Intro to DTG Printing

The DTG (direct to garment) process is something new to our industry in the past decade and has definitely changed some of the options for garment embellishment. Simply stated, a DTG printer is a large and complicated inkjet printer - further complicated by the need to print white ink in addition to the expected colors on all garments which aren’t white. It’s a fascinating process and can produce photo quality images on garments, but there are also limitations as to which jobs it does well.

High Peak Sportswear has a top of the line Brother DTG printer with full white ink capabilities. This machine gives us the ability to produce gorgeous garment prints which don’t fall within the normal possibilities of traditional screen printing.

The Direct to Garment Process

Step 1 - Artwork Stage

Generally speaking, artwork for DTG is more simple to produce than screen printing art -due to the lack of need for color separations. Essentially any good quality file which would print on your desktop printer, will print on the DTG printer. Addition of text and formatting to a size desired on the garment are often all that needs to be done to a photo or provided image.

Artwork for DTG jobs can start as just an idea, or if you have a logo or design created it can likely be printed by our top of the line Brother DTG printer. Show your idea to our sales staff and art department, and you’re on the way to having a great looking t-shirt.

Artwork Stage Image

Step 2 - DTG vs. Screen Printing, Pros & Cons

DTG printers have many pros and cons when compared to traditional screen print jobs. In a nutshell, small quantity jobs with large numbers of colors or photo realistic components mesh best with DTG strengths.

  • Using a DTG printer means no color separations for the art department and no screens for the production department. This eliminates significant setup and art time, and potentially eliminates costs.
  • The print quality in many cases is superior to screen printing, particularly when printing photo quality images.
  • The hand (feeling when touched) is often lighter and softer than a traditional screen printed shirt.
DTG vs. Screen Printing, Pros & Cons Image

Step 3 - DTG Printing

White Shirts:
The garment is loaded on a platen, cycles into the printer and the inkjet style printer applies the ink directly onto the garment (ie. DTG). Print speeds are reasonably fast and ink costs are fairly low, both depend on the print image size.

Dark Shirts:
Printing on dark shirts first involves pre-treating the image area with a solution, which will make the ink much brighter and more vibrant when printed on the garment. The solution is sprayed onto the shirt with a pre-treatment machine after which the shirt is placed in an iron on press to dry the solution.

After pre-treating is completed the garment is loaded onto a platen , cycles into the printer and the inkjet style printer applies white ink where the design is white and also under where the other ink colors will be applied. The application of white ink is critical to having bright and vibrant colors on dark garments

DTG Printing Image

Step 4 - Curing

After the printing is finished, the garment is removed from the platen and placed in an iron on press where the ink is cured.

Curing Image

Frequently Asked Direct to Garment Questions


  1. When is DTG preferable to traditional screen printing?

    Jobs which have many colors or photo realistic images, and which have a small number of garments are most likely to be printed DTG.

  2. How do DTG print speeds compare with screen printing?

    DTG printing is slower than screen printing, normally much much slower.

  3. What is the normal print speed for DTG vs Screen Printing?

    DTG print speed is governed largely by the size of the print, intensity of the color, and whether white ink is required as it is for dark shirts. DTG print speeds can be around 10 per hour to 20 per hour, where as screen printing will range in the hundreds of prints per hour.

  4. How do I contact my sales person?

    Head over to our contact page which includes email and phone numbers for all of our sales staff.

  5. What is your turnaround time?

    Our standard turnaround time is two weeks from the receipt of your order.

  6. Do you do rush orders?

    Rush orders are available. Please call us today to see if your order can be fit into our production schedule. Rush charges may apply during peak business seasons.

  7. How do I pay for my order?

    We accept cash, check, and charge (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express).

  8. How will I receive my order?

    Orders can be picked up at any of our four locations in Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Roanoke. Orders can also be shipped UPS, standard charges will apply. Some companies promise free shipping, but then build it into your cost elsewhere with an additional markup. We prefer to keep our pricing straightforward and honest, so that you can make the appropriate decisions.

  9. May I cancel an order?

    Orders that have not been produced can be cancelled. However, depending on when the order is cancelled, art charges, digitizing fees, or garment restocking fees will be charged to cover the costs already incurred.

  10. What is your return policy?

    We pride ourselves in exceeding the industry standard and providing exceptional customer satisfaction. However, due to the labor intensity of custom orders we cannot accept returns on decorated garments under any circumstances.

  11. Will I receive a printed sample?

    Because of the labor intensive setup of screen printing, it is not normally possible to print samples. Blank samples for sizing purposed can be ordered. Please contact us for information and charges.


  1. Can you produce artwork based on an idea?

    We have a full service art department which can fine tune artwork you’ve done, or produce artwork from your concept or idea. Artwork for DTG is generally speaking more simple to produce than screen printing art due to the lack of need to have color separations. Essentially any good quality file that would print on your desktop printer, will print on the DTG printer. Addition of text and formatting to a size desired on the garment are often all that needs to be done to a photo or provided image. Our artists are all experts on producing artwork which will produce great shirts, we charge artwork at $30.00 per hour.

