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Before you get into DTG, things you need to know

126854 Views 127 Replies 57 Participants Last post by  DTGPRINTERPARTS
DTG printing is the most exciting thing to happen to the garment industry since automatic screen machines and dyesub. There are, however, things you need to know.

1) the ink has a shelf life. the longer it sits around the bigger the chance you will have bad ink.

2) production times are nowhere near screen printing. while you can print short runs profitably, longer runs need much better control of costs to be competitive.

3) printing a single shirt can take 4 minutes or more from start to finish.

3) this is a complicated piece of equipment with close tolerances. not paying attention to that fact will yield nothing but frustration.

4) these machines like to run. the more you run it the happier it will be. the less you run it or the longer it just sits around the more chance you will have for problems like head clogs.

5) the ink is expensive.

6) pressing the shirts after printing adds to the time to print, consider a tunnel dryer like screen printers use.

7) color matching is a big issue. make sure you understand how colors work on a pc, how that are translated in the rip, and how your machine treats them.

8) unlike screen printing or embroidery, bitmaps (raster images) are your friend. imo this is one huge advantage over other forms of decorating.

did i miss anything:D
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The cost to print a shirt remains fairly constant, whether you print 1 or 1,000 of the same design, so you really can't offer much of a quantity discount on larger orders...possibility consider using traditional screen-printing for big orders.
Make sure you get the correct price for your work to cover your ROI (return on investment).
Also most models need to be in a climate controlled environment.
Also need a separate area for pretreatment, and if not done correctly, can cause print quality issues.
Need to have a separate, dedicated electric circuit.
Most all the models using white ink will need DAILY maintenance; if not done correctly you'll have head clogs & other print issues.
Don't be the first to purchase the "new" model; wait a bit & see how this model works out.
Understand that this industry is changing rapidly; the machine model you purchase today will probably be out of production within 1-2 years, and parts availability may become an issue.
Most models have the ability to print other items, such as coasters, mouse pads, etc.
DTG in NOT a replacement for traditional screen printing.
Take the time to read thru the threads on this forum; there's lot's of really good info on most of the popular mfgs, both good & bad; go to a show & see them in action before making a purchase.
I'm sure there's more......
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Thanks, Fred and Brian. I need all the infos I can get before I take the DTG plunge. What printers are you using, and do you do black shirts?
There seems to be a few new people on the board lately so I thought it was worth bringing this topic back to the top.

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Pretty sage wisdom when you look back 15 months! I'd like to add another thing or two:

1. You can buy the best direct to garment printer on the market and if you don't have a plan to keep it busy, it won't make you any money and will sit idle, causing atrophy issues

2. Consider all aspects of owning a direct to garment printer before buying one - cost of supplies, cost of consumable parts (printheads, capping stations, dampers, cartridges etc), warranty information as well as training options and costs.

3. Set realistic pricing for your output - don't undercharge in order to start your business up, it is a tough reputation to overcome!
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I would like to add,

Research the dealer / manufacture you buy the machine from, these machines are all high maintance compared with most other inkjets and good support from the manufacture / dealer can be worth a fortune and defintly worth paying a little extra for in the long run.
Check the details of the warrenty (on site vs return to manufacture) (3 months vs 12 months) and what extended warrently will cost once the initial warrenty expires.

I never buy warrenty on desktop printers or PC's, but if I was buying a DTG machine I would certainly want it.

Best regards

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There seems to be a few new people on the board lately so I thought it was worth bringing this topic back to the top.

Thanks Andy, Perhaps Rodney should put this in the "highlighted threads" area. The wisdom here is a "must see" for any newbie. We still see alot of people make the same mistakes.
You should also get some training in basic artwork stuff. Adobe Photoshop is a good software that will be compatible with most any files you will receive. There are people here that also use Corel.

Things you should know about artwork (Off the top of my head, chime in if I'm incorrect or left something out):

1.) DPI - Most importantly know that graphics off of the internet are usually 72 dpi and typically you need a 150 dpi image or better for the highest print quality. Just because it looks nice on screen doesn't mean it will print nice. Garbage In = Garbage Out

2.) Know the difference between the common file types: .jpg, .gif, .psd, .png, .eps

3.) Basic image manipulation: Since what is shown on screen might be different than the printed image you may need to change the image to get the correct output. Lighten and Darken, etc..

It would be great if someone that has a DTG printer but started out with very limited computer skills and new to the printing industry would give us a list of what they found difficult or had to learn.

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I think I can help in that department Andy.
I know a lot about the workings of a computer, even built one from scratch once. But graphics, didn’t know squat. :mad: I have learned much about graphics via the net and now consider myself a fairly good graphics manipulator (no way calling myself an artist).
DTG printers in general, the more knowledge you have before buying, the better off you’ll be. They can be your best friend when they work right but when things go wrong (and they will) it makes you yearn for a gallon of gas and a match.
I had to learn EVERYTHING about this industry, knowing zip when I started looking. Boards like this one are great as they give you other brains to pick. I have learned a lot since reading this board, too bad I found it after I purchased a printer. There is always something new to learn, whether it’s graphic design or picking up a tip from someone else. Probably the most important piece of advice I would give anyone who wants to enter this industry is do your homework!
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A thing that I would add to the list that wasn't was much of an issue 15 months ago as it appears to be now. The marketplace for used machines had grown significantly in the past 12 months (in part due to the economy - some businesses going under and others trying to save a dime). If you have not used a direct to garment printer before (or have good experience with other specialty printers like large format eco-sol printers) - the savings you realize in the purchse of a used machine from an individual may not be worht the hassles you will experience after the fact. I would suggest that, if buying a used machine from an individual, that you do so only if you are able to see the unit in operation OR have gotten such a good deal that the potential expenses you may incur won't make it a bad deal.
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good call Don, some of these machines are probably being unloaded too because they aren't working. Insist on seeing it in production, not just cleaned and ready to go. You could be buying a boat anchor. I would say paperweight, but who uses those anymore?
You could be buying a boat anchor. I would say paperweight, but who uses those anymore?
Who can afford a boat anymore?
Wow! Thanks for re-posting this! I am one of those newbies and was looking into DTG but I figured I should start out with Plastisols first! Trying to bring my cost down from screen printing since I don't move my inventory very fast, plus my wholesale profit margin is really tight.
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.
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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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.
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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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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.
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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.
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