DTG Printers vs. Screen Printing Machines: Which is Better for Your Small Business? Complete Guide

Are you trying to decide between DTG printers and screen printing machines for your small business? You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of both before making a decision.

In this article, you’ll discover the key differences between DTG printers and screen printing machines, so you can make an informed choice that best suits your needs.

As opportunities for small businesses continue to emerge in the 21st century, companies are continually researching and evaluating different methods to maximize efficiency, reduce costs and optimize their production processes. One such decision involves choosing between two popular methods of printing apparel — direct-to-garment (DTG) printing and screen printing machines.

Both technologies provide unique advantages and drawbacks that should be considered before investing in the right equipment for your company. Evaluating the differences between these two processes will help you make an informed decision on which technology is better suited to make your product with a high level of quality while meeting business goals such as cost savings, time efficiency, versatility and more.

This guide aims to provide an overview of DTG printers versus screen printing machines, so you can make a knowledgeable decision when deciding which one is right for your business.

Explanation of DTG Printers and Screen Printing Machines

When creating printed merchandise for your small business, you have several options, including direct-to-garment (DTG) printers, and traditional screen printing machines. Each method has its own unique advantages and disadvantages that should be considered when making a decision.

With DTG printers, you can print directly onto fabric with a digitized version of your desired graphic created with a computer. This allows for fine details and color gradients to be reproduced easily. Additionally, DTG printing is fast and can produce items quickly; however, it can be more expensive than traditional screen printing.

Screen printing involves burning a stencil onto an exemplary surface using ultraviolet light or exposure to chemicals and then using the stencil to apply ink directly onto fabric or other surfaces with a squeegee. It is generally more affordable than DTG printing, but also less precise and takes longer to produce products than DTG printers. Screen printed graphics may stretch or crack over time if the flexibility of the fabric changes due to wear and tear from washing or movement during use.

Importance of choosing the right printing method for your small business

Small business owners have a wide variety of printing methods to choose from when deciding the appropriate tool for their needs. Not all printing methods are suitable for every type of job. Depending on the size and print quality requirements, small business owners need to carefully choose a printing method that will be suitable for their project.

Direct-To-Garment (DTG) printers produce digital prints by spraying ink directly onto fabric and other textiles, whereas traditional screen printing machines utilize mesh screens with stencils; ink is then forced through these screens and onto the substrates using a squeegee. Both DTG and screen printing machines can be used to create high-quality logos, graphics, text, and designs depending on the specific application.

It is important for small businesses to consider several factors when choosing between DTG printers or Screen Printing Machines. Consideration should be given to quality output requirements, complexity of designs and colors to be printed, turnaround times needed for completion of orders and most importantly cost efficiency. In addition, it may also be prudent to consider technical aptitude required for operating the machinery prior to making a decision. It is advisable that business owners conduct some market research prior to selecting any option so they can clearly understand all available options before selecting one particular machine or methodology.

DTG Printers

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a printing method whereby ink is sprayed directly onto fabric to create a design. This method is great for small businesses that don’t have the budget for large screen printing machines and need to print in low volumes. DTG printers vary in size, and their quality depends on the model you choose.

They are easy to use and require minimal setup, which makes them ideal for those who are new to garment printing. DTG printers come with preloaded profiles that make it much easier to match colors with actual garments, as well as allowing you to print multiple colors with ease.

DTG printing is fast as compared to other types of garment printing methods and prints each garment individually, so you can produce unique designs quickly and efficiently. However, there are some drawbacks: DTG prints generally last less than those from screen printers, so the prints won’t be as durable; higher quality prints require more expensive models; and all DTG printers have a minimum order quantity (MOQ).

Definition and operation of DTG Printers

Direct to garment (DTG) printers are digital printing machines specifically designed for textile printing. Unlike screen-printing technologies that employ large screens, presses, and emulsion inks, DTG printers use either inkjet technology or laser technology to directly apply the designs to garments. The process is similar to a conventional desktop printer; however, the image is printed directly onto a shirt instead of on paper. DTG printing is commonly used for text-based designs and photographs, as well as digital artwork such as cartoons and illustrations. DTG printers also offer advantages over screen-printing techniques in terms of turnaround time and cost efficiency for small runs.

