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DTG Printing vs. Screen Printing: Pros, Cons, and Costs Explained


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In the ever-evolving world of custom apparel printing, two methods stand out: Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing and screen printing. Whether you’re a business owner looking to expand your printing capabilities or an artist wanting to bring your designs to life, understanding the differences, advantages, and costs associated with these methods is crucial. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the details of DTG and screen printing, helping you make an informed decision.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is a traditional method that involves transferring ink onto a substrate (usually fabric) through a mesh screen that’s coated with light-sensitive emulsion. The process starts with creating a stencil (or screen) for each color in the design. Once the screens are prepared, ink is pushed through the mesh onto the fabric using a squeegee.

Pros of Screen Printing:

  • Cost-effective for large orders: The setup cost is spread across many items, making it cheaper per unit for large quantities.
  • High durability: The prints are long-lasting and can withstand numerous washes.
  • Vibrant colors: Screen printing produces rich and vibrant colors, especially on dark fabrics.

Cons of Screen Printing:

  • High setup time and cost: Each color requires a separate screen, making the initial setup time-consuming and costly.
  • Not ideal for small orders: The cost per unit is higher for small runs due to the setup costs.
  • Limited detail: Fine details can be challenging to achieve compared to digital printing.

What is Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing?

DTG printing is a more modern technique that uses a digital printer to apply ink directly onto the fabric. It’s akin to using an inkjet printer but for textiles. DTG is ideal for detailed designs and smaller orders.

Pros of DTG Printing:

  • Excellent for small orders: Minimal setup means it’s cost-effective for small batches and one-offs.
  • High detail and complex designs: DTG can print intricate and highly detailed images, including photographs.
  • No color limitations: Unlike screen printing, DTG can print in full color without needing separate screens.

Cons of DTG Printing:

  • Higher cost per print: The ink and equipment are expensive, making the cost per print higher than screen printing.
  • Slower production speed: DTG printers are slower compared to screen printing presses.
  • Less durable: The prints may not last as long as those created with screen printing, especially on dark fabrics without proper pretreatment.

Cost Comparison

When it comes to cost, several factors need to be considered, including the initial investment in equipment, ongoing costs, and the cost per print.

Screen Printing Costs:

  • Initial Setup: Requires a screen printing press, screens, inks, and a curing unit. Costs can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands for commercial setups.
  • Ongoing Costs: Ink, emulsion, and screens need to be replaced periodically. Setup costs for each new design can be significant.

DTG Printing Costs:

  • Initial Setup: A DTG printer can cost between $10,000 and $20,000, with high-end models costing significantly more. Additional equipment like pretreaters and heat presses also add to the initial investment.
  • Ongoing Costs: Ink cartridges are expensive, with monthly costs ranging from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars depending on usage. Pretreatment chemicals are another ongoing expense.

When to Choose Screen Printing?

Screen printing is the preferred method for large orders and designs with fewer colors. It’s also ideal when vibrant, long-lasting prints are needed, especially on darker fabrics. If you have a design that can be easily separated into different color layers, screen printing will provide the best results.

When to Choose DTG Printing?

DTG printing is perfect for small orders and designs with a lot of detail or color variation. It’s also a great choice for printing photographs or complex graphics directly onto garments. If you frequently receive orders with low quantities or highly detailed artwork, investing in a DTG printer can be worthwhile.


Choosing between DTG and screen printing depends largely on your specific needs. For large orders with simple designs, screen printing is cost-effective and produces durable, vibrant prints. For smaller orders or highly detailed designs, DTG offers flexibility and high-quality results despite its higher cost per print.

Both methods have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and understanding these can help you make the best decision for your printing needs.

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Alex Hales

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