Direct to Garment Printing (DTG) Explained

Direct to garment printing (also known as DTG or digital printing) is the newest and most advanced type of apparel decoration.  Instead of using screens for each color like screen printing does, direct to garment printing uses a specially designed inkjet printer to print full color images directly onto the garment in minutes.  In other words, direct to garment printing doesn’t print on another medium first.  For example, heat transfers, sublimation, and vinyl all have an additional step in the production process.

There can be large variances in the quality, capabilities, and speed of DTG printers (from modified ink jet printers to custom built industrial machines).  In other words, some machines do not have the ability to print white ink or on materials other than cotton. Additionally, most printers cannot pre-treat the garment.  Ours can do both!  Advantages of direct to garment printing over screen printing are quick setup times and affordable, vibrant, full color prints.  Additionally, using CYMK+White inks, you can print a one-off photograph on a shirt for under $20. With traditional screen printing using 4 color process printing, this same job would likely cost you well over $200 with screen charges and printing minimums.

NOTICE: We purchased brand new, state-of-the-art Epson F3070 DTG printers!  This page will be updated significantly in the fall to reflect all the changes.  Meanwhile, you can read more about the printers here.

Our Kornit Breeze DTG Printers

Our Kornit Breeze DTG Printers

Artwork Settings:

Below you will find tips on how to setup your files to get the best looking print possible, and also things to look out for when choosing a company that offers direct-to-garment printing.

For best results, artwork should ideally come in the following formats:

  • Vector files are strongly preferred (Corel Draw (.cdr), Adobe Illustrator (.ai), .svg, or .eps files).  Photoshop, PDF, and TIFF files can work as well.
  • All software300 dpi image sized to be the actual print size you want on the shirt; design in CMYK mode using CMYK colors (see important color info further down on this page); merge all files to a single layer. Design MUST be on a transparent background. It should not have background images.  If using Photoshop, Trim away the excess background (Image>Trim).  Your design should fill up the canvas. (Don’t send a 3″ x 3″ image on a 12″ x 10″ art board). Fonts should be converted to curves/outlines so missing font’s are not an issue. Do not use transparencies as the printer may not replicate them well.
  • Photoshop: Everything mentioned above and in 8-bit mode. If using Photoshop, Trim away the excess background (Image>Trim).
  • Items downloaded from the internet (unless purchased from artwork sites) are generally only 72 dpi-low resolution files, and in most cases, illegal to reproduce. If you don’t have professional graphic design software, you can use our online designer, or have us create something for you.
  • Artwork submitted not following these guidelines will likely result in artwork charges.

Training and environment:

In addition to having a high quality direct to garment printer, proper training is crucial to receive a good looking print. Kornit has given us nearly 40 hours of training on the printers.  Graphics setup and curing techniques were also part of the training.  This knowledge helps us make prints look vibrant and sharp.  Additionally, it is crucial the inks bond to the shirt during the curing process.  This allows them to last through dozens of washes. We also have over five years of experience running these machines. Finally, we also developed wet-capping stations for our printers.  This allows us to operate them with clear nozzles so ink flow is perfect.  The result is streak-free printing. You can spend $150,000 on a great machine, but not placing it in the proper environment will result in many printing issues.


We use Kornit Digital industrial direct to garment printers and inks.  Kornit’s patented printing process pretreats the garment first, and then prints the image directly on top of it (wet on wet printing).  This allows for high quality and speedy printing.  On the other hand, other DTG printers require multiple steps.  First, a garment is pretreated in another machine.  Second, it is dried in a heat press.  Next, the garment can be printed.  Finally, it goes back into a heat press for curing.  Clearly, the Kornit printers are designed for mass production.


Due to the sensitivity of the inks and printing process, the colors you see on the screen are not always what you will get when printing. We have print charts with hundreds of colors (and their CMYK values) for you to choose from, along with a list of codes for popular colors. Using these codes when designing your art to print on our printers will give you the best results. For example, see how different red and blue appear on the screen compared to how they look when printed.

CMYK samples-computer vs print

 Left image: how the images looks on the screen; Right image: how the image looks when printed and dried.

DTG quality sample

Left image: High resolution photo; Right image: Low resolution photo

CMYK Values:

First, when designing your artwork for use on our printers, please use the following CMYK values for common colors so the results are what you expect:

  • Black-60/60/0/100
  • Red-0/100/65/0
  • Royal Blue-100/46/0/0
  • Golden Yellow-1/19/100/0
  • Hot Pink-0/96/20/0
  • Navy Blue-100/44/0/76
  • Green-90/0/90/0
  • Old Gold-16/27/84/16
  • Purple-79/100/0/15
  • Crimson-0/100/65/34
  • Orange-0/50/100/0
  • Brown-42/73/73/48
  • Yellow-0/0/100/0
  • Light Pink-0/50/0/0

For other colors, please come in and check out our color charts. Next, when designing, CMYK values should add up to be below 260. For instance, never make black 100/100/100/100. It will result in too much ink being printed on the shirt and the ink will bleed into other colors.  Finally, remember that what you see on the screen is not necessarily what you get when printing digitally.

