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255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
this is a kind of complex question i originally intended to put in the DTG forum which i see is dedicated to specific brands of equipment.

i'm planning on starting my own graphics, web design and teeshirt printing business as i'm a college trained and former offset printing pre-press artist, and want a diversified business, at least to start, so all of my eggs aren't in one basket so to speak in these highly competitive fields.

originally, i just planned on making my own screens, because it's a cheap way to make teeshirts with my own environmentalist designs.

in doing some research, i've learned about soy and linseed organic inks and want to go that route. in talks with my carreer couselor (i'm an amputee now), i've learned that if i have a solid business plan, i could possibly quialify for a $20,000 grant to start my business.

now, i'm thinking about the possibility of doing direct to garment printing AND also printing other people's art, and/or doing online custom work.

i really like the sound of this possibility as it's posible to do much nicer looking 4 color "photographic" type work with these expensive (though i've seen at least 1 $8k printer) instead of fiddling with single color screening or even a 4 color rotation press. my favorite teeshirts are mountain designs, partially because of their beautiful oversized graphics, but also the fact that their inks aren't crackly plastisol.

i'm a bit disappointed that you can't really do whit on black printing with organic inks though, but that's another issue.

what i'm looking to find out is if it's possible to get a cheaper single tee printer, work with environmentally friendly inks like i've seen a couple shops claiming, and actually make money.

the positives i see are the ability to make much higher quality artwork and with less mess. i picture cleaning and moving screens one handed as a challenge and doubt i'd be able to stretch my own screens as i've done at a shop i worked in once, and a much easier "1 at a time" type printing process where i can offer a bunch of designs and just print them as needed as well as offer high quality services to others to further diversify.

what can you tell me about best technologies, feasablity of doing this in my livingroom, environmentally friendly inks compatible with these systems (including design durability and lights over darks ability... mountain designs prints white and yellow on very dark charcoal grey at least), the best tech for my needs (dye sublimation? DTG? etc.) and are these machines noisy/smelly?

my original plan was just to start small and cheap with a computer, dreamweaver & xara software, and to make my own screens for my own tees, but now i'm tempted to think a bit bigger and get a DTG system and work with higher quality multicolor designs and even do some medium volume contract work.

ANYTHING you can tell me (pros and cons) about pursuing this new dream (it actually makes me a bit nervous as it's a serious investment) is greatly appreciated. i'm very new to screen printing other than doing full screen prep in a shop that printed mugs and some reading over the years and don't even know what questions to ask about DTG & "the business itself".

many thanks in advance to anyone that can either offer positive encouragement to "go for it", or to "just stick with my original DIY cheap" plan.

· Registered
590 Posts
REALLY? no one has anything helpful to say?
I cannot offer any DTG advice since i only screen print using water based ink - also trying to be as eco - friendly as possible due to living on a lagoon and printing from home.

I would read up watch videos visit DTG places before investing, also have you thought of maybe getting a partner or seasoned screen printer as staff to maybe do the printing where you do the artwork side if your disability hinders that side of the business.

I stretch my own screens pretty easily with a extreme D.I.Y set up but have never tried single handed.

Find ways to get around the obstacles and live your dream, find other amputees that can assist and create a unique operation you could probably get even more exposure funding etc.

Teach others what you know heck so many things that you could do :)

Good Luck with your decisions but don't over think it, maybe see if you cant rent a DTG printer and do trail run.

I started screen printing after watching a few youtube videos and have made a profit with every print i do, I have not ever seen a live screen printer or anything so yes it is possible to make money doing one colour prints

All the Best

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2,940 Posts
Aside from the expense of the machine, DTG ink is expensive, compared to screen printing ink. A couple of bucks a shirt minimum from what I've seen on a Brother machine where I work occasionally.
They're good for photographic designs if you've got your image set up right. I've also seen some pretty dull photos printed off of DTG. For spot color work, I'm not sure they can always compete with screen printing ink. Working in an offset printshop, you know the difference between doing spot colors using CMYK inks and standard spot color inks or Pantone mixes.
IF you had photographic-type designs you were selling online successfully, I could see where DTG would offer a convenient way to print on demand, but that's a big "if". For a lot less money, you could have your designs printed as transfers and heat-press them on demand. Or alternatively, if you offered only white shirts, print dye-sub transfers yourself and heat-press them on.
I know a busy embroidery shop that bought a DTG machine thinking it would enable them to offer short-run stuff without screen printing. Between keeping the printhead unclogged (it was an Epson-based printer) and a lack of higher-end graphic image requests (in other words, no motorcycle-style designs on black shirts) they printed very few shirts and ended up selling it for pennies on the dollar. If you don't ALREADY have the demand that a DTG machine will fulfill, chances are you're going to have a very expensive table anchor sitting in your apartment.

