Screen Printing or DTG: A Tiny Little Cheat Sheet

We’re always looking for ways to improve our customer experience here at Tiny Little Monster, which is why we added the direct-to-garment option in the first place, but the last few weeks have shown us that there is some general confusion regarding T-shirt orders at Tiny. With two unique ways to print orders, which is best for the customer?

Screen printing? Direct to Garment? What are these strange, foreign words, and how do they affect my order?

Read on, weary pilgrim. Your questions shall be answered.

If you haven’t had a chance to read about our DTG printer and the miracles it can accomplish, check out our DTG blog post for more information. It’s a pretty cool machine. Here’s a quick recap:

Screen Printing:

This is the traditional printing process. We “burn” your T-shirt artwork onto an aluminum framed screen that is stretched with mesh and coated with emulsion. After the screen is exposed to light, washed out and prepped, ink can be forced through the screen using squeegees and some muscle! The artwork is printed color by color, using a different screen for each color. The result is bright, vibrant, clear, and long-lasting.



DTG Printing:

The “high tech” printing solution. We upload your artwork to special software and print it directly onto the shirt using our Epson SureColor F2000. Imagine if Bruce Banner exposed your home printer to gamma rays, turning it into a Hulk Printer the size of a bath tub. That’s our DTG. DTG printing takes less time, and we can handle more complex projects, but it does have its limitations.

Which printing method will work best for your garment order? Here’s a handy cheat sheet to give you an idea.



5 Signs Your Order Should Be Screen Printed:

1. You’re ordering a large quantity of shirts: Tiny Little Monster requires a minimum of 12 T-shirts for most screen printing jobs. Remember, we have to physically develop a screen for each color in your project. For jobs with less than 12 shirts to be printed, it makes more sense to use the DTG machine.

2. Your design is clean and simple: With screen printing, we can achieve a fair amount of detail in the print, but screen printing doesn’t work well in printing photos or highly complex designs. Logos, text, simple graphics, clip art, and vector artwork are ideal with screen printing.

3. You’re interested in neon colors or metallics: If you need hot pink text on your sweatshirt or you want to bling out a tee with metallic gold ink, screen printing is your only option. Our DTG printer uses a process color printing process, which means that the color palette is limited to about the same colors you could print on your printer at home. Neons, metallics, and even some pastels will require spot color printing, which can only be achieved with screen printing. (If you’ve got specific colors in your design for example, screen printing is the only way to achieve a good match).

4. Budget is your primary consideration: Screen printing is a more cost-effective option for most customers, especially those ordering large quantities of shirts. The more shirts you order, the lower the cost of each individual item. We factor the cost of designing and developing the screen for your printed shirts into the total cost. Whether you’ve ordered 12 or 500 screen printed shirts, we only need one screen per ink color, so the price per item is lower with bulk orders.

5. You’re interested in poly-blend or fashion fabrics: Our direct-to-garment printer cannot print light ink colors on a dark garment UNLESS that garment is made from 100% cotton. So, if you need athletic shirts, soft poly-blend shirts, or other fashion garments, you may be restricted to screen printing. The Tiny Team can help you choose the right garments for your order, so don’t panic!

5 Signs Your Order Should Be Direct To Garment:

1. You’re ordering fewer than 12 shirts: With our DTG printer, customers can order one-off shirts. If an idea for a T-shirt pops into your head, we can print it, and you don’t have to have a minimum order. So, if your crazy uncle requests a shirt featuring a bikini-clad alligator on a Harley, we’ve got you covered.

2. Each of your shirts needs a unique design: Sometimes, customers want several different shirts for different people, each with a unique design. Unfortunately, this doesn’t meet the 12-shirt minimum for screen printing, which applies to a single design. Multiple shirts with multiple designs often require DTG printing.

You want a photo printed on your shirts: Photo shirts are always popular because they’re unique, meaningful, and fun to wear. Printing a photo on a shirt requires the DTG printer because the image is complex and multi-colored.

3. Your design is highly complex with multiple colors: With screen printing, the final cost per shirt depends on the number of colored inks used in the process. Typically, screen printing is reserved for artwork featuring four or fewer colors. If you’ve got a multi-colored or highly complex design, DTG may work better for your order.

4. You need it speedy quick: Standard turnaround time for screen printed shirts is 2 weeks. This allows us to create your digital proof, order garments for printing, burn screens for each color, and complete the printing process. DTG printing is much quicker. Our turnaround for a one-off shirt is a week, but we often complete these jobs much faster. Just ask our awesome last-minute holiday shoppers who ordered custom shirts for Christmas on December 23rd. We basically employ superheroes here at Tiny Little Monster!

So, that’s it. Your handy guide to choosing screen printing or DTG printing with Tiny Little Monster. Now, we expect you to be T-shirt printing geniuses and know the answer to every question when placing an order.

Kidding. Of COURSE we expect you to have questions. And we’re here to answer them for you. We’ll always make sure you’re getting the best printing process for your specific order. We’ll walk you through the process from start to finish; you don’t have to worry about a thing. Every order we fulfill here at Tiny Little Monster is unique, and we work hard to make sure our customers are getting precisely what they need.

It’s resulted in lots of smiles so far, and we’re pretty happy with that.