to a emblem. This gives the emblem a real sharp finished look.
  • Last step is to apply the heat seal backing. Heat seal material can be purchased at a local fabric store. The application can be done with a steam iron or a heat press machine if you have one.
  • The finished emblem is now ready to be applied to a cap front using a cap heat press.
  • To put a emblem on a cap is very simple. Remove all the loose heat seal backing material and apply heat and pressure for about 25 seconds and then you have a finished product.
  • Trucker emblems are now becoming very popular so good luck.

In by 10 delivery by 5 screen printing

target market

Yes that is a true statement. It is now possible to offer same day tee shirt printing using a Direct To Garment system of printing.

To explain how it is done just review what it takes to print for example an 8 color design on a basic tee shirt.

A 8 color design will require 8 screens and one screen for applying the white ink on a dark garment.

  1. Art separation is the first item to get done
  2. Prepare the films for each color
  3. Burn the screens
  4. Wash out the screens
  5. Dry screens and block out the design
  6. Align the screens for registration
  7. Print a sample or press check
  8. Print tees
  9. Clean up the screens
  10. Breakdown the carousel and set up for next order

Now let’s examine the DTG process.

  1. Create art on the computer
  2. Save art as a PNG file
  3. Upload to RIP software
  4. Transfer design to printer and print
  5. Cure design and it’s done.

The advantage of time is so important now that clients are getting accustomed to same day service.  This is pure hell for a screen printer who has to try and meet customer demands.

The old days of delivery in less than two weeks is starting to exit the process. Customers want it now. Decosource has 3 state of the art Kornit printers which allows us to make a same day delivery. Our motto in by 10 out by 5 will hold up.

DTG printed garments are now holding up under heavy washing and can go toe to toe with screen printing when it comes to the life of the garment.

The two scenarios above resulted in the fact that the DTG process is more efficient than the screen printing process.  The screen print would take at least 5 hours where the DTG would take less than a hour.