The operation of DTG printers is very simple: A blank shirt is placed on a flatbed platen that contains heaters to protect the garment against high temperatures during printing; the design file is uploaded over a USB connection; then the design elements are printed directly onto the garment with the help of special ink sets – there’s no need to set up any screens or press plates beforehand. Depending on the specific model of printer and type of ink used, designs may be completely discharged from garments upon washing or they may require additional treatments like special pre/post cures following printing in order to last longer before fading away.

Advantages of DTG Printing

Digital t-shirt printing (DTG) has revolutionized the t-shirt printing industry in many ways. It is especially advantageous for small businesses that just want to print a few dozen T-shirts or less. Here are some of the key advantages DTG offers:

  1. Low startup costs: With DTG printing, you don’t have to invest in expensive screen printing equipment or supplies. All you need is a printer and compatible inkjet cartridges (which typically start at around $70). You can also find used models available for even lower costs.
  2. Quick turnaround times: Unlike screen printing, with DTG you don’t have to wait hours or days for your prints to dry. You can produce a design in minutes and start selling right away, even with minimal quantities.
  3. Ability to print customizable designs: DTG printers allow you to print any design on a shirt quickly and easily, so you can produce limited edition shirts or customized ones with individuals’ names or other personalized details without having to produce multiple versions of the same image on several screens like traditional screen printing requires.
  4. Versatility of materials: While screen printing usually works best on opaque white fabric due the limitations of plastisol inks, digital t shirt prints allow for much more flexibility when it comes to fabrics used – from thin sheers like muscle tees to heavily textured material like hoodies – making them applicable for almost every type of garment out there!

Disadvantages of DTG Printing

Although direct-to-garment printing is lauded for its convenience and features, there are still plenty of downsides to consider. The biggest disadvantage is that DTG printing over a small area can be expensive if you are printing on multiple items such as t-shirts or hoodies. The cost of the ink and the need to clean and maintain the printers can become pricey. Additionally, more complex designs may require a higher resolution printer which will be more expensive upfront.

Another potential issue with DTG printing is that it tends to last fewer washes than traditional screen printing, so if you are looking for something long lasting, this might not be ideal for your business. If frequent washing and fading is expected ahead of time (for example when designing printed products specifically meant to fade over time), then DTG smaller batch production could be a better choice. There can also be issues with color matching compared to traditional screen printing due to variations in setting on different printers.

Finally, even though Direct To Garment Printing machines use water based ink they still emit hazardous pollutants such as Fine Particulate Matter that exceed Environmental Protection Agency’s standards in some cases; so if you want to provide eco-friendly products it’s best not to opt for this type of printing machine.

Screen Printing Machines

Screen printing machines allow you to create custom t-shirts, hats, hoodies, and other garments quickly and with high resolution. Screen printing involves using a mesh screen coated with a light sensitive or photoheliographic photoemulsion to burn stencils on cotton and other fabrics. The resulting custom garments are long-lasting and made of the highest quality materials. Screen printing is considered to be the most economical method for producing larger runs of a garment since it requires less time and resources than DTG printers.

Screen printing machines have several advantages over DTG printers:

  • Economical – Even if you need small runs, you can still benefit from the lower upfront costs of a screen print set-up over that of a DTG printer;
    • Consistent results – Since each layer has been burned into place, you know that every item in your run will look identical;
    • Durability – The fabrics used in screen printing are designed to last through multiple washings;
    • Resistance to fading– As opposed to some digital prints which can fade quickly in certain conditions, screen prints tend to keep their vibrant colors longer than standard digital prints.

For these reasons, many businesses opt for screen printing machines when they need custom apparel in larger quantities or with consistent results across all items in their run. If your business deals with larger orders or keeps reorders coming in for previously printed outfits, then a high-end machine may be your most cost effective option.

DTG Vs Screen Printing Which Is Better? 2023 Update

Definition and operation of Screen Printing Machines

Screen printing machines, also known as screen presses or serigraphy presses, are a type of printing equipment used for creating prints on substrate materials (e.g., paper, fabric, metal) resulting in large-format high-resolution artwork reproductions.

Traditional screen printing machines consist of a set of frames (also known as “screens”) made from silkscreen or other fabric-like material that is stretched over an aluminum or wood frame. The discharge agent (ink) passes through the screen by way of a squeegee, which exerts pressure on the fabric under the frame to force pigment particles through the stencil formed onto the frame.