DTG charts for color matching

We sell sets of the above color charts for $20 plus tax so you can get the best color possible. They are highly recommended for all contract DTG customers.

Print Sizes:

Our machines can print up images up to 13.5″ x 17.5″ in size. We offer five different print size price points…up to 24 sq in, 24.01-80 sq in, 80.01-120 sq in, 120.01 to 168 sq in, 168.01+ sq in. Please see our price charts for more information.

Print Locations:

Currently, we mainly offer direct-to-garment printing on the front and/or back of a garment, up to 13.5″ wide x 17″ tall. The sleeves of most (no cap sleeves) short sleeve shirts can be printed as well.  Additionally, some other items like small towels, tote bags, and fabric swatches can be printed. For standard printing pricing to apply, the garment must lie flat on one of our two pallets.

Many other items can be printed that are non-flat for an additional fee. For example, we can print on onesies, the left or right chest of polos, and pant legs.  We do not print on or above pockets, the sleeves of long sleeve shirts, over hoodie pockets, over zippers, or on other items that cannot be safely rigged to fit within the confines of the printer.

The goal for 2020 is to upgrade to a new printing system that allows significantly more pallet options.  This would allow us to print things we cannot print on now.

Printable Fabrics:

DTG was designed to print on 100% cotton. 100% ringspun cotton works best, as the fibers are smoother and the ink lays down flatter. Cotton/poly blends will also work, but the less cotton in the garment, the less vibrant the colors will appear. 100% poylester can be printed, but non-cationic polyster cost more to print. Other materials that absorb water generally work. We have printed canvas, denim, masonite board, and wood. For printing on white, and other light colored 100% polyester garments, sublimation may be your answer.

Print Settings:

When digitally printing, there are many settings to choose from.  Those settings result in thousands of ways to print the same file. For instance, these settings include print speed, ink levels, number of coats of white ink (for the underbase), print resolution, etc. While many online fulfillment centers use budget settings and choose quantity over quality, we will choose the best settings for your file and garment. Additionally, we don’t use automated systems that just print the file as is regardless of how it will look when completed.  For instance, we review art files for quality before we print them.  There can be drastic differences in print quality between budget settings and quality settings.


Curing the ink is just as important as the printer and print settings used to print a design. Proper curing must occur to achieve wash-ability and a long-lasting print. Many decorators rush this step and while the design looks done, it will not make it through the wash. A good way to know if a print is cured is to stretch it. If the ink stays in place, the print is cured. If it cracks, the ink has not bonded to the shirt. This will fall off in the wash prematurely and you will not be pleased. Stop by our office and we can show you this in person.

Garment Care:

Once you have your garment, proper care is necessary to achieve a normal garment and print life. For all garments, we recommend cold-water washing inside out and hang drying. You may tumble dry on fluff (no heat). Never iron over the decoration. Following these steps will help you achieve the maximum amount of life for your garment. Furthermore, no garment or print is designed to last forever!

We have samples of all this and more in our office. Please come by and check them out, get your questions answered, and see if DTG is right for your apparel project!

In conclusion, we’ve explained what direct to garment printing is about.  If you are looking for custom direct to garment printing in the Indianapolis Metropolitan area (Alexandria, Anderson, Arcadia, Avon, Bargersville, Beech Grove, Broad Ripple, Brooklyn, Brownsburg, Camby, Carmel, Chesterfield, Cicero, Clayton, Clermont, Cloverdale, Cumberland, Danville, Edgewood, Edinburgh, Elwood, Fishers, Fortville, Franklin, Frankton, Greencastle, Greenfield, Greenwood, Indianapolis, Ingalls, Lapel, Lawrence, Lebanon, Martinsville, McCordsville, Meridian Hills, Monrovia, Mooresville, Morristown, Nashville, New Palestine, New Whiteland, Noblesville, Pendleton, Pittsboro, Plainfield, Princes Lakes, Shelbyville, Sheridan, Southport, Speedway, St. Paul, Thorntown, Trafalgar, Warren Park, Westfield, Whiteland, Whitestown, and Zionsville), A+ Images can help.

Not located in one of these cities? We also service Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Terre Haute, Evansville, Northwest Indiana. Wholesale direct to garment services are available.