The idea behind direct digital printing, or “Direct to Garment” (DTG) in English, is very simple and ingenious: the T-shirt should simply be placed in a printer. The desired motif or photo is then printed on the fabric like on a sheet of paper – done! Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as it seems in theory. Cotton fabric and other textile fabrics are not paper. However, the principle remains the same.
T-shirts can be printed with photos using direct digital printing or the “Direct to Garment” (DTG) process. It is also possible to print complex print motifs with many colors or color gradients on textiles. With digital direct printing, neither carrier paper as in transfer printing nor screen printing stencils as in screen printing are required. Because there are no preliminary printing costs, direct digital printing is particularly suitable for small runs.
The idea behind digital direct printing is extremely simple and ingenious. The t-shirt should be easy to put into a printer. The desired image or photo is then printed on the fabric like on a piece of paper. Complete! But it’s not quite as simple as in theory. Cotton fabric or other textile fabrics are not paper. The colors must not run into each other because then there would be no sharp edges. And the printed ink should still be on the shirt after washing.
In the meantime, the technology behind the “direct to garment” process has developed so far that the prints on shirts and sweaters are really impressive. The inkjet printers for digital direct printing are similar in principle to a household inkjet printer, but are significantly larger. In order to be able to print photos on t-shirts, all shirts of size XXS – 5XL have to fit in the printer. A special pigment ink is then used to print directly onto the textile. Then the T-shirt has to dry with pressure. The digital print is fixed to the shirt by heat.
Since direct digital printing works without carrier material, it is soft and very comfortable to wear. In general, direct digital printing differs from classic textile printing in that the individual printing colors are not specified before the printing process. Because similar to the CMYK printing process, the individual color tones are mixed from the primary colors. It can be used to cover a wide range of colors for photo prints on T-shirts. All textiles made of 100% cotton and mixed fabrics with up to 50% polyester are suitable for direct printing. When printing on dark textiles, as with screen printing, a preprint white is required.
DTG printing requires neither carrier foils, as in transfer printing, nor films and screens, as in screen printing. The pre-printing stage that is no longer required saves time, the motif arrives on the shirt without detours and great preparation, and the associated costs are very low.
The environment also benefits from the digital printing process. The water and energy consumption of digital printing is significantly lower than that of screen printing. Significantly fewer chemicals are also required in the production process.