Screen printing machines are ideal for producing prints with vibrant colors and sharp details that are not affected by wear and tear over time – even when printed on different types of materials (e.g., polyester). This makes them both cost effective and efficient for small businesses that want to produce eye-catching products with long-term durability.

The main disadvantage of traditional screen printing machines is that they require manual setup and clean up processes after each job – which can make them not cost effective for smaller production runs.

Advantages of Screen Printing

Screen printing is a decades-old print method ideal for customizing t-shirts, hats, and other apparel. It’s a great choice for small businesses with low-volume orders because it can handle both single items and larger batches. Many of its advantages include:

  • Inexpensive Setup Fees: You can get started with just a few bits of equipment, such as an embroidery hoop, fabric ink and screens. This makes it an attractive choice for entrepreneurs who have tight budgets.
  • Superior Durability: The inks used are permanent and wash-fast; the prints stay vibrant even after repeated washes. So your products look great for longer periods of time.
  • Maximum Design Possibilities: Screen printing allows for more creative designs that stand out from the crowd. It supports more types of printing surface, including cotton, Lycra, polyester, linen and other natural fabrics — so you get superior quality prints every time. It also has better accuracy than other methods when it comes to placement and color matching because you can make exact duplicates quickly and easily.
  • Prints on Various Surfaces: After being put through some additional preparation procedures like curing (heat setting) or special pretreatment coating — this process supports printing on substrates like leathers, metals or harder surfaces like bags or helmets which DTG printers cannot do efficiently due to lack of pigment penetration capabilities.

Disadvantages of Screen Printing

Although screen printing machines have many advantages, there are also some drawbacks associated with this type of printing technology. The main issue is the setup time required to prepare the design for each print run. In order to ensure quality prints, every color in the design needs a different mesh screen printed for it. This means preparing multiple screens for each job, increasing labor and setup costs which can be difficult to manage for a small business. Additionally, depending on the complexity of the design, some colors may need multiple stencils and multiple passes through the press which further increase labor and costs.

In addition to the increased setup time and cost associated with screen printing machines, there is also an environmental impact involved due to potentially hazardous inks used in these printers. The specialized inks are not as easy to clean up as digital ink-jet options, meaning that waste water or other materials may not be as easily disposed of without proper filtration systems or precautions in place. Furthermore, blocking exposure can be difficult with certain dyes or pigments used in screen printing processes if nothing is done to dramatically reduce VOC levels.

Factors to consider when choosing between DTG Printers and Screen Printing Machines

If you are a small business owner who is looking for a way to add and customize printing services, it is important to understand the differences between Direct to Garment (DTG) printers and Screen Printing Machines so that you can make an informed decision about which type of equipment is best for your business. While both types of machines have their advantages and disadvantages, there are several factors you should consider when deciding which option would be more beneficial for your small business.

Cost: The cost of the machine will vary depending on the type and size of the machine you opt for. Generally speaking, DTG printers require less upfront investment than a Screen Printing Machine. However, DTG Printers often come with high-cost inks, extra maintenance costs, constant upgrades as technology advances, and fairly high operational costs as most machines use a lot of energy. By comparison, Screen Printing Machines have significantly lower operational costs and may pay off in the long run if large quantities of prints are required on a regular basis.

Availability: Newer DTG printing technologies do allow customers to print small job orders quickly and accurately but there is no guarantee that all colors will wash or age like screen-printed inks or even look correct once printed onto different garment styles and fabrics. On the other hand, screen printing with its many years of development ensures consistent color results as well as washability with almost any given fabric or garment style.

Flexibility & Customization: DTG Printers offer more flexibility when it comes to customization allowing businesses to produce short runs of full-color product prints quickly that meet customer expectations with impressive results. On the other hand, traditional Screen Printing Machines can be used on multiple fabric types (including harder materials like wood) while producing medium sized run quantity at relatively good prices.

With these factors in mind, it’s up to you decide which type of printing machine works best to meet your needs – whether it be DTG Printers or Screen Printing Machines – based upon budgetary restrictions, capabilities required by your products/services offerings and speed/volume needs of your small business’s clients.

Design complexity and customization options

When it comes to design complexity and customization, DTG printers have the advantage. Unlike screen printing machines which require additional setup time and materials due to their analog printing process, direct-to-garment printing eliminates many of these issues as the printer prints on fabric directly. This process has simplified the workflow, allowing businesses to customize their designs quickly with no additional costs or hassle.

