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Discuss the various aspects of direct to garment printing. DTG printers include Brother, T-Jet, Flexi-Jet, DTG Kiosk, Kornit, Mimaki, Tex-Jet and others! Discuss and learn about this up and coming printing technology.



Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

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Old September 16th, 2009 Sep 16, 2009 5:28:04 PM -   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by BSB
You say do your homework...Where do you look for that homework? The more I read the more confused I get. I do small jobs and want to trade my screen print machine in for a DTG printer so I can offer more options and 1 ups but I am confused on which one to buy.
BSB, If you're here, your doing part of your homework. if you know the difference between 4 color process and spot color, you know a lot more than many people getting into this. DTG is great for short runs, less screens, less waste.... etc. but if you are a small opperation and the reason you are not moving mechandise is price, DTG may not make things better. The niche is a little different that the typical screener doing athletic type stuff. Cotton/high cotton blends is the norm. You can pop in web art and make this work without separations, but if you have photoshop skills, you can really do yourself some good. Just like screenprinting the curve for learning is there and you will need to really understand how the process works to exploit the subtlties. Ask your self:
1)who are your customers?
2)what type of artwork do they need me to do? (Size, color, placement)
3) what prices will they buy at?

If you have examples of what(art, colors) you hope to do, someone here can give you some real world feedback on wether it's practical or a pipe dream, or get you started on more questions to ask. At that point, you can decide what machine to buy, or if you even want to go this way.

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Old September 16th, 2009 Sep 16, 2009 6:03:12 PM -   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

Thanks for the info..I think my prices are fine. My thought in this is I have more small job customers then large and they don't always want as many shirts but because of screen charges they get more shirts so they don't have to pay the screen charge and they do one color because of price. I want to be able to offer, you can get as many as you want plus many colors for a lower cost..Also there is a few potential customers that are going elsewhere for shirts because they are getting pictures of the things on shirts that I can't offer at this time but could with a DTG. Plus alot of 1 ups that I could make money on.I work with corel draw and I learn something new on it all the time. I am in know means a graphic artist by I do like learning as much as I can and I love doing what I do but want to offer so much more which I am thinking I can do with a DTG.
 
Old September 20th, 2009 Sep 20, 2009 8:13:26 AM -   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

You will need a suitable work environment for a direct to garment printer:
Temps between 68F and 80F are preferred for the inks to flow properly.
Humidity above 50% will assist proper ink flow and reduce clogging dramatically.
Mount an inexpensive hygrometer near the printer to measure humidity and temp.
Lint, dust , etc. in the air are attracted to the ink and can cause clogging- the cleaner room the better.
Locate heat press far enough from the printer to avoid drastic temp changes for the printer.

I think a bulk ink system is a very good choice economically, but it may require a little more maintenance, so keep that in mind when choosing a printer.

Direct to garment has less caustic chemicals and less messy cleanup than some decorating methods making it ideal for a home business ( but it needs to be used and maintained daily)

If you don't need white ink it is an awesome decorating method in my opinion for short runs or single prints. If you do, it is still pretty good but offers much more opportunity for frustration.
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Old September 28th, 2009 Sep 28, 2009 9:19:35 AM -   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this information. I am trying to educate myself with the DTG industry and this has been the single most helpful post out of a lot of different websites and forums. I am looking at doing a startup and like to know all of the things the company's don't tell you. To them, it is as easy as 1,2,3. Thankfully, I have been around a little and know better.
I am looking at a small startup that I can grow slowly and effectively. I am trying to write a good business plan, but I am having a little trouble finding realistic numbers to analyze my true financial potential. I know that it won't be easy and I know that I will have troubles, but I also know that it is possible.
Again, thanks for all of your information. Please keep it coming as I am very new, like a lot of folks out there.
Thanks,
Jesse
 
Old July 2nd, 2010 Jul 2, 2010 12:24:56 PM -   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

One thing that I wanted to really stress in this old forum is how important it is to concentrate on selling your shirts and service. Most of the talk on this website (at least the direct-to-garment area) is about which printer does what the best. Regardless of which printer you decide to buy, you need need NEED to spend some time proactively marketing your business. No garment printer, regardless of price or functionality, is a magic wand. Simply buying one is not going to bring business to your doorstep unless you already have a list of current clients that you can offer the new service to.
 
