Advertisement
mastering direct-to-garment printing

Mastering D2: Tips and Techniques

Tom Rumbaugh, ColDesi, has 26 years experience in the decorated apparel industry. Having started as an on-site trainer and installer, he has trained and advised over 3,000 apparel startups. He has served in capacities of district sales manager and product manager for industry leaders as well as president and CEO of his own embroidery, direct-to-garment, and screen-printing facilities. Rumbaugh currently provides content, authorship, and promotion for ColDesi Inc. and other group related companies.

Direct-to-garment (D2) printing has become a red-hot manufacturing technique for creating brilliant custom T-shirts, custom printed kids clothing, canvas prints, and more. The process is easy to understand but can be tricky to master.

So, what separates the newbies and typical D2 operators from the real masters of the D2 process? What do the masters do differently? How do they think and organize their shops differently than the typical users?

We've asked the tough questions and collected research from some of the top experts in the D2 printing industry. Their answers and approaches to direct-to-garment may surprise you.

What about all the variables?

You can purchase blank garments in thousands of cuts, styles, and sizes as well as dozens of fabric types. When you consider there is also a nearly infinite combination of dyes, chemicals, and fabric weaves. Trying to get consistent D2 results can become a nightmare of “trial and error.”

The advice we give here will save you countless hours of back and forth. Of course, each operator will need to determine what looks best and washes best for their customers. But we’ll show you what to look for, how to think through a D2 problem and give you the essential tips to help boost your game to the master level.

First, know your limits!

The most helpful thing you can do to produce excellent quality prints is to limit the scope of the jobs you accept. That's right. We find that most newbies or average level users fall flat here. They allow the customer to push them into production realms where they are not yet proficient. The true D2 masters give their clients a limited selection of garments which with they have extensive experience.

Master tip: Since D2 inks are water-based, it is best to choose only natural fibers, cotton, bamboo, hemp, linen and other such fabrics.

Experts also keep good records of jobs they’ve printed, and they know which garments will print beautifully. They choose garments that will stand up to rigorous wash testing and wears well. They don't allow the client to pick from some monster catalog. They don’t play garment roulette, instead steering the customer towards the styles and cuts that will print the best.

Bottom line: If you have never laid eyes on a specific model number; it's best not to sell the job until you can test it.

Another no-no is allowing customers to bring in their own garments. The master printers control their printed results by controlling the quality of the garment.

Master tip: The tighter the weave of the fabric, the better the ink will stay on top. It will give a more robust print.

Editor's Note: Master tips were collected from industry experts Don Copeland and Heath Schumacker, also with ColDesi.

Continue these mastery level tips in Part II of the series.