DTG vs. Screen Printing: What are the Differences?

DTG Printing vs. Screen Printing

There are many ways to customize printing on t-shirts, jerseys and other apparels. Each printing technique comes with its unique features and has its advantages and disadvantages. Of these, two important printing techniques to note are: DTG (Direct-to-Garment Printing) and Screen Printing. Other methods include thermal transfer and sublimation. Here we present an analysis of DTG vs, Screen printing methods for t-shirt customization. You can use this to help you to choose the printing technique that suits you best.

Screen Printing


  • Economic costs for large volumes
  • The more you order, the lower is the price per product
  • You can use special colors (e.g. neon)


  • Not economical for multiple colors (multiple passes)
  • You can only print simple forms of design
  • Large initial investment
  • Can have a single design per set

DTG Printing


  • Great variety of color shades
  • Exceptional details possible
  • Suitable for small volumes
  • Easy realization of the printer asset


  • It is not economical for large volumes
  • No discount for large volumes
  • DTG Printing machines can be expensive
  • Limitations on the location of the design on the shirt

1. DTG Printing (Digital Printing)

Digital printing or Direct to Garment printing works like printing with inkjet printers. The ink is applied through a high-definition printer, which results in dramatic results in record time. This technique has the advantage of being fast, and it does not require masks or screens. It is not necessary to have large number of shirts per order. This technique provides excellent results by reproducing contrasts, details and shadows. The colors are vivid and resist repeated wash. In this technique, the print design can be as complex as the artist wishes, as DTG printing supports very high resolution.

Because of the printing process, this printing technique has its limitations. Metallic or fluorescent colors can not be printed and the final result may differ slightly from the original picture especially when it comes to photos. Also, DTG Printing is possible only on the front or back of the t-shirt. Digital printing is possible on 100% cotton fabrics. You can not print on materials lycra, polyester, nylon, etc. Printing on white t-shirts is cheaper than on colored items.

You can apply Print on Demand principle in the best way in DTG printing. It takes only a few minutes to create the digital image and to print it onto the fabric. So, it is the perfect method to print t-shirts or jerseys with a complex design with more colors and fine detail. Also, unlike silk screen printing, you don’t need a minimum number of shirts with the same pattern that needs to be printed to keep your costs low.

2. Screen Printing (Serigraphy)

Screen printing or Seriagraphy involves creating masks – or filters – and applying paint repeatedly, depending on the complexity of the artwork. Only one color is applied at a time, and therefore the number of colors that can be applied to a t-shirt is limited.

The advantages of this method are the relatively low costs and the quality of the final product. However, you need extensive preparation before the actual printing because you need to make each mask individually. The colors will be intense, but the level of detail that can be reproduced will be limited due to the masks (at about 300dpi). Also, screen printing is cost effective if a large number of shirts are ordered.

3. Thermal transfer

Thermal transfer is effective when we talk in particular about relatively small logos or surfaces without details. If you want a color that can not be reproduced through CMYK inks, such as golden glitter logo, then thermal transfer is the answeer. This method involves cutting a material onto the plotter, and then applying it to t-shirts (or any other textile surface) by means of hot pressing. Thermal transfer is cost-effective for small surfaces and relatively simple designs.

4. Transfer by sublimation

The sublimation printing was the most common and most accessible method for personalizing a t-shirt prior to DTG printing. It consists of using a special solvent to print on the transfer sheet. And then, the pattern is transferred to the shirt by heat treatment. The technique of sublimation is fast, but the ultimate appearance of the print will be rubbery and, over time cracks may develop.

How do you choose the best option for your needs?

Choosing the printing method depends on two factors: quantity and design.

1. Quantity

If you want a small number of shirts, the best method is the DTG printing. This is suitable for top-notch designers who do not have a large volume of orders for the same artwork. Digital printers have the advantage of not requiring a fixed amount of t-shirts to be printed, so you do not need a lot of money to invest in inventory.

In the case of large volumes, screen printing is the cost-effective solution. This method is recommended when talking about orders with the same design and is generally used for branding jerseys, promotional shirts for companies and NGOs, etc.

2. Design

Your design is the most important element in choosing the printing method. If it’s a complex model with many colors, gradients, or you want details similar to those you get in photography, then DTG printing is the best choice.

Screen printing can be a solution when you print a simple design with up to 6 different colors and the level of detail is kept to a minimum. Even under these circumstances, you have to consider the amount of shirts you want to order, as mentioned above.

We hope you find this analysis of DTG vs Screen Printing useful in deciding the printing technique for customizing your t-shirts.

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