Old July 18th, 2010 Jul 18, 2010 7:01:27 AM -   #21 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

Here is some general information on starting up a direct to garment business -

What do I need to start out?:

Hardware: First things first: you need a direct to garment printer. Next, you need a computer. You also need a heat press. These components are the basics of any direct to garment business.

Software: Adobe Photoshop is more or less an essential tool in the graphic design world today. Not only will it allow you to create your own art, it will allow you to fix your customer's artwork as well. Don't worry, you don't need to spend a lot to get Photoshop CS 4, the latest and greatest version. Version CS 2 offers a great balance of value and features. Plus, it's much cheaper than CS 4 and compatible with Windows Vista.

Knowledge: Now may be the time to invest in a how-to book about running your own business, or to take a course at a community college.

If you know how to run a business already, the other piece of knowledge you need is how to work with graphics. Remember that old term, photo-ready art? That denotes artwork that's optimized to the proper size and quality and ready to print. It's the rare customer that will bring you photo-ready art, so it's up to you to prepare the customer's artwork for printing.

Usually, you will need computer graphics knowledge to optimize or fix a customer's artwork.

If you aren't proficient with Photoshop or another graphics program already, this might be the time to learn. But the easiest route might be hiring an experienced graphic designer, a local college student, or finding a freelance designer at a website like Elance.com to help set up your artwork.

Once you have a finished and optimized piece of artwork, printing out a design on a direct to garment printer is easy.


Now what do I do?:

It's time to purchase your hardware. Take your time researching who to purchase your machine from and which machine to purchase. How long is the machine under warranty? How easy is it to get support? Remember, this is the company that you're going to be calling for support in the future and the machine that you'll be using day in and day out.

How easy is it to use the RIP software that comes with the machine? That's the essential piece of software that translates between the computer and the printer. The easier the software and the printer are to use, the easier it will be to have employees do the printing in the future.

Getting a machine with one or two timesaving features or a fast print speed can make a big difference over time. You'll be printing thousands of shirts with this machine, so make sure it's robust and reliable.

Different direct to garment printers have different resolutions. Some can only print 600x600 dpi, providing less detail than printers which can print up to 1440x1440 dpi.

Some direct to garment printers can only print on white or light shirts. In some areas, dark shirts are preferred much more than light shirts, in which case you want to purchase a printer that has white ink to print on dark shirts.

Once you've purchased your printer, you need to learn how to use and maintain it. If you don't know how to print, you won't be able to make a profit.


What can I print?:

You can print virtually anything you can see on the computer screen. That includes photographs, drawings, vector graphics, and bitmap graphics.

Remember that you may need computer graphics knowledge to tweak the colors or quality of the graphic that you want to print.



What can I print on?:

Your most popular item will likely be t-shirts. 100% cotton shirts will work best, though with today's advanced ink formulations you can print on some polyester and 50/50 garments.

We've found that Hanes Tagless shirts print very well. These can be found for a reasonable price, about $2 per shirt. More expensive shirts like American Apparel, geared for upscale markets, generally work well too. You will be able to see a major difference in print quality between a cheap shirt and a quality shirt.

Don't forget that you can print on many other goods, like sweatshirts, towels, and even painter's canvas. Mouse pads will print well. You can even make a direct to garment print, then embroider on top of it.



Where can I buy shirts and other printables?:

Purchase shirts and other printables from a national distributor like Bodek and Rhodes or Alpha Shirt Supply. Not only will these distributors have better pricing and availability, their shirts will also be free of the chemicals you can find on some blank department store shirts. However, you will usually have to purchase at least a case at a time. A case contains 72 shirts.



What should I print on?:

Whatever you can print profitably. While you're in the business of printing great looking apparel, you're also in the business of making money. Unless you see an unprofitable job bringing you profitable business in the future, you may need to just say no.



How much should I sell my shirts and other products for?:

Putting a selling price on your products can be difficult. Look at what shirts sell for at other local retailers, including department stores. Generally, you'll want to charge between $12-$30 for light shirts, and $15-$40 for dark shirts. Depending on your geographic area or target demographic, you may charge more or less.

