DTG Digital Printing VS Screen Printing—Best T-shirt Print Method

With the popularity and affordability of DTG digital printing, more and more problems have arisen, different from screen-printing, how does DTG digital printing work?
In other words, what is the best T-shirt print method?
Now, Ladies and gentlemen, people around the world, this is the moment you have been waiting for. Five rounds of World Printing Method Championships. Let’s get ready to start.
I am here to answer this question in the form of a printing method of 10 rounds of battle. Each round will cover different aspects of customized garment printing, including vividness, color matching, durability, etc. No matter which printing method wins the most rounds, it will win the championship belt.
And remember kids, nobody is getting punched in the head. It’s just a metaphor. Now on to the introductions…

DTG digital printing VS Screen Printing

DTG digital printing
DTG digital printing

In the Blue Corner:
The Challenger—DTG digital printing

DTG has been around for barely 15 years, but at that time, technological progress was developing rapidly. Every year, this printing method becomes faster, more affordable, and produces higher-quality prints.
The bar to entry for most printing companies is still fairly high. A decent professional machine can cost anywhere from $10,000 all the way up to $30,000. But as business investments go, it’s a good one: a company can start taking low-quantity, on-demand orders without the typical set-up cost and effort of screen printing.

In fact, the majority of online on-demand printing companies are currently using DTG printing machines. But when it comes to bulk quantity orders, users rely on traditional screen printing.

screen printing
screen printing

In the Red Corner:
The Defending Champ—Screen printing

Screen printing has always existed (at least since the Song Dynasty in China around 1000 AD), but with the popularity of Andy Warhol’s artwork, the rapidly evolving trend of printing T-shirts, and the invention of rotary printing, In the 1960s, the modern cultural colored screen printing machine broke out.
A steady stream of technological advancements improved quality and efficiency, but the central concept remains the same: push ink through a mesh stencil onto the substrate.
Screen printing is still the most well-known and widely used form of decorating custom clothing, but DTG is quickly becoming a competitor.
So does screen printing still hold the championship belt, or is it time for the newcomer to take the title? Let’s find out.

DTG VS Screen printing Round 1
DTG VS Screen printing Round 1


Screen printing has two advantages of color saturation and brightness.
When you want your design to really stand out, you can do screen printing.
In recent years, DTG printing has come a long way, but when you compare these two printing methods, its result is still somewhat dim. So, what’s the reason for the difference?
Traditional screen printing uses Plastisol ink, which is very opaque and comes in a variety of colors-accurate colors-either directly from the barrel or a custom Pantone mix.

On the other hand, digital printing uses water-based inks, which lack the opacity and vitality of plastisol inks, especially on dark clothes. Although the DTG machine can provide a bright base (pretreatment and white ink) to improve vibration, but compared with screen printing, the final result is still invincible. DTG relies on offset printing or CMYK color models to make shades of various colors. Although the colors themselves are bright and saturated, they are also translucent, so they can be mixed more easily.
With Plastisol inks used by screen printing, the most vivid colors available (for example, fluorescent) often exceed the CMYK color gamut.

difference between screen printing and DTG printing
Screen printing (left) VS DTG printing (right)

The winner of this round of competition is obvious, the winner: screen printing. Relax, this is only the first round.

DTG VS Screen printing Round 2
DTG VS Screen printing Round 2


What does color blending mean?
Color blending is the function of creating a smooth gradient and a series of colors by mixing a small number of colors. And this is exactly what DTG printers do.
When DTG printing, we call it “full color”, but in fact, four colors are used, and the four colors of CMYK are mixed together to create multiple colors.
When it comes to gradations with smooth transitions, subtle elements like smoke gradually fading into shirts or things like those fine blends required for skin tones, digital printing is much more reliable than screen printing.
With screen printing, we can take Plastisol’s spot colors and use a technique called “simulation process” to create a color spectrum. But the settings involved greatly reduce efficiency, especially for smaller orders. The results may be mixed.
When using DTG, the ink is water-based and more transparent than Plastisol. This allows the ink to overlap and blend together more easily to form beautiful, smooth gradients and gives DTG an advantage in this round.

The winner of this round is DTG digital printing.

DTG VS Screen printing Round 3
DTG VS Screen printing Round 3

Round 3: Color Matching

Screen printing has regained popularity due to its precise color matching capabilities.
Using the popular Pantone Matching System, we can copy any color you may need. These include colors outside the CMYK range, super-saturated colors and specialty inks.
In terms of corporate branding, it is particularly important to match colors accurately. Many companies have brand guidelines for specifying Pantone colors. if using DTG digital printing, it’s hard to meet demanding. It cannot make up for the screen printing ability to print a range that includes every color on the earth.

Of course, some colors are beyond the color gamut for screen printing, but in general, its color gamut is much larger than DTG. There is no competition in this round. When you absolutely need to match the exact color for your brand, you can use screen printing.

So the winner of this round is screen printing.

DTG VS Screen printing Round 4
DTG VS Screen printing Round 4

Round 4: Durability

The fourth round starts because this one is about durability, or how long the quality of a print lasts. Durability is something DTG has struggled with since the beginning.

In the early days of using DTG, you would be lucky to wash the T-shirt 10 times, and then the color would start to fade. Now, you can get more until it starts to fade. So how many times do you have to wash?
Like most things in this industry, it depends on the quality of the DTG printer, the ink used for printing, pretreatment, background layer and curing. At the same time, it also depends on how you wash (keep away from hot water, harsh detergents, and use it in the dryer for a long time).

A well-done DTG print can potentially get dozens of washes before it starts fading a little bit. But fade it will, eventually.

Screen printing doesn’t have this durability problem if it’s done right. Sure, if the ink is not applied correctly or not cured properly, even Plastisol can start to fade or deteriorate. But we all have that shirt in our drawer from the family reunion 20 years ago that is still holding on. Longer than some marriages.

So the winner of this round is also screen printing.

DTG VS Screen printing Round 5
DTG VS Screen printing Round 5

Round 5: Comfort & Feel

Comfort and feeling, I mean: If the ink clogs the fibers. This will severely reduce the breathability of the fabric and cause the cordial “sweat patch”. You can imagine what that is. Think about it, someone ran 5Kilometers in the summer while covering his chest with a thick piece of plastic. If the texture is rough on the skin. You don’t want a print to feel like sandpaper. You don’t want to give someone road rash from hugging them.

Plastisol screen printing ink usually deposits heavily on shirts, which is one of the reasons why it is so durable. But when it comes to comfort, DTG is the most important.

There is no doubt that the winner of this round is DTG digital printing.

Finally, the result of the game will be announced soon. Screen printing: three rounds, DTG digital printing: two rounds. So the champion is SCREEN PRINTING.

Despite this, DTG digital printing technology now is more and more and more mature and popular,  its flexibility, creativity and details are always beyond screen printing.




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