direct-to-garment myths

D2 Myths Debunked

jerid hill

Throughout the years, Jerid Hill has written articles, blog and forum postings, created informative videos and taken the time to speak to many direct-to-garment (D2) users to assist in moving the D2 industry forward. Hill has been a thought leader in the D2 industry pursuing new technologies for better quality and output. In 2018, BelQuette merged with the ColDesi group of companies in Tampa and Jerid now serves at DTG Product Manager for ColDesi Inc. You can rely on Jerid’s unique perspective in the garment industry, focusing on the end user’s experience. He has extensive technical knowledge of D2 printing as well as details and tips for preparing artwork, pre-treating garments, expert level tips, and best overall practices for the garment printing realm.

My experience in garment printing began with screen printing, so naturally, some of these myths derive from that perspective. In 2004, before white ink was available, I was introduced to D2 (direct-to-garment) printers. From my screen printing mentality, I asked the person whom I was talking to, “Who in the world, would buy a printer that is slow, doesn’t print on dark garments, and costs $11,000?" After he showed me how it worked, my thinking on it changed forever. Instead of debunking D2 myths, these are answers to questions that might lead decorators into a different perspective when looking at the decoration method.
D2 printing is slower than other methods: If I want to remove a screw from a board, I don’t use a hammer’s claw, I use a screwdriver. To remove a nail, I don’t use vice-grips, I use a hammer's claw. Of course, these other tools can work, but they aren’t the right tool for maximum efficiency. D2 printing is no different. It’s a tool. If I wanted to print numbers on the back of a black shirt, I would use vinyl. If I printed those same numbers on the back of a white or light gray shirt, I would use a D2 printer. Due to the process, white ink printing with a D2 printer takes longer than cutting vinyl, weeding it out, and heat pressing it. If I was printing an intricate single color design and I only needed 10 garments, D2 is the better option than vinyl, but screen printing could also be a viable option. Take that same design and bump it up to full color and D2 now may be the best option. In today’s D2 environment, printers, the speed of prints, and processes are always improving. In any case, my advice would be to use the right tool for the job. Don’t rely on one technology. In the end, it’s about efficiency.
A D2 printer is more costly to operate: Again, this is relative to the project. If you wanted to print 1,000 shirts, the obvious choice would be screen printing, then again, is it? What if they were 1,000 different designs? This would be a nightmare to use a screen printing method. If the print costs $0.25, your ink costs are only $250 for the entire job. If the prints were all the same design, and you printed 45 shirts an hour, this would take over 22 hours to complete. If you have a manual screen press and you print 200 shirts an hour for a single design, after 5 hours, it's complete. Of course, there is set up, tear down, etc., but again, this is all relative to your method of garment decorating. Sometimes running a job on a D2 printer costs more to operate, while other times it's less.
D2 prints are not as durable as other prints: When I entered the screen printing market in 1996, I was obsessed with looking at other printed garments. I would go to department stores and notice how the prints were off-center, crooked, out of register, or simply just poor quality. It was my goal to produce better than what I had been seeing. In the current state of D2 inks, the durability is excellent. It comes down to properly pretreating and curing your garment. Throughout the years, I’ve purchased a lot of screen-printed clothes off the rack—some of which cracked after one wash. The best screen-printed piece is one that uses spot colors, as well as the correct ink on the fabric and ensuring a proper cure. If you move onto full-color screen printing, whether process or simulated process, less ink will naturally be used. Even with a proper cure, this type of print will never be as durable as spot color printing since there isn’t as much ink on the garment to bond to itself. D2 printing is similar in this regard. Some inks and pretreatments are better than others, but in my experience, with proper pretreating and curing, a final D2 print can rival any screen printed process or simulated process print. D2 printing may have a higher learning curve due to various results based on the style of the garment used, naturally making screen printing more forgiving. This is why experimentation and recording your results are essential to continued growth, and consequentially, success in D2 printing.