7 DTG Tips For The Best DTG Prints
Are you looking into getting started with, or expanding in Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing, and want to know how to get the best prints possible? One of the most common challenges for direct to garment (DTG) printers is achieving a bright, brilliant print on garments. No matter what type of DTG printer you have, here are 7 expert tips to ensure success.
1. Choose the best garment for printing
100% cotton t-shirts are still the best shirts to print on. This is because they absorb the DTG ink better than blends and synthetic fabrics. However, cotton can shrink, and not all cotton t-shirts are created equal! Pay attention to things like texture and weave when ordering. Ring spun shirts are woven tighter and have a softer, smoother feeling. This makes ring spun shirts a better choice. Remember, with t-shirts, you get what you pay for. Cheaper, low quality shirts use thicker yarn and cheaper dyes that tend to bleed or migrate into the printed area when cured. This is one of the common causes for dull, muted prints.
Make sure to always do a test wash before printing a job. This is especially true if you have changed shirt brands or other settings. Some shirts look great when the design is first printed, but have issues after just a couple washes. Test how well a shirt holds a print by washing once or twice after your test print. If the shirt looks dull or faded when printed, or starts fading after only a couple of washes, chances are that the problem is rooted in the pretreatment process.
2. Get familiar with your Direct-to-Garment printer
Get comfortable with your DTG printer by reading the manual and planning regular maintenance checks. Many DTG machines on the market today, like the Epson SureColor F-2100 DTG printer and the Epson F-3070 Industrial DTG printer, have automated cleaning and maintenance cycles. The two things you will still do manually is agitate (shake) your white ink cartridge and a head nozzle check.
For the white ink cartridges check, you will want to lightly shake the cartridge for about 30 seconds once a day.
A nozzle check is a test print to show you how the individual nozzles on the printhead are working. Clogged nozzles can result from a period of inactivity, a dusty or dry shop atmosphere, or expired inks. It is best to do a print head nozzle check everyday, even when you are not going to print that day. This helps keep the ink flowing so you do not experience printhead issues.
Direct-to-garment shop owners can get better looking prints by controlling the environment and humidity. Keeping your printer in stable and normal “room temperature” settings will help you get better looking finished shirts and lower your ink and maintenance costs. A higher level of humidity helps with ink flow and prevents print head nozzles from clogging no matter which brand of DTG machine you have. Read more about Getting Better DTG Printers through Proper Environmental and Humidity Levels for a DTG Printer.
3. Go with quality artwork
Experiment with your software to find the settings that produce the best images. There are different files you can use, like jpg, png, or tiff. Choosing which type of file depends on your DTG printer and RIP program. The higher the DPI (dots per inch), the better. This goes back to the note-taking, it’s a good idea to compile your notes and create a file with specification guidelines for your customers so they know the best file type and size to provide you.
4. Pretreatment consistency
Practice makes perfect with pretreating. It’s important to get an even, consistent layer of pretreat solution on the garment you are printing. This is why it is critical to have an inclosed pre-treat machine like the Lawson Zoom-AE. Test on different garments with different print settings on your DTG printer and record the results. Print, cure, and wash, and take notes for your records along each step.
Since pretreating is vital to DTG, it is important to apply the right amount. However, many DTG printers do not know the how much pretreat solution they are applying, or should apply. Luckily, there is an easy way to measure how much pretreatment solution you should apply to a t shirt. It helps to use a pre-treat sprayer like the Zoom-AE for consistency, but there are also other methods. Read Direct to Greatness: Ensuring the Perfect DTG Print Starts with the Pre-Treat to learn how to achieve vibrant colors, bold whites and a design will last longer on the t-shirt.
5. Curing your finished print properly
If your print looks fantastic when you first print it, but then dulls as it starts to dry, it may be from a poblem occuring in the curing phase. If you are using a heat pres to cure yor print, the pressure might be off. Heat pressure machines mash down the ink into your garment instead of allowing it to tstay and adhere to the surface. To resolve this issue, adjust your heat press technique or change the mthod of how you cure your prints. You could instead use a DTG conveyor dryer such as a Digi-Dry Box. Learn more about how different curing methods affect the quality of your DTG print in our blog Choosing the Right Method for Drying Your DTG Prints.
6. Take notes on the prints you do
Observe the results you get from different print methods and settings, and keep a record of how you achieved them. This will be a huge help when you have repeat jobs or when you just want to replicate the effect on a new order. Before you actually hit “print”, establish a checklist or some kind of standard operating procedure (SOP) so that all of the settings and variables are in place to produce the best possible print. You want to make the most out of every print and avoid a simple “oops” mistake.
7. Print regularly
As stated earlier, ink can settle and clog the printhead nozzles when left sitting too long without being used. Running test prints helps reduce the amount of time required for maintenance. It keeps the DTG ink flowing properly which ultimately keeps the printheads working longer; and keeps the ink flowing properly.
If for some reason, such as a pandemic, has your shop facing a downturn in orders and you will not use the printer for an extended period of time, you must store your Epson DTG printer properly. Lawson provides some Tips for Storing Your Epson F2100 DTG Printer When Not Printing. You must change the ink cartridges to cleaning cartridges if the planned period of non-operation is one month or more.
Use these 7 tips to get you on track to better direct-to-garment prints. If you happen to be printng on dark, or black colored garments, you can read our article How to Achieve Bright and Vibrant Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Prints on Dark Colored Shirts for tips on making DTG color look bright. Feel free to call us or email us with any additional questions.