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255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
OK... thanks a lot for the help everyone. i wasn't really planning on getting a DTG machine until i found out i could either qualify for a $5,000 grant i intended to get started with a PC, xara, & dreamweaver with to do graphics and web design and do screen printing on the side until i found out that i could also qualify for a $20,000 grant that had me dreaming bigger.

i never handled the inks in the shop i worked in, just scren prep from building to screens through camera work and burning emulsion. i'm more familiar with pantone from the work i did in pre-press at regular print shops.

it sounds like getting a DTG printer might be more hassle than it's worth. $2 a teeshirt is a lot of money for a print, especially when i was looking to sell US made tees for no more than $12.

i liked the idea of being able to print "on demand" thinking it might actually be even cheaper than screening as i wouldn't need to make a ton of screens for my 100 or so design ideas.

i'm not planning on starting this business to get rich or anything, just use my natural graphics and writing skills to make a little more money.

so i guess there's more to owning a machine than just having a "fancy photocopier that prints on teeshirts".

WOW! $2 a print is crazy expensive! i guess i'll just start out with teeshirts one design at a time as i get money to buy new screens and get by on the lower operating costs.

if i had my way, i'd JUST do teeshirts, or even graphics, but i'm not counting on a lot of business in any field.

thank you very much for that reality check. the thought of dreaming so big was making me nervous anyways.

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2,940 Posts
My cautionary remarks weren't intended to crush your dreams or enthusiasm, but only to warn you about putting the cart before the horse. The best way to create a business whereby you're designing shirts, putting them up for sale, and printing them on demand is to start out by finding a way to do the fulfillment without investing in the equipment on the front-end. Obviously you're not making a lot of money starting out, but you build the demand before taking the step to purchase the equipment that permits you to finally take the profits. Too many people get an idea to sell shirts and invest in expensive equipment before finding out if the shirts they design and put online for sale have a receptive audience. Most end up selling their equipment at a loss. That's how I got my most recent screen printing press.
Explore alternatives and see if your ideas sell first.

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2,768 Posts
Some of the newer DTGs, i.e., Epson F2000 have virtually no printhead clogs, But it does come at the expense of higher ink cost and ink used in the self maintenance that the machine does, which for all practical purposes reduces maintenance by the operator to almost zero, almost. DTG is good for OMG Graphics with a zillion colors and detail that would blow you away and as a result can command a high $$$$ for short runs and one offs.
If you are going to do Bobs Oil Change in 1 color, while the DTG can do it Well, better to screen. Good advice above, contract with someone to see if you can generate any business. I know not as fun as playing with toys but easier on the pocket. In the past DTG had a bad reputation for poor washability, today not true. Wash great, look great, feel great i.e. almost no hand. Many changes have happened in the last 18-24 months in the DTG world.

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Up to now (without any knowledge of the purpose built machine FROM Epson (as opposed to machines from third parties based on Epson inkjet printers), the line of DTG machines from Brother have been the best received so far in terms of minimum problems. The Kornits from Israel are supposed to be very good, but very expensive.

· Premium Member
2,547 Posts
I wouldn't take advice on anything from anyone unless they have used the equipment first hand and can provide a real insight into the business. A lot of screen printers like to dismiss DTG as a fad or a throw away printing technique. In reality screen printers better start looking really hard at DTG because at the end of the day digital always wins over analog in every industry. 10 years ago the offset printing industry said that digital was a fad...I went to Print13 which is a tradeshow specifically for the paper printing industry and there wasn't an offset printer to be found.

