Today we’re going to talk about how DTG printers and direct to film transfers are changing the T-shirt business forever.
If you haven’t heard of direct to garment, it’s literally what it sounds like. First, the garment, is sprayed with a liquid called pretreatment. Second, it is cured under heat to create a flat printing surface and finally it’s put on the printer. The printer will then print on the garment like a piece of paper. After putting it back in the heat and curing it, the shirt is done.
DTG printers are different from screen printers. Screen printing is where a screen based on artwork is created. Then you ink is pushed through the screen onto the garment, then the garment is put under extreme heat to dry. That’s how screen printing is done. It can be done manually by hand or through the use of an automatic, a mechanical tool.
Now that everybody is caught up, let’s talk about how dtg printers and direct to film transfers are going to change the T-shirt business forever.
There are three specific things driving this change. First, a revolutionary printing head made by Epson, some of them which can lay down up to 40 million precise dots. What this did was it allowed ink to be mixed on the fly by a machine as it’s printing. That was huge because in screen printing, if you wanted to print four colors on a shirt, you’re going to have to mix 4 specific colors separately and then push them through different screens
The second thing to happen, speed. Direct to garment has made it possible to print one or 1000 garments efficiently and in a relatively timely manner. If you wanted one T shirt, you could go to a dtg printer and get one shirt within 20 minutes. You can’t do that with screen printing. Screen printing doesn’t even become efficient, unless you do over 12 to 15 T shirts. Because of that speed and that technology, the printhead, people started screwing around with direct to garment printers and eventually someone decided they were going to print on film.
Direct to Film Transfers
Now printing on film, created a very interesting situation. That film is now known as Direct to film transfers and in the coming years it is going to give screen printing a run for its money. Now what happens with DTF? Instead of printing onto apparel, you print onto a film where you print the artwork in reverse..
Once the artwork is printed, hot melt glue is added to it. It’s then cured and then that cured patch of ink that is pushed into any garment with heat and pressure. It can be pushed it into leather, into polyurethane leather or into anything else that you can think of. You actually use the same exact equipment as DTG. Direct to film is able to take on the quality of screen printing and merges it with the efficiencies of direct to garment printing.
That is going to change the T shirt printing business forever, because now printing in scale with direct to film and can produce beautiful garments quickly. Gradients are now possible and if you’re a designer, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Usually when artwork for T shirts is made, gradients are a no-no. With direct to garment and direct to film gradients will look good. The craziest part about all of this? Direct to film transfer is actually really new like within the last five years. And every week that technology is getting more efficient, like all technology does.
In the coming years and months we will be able to see efficiencies created that will allow direct to film transfers to rival screen printing. And that is fascinating. And that is how the T shirt printing business is changing. If you have any questions, feel free to let us know.