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Beginner's handbook

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Difference Between DTG, Screen Printing, and Sublimation Printing

By Reading Time: 3 minutes

When starting your t-shirt line, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is to choose the method you’ll use to print your apparel. There are many options available, and each has its own pros and cons. Here we’ll go through the most popular methods, screen printing, direct-to-garment (DTG), and sublimation (aka all-over printing), to help you get a better idea of which is best for your new ecommerce store for garment printing.

Screen printing, direct to garment, and sublimation printing

Screen printing, direct to garment, and sublimation printing

The difference between the screen printing, DTG and sublimation printing

A while ago we made a table outlining the pros and cons of screen printing and DTG. Here we’ve updated the table to include sublimation printing as well.





– cost effective for large batches

– versatile design placement

– the more you order, the cheaper they are (volume discounts)

– not cost effective for multiple colors

– can only print simple shape designs

– large upfront investment

– one design per batch

Direct to Garment (DTG)

– extensive color options

– maximum detail in design

– suitable for small batches

– minimal upfront investment

– easily customized design

– not cost effective for extremely large batches

– no volume discounts

– limited design placement

Sublimation printing 

– prints seam-to-seam (all over the garment)

– extensive color options

– maximum detail in design

– suitable for small batches

– not available on all garments

– no volume discounts

– not large-order friendly


What the different types actually mean

DTG (direct-to-garment)

DTG is pretty much like using a printer to print on fabric. Because it works like a printer, it can support the most detailed design, with as many colors as you want. 

The printer can only print one garment at a time, which makes it perfect for printing one-off t-shirts

Screen printing

This is the process of pulling a layer of ink over a screen to produce a design. A special screen has to be made for each design, which means that there should be many orders of the same design for it to be worth it. 

Sublimation printing

This is the process of printing onto a special sheet of paper, and then transferring that image onto fabric. The ink is heated until it disintegrates into the corresponding fabric. That makes the ink long-lasting, and you’ll never have the unfortunate “peeling” effect of a well-worn t-shirt. 

Click here to watch the video showcase.

How to choose which printing method to use

The printing method you’ll use depends on two factors:

  • your design
  • the quantity sold in one go


The first question is about the quantity that you’re selling. If you’re planning on doing everything one-off and drop-shipped, and you can’t really plan the amount of sales you’re making, then chances are you’re better off using DTG (direct-to-garment). That makes sure that you’re not putting a whole lot of money into your venture off the bat, without knowing if it’ll sell. Usually beginner e-commerce merchants don’t have large and stable sales, so one-off, DTG printing is recommended.

If you’re ordering many in one go (think team sports, camps, clubs, etc.), and you know you’ll be making at least 15 sales of the same design, then you might begin to consider screen printing.

Your design dictates your method

Your design is the most important element in deciding which printing method is for you. If your design involves many different colors, intricate details or photography images, then DTG will be your best shot.

You should already have an idea of what your design will be. Will it be photography? How many colors are in one design? Maybe it’s black and white, or simply lettering? Do you intend to have your design stretch from one seam to the other? (aka all-over)

Here’s a step-by-step graph to help you decide which printing method is best for you:

 PF_dichotomous key

Still not sure which to use? Let us know in the comments what you’re planning to make, and we can help you choose!


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  1. linder

    This article was super, but left me a bit confused. I’m considering entering the print-on-demand T-shirt (and mug, socks, etc) business and I always assumed it was screenprinted because instructional videos typically showed that. Also typically the POD designs are simple one-color and limited in size. I figured there had been some advances in the process that made screenprinting viable for POD. But this article implies DTG would be better for POD. HOWEVER, that conflicts with the common advice to use dark tees because they sell better.

    1. Daniela Bergmane

      Hey, thank you for your feedback! At the end of the day, it really depends on which one you like the best and which is more suitable option for the products and design you have in mind. We also have made this blog article here explaining more about the differences between DTG and screen printing. Perhaps you find that one useful as well!

  2. nicolas

    Hi there, I have some shirts and I would like to do the sublimation. It’s possible ? and how much its for 12 shirts

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