Direct-to-Garment Printing: No Job Too Small

Is your screen printing business primarily bringing in medium-high quantity orders?

Are you wondering how you can help more customers and say ‘no’ less?

Do you regularly flinch at the age-old customer question, “Hey, how much does one shirt cost?”

If you mentally responded, “Yes – yes – every single time, yes”, then we already have a good idea of how your one-shirt answer plays out. You bite your tongue, hold back an eye roll and launch into a thorough explanation of how bulk printing and pricing works. You can almost feel your customer inching toward the door as you say words like “minimum quantity”, “underbase cost” and “screen fees”.

Before you can get to the part where one screen-printed shirt costs the same as a trip to the day spa, your customer is no longer your customer – now they’re sitting in your parking lot Googling other print shops that can fit their budget and low-quantity needs.

Direct-to-Garment Printing: Become a One-Stop Shop

Sound familiar? We get it. You’re tired of losing potential life-long customers and business contacts over minimums. Explaining the screen printing process to someone unfamiliar with the industry can be tedious and time-consuming, especially if you know upfront that the sale is DOA due to quantity.

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing can provide you a one-off solution without the hassle of spelling out screen printing setup costs and additional ink fees. Did we just hear you groan? We know what you’re thinking.

“Well that’s great, but DTG printers are expensive and limiting – I don’t want to invest in a setup that only works on white shirts!”

Again, we understand. But there’s good news.

DTG technology has come a long way from the original modified paper inkjet printers that only printed light garments and carried upfront price tags as high as $250,000. In today’s world, you can in fact create vibrant prints on dark colored shirts using a DTG printer with CMYK and white ink capabilities, such as the Epson SureColor F2000 White Edition (and you can afford it, too).

dtg printing on dark shirts coastal business supplies

Full-Color, High Detail? Yes, Even on Dark Shirts!

The science behind DTG printing full-color images on dark garments is fairly simple to understand. The premise is the same as laying down a white underbase when screen printing light ink colors on black shirts.

The DTG printer applies a layer of white ink to the shirt first before printing the CMYK inks directly on top, which allows for vibrancy and clarity within the print. With DTG printing, you can achieve all of the gradients, shadows and high-resolution components that are sacrificed when converting artwork for the screen printing process, not to mention the ability to print in millions of colors without the extra costs tied to labor and screens.

While there are so many delicate variables surrounding DTG printing that fall on the user (like artwork setup and pretreatment methods), once you’ve mastered the basics of preparing your image files and properly pretreating your dark shirts you can print high-resolution, photographic and full-color T-shirts in less than five minutes.

Epson has internally developed a top of the line, easy-to-use Garment Creator Imaging Software (which is free for anyone to download) with dozens of straightforward customizable settings that makes preparing your artwork for DTG printing uncomplicated and pain-free. The big factors that lead to a successful, vivid print include garment composition, correct pretreatment coverage, regular DTG printer maintenance and – of course – a little bit of patience.

Are you ready to stop telling your small quantity prospects ‘no’? Want to give DTG printing a try? Drop our professional services department a line to learn more about the benefits of offering direct-to-garment printing. Our team of pros will train you on the best practices and machine maintenance methods to ensure you are saying ‘yes’ to every T-shirt sale, no matter how small. Give us a call now: 800 562-7760

How to Create Multi-Colored Shirts with Heat Transfer Vinyl

Getting started with garment decorating can be a headache at first, especially when presented with so many heat transfer options.That’s why we are showing you one of many solutions for creating an intricate design with screen-print softness using heat transfer vinyl on a 100 percent cotton shirt.

Follow along as we show you how to use Xpress Cut heat transfer vinyl, one of our favorite vinyl brands for T-shirts. Xpress Cut is also a great product for new businesses due to its easy weeding capability with a sticky backing. This vinyl can be cut with any cutter but in this case, we are using the Graphtec CE6000 24″ vinyl cutter. Our Graphtec line of cutters are perfect for small and large jobs alike! They are incredibly fast, quiet and easy to set up.

In this tutorial, we are using Graphtec’s Cutting Master 3 plug-in for Adobe Illustrator CC. If you already have your design ready, feel free to skip to step 2!

Step One: preparing the design for cutting

Here we have our finished design in Adobe Illustrator CC. Illustrator is our favorite tool for creating vinyl designs, but Corel Draw and Graphtec Studio are alternatives. We chose to color the design to match the vinyl we are going to use. Doing this can save you headaches when it comes to cutting and applying the vinyl. Now it’s time to send our design to Cutting Master!