DTG printers offer a wide range of design options that can be printed in full detail on both light-colored and dark-colored garments. From sharp text images to full-color photographs, there are few limits to what can be created with a DTG printer—allowing your creative ideas to flow freely when it comes to designing for your customers.

Additionally, some DTG printers also offer print sizes that are up to twice as large in size as those offered by traditional screen printing machines. This means you can create more intricate designs in larger sizes across tshirts, hoodies, tanks and other apparel products—providing an added level of customization for your customer’s orders.

Branding and marketing strategy

Your branding and marketing strategy are integral to the success of your small business. Whether you choose to go with direct-to-garment (DTG) printing or screen printing, it will impact how you present your products to your customers. To create a successful branding and marketing strategy, you must consider the following points:

  1. Durability – The type of printing technique that you choose should reflect how durable the product needs to be. DTG printers provide inks that retain their brightness for longer, meaning that your brand messaging will be easily visible for prolonged periods of time without fading away. On the contrary, screen printing is more heavy-duty and can last a very long time if taken care of properly.
  2. Cost – It is important to consider the cost of the printing process when deciding on a technique for branding and promotional materials. DTG printers are capable of creating complex prints using multiple colors in one print job which may be more expensive than single-color prints on conventional machines such as those used for screen printing. However, if you have limited resources or need a large number of prints quickly then DTG may be a better option because it is faster and easier to produce higher quantities quickly compared to screen printing machines.
  3. Geographic reach – If your small business has local customers then screen printing machines may be suitable as they can produce designs quicker than DTG printers while providing vibrant colors with good detail difficult to achieve by other methods such as vinyl cutting or embroidery. Alternatively, if you need to reach customers across multiple locations then digital technology might offer greater flexibility where multiple colors can be printed in one job saving time and labor costs while still delivering the same quality output compared with other traditional methods such as screen print or embroidery work.

DTG vs Screen Printing


When deciding whether to invest in a DTG printer or screen printing machine for your small business, there are a few key considerations to make. First, consider the type of fabrics you plan to print on. Screen printing is more effective for larger, bulk orders and heavier fabrics like canvas. However, if you’re looking to handle small orders with lighter-weight materials like cotton or polyester, a DTG printer might be the better investment.

Also consider cost effectiveness. Depending on the machinery and supplies needed for either process, it may be cheaper in the beginning to go with one over the other. However, make sure you also factor in time and energy costs associated with training personnel and upkeep of both types of equipment as well as expected longevity of each machine.

Then there’s the creative factor; which machine will allow you maximum creative freedom? Consider how many colors you want to use and how quickly you need your orders filled when making this choice. And finally, think about customer service; is one process easier for customers than another? Will your customers prefer proofs before ordering from a certain setup? All these considerations are important when deciding whether DTG printers or screen printing machines is best for your small business needs.


Is screen printing or DTG better?

 It depends on the specific needs of the project or business. Screen printing is best for large orders with simple designs, while DTG is better for smaller orders with complex designs.

Is a DTG printing business profitable? 

Yes, a DTG printing business can be profitable if it is managed well and has a strong customer base.

What lasts longer screen printing or DTG? 

Screen printing tends to last longer than DTG, especially with darker garments, but the durability depends on factors such as the quality of the ink and the care of the garment.

Does DTG printing feel cheap?

 DTG printing can feel softer and more comfortable than screen printing, but the quality depends on the specific printer and ink used.

What is the downside of DTG? 

The main downside of DTG printing is the higher cost per garment compared to screen printing, especially for larger orders.

Which printing process is best?

 Again, it depends on the specific needs of the project or business. Screen printing is best for larger orders with simple designs, while DTG is better for smaller orders with complex designs.

Does screen printing crack? 

Screen printing can crack over time, especially if the ink is applied too thickly or if the garment is not cared for properly.

Is a screen printing business profitable?

 Yes, a screen printing business can be profitable if it is managed well and has a strong customer base.

Is DTG or screen printing more expensive? 

DTG printing is generally more expensive per garment than screen printing, especially for larger orders.

How much profit is in a screen printing business? 

The profit in a screen printing business depends on factors such as the cost of materials, the pricing strategy, and the volume of sales. It is possible to make a good profit with a well-managed screen printing business.

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