Direct to Garment Printing vs. Screen Printing

At Firehouse Tees, we use two main methods of printing your t-shirts. Direct to Garment (DTG) and Screen Printing. Both technologies produce stunningly beautiful graphics, letters, and designs. The only difference is when and why you would want to have a shirt printed using the DTG process versus screen printing.


We’re going to take a look at both processes and compare and contrast them. While there is no superior printing technique, we will discuss when you should opt for screen printing and when you should consider having your shirts printed via the DTG process.

What is Direct to Garment Printing?

DTG printing uses digital technology to apply designs, logos, and lettering to t-shirts. Once the client has approved the design, it’s uploaded to specialized printing software that resides on the DTG computer. A blank t-shirt is fed into a specially-designed large digital printer and ink that is specially made for textiles is applied to the shirt.

The inks are specially designed to be strong, durable, and incredibly vivid in color. The overall time it takes to print one shirt is anywhere from five to ten minutes, depending on the complexity of the design and how many colors were used.


What is Screen Printing?

The Screen Printing process of printing a design on a t-shirt has been around for decades. Ink is pushed through a woven mesh stencil onto the t-shirt. A rubber or plastic squeegee is used to manually push and pull the ink over the stencil until the t-shirt has absorbed it.

 The setup process takes the longest amount of time, as the stencil must first be created, and the entire machine set up for a printing run.

Only one color can be printed at any given time, so there is a limited amount of colors that can be used. Each subsequent color will require more time to apply (including drying time), and that can increase the cost slightly due to more manual labor being required.

Benefits of DTG

DTG printing offers many advantages over traditional silk-screening. There are certain situations where you would definitely want to opt for DTG over silk screening, and vice versa.

Some of the benefits of DTG are:

  • Ideal for small t-shirt runs
  • Designs are easily customizable due to no stencil being required
  • Wide selection of color options
  • Design detail is very high

DTG is best for small orders such as 20 shirts for your local kickball team, or 15 shirts for your bachelor or bachelorette party. The cost per shirt is much lower than silk screening due to how quickly shirts can be printed using the DTG method.

It should be noted that just because DTG printed shirts cost less than silk screened ones, that doesn’t mean their quality is any less. The DTG printers we use at Paradise Printers are state-of-the-art and have a very high resolution. This means all the details of your design will show up crystal clear and you can choose one (or more) of many different colors.

Benefits of Screen Printing

Screen Printing is excellent for large runs of shirts. If you were putting on an event where you’ll be needing hundreds of shirts, then scrren printing is the way you want to go. Some of the benefits of scrren printing are:

  • Cost-effective for large orders
  • Design can be placed almost anywhere (versatile)
  • Best for simple designs that don’t require a lot of colors
  • Ink will appear slightly “raised” due to the nature of the silk screen process.