Because you're direct to garment printing and not screen printing or heat pressing, you can charge more than average. That's because you're able to print shirts with sharp detail, with thousands of colors, and with personalized designs. That's something that other processes can't match.

Charge more for personalizing designs and less for stock art. Charge more for larger designs, because they take more time and use more ink. Charge less for orders in quantity, but only if there is little or no personalization involved.



More profit-making tips:

Find a screen printer that you can trust. You may be able to find someone local, or you can look online. Employ them as a contract printer. That means that, whenever a customer comes in with a job that isn't suitable for direct to garment printing, you can contract out that job to the screen printer. You won't make nearly as much profit, but you'll keep the customer and keep the customer satisfied.

If you're really lucky, the screen printer will employ you as a contract printer for sampling or for its small jobs.

You'll also want to purchase a set of heat pressable numbers and letters. Sometimes, all a school or sports team wants is some simple numbers on t-shirts or team jerseys. It's simpler to heat press these than to print them with a direct to garment printer.

When you deliver these simple shirts, include a sample of what you can do with your direct to garment printer. For example, print a picture on a shirt and tell the coach that you can print the team's photo on t-shirts or even print individual pictures of the players on shirts for their parents to wear. This could turn into a nice marketing opportunity and, since the team changes every year, a chance for regular business.
 
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Old July 18th, 2010 Jul 18, 2010 6:09:35 PM -   #22 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

It has been 2 years since I wrote this and we have spent an enormous amount of time and money with this printer, much more so than we have with a comparable investment of embroidery, and I have to say that there are not a lot of good things I can say about dtg printing.

First off, the initial purchase price is just the entry into the product. Plan on double that investment to get a real production going.

Second, we can do about 4 shirts an hour on this thing if we are doing full front and back on whites and less than that with the white ink on 'darks'. And by darks I mean anything not white.

The pricing on anything over one-offs and very short runs does not make up for the amount of work you have to put into these things.

We also ripped the entire thing apart and re-did the ink delivery with the equipment zone ink delivery system and that made things a lot better but not perfect. Good job for ez to get that right but $400 is a little much for some plastic bottles, tubes and $20 in ink carts.

The ink is still really expensive and the white ink is prohibitively expensive.

Add to that the pre treatment and unless you are selling $20 shirts it isn't worth the cost of admission.

Now for light garments there is a new pre treatment for them as well and it is $100 a gallon. It does make a big difference in the quality of the prints but unless you are just printing on whites you will not be satisfied. Even on light colored garments if you want your colors to look good you need white ink.

Here are things that can and do go wrong:

1) Ink clogging in the lines. The original ink delivery system sucked. We have eliminated that problem.

2) White ink viscosity. You need to baby this stuff like it was nitro. If you don't it will blow up in your face.

3) You don't know what you will get until you print one. Well, if you are doing a one-off then guess what, you have to print it at least twice to find out.

4) You don't know what it will cost until you print one. Well, even worse, with our software we found out that the price shown per print didn't change if we printed one pass or 2 passes. Huh?

5) You will be blamed by the vendor for not maintaining your machine when it stops working even you didn't know about the maintenance because it wasn't in the training or the documentation you got with the machine. Oh wait, the documentation wasn't complete or accurate or helpful at all. And by the way, the training was done from hand written notes on a yellow legal pad. And the 1 day training was only half a day.

6) Print heads are considered consumables. What? $300 or more for a consumable every 6 months? Better figure that into your price.

7) No training on how the thing really works so you can fix problems. You better know how to change the following:
a) print head
b) ribbon cable
c) capping station
d) print head carriage

If you don't plan on being down for a week while you wait.

8) The RIP software license is NOT transferable if you sell the machine!


Now on to what is good about this product.

1) You can do a single shirt and charge $20 and get it. $40 is s stretch. I don't know of any market around here where I can get $40 for a dtg printed dark shirt. After all, I am not selling Ed Hardy shirts!

2) You can print on canvas and make a lot more for less work and not have to worry about washability. We started doing canvas photo prints and can charge $40 for those and it is really less work than doing shirts and the results are good enough to get you by without all the hassles of shirts.

3) Doing t-shirts brings in other business such as uniforms, embroidery, rhinestones, vinyl and so on.

