Direct to garment printing, also known as DTG printing, digital garment printing, digital apparel printing, and inkjet to garment printing, is a process of printing on textiles and garments using specialized or modified inkjet technology. The two key requirements of a DTG printer are a transport mechanism for the garment and specialty inks (inkjet textile inks) that are applied to the textile directly and are absorbed by the fibers.
Some direct to garment printers are manufactured from pre-existing inkjet printers, namely Epson and Brother, but other companies, such as AnaJet, Kornit, Mimaki, and Durst have printers specially designed for fabric printing.
Some DTG printers have been built using lower-resolution industrial inkjet print heads like those found in large-format printers used to print signs and banners. Some inkjet technology manufacturers offer products designed for direct textile printing, providing heads, printers and inks. The resolution and speed of direct-to-garment inkjet printers have been increased greatly over the last 10 years.
Sublimation inkjet printing is a technology used in digital textile printing, which is a parallel technology to direct to garment. As most fabrics are polyester or polyester-mixed, sublimation inkjet printing is widely used in digital textile printing. Since traditional screen printing costs more in terms of labor, digital textile printing, especially sublimation inkjet printing, is now becoming more and more popular in USA and Europe.
The majority of DTG printers are driven from a computer by the use of software known as a RIP (Raster Image Processor). The RIP software allows the printer to print with larger volumes of ink, generate white ink underbases for dark shirts and also provides for more precision color management through color profiles. More advanced RIP software allows for driving multiple printers from one computer, advanced job queuing, ink cost calculation as well as a real time preview of the file prior to printing.
Direct to garment printers can cost from $7,000 to over $200,000 depending on their print size, production capability as well as make and model.
A primary advantage of DTG printing is the lack of set-up costs and instant turnaround time not associated with traditional garment printing methods such as screen printing. The comparative disadvantage of DTG is equipment maintenance and ink cost. Ink technology developments have significantly improved ink performance and lowered ink cost. Digital printing technologies are non-contact, meaning that media is printed on without hand contact, allowing for a more precise image. This prevents the image distortion that takes place in screen printing.