The Process of Custom Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing on Shirts

Custom Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing is a modern and increasingly popular method for creating personalized apparel, particularly T-shirts. This technology leverages advanced inkjet printing techniques to produce high-quality, full-color designs directly onto fabric. The DTG process offers numerous advantages, including the ability to print complex designs with a broad color spectrum, quick turnaround times, and the capacity to handle small batch orders efficiently. Here’s an in-depth look at the step-by-step process of custom DTG printing on shirts.

Design Creation and Preparation

  • Digital Design Creation: The DTG printing process begins with the creation of a digital design. This design can be created using graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or CorelDRAW. The artwork should be prepared in a high-resolution format (usually at least 300 DPI) to ensure print quality.
  • Color Management: Proper color management is crucial. Designers must convert the artwork to the correct color profile, typically using RGB or CMYK, depending on the printer’s requirements. Accurate color calibration ensures that the printed colors match the digital design as closely as possible.
  • File Preparation: The final design file is saved in a compatible format, such as PNG, TIFF, or PSD, which supports high-quality images and transparency if needed.

Shirt Selection

  • Fabric Type: The choice of shirt fabric greatly affects the printing outcome. DTG printing works best on 100% cotton shirts due to their absorbency and smooth texture. However, blends with a high cotton content can also produce good results.
  • Shirt Color: White and light-colored shirts are generally preferred for DTG printing because they provide a neutral background that allows colors to stand out vividly. Dark-colored shirts require a pre-treatment process to ensure the colors appear vibrant and opaque.

Pre-Treatment of Shirts

  • Purpose of Pre-Treatment: Pre-treatment is necessary for dark-colored shirts to create a base for the ink, ensuring the colors pop and adhere properly to the fabric.
  • Application: A pre-treatment solution is sprayed evenly onto the shirt’s print area. This can be done manually with a spray gun or using an automated pre-treatment machine.
  • Drying: After the pre-treatment solution is applied, the shirt is dried using a heat press or a conveyor dryer. This step sets the pre-treatment, preparing the shirt for the ink application.

Printing Process

  • Setting Up the Printer: The shirt is loaded onto the DTG printer’s platen, ensuring it is flat and properly aligned to avoid any shifting during printing.
  • Printing: The digital design is sent to the printer, which uses specialized inkjet technology to spray water-based inks directly onto the fabric. The printer moves back and forth over the shirt, applying the ink in precise layers to build up the design.
  • Ink Types: DTG printers use CMYK inks for full-color printing. Some advanced models also include white ink cartridges for printing on dark fabrics, enabling vibrant color prints even on darker backgrounds.

Post-Printing Treatment

  • Curing the Ink: Once the design is printed, the ink needs to be cured to set it permanently into the fabric. Common tools for this task include a conveyor drier and a heat press. The curing process involves applying heat and pressure for a specific duration, which helps to bond the ink with the fabric.
  • Quality Control: After curing, the printed shirt undergoes a quality check. This includes inspecting the design for color accuracy, alignment, and any potential defects such as smudging or incomplete prints.

Finishing Touches and Packaging

  • Inspection: Each shirt is carefully inspected once more to ensure it meets quality standards. This step is crucial to maintain customer satisfaction and uphold the reputation of the printing service.
  • Packaging: The finished shirts are folded neatly and packaged for delivery. Custom packaging options, such as branded tags and wrapping, can add a professional touch to the final product.

Environmental Considerations

  • Eco-Friendly Practices: DTG printing is relatively eco-friendly compared to traditional screen printing. Less hazardous to the environment are the water-based inks that are used. Additionally, the ability to print on demand reduces waste associated with excess inventory.
  • Sustainable Materials: Many DTG printers and suppliers now offer organic cotton and other sustainable fabric options, further reducing the environmental impact.

Advantages of DTG Printing

  • Versatility: DTG printing can handle highly detailed designs, including photographs and complex graphics, which are challenging for other printing methods.
  • Low Setup Costs: Unlike screen printing, which requires separate screens for each color, DTG printing doesn’t require extensive setup, making it cost-effective for small orders.
  • Quick Turnaround: The digital nature of DTG printing allows for faster production times, especially for short runs and custom orders.
  • Customization: Each shirt can be customized individually without additional cost or effort, making DTG ideal for personalized gifts, promotional items, and niche markets.






Custom DTG printing on shirts is a versatile and efficient method for creating high-quality, personalized apparel. Its ability to produce intricate designs with a wide range of colors, combined with its eco-friendly benefits and quick turnaround times, makes it a preferred choice for many businesses and individuals. As technology continues to advance, DTG printing will likely become even more accessible and capable, further solidifying its role in the apparel customization industry. Whether for small business owners, designers, or hobbyists, DTG printing offers a dynamic solution to bring creative visions to life on fabric.