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255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
the "cost" of going DTG isn't exactly an issue in my case. i'm in a vocational rehabilitation program (was originally considering schooling for medical billing, but it sounds like way too much memorization) that i've decided to concentrate on getting back into the graphics field in.

i have over a decade's worth of experience in offset printing pre-press including my last silk screen prep job, but have been out of work a long time and can't even get an interview despite sending out several dozen resumes and applications for entry level work.

i also attended an advertising art curriculum in college and am an artist by nature including photography & music etc. besides graphics and writing.

i was already dreamining of starting my own "militant tree hugger" teeshirt line that i was building a DJing business as a stepping stone to before finding voc rehab.

in my last meeting, i found out there's TWO options for me to start my own business... a $5,000 "small dream" one that i would have gotten a PC and software with and just do traditional screening on the cheap, but then found out there's also a $20,000 "big dream" option if i can provide a solid business plan for it.

that's when i started thinking of my even bigger dream of starting a custom painted bicycle business or the possibility of going to DTG for the teeshirt end of my business.

in my mind, DTG would offer far more potential business making one off tees besides producing better looking multicolor designs of my own. also. i wouldn't be stuck with having either a backlog of already printed tees that might not sell or having to do set-up and clean up to do one offs the hard way as they sell on ebay. with DTG, if i get an order... just throw a blank in and full color... good to go. i like the sound of that a lot

that's why i'm planning on doing graphics and web design too. i can combine all 3 businesses' assets as well as stay diversified enough to scratch by with whatever work i can find unless one of the 3 businesses really takes off.

for me, investing in a DTG printer isn't as big an issue as being able to justify the investment.

i'm 110% positive that multicolor designs would sell better than crude one and two color traditional screened ones with low registration

· Registered
368 Posts
From what I have read in this forum, dtg printers are worth the money if you have a steady flow of orders and can start recouping the investment rather quickly.

They also need constant use for proper ink flow in order to not get so many clogged heads. You should also look into all the threads here regarding all other maintenance issues/daily procedures.

If you are looking into getting the grant, then yeah a dtg would be ok because you are not paying for it. But you will need to still do all the maintenance and upkeep.

On a side note, what's your idea for the bicycles ?

Sent from my HTC One X using T-Shirt Forums

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255 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
regarding DTG gear, i'm happy that someone here gave me a heads up on spectra's 3000 printer. it costs only $8k and isn't a toy eg. they upgraded it's motors over epsons which is a sign of pride in workmanship.

at that price, i can have a lot more cushion to buy blanks and print heads etc. until i start generating reliable income between selling shirts, doing graphics and making websites. i could even use some of the money to advertise in bike magazines if i get enough designs to wow potential customers.

back to bikes, using DTG, i could create multiple versions of the same bikes in different colors because not everyone likes red bikes.

On a side note, what's your idea for the bicycles ?

i've got tons of ideas. my "main line" will be


but using DTG, i can easily expand on that idea and cover: roller skates, roller blades, unicycles, tricycles, recumbents, lowriders, 10 speeds, BMX, running shoes and pogo sticks etc. without having to make 100 screens for each transportation type.

then there's:

Don't be a Gas-Hole!


of falling bikes!

but i saw another version that has an extra "AHEAD" sign under it that makes me think i might go with THAT, and put
a bike falling on over the two signs and let ahead be the punchline. i'm thinking that's a lot funnier


People on bikes will be chased by giants!

i plan on drawing an image if a crazed person jumping up and down on a car roof holding a bike over their head, especially if i can figure out how to make it clear that the person is smashing the car with it and title it BIKE RAGE

my avatar is a recreation of a sign i made that i put on the sissy bar of my lowrider in a parade. it reads "save this planet, ride a bike". i think it inspired someone else to copy the idea as i've seen the same basic idea on google. now i'd have to find proof that i came up with the idea BEFORE whoever so as not to be sued for my own idea.

another idea is a lamo walking a ten speed up a slight hill and titling that POSER!

i'll have one image that shows someone locked to a rack like this

titled RACK HOGGING AHOLE! (or douchebag

"my other bike is another bike"
"motorcycles aren't bikes! they're cycles!"
"my bike is cooler than your car"

then i thought a picture of a bike lane sign on the road printed on a black tee might connect with some cyclists and i have a bunch of other ideas revolving around the many facets of bike culture in particular, but tree hugging too with perhaps some comedy ideas like

the horny toad says:

(a horny toad which is actually a lizard, but don't tell anyone
the original joke was
Q: why are they called horny toads?

which was apparently funny enough for some comedian to steal it and use it WRONGLY on america's next top comic! his LAME version was
"this is my impersonation of a horny frog
a horny frog
ruhhhhhh-uhhhhh-uhhhh biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!"
i was more angry that he mangled the joke than stole it.
i KNOW at least a few people would buy
"talk is cheap...
but your mother is a BARGAIN"

oh eff it! after i tried in vain to edit a wall of HTML spam after adding one to many pics, pasting it to word and removing all of the markup except the IMG tags and then re-post it to reformat the text, there's STILL a wall of markup babble i can't navigate
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