Direct-to-Garment Printing & the Power of Pretreating

There’s no doubt about it – direct to garment printing with white ink has revolutionized the custom apparel industry. With their compact setups and user-friendly processes, DTG printers provide garment decorators with the ability to create vibrant T-shirts in a matter of minutes.

And now – the screen printers are getting on board.

Why? Because DTG printing makes it easier for screen printing and apparel decoration shops to fulfill lower quantity orders and orders containing high-resolution/multicolored artwork without all of the extra labor and supply costs tied to the traditional screen printing process.

dtg printing full color up close pretreatment solution dark garments tshirts coastal business supplies

Unless you are using EXOstencil Screen Prep Paper or another chemical-free process to create your screens, preparing and reclaiming screens is expensive. Emulsion, degreaser, dehazer – the chemicals alone will set any print shop back a few hundred bucks before factoring in labor, equipment and drying time. And when you’re printing jobs containing 4+ ink colors on the regular…those weekly screen costs add up quickly. Adding DTG printing to your shop’s services can really help cut down on prep costs, which in turn will make your customers happy when you can offer them a one-off T-shirt at a price that won’t break the bank.

Want to make them even happier? Pretreat your dark shirts first every time. EVERY. TIME. One of the biggest factors that plays into the success of printing on dark garments and achieving brilliant results is ensuring that your items are properly pretreated prior to loading your shirts onto the printer. EVERY TIME.

Do I really need to pretreat?

We’re going to say it again – yes, EVERY TIME.

pretreat dark tshirts before dtg printing coastal business supplies

To understand the importance of pretreating, let’s break down its functions. Pretreatment is a clear liquid solution that plays two major roles during the DTG process; first and foremost, it prevents the DTG ink from soaking into the garment during printing. The concept is similar to priming drywall before applying paint – the primer allows the paint to sit on top of the wall’s surface without saturating the wall. Without the primer, the paint would soak into the drywall, causing the final wall color to look dull or muted.

The same is true for pretreating DTG shirts – the pretreatment fills the space in between the weaving of the shirt fibers, which effectively prevents the ink from soaking into the garment and allows for the white ink to adhere to and sit on top of the surface of the shirt. The CMYK inks then sit on top of the stabilized white ink and appear rich in color against the white backdrop. Without the use of pretreatment solution, however, all of the DTG inks will absorb into the fibers of the shirt and you’ll be left with a dingy-looking, unsellable product.

dtg printing pretreatment machine lawson direct to garment coastal business supplies

DTG Sorcery: White Ink Flashing & Pretreatment Application

Pretreatment solution also has a secondary core function that is essential to printing with white ink. When the white ink hits the pretreated area, the pretreatment instigates a chemical reaction that causes the ink to semi-cure instantly. It’s the same effect that’s achieved when “flashing” a white underbase during the screen printing process – it produces a smooth, printable surface and prevents the colored inks from mixing when printed on top of the white ink. This results in a detailed and vibrant final print. The pretreating step is incredibly important when a shirt design calls for both white and CMYK inks, as the inks will most definitely mix and become muddled if the white ink is not cured.

Aside from garment choice, the pretreatment process is the most important step in ensuring that your DTG prints come out as vivid and crisp as possible. Pretreatment solution can be administered using either a hand sprayer or a spraying machine (we recommend the Zoom AE — check it out here!). Dilute your pretreatment solution with distilled water before applying it to your garments.

dilute pretreat solution distilled water before dtg printing coastal business supplies

You’ll want to make sure all areas in which ink will be laid down have adequate coverage to avoid misprints. If you choose to stack your shirts as you pretreat them, make sure that you alternate your stacking so the wet sides are touching each other.

pretreatment solution on dark tshirts before dtg printing coastal business supplies

Once applied, allow the pretreatment to either air dry or dry underneath a heat press (our go-to is the Hotronix Fusion Heat Press Machine with the 16″ x 20″ platen). Air-drying your garments does take some extra time, but in doing so it allows the extra moisture to evaporate away from the shirt, which results in a less noticeable “box” imprint that is often caused by a heat press.

When using a heat transfer press to dry pretreat, avoid using a teflon sheet or silicone treated parchment paper to protect the garment — use a piece of non-silicone treated parchment paper instead. Press the pretreated shirt at 338F for 40-45 seconds at medium pressure to ensure the pretreatment has set. Never load a pretreated shirt onto the DTG platen that is not dry, or else the pretreatment solution will not work correctly. After the pretreatment has dried, shirts can be stored if printing is not required immediately. We recommend printing your garments within 30-60 days of pretreatment for the best print results.

Once you have identified the best pretreatment application and coverage techniques suitable for your business, you’ll have the power to deliver DTG magic every time you click print. Always remember, though: applying pretreatment solution is like waving a wizard’s wand over your garments – without it, the magic won’t happen.

Want to know more about direct to garment printing or the pretreatment process? Contact our professional services department to learn about the benefits of adding DTG printing to your business. Our team of pros will give you the insight and assistance necessary to help your shop succeed. Give us a call now: 800 562-7760

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

Go Beyond the Shirt: Use Heat Transfer Vinyl on Home Décor [+ Sign Vinyl Inspiration]

We think heat transfer vinyl and we immediately think shirts, lots and lots of shirts. Almost as if we’re robotic about it. Day in and day out…

  • Plot your design.
  • Send it to your cutter.
  • Weed while the machine cuts the next design.
  • Press.
  • Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…

But what if we take a minute and think outside the box (or in this case the shirt)?

The possibilities extend beyond the normal wearable fabrics and into our home or office.

Surprising Home Surfaces for Heat Transfer Vinyl

Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) can be used on more than just the standard 100% cotton. Try HTV, such as our exclusive line of Xpress Cut Vinyl, on these surfaces:

  • Wood. (Ensure the wood has a smooth surface. HTV can be used on raw, stained, or painted wood.)
  • Burlap.
  • Canvas.
  • Cork.
  • Fabric other than wearables. (Try HTV on dish towels, placemats, blankets, and more.)
  • Sports Balls. (Yes, really. Customize footballs, basketballs, and more.)
  • Glass.*
  • Ceramics.*
  • Metal. (Ensure your metal is clean and smooth.)*

Make sure to test your HTV on each surface before applying your entire design, and purchase extra vinyl and product blanks.

*Do not wash in the dishwasher.

SHOP HEAT TRANSFER VINYL NOW

A Little Inspiration to Get You Started

Enhance any room with throw pillows showing your favorite quote, monogram, or graphic.

Heat Transfer Vinyl on Blue Throw Pillow from Coastal Business Supplies

Decorate for birthday parties or dorm rooms with customized burlap banners.HTV Decorative Banner - Coastal Business SuppliesCustom Birthday Banner with Heat Transfer Vinyl - Coastal Business Supplies

Create custom cork coasters to brighten up any conference room.

HTV Coasters by Coastal Business Supplies

Even More Home Décor Possibilities with Sign Vinyl

We all love HTV because of its wide selection of colors, textures, and patterns, but let’s not forget about the endless possibilities with sign vinyl!

Get Inspired Now:

Create custom signs with affordable craft store finds!

Rustic wood Sign created with FDC Sign Vinyl from Coastal Business Supplies

Blank Canvas Sign with Vinyl - Coastal Business Supplies

Display your favorite quotes in any room with removable wall vinyl.

Removable Wall Vinyl Kitchen Decal - Coastal Business Supplies

SHOP HEAT TRANSFER VINYL NOW

Have more ideas? Show us your creations in the comments below and shop our wide selection of vinyl now!