Back to All posts
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.

 

Pros

Cons

Screenprinting

– 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. 

Watch the video showcase here.

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. 

Watch this video to see how it’s done.

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

Quantity 

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!

Get Your Ebook

Subscribe to our blog and get a free ebook to learn what you need to launch your ecommerce store.
You can unsubscribe at any time. See more info in our Privacy Policy.
  1. Subham Tripathy

    We r planning to print our branch tshirt. It will be a order of 70 tshrits.
    We have prepared the design ,it contains 6 colors….
    We have a budget of 500per t shirt..
    Which print should we do?

1 4 5 6

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published



Back to All posts

Ready to try Printful?

Connect to an ecommerce platform or make an order

Get started