Direct to garment printing vs screen printing

A screen print machine vs a DTG machine
A screen print machine vs a DTG machine

Many garment decorators will be curious about the differences between DTG printing and screen printing and what each process can offer them. AMIT JHAM, director of Digitzing Mart, provides an insight into both methods.

Although some of the same graphic programmes and file formats can be used, the artwork for these two types of printing are set up very differently. The big noticeable difference is that screen print artwork needs to be separated into individual spot colours and DTG artwork does not. Screen print artwork is limited to how many colours the press can print. The DTG printer can print as many CMYK (gamut) colours that exist.

Direct to garment printing

When creating artwork for DTG printing, you can be as creative as you want. DTG printers work similar to your inkjet printer at home, except it prints onto garments instead of paper. However, be aware as some only print on light and white garments. This issue has led more and more manufacturers to create machines which print on dark garments.

These printers have ink cartridges that print white ink as well as the usual CMYK cartridges. Most of your artwork issues will occur if you decide to print on dark garments. One issue is adjusting the white backer to print underneath properly. Fade offs are the hardest to adjust on the white backer. How you adjust the white backer depends on the software that comes with the printer. Each printer has its own proprietary software that tells the printer how to treat your artwork. Each printer also has certain file formats that the software will accept. Most accept pdf, tiff and some even accept Adobe Illustrator format.

You can use whatever graphic programme that can save your artwork into the proper file format.

Pricing usually depends on how much coverage of ink on the garment and how many garments printed. This is a great process for short runs because there is no lengthy press set-ups.

Screen printing

When creating artwork for screen printing, you must separate the colours into spot colours. Each colour is then printed separately onto the garment through a screen attached to a machine called a press.

You are limited to how many screens the press can hold. With the use of halftone dots on the screen you can combine certain colours together to create other colours. However, you are still more limited in colours than DTG printing. The same graphic programmes are used to create the artwork. However, the colours are assigned spot colours, and can be separated by layers, colours or channels depending on how you or your printer outputs the films.

Pricing usually depends on how many screens, what kind of ink used and how many garments are printed. This is a great process for long runs because the cost is less per garment over large runs.

Final points

No matter which way you decide to have your artwork applied to the garment, the better the artwork quality, the better the output on the garment will be. That means if you use a raster (pixel based) file like in Adobe Photoshop or Corel PhotoPaint, make sure to create and use a high resolution file (200-300 dpi). You don’t have to worry about resolution with vector (object based) file from Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw, because it is resolution independent.
If you need a special colour, it is best to use Pantone colours. Each of the graphic programmes has them in their software. Don’t depend on what you see on your monitor because it may not be calibrated properly for each printing output. Using the proper colours in your software will assure that your output is more accurate.

For more information visit www.digitizingmart.com

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