    Our artists use primarily Apple computers running Adobe Illustrator. Unlike screen printing which normally requires vector artwork, DTG artwork can be a high quality EPS file. We prefer to be provided illustrator files, or eps. If questions remain our art department will be glad to discuss acceptable file types.

  2. How do I proof my artwork?

    For the protection of all parties involved, all artwork must be proofed by you prior to any order being produced. You will have the opportunity to view a representation of your job electronically via email or a web based art approval site. Please be aware that colors do vary on different monitors and inks on colored shirts have some interaction which will change the color or change the way a color is perceived.

  3. Do you do PMS color matching?

    DTG printing will give a wide variety of full color printing, however exact color matching is not possible even on white shirts. Ink variation on colored shirts in even more problematic due to interaction with the colored inks and the white ink under-printed, and the colored ink and the colored shirts.


  1. Are there minimum quantities for DTG printing?

    Since there are no screens and much less setup time than for screen printing, minimum quantities are much lower for DTG printing. Of course as with all printing, the larger the quantity the lower the per unit cost to print. Ask your salesperson for specifics.

  2. Why is DTG printing on dark shirts more costly than white?

    Printing on dark garments is much more labor intensive and has higher material costs than printing on light garments, thereby costing more. Printing on dark shirts requires pretreating, also printing on dark garments will always require white ink which is problematic for DTG printers. The white ink will be printed where the image is to be white, but also underneath where all colors will be printed. This white ink makes the colored inks bright and vibrant, but drives up ink cost and slows down print speed.

    Also, darker colored garments cost more to purchase that lighter colored ones, white are generally the cheapest blanks to purchase.

  3. Are there garment limitations for DTG Printing?

    Yes, definitely! DTG printing should really only be done on 100% cotton shirts. Also, since a very flat surface is required, hoodies with pouches and t-shirt with pockets are problematic for this reason.

  4. Who supplies the garments to be printed?

    We prefer to purchase the garments for your job and we do this for the overwhelming majority of jobs we produce. We work with dozens of suppliers and can get an almost unlimited range of garment styles and colors. If High Peak orders the garments, we can be sure they are garments which work well in the screen printing process. This reduces the likelihood of garment dye interaction with ink, garments with treatments that adversely affects inks, and garments which can’t stand the heat required to cure the ink without shrinking or scorching. Also, if we provide the garments we can replace any garments lost during production.

  5. May I supply garments? (contract printing)

    If you provide the garments to be printed, there are some potential issues of which you need to be aware. Recently there's been an explosion in the market of moisture wicking and other high tech performance garments. Many are problematic when printing, due to ink adhesion and scorching issues caused by the temperatures required to cure ink. Additionally if there are misprints, etc., since we didn't provide the garments we can't replace those which get damaged. It's safer for all parties and we prefer whenever possible to provide garments we know will work for the intended purposes.

  6. Can you guarantee exact quantities?

    Please notify your sales person if an exact quantity is necessary. Losses during production are always a possibility, please make your salesperson aware if an exact quantity is essential.

  7. May I group items of different style, size and color in the same order?

    There is no simple answer to this, most of the time it’s not a problem, sometimes it’s a major problem. Below are some common considerations, but before assuming it is or is not ok to group styles, sizes, or colors please consult one of our sales staff or artists and they can give you a definitive answer.

    Grouping different styles: Some items such as short sleeve and long sleeve may be grouped with no problems. However for example, full front prints on t-shirts probably won’t fit on the front of a pocket tee, or a hoodie with a pouch. Mixing garments with different composition is likely not possible using DTG.

    Grouping different colors: Again, to determine if this is possible your salesperson or artist will need to understand the specific job. One color text can be printed on some shirts in one color of ink, and then the ink changed for printing on other colored shirts, an ink change fee will apply. However if there are multiple colors of ink, it gets much more complicated. Also, some artwork will get a “negative” look if the ink colors are changed from dark to light. Think of a baseball printed using white ink having dark stitches. If you used the same artwork and just changed the white ink to black ink for light shirts, you’d have a black baseball with light stitches which will look strange. In this case, to get the baseball to look right there would be different artwork for the dark and light shirts.

    Grouping different sizes: This is part of the normal routine, but still there are considerations. If the job includes sizes adult M through XL the artist will design the artwork as large as will fit on the Medium and this is normally fine for all the shirt sizes. However if you have a job with youth small through XXXXL the artwork which will fit on the youth small will look tiny on the XXXXL. Having adult sized and youth sized artwork is one solution, this is less of a problem with DTG as opposed to traditional screen printing.

Heat press curing a direct to garment print
Womens graphic v neck with flower at bottom
Graphic hooded sweatshirt of the Indianapolis 500 race
Artist at computer designing
Direct to Garment printer being open
Graphic custom bag with tree and blossoms