A Digital Printing Network
Ok, maybe this is off the theme of this forum, but all the advise I have gotten here has been great and I respect all the knowledge.
We are looking into DTG for several reasons and would like some imput. A quick look at what we have and where we need to go. The majority of the shirts we do are black and they all want white or multi color designs. For simple to average designs quick print works great and for large orders plastisol tranfers really work. We have a brown screen printing press and it works good with all colors except black. With a 1-2 person shop it is hard to lay down a white base then come back with the colors needed (too many interuptions phone, customers, etc) and small letters do not always print well. At the ISS show in Ft. Worth we bought an epson 4880 hybrid printed to do sublimation that we were told worked great on black 100% cotton tees (did I ever get fooled) light color shirts are good quality, but black forget it.
My wife is getting into rhinstones and wants to put more detailed designs on shirts (I have found quick print challenging on fine details like on vines or tribal art). The sublimation will work on lights. I can assure that before I buy a DTG it will get way more research that what went into the above epson.
Anyone have DTG experience and/or suggestions how to manage detaile graphics on black shirts??
P.S. The RS laminator works great and I like laminating..............
From my research of DTG printing, printing on black shirts is a difficult task. Getting a consistent quality is a job. All dark color shirts need to be pre-treated first and the pre-treatment needs to be very consistent spay thickness. Pre-treatment then needs to be dried. With today's technology, white ink can cause problems with plugging up print heads. So, lots of maintenance needs be done on the printer. White capable DTG printers work best have fewer problems when you use them all day long. When you carefully and totally calculate your cost of printing dark shirts you will find you need to charge a premium to make a profit.
As for sublimation, it will only work on polyester materials. If you try to sublimate on 100% cotton it will wash right off. If you use 50/50 cotton/poly the sublimation ink will only dye the polyester fibers, leaving a rather faded look after washing as the ink will again not dye the cotton fibers.
That is what my research has found, your mileage may vary.
This is my strategy: sublimate to light color performance polyester garments; heat transfer vinyl to dark garments of all fabric types; if needed inkjet transfers to light color cottons
As Ray noted, DTG printers like it best when they run all day. The key is to keep the ink flowing to avoid clogging. If you do not see yourself using a DTG printer more than at least 3 times a week, it would probably be best if you contracted your DTG work out.
Every process has its pros and cons. Generally speaking however, we have found that for a basic t-shirt job involving 15+ dark colored shirt, screenprinting is the way to go.
When I first started out, I avoided dark colored shirts at all costs. The thought of laying down white ink on a black shirt scared me to death. But, after a lot of research and practice, I've come to love screening dark shirts. Don't give up on screenprinting just yet. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
I know nothing about DTG except the machines are expensive, and the 'wholesalers' I have asked for pricing on say small runs on blacks and darks are too expensive for them to do...defeating the purpose of DTG.
Anyways...I read your comments about not being able to do your underlayments on black, can't get fine detail, etc. and wonder if you need to get some training in MAKING your screens up...I do hand coated screens, have a 4 color Hopkins press and been screenprinting for 30 years...and I have successfully held 4 color process on lights, down to 16 point type, and made and printed screens down to 60 lpi halftones. I've reproduced hand inked artwork for a tatoo artist, he did the ink work direct on my vellum paper. Everything I do is with just a Mac, Freehand and photoshop, and a Xantes printer for making my 'vellums'. I run 110 screenmesh for white and heavy deposits, 125 for most printing, 155 for multicolor work on white underbase. So can I help you figure out why you can't hold your fine details? Be glad to if I can!
Ah the DTG demon. There is another thread on this forum where I expounded on the virtues (I had to laugh at that one) of the DTG. I cannot speak for screen printing but I will agree with Ray. DTG on blacks is great, when it works. The pre-treatment is critical and the steps required take much more time. They do make a machine now that pre-treats the shirt automatically and is supposed to make the job more consistent. I have not seen one in action nor have I read any reports of how well it works. I can say it is another added expense just to do black shirts. Since we put in our 540 we are using it almost exclusively for all of our shirts.
We had our DTG retrofitted with the new recirculating ink system because we went thru more than 8 print head in less than two years. Since the retrofit we have not replaced one head so I guess it works. Still black shirts are a challenge and my take is to do them with heat transfer and keep them consistent, make them last much longer and keep my customer happy. I've had many complaints about my DTG shirts fading or cracking after a few washes. Not one issue with the heat transfers to date. We are also not limited to 100% cotton shirts now which allows us to offer more styles and colors. There's my nickels worth.