Finally we have to look at the bottom line. We need to cover the monthly nut and t shirts are not where it is at with dtg at this point. For production runs we make next to nothing on these things. We keep doing it because we bring in other business as a result.

One thing for sure, we will get into screen printing and do that before we commit to any more dtg equipment. Other than photo printing and other one off types of things it just doesn't compute to spend as much or more than what we would for a screen print setup to get such frustrations.

The dtg market will continue to make innovations and push the right buttons here and there but when you look at getting into this market plan on double your investment or more to make this work. If we had known this from the beginning we would have put $30K into a large format dyesub setup or solvent print setup and not done tshirts at all.

My adviCe is to stay away from the table top machines and look a little higher end if you really want to do this. You need something that can demonstrate before the sale a real production rate that can sustain itself before you plunk down good money. AND GET YOUR TRAINING COMMITMENT IN WRITING AHEAD OF TIME.
 
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Old July 18th, 2010 Jul 18, 2010 6:32:43 PM -   #23 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by binki
It has been 2 years since I wrote this and we have spent an enormous amount of time and money with this printer, much more so than we have with a comparable investment of embroidery, and I have to say that there are not a lot of good things I can say about dtg printing.

Second, we can do about 4 shirts an hour on this thing if we are doing full front and back on whites and less than that with the white ink on 'darks'. And by darks I mean anything not white.
I'd be curious to know which DTG printer you own? I can see where it would never be profitable if you can only produce 4 white shirts a hour and less with darks as you stated.
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Old July 18th, 2010 Jul 18, 2010 6:33:36 PM -   #24 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by IYFGraphics
I'd be curious to know which DTG printer you own? I can see where it would never be profitable if you can only produce 4 white shirts a hour and less with darks as you stated.
dtg kiosk ii
 
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Old July 18th, 2010 Jul 18, 2010 9:38:18 PM -   #25 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

I have had pretty much the exactly same experience that binki has had with his Kiosk II with my Fast T-Jet 2 (which is like the original Kiosk). I know the new machines print faster, but the cost of the ink is still a huge factor, and all the touches you have to do to the garment (like: press before pretreament, pretreament, dry pretreatment, print 4 to 5 min., cure 3 min.) make per piece production costs high. I shut mine down for three main reasons. First I could not charge what I needed to charge and keep customers happy with their per piece costs. Second, because the per piece cost was perceived as too high by my customers, I could not get the volume I needed to keep the machine printing enough of the time to have it make a profit. And thirdly, no matter how I controlled the environment, I had huge white ink clogging problems.

I have no real market for white garments, I need to print an underbase on 90% of my garment product. I built a reputation for high color large digitally painted images so my print needs require the full printing size capability of the T-Jet 2 at about a 75 to 80% ink coverage of the print area. The print mode I use is Photo 1440 underbase, 720 color high speed mode. I still have 4 to 5 minuet printing times. This consumes a lot of ink and a lot of time which makes for an expensive garment when competing against screen printing.

I have been waiting for improvements and gains in the ink technology to possibly fire the machine back up and try again to make DTG services a profitable part in my over all product and service offering. Some new inks look promising and BelQuette's degassed bagged ink system looks interesting as well.

The good thing about my DTG is that it got me started in this industry, and in the beginning while I was running it often and fulfilling orders I was able to build a customer base. What I had to do to keep those customers and continue to grow was to change and offer screen printed product to my customers instead of DTG printed product. I needed to be able to offer a better per piece price and know the machine would likely not be a factor in causing delays in getting orders out.

I possibly see a place and a market for DTG printing in my company and its higher per piece prices, but it would only work if I can eliminate the white ink clogging problems I had while diligently controlling the environment (dust, temp, humidity). Even though I did not have a DTG print job every day, I would print a sample, and as mentioned, controlled the environment and the thing still had white ink clogging problems.

I know others have a business model that makes good profit with reliable DTG printing and I commend them for their success. I have yet to make it work for my company but I have not completely given up on this technology. I need to work out the combination that works for my company.
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Old September 18th, 2010 Sep 18, 2010 3:20:20 PM -   #26 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by binki
One thing for sure, we will get into screen printing and do that before we commit to any more dtg equipment. Other than photo printing and other one off types of things it just doesn't compute to spend as much or more than what we would for a screen print setup to get such frustrations.
If you're screen printing anything but one color designs...
then this process has many similar issues you must deal with.

