Pretreatment Methods for Direct-to-Garment: Best to Worst

Terry is a 40-year veteran of the garment printing industry and has managed production shops large and small across the U.S. He has written hundreds of management and technical articles for garment printing publications and spoken at industry events worldwide. He is one half of the industry podcast 2 Regular Guys and is currently in sales and training with Equipment Zone. 

Pretreatment is a crucial phase in direct-to-garment printing since it can set the course for the entire production whether it’s done well or done poorly. If you’re new to direct-to-garment, or trying to refine your process, here are some commonly known methods of pretreatment, ranked best to worst.

Automatic pretreatment. If it’s in your budget, buy an automatic pretreat machine. This will give you consistency with a critical step in the process. Be sure to check that the maximum pretreatment area matches the potential print area of your direct-to-garment machine. Also, check that the spraying process is completely enclosed. If not, be sure to spray away from your machine.

Handheld paint sprayer. This method is a popular technique for direct-to-garment operations, particularly for smaller shops with a limited budget. It can be messy and takes practice to get a consistent coating, but on a budget, this method will do the trick. Be sure to spray in another room away from your printer.

Pretreat coated sheets. This is a viable method but it’s expensive and gives you little to no control over the amount of pretreat being applied. It's also time-consuming since it requires a process of cold pressing of the sheet and garment, and then hot pressing.

The paint roller method. This method was derived to keep pretreatment from spraying into the air with a paint sprayer. This method lays down far too much pretreat and is time-consuming.  It also requires long cleanup times and results in the waste of the pretreat solution which gets left in the roller.

Squeeze spray bottle. It is incredibly difficult to lay down a constant and consistent layer of pretreat on a T-shirt using a spray bottle. Additionally, this method requires a significant amount of cleanup time which would be better spent on investing in a more efficient approach.