Your Definitive Guide to Direct to Garment Printing:
Frequently Asked Questions
There is a lot of different information regarding Direct to Garment (DTG) printing in various places online. It can be hard to cut through what is a sales pitch and what is genuine information. We have looked through all the various practices, user guides, and forums so you can get the most out of your direct-to-garment printer. Here is a compilation of the frequently asked questions (faqs) regarding buying, using and maintaining a DTG printer. Then, we asked experts with experience using Epson, Brother, Kornit and other printers to comment. Here are the best answers to your common DTG questions.
Common Questions Regarding DTG PreTreat Solution and the Pretreatment Process
Does every shirt need to be pre-treated prior to printing?
Yes. You must apply pretreatment solution to every dark garment you are going to DTG print on. Another way to think about this is every time you use white ink, your shirt needs to be pretreated. You have the choice if you want to pretreat white or colored shirts. If you are just using CMYK ink it is not required to apply pre-treat, but if you do decide to pretreat those shirts, you will get better wash fastness and brighter colors.
Should I use an automatic pretreat sprayer or spray by hand?
Automatic pretreat sprayers provide the best results because they put down a uniform amount of pretreatment solution. When spraying by hand, you can not apply an even and consistent amount of pretreat from shirt to shirt, or even on the same shirt. This inconsistency is not always visually noticeable, but the difference shows up when your DTG ink goes onto the shirt. Your DTG print on a hand pretreated shirt may wash out in certain places and have variation in colors.
Can I pretreat shirts in advance?
Yes. You can pretreat and then store garments. Different pre-treat manufacturers have various recommendations for how long they can be stored but all agree on at least 3 - 4 weeks. For Image Lock RFU, you can get about 6 months to 1 year of storage time. When storing your t-shirt, hoodie or other garment, make sure you are keeping it in a clean and free of dust area. When you are ready to print a garment that has been in storage, it is a good idea to use a heat press for about 3 - 7 seconds to remove any built up moisture from the garment.
Can I DTG print on 50/50, 70/30 or other triblend garments?
It depends on the particular garment and brand, but in general, yes you can print on these various cotton/poly blends. You might need to change your process for pre-treating and curing though. Plus, you might need to use a polyester pre-treat solution. Be aware of fabrics with added odor blocker or stain resistant technology. On a chemical level, these stain and odor blockers repel water. DTG ink is water based, meaning you are trying to put something on a shirt that is designed to repel it.
Where can I find pretreatment solutions?
If you are looking for free shipping, Lawson offers the lowest minimum on their Estore. DTG supplies with an order over $99 ships free.
How long does pretreating take? What does the pretreat cost, per shirt?
Automatic pretreat sprayers are quicker than doing it by hand. The Zoom-AE take about 3 - 5 seconds to treat one shirt. Using a pretreat machine to apply the solution costs approximately 40 cents per shirt.
Practical DTG Printing Questions
What will happen if I print on a shirt that has a wrinkles?
Sending a wrinkled shirt, long sleeve tee or hoodie will result in a potentially incomplete printed image. Make sure to use a heat press to smooth any wrinkles.
What are the best settings for applying an underbase on a black shirt?
You don’t necessarily need or want to use the strongest setting for every underbase. Most RIP software and DTG printers allow you to change how much white ink to put down (typically called passes) and what quality you choose. Make sure to always test prior to printing the actual job.
Can a DTG printer handle large runs?
Yes, whether it is the best choice for large runs depends on your priorities and your set up. With DTG printing, there is no screen prep or screen storage required, but it does take longer compared to screen printing, so your production abilities are limited by time. Production DTG print shops group their DTG prints in “pods” around a special DTG conveyor dryer. In some cases, going with a hybrid digital squeegee-jet printer, such as the Zeus V Digital Hybrid Squeegee-Jet, or contracting out your screen printing might just make more sense.
Can I dry the prints in a conveyor dryer tunnel oven?
Yes, you get a better looking finished DTG print with a conveyor dryer than compared to a heat press. Read more about choosing the right dryer for your DTG operation.
DTG Printer Maintenance & Warranty Questions
What causes the printhead to clog? Printheads can clog if allowed to sit without being used for an extended period of time. Always follow the manufacturer's suggested maintenance. Look for printers that have self-circulating ink systems. These printers move ink through the lines to help prevent any clogging.
Do you experience problems with your print heads clogging?
When DTG printers first started becoming commercially available, there used to be problems with heads clogging. There were several reasons for this, but the primary one was how the white ink was manufactured. Over the years, DTG manufacturing refined the process and print heads do not clog as they used to. Having said that, proper maintenance is essential for keeping your DTG printing machine running.
How long can the machine sit without running?
Different DTG machines have different answers to this question. For instance, the Epson F-2100 DTG Printer can sit for 2 weeks without running. Other printers like the Brother GTX require daily running of the system. This is something to consider when purchasing a DTG printing machine if you might not run it every day.
What advantages does the Epson F-2100 have over other direct-to-garment printers like the Brother GTX?
Epson has the best warranty of any DTG printer in the industry. Hands down, no questions about it. It comes standard with a 1 year parts AND labor warranty that covers everything, including the printhead. Brother does not warranty their printhead past 90 days. Epson will send a technician to wherever your printer is located within 48 hours for FREE. You can extend this warranty for an additional 2 years. This gives you a total of 3 years printhead to platen coverage.
I am located somewhere with really dry air. Do I need a humidifier?
Yes, it’s definitely a good idea. With the ink being water-based, your DTG system will be sensitive to its environment. The ideal atmosphere would have a minimum of 40% humidity.
How much does shipping cost on a DTG printer? Do I need technical knowledge or skill to set my printer up when I receive it?
Most DTG printers come with free shipping, although less popular manufacturers do charge. Most printers are plug-n-play and involve easy set up.
What training is included with the purchase of my DTG printer?
Different resellers offer different options. Lawson offers 24/7 technical support for equipment purchased from them, as well as various optional educational courses on various printing and garment decorating subjects periodically.
Wash fastness, Color Brilliance and other Finished Product Questions
How many washes will the print last?
The quality and durability of your print depend on several factors including the fabric of the shirt, how you pretreat it, and how you wash it. DTG prints can last for the life of the shirt itself.
Does the ink bleed through to the back of the shirt?
No, you don’t need to worry about the translucent DTG inks showing through on the back of the shirt.
RIP Software Questions
What RIP software should I use?
Most DTG machines come with RIP software. For example, the Epson SureColor F-2100 DTG machine comes with Garment Creator. Download a free copy of Garment Creator.
There are 3rd party RIPs, like Digital Factory, that allow even greater control over your prints.
Does the software give me an ink cost estimate?
Yes, you can input how much your ink costs and all RIP programs will calculate how much each design costs to print.
Does the software estimate printing time per shirt?
Yes. The major brands like Epson give you an estimated printing time with Garment Creator.
Can the image be resized using the RIP that comes with the machine, or does that have to be done in a different program?
Yes, it is easy to resize an image in the RIP.
For more DTG printing questions, you can read our article DTG Q&A Session on D2.