White ink is a nightmare...

Screen coating, drying, burning, washing, drying and taping, is very time consuming unless you have seriously large (expensive) equipment...
and even then, it takes 20 minutes per screen... multiply that by 6 colors, and you're looking at two hours setup (that's with premium coating/drying equipment AND if the design washes out properly so you don't need to re-do the screen).

Now you get to start aligning the screens registration marks...
then loading the press with shirts, printing (the shortest part of the entire process), unloading, curing...
and finally, folding and packaging.

Alright, after all that, you've just printed one full color design...
now you get to clean everything up, let it dry, and start working on that second shirt design.

Screen printing really isn't much better, it's got it's own set of issues...
all of which can be overcome with lots of money for the proper equipment (to shorten the setup time)...
and ultimately, time invested in research and hands-on experience.

Like anything in the printing industry, it's expensive and not easy...
which is exactly why there's an "industry" for it.

I'm reading this thread because I'm researching DTG printers (again)...
your post is very insightful (particularly because you came back and followed up a couple years later), thanks for that...
I had hoped the DTG process had evolved further in this period of time, but it seems it hasn't.

There's never an easy way...
 
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Old September 18th, 2010 Sep 18, 2010 5:04:06 PM -   #27 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

The process has gotten much better, but it is just like everything else, the better, faster equipment costs more. Also, like everything else, you have to know the machines strengths and weaknesses, and market it accordingly.
 
Old September 19th, 2010 Sep 19, 2010 12:56:34 PM -   #28 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by Printzilla
The process has gotten much better, but it is just like everything else, the better, faster equipment costs more. Also, like everything else, you have to know the machines strengths and weaknesses, and market it accordingly.
Of course, I didn't mean to imply that DTG evolution was stagnant...
just that it's still not ideal... very expensive, for a lot work.

IMHO, the idea of DTG was to easily print full color shirts...
but by reading the various DTG forums over the years, it really doesn't seem like it's doing that yet.

Being a retailer, I was hoping to print full color / made-to-order shirts, so we could customize the shirt colors...
but the DTG buy-in + learning curve (and potential future downtime)... really dampers the option.

Particularly the idea that a DTG machine breaks very easily, almost by itself it seems!!
It's like buying a Mercedes that you know won't start if you don't drive it one day...
 
Old September 19th, 2010 Sep 19, 2010 2:42:20 PM -   #29 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

here is the support part. the guy that was supposed to demo the brother 541 had so many excuses as to why he couldn't make appointments we gave up on him. we had 2 appointments made and broken for simple but stupid reasons so we felt support would not be there. so we purchase local only to find out everything runs on central time with our vendor so we are still screwed unless we support ourselves which we pretty much do now.

we made the decision today today to add screen printing in house to do the best process for the job and offer a competitive price on it. what the h3ll, we have learned embroidery, dtg, vinyl, sublimation and whatever else to stay in this biz and we are currently bidding on enough jobs to triple our monthly gross so we really need to do this and offer the best product for the job.
 
Old September 20th, 2010 Sep 20, 2010 1:22:16 AM -   #30 (permalink)
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Default Re: Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

Quote:
Originally Posted by binki
the guy that was supposed to demo the brother 541 had so many excuses as to why he couldn't make appointments we gave up on him.
See now, that's just plain wrong... at least Mercedes is there in an Armani suit to sell you the car (despite it's perceived quality)...
but if they can't be bothered to show up for the pre-sale, their company (Brother, or whoever the reseller was) has some serious issues beyond the product itself... you probably saved yourself even more headache by NOT dealing with them.

It's just a shame, DTG is a very innovative idea... so close, yet so far.

Although, if DTG actually becomes effortless...
everyone will be buying them to print their own shirts...
and the print industry won't be $pecialized anymore.

So in a way, it's simply another custom printing process that requires education and skill...
just like all the other methods.

In that light, I suppose it has it's place...
it's still a tease tho!
 






This is a discussion about Before you get into DTG, things you need to know that was posted in the Direct to Garment (DTG) Inkjet Printing section of the forums.

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