Open Cutting Master through Illustrator by going to File and clicking on Cutting Master 3 (or the version of Cutting Master that you have installed). This will open your design in a new program.

The Cutting Master plug-in pulls the design from Illustrator in its original vector format with the separate colors we previously set. The program automatically recognizes that there are two different colors and makes it incredibly easy to toggle between them. Not every program can do this. That’s why we love Cutting Master! Now it’s time to cut!

Tip: Don’t forget to mirror the design (flip horizontally) because heat transfer vinyl is always cut on the back side and later placed upright on the garment. This can be done in Illustrastrator or inside Cutting Master. In Cutting Master 3, go to Page Window and select your Mirror setting from the drop down under the Orientation section.

Step Two: time to cut!

Before sending the design to the vinyl cutter, we need to set the blade depth and speed correctly for this specific vinyl media to get optimal results. We used the following settings for Xpress Cut on Graphtec CE6000:

Speed: 20 cm/s
Depth: 14

Load the vinyl with the back adhesive side (usually the duller matte side) facing up.

Tip: Perform a test cut if your machine allows it prior to sending your design to the cutter. Over time, the cutting blade can dull and the depth setting may have to be increased.

Step Three: weed away

Grab your favorite weeding tool (here’s ours) and weed away the excess vinyl. This stage can be sometimes the most time-consuming part of the process.

Tip: When designing, the more connected your lines are with each other, the easier it will be to weed.

Step Four: Pressing Stage

Xpress Cut is easy to layer and requires little time and low temperature, making it a great heat transfer vinyl to use on cotton, polyester, rayon and other blends. We are placing our design on a dark 100 percent cotton shirt.

We are applying the orange vinyl first because it outlines the entire design and makes it easy for the next layer to line up. Set up the heat press machine to 305 – 310 F° when using 100 percent cotton shirts.

Use the following settings to press the design:

  1. First layer – Three to five seconds with medium pressure, peel hot
  2. Second layer (final layer) – Ten seconds with medium pressure, peel hot

For the best pressing settings for your material, visit our Xpress Cut support page!

Helpful Tip: Use a foam pillow underneath or inside your shirt to raise the transfer area for a smooth, flat surface. Seams, zippers, wrinkles and other imperfections can throw off the pressure and cause the vinyl to peel later on.

Finished!

After pressing the design, wait 24 hours prior to washing. The finished garment is ready to be worn for many years to come!

Order some Xpress Cut vinyl today and start making custom vinyl shirts with screen print-like softness. 

Do you have awesome creations you want to share with us? Use #InspireMeCoastal and tag us (@coastalbusinesssupplies) on Instagram for a chance to be featured on our channel!

The Direct to Garment Process: What Happens If I Don’t Pretreat?

Direct to Garment printing is a revolutionary digital printing method for customer T-shirts which offers the look and feel of screen printing but in a much more simplified process. A T-shirt is simply laid onto the flat bed of the printer and the image is directly printed onto the shirt in full color.

dtgprocess

To ensure that the printed image actually shows up on a colored or dark T-shirt however, there are a few extra steps we need to take. The most important step is to always pretreat the garment with “pretreatment” solution. Pretreatment is a milky or clear liquid that acts as a primer base and prevents the ink from soaking into the shirt and disappearing into the fibers. It also helps the water based inks stay put during printing and not mix with each other while still wet. Pretreatment is especially important for the white base that is printed underneath the colors to make them pop!

The pretreatment liquid is applied onto the shirt by either a hand sprayer or a spraying machine , then allowed to air dry or dried under a heat press and finally pressed at 338F for 40-45 seconds at medium pressure to set the pretreatment. The layer should be close to invisible and will completely wash out after the first wash.

pre-treat-infographic

What happens if we don’t pretreat the T-shirt?

Nothing good. The white ink soaks right into the T-shirt, leaving the rest of the colors with nothing to sit on top of. The result is a muddy mess due to the rest of the colors soaking further into the fibers and bleeding into each other.

aaa_9401

Lesson learned: Always pretreat a T-shirt that is a brighter or darker color (you may be able to pull off a light gray shirt or tinted off-white but that’s about it).

There are a few brands of pretreatment available, but generally the pretreatment liquid and the inks should be the same brand. Our top choice is the Epson SureColor F2000 Pretreatment Liquid which is compatible with the same brand printer and inks. It comes as a concentrate and needs to be diluted with distilled water.

For best results, we recommend using the pretreatment process on any colored shirt. Even light colored garments can show through the design and tint it slightly.