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DTG: Going in with a Plan

(June/July 2017) posted on Tue Jul 18, 2017

Preparation is critical when adopting a new technology as unique as digital decoration.

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By Marshall Atkinson

Before any equipment is purchased, shops should investigate and research their market, competition, pricing models, marketing, equipment and consumables, and other factors that could have an impact on their business. This is how you determine if DTG printing is a good fit for your shop.

Production Steps
There are six critical areas in DTG production. As in screen printing, certain standards have to be followed to achieve an optimal outcome. Many shops get hung up along the way with one or even all of these steps, and then publically denounce DTG printing as a nonviable print method. It all comes down to understanding the print platform, really.

Artwork. Just as in traditional screen printing, a poor image won’t magically improve after production is complete. The quality of the artwork will always be a constant constraint for success. There are some preflight steps you can take to improve what you have. Even some simple Photoshop Action Commands can be written to produce a larger color gamut and increase the tonal range of the image before ripping the file. Also, taking the time to calibrate the CMYK workflow from the printer to the artist’s workstation can have a tremendous impact on success. This is tedious work, but if you want to have accurate print standards, it’s mandatory.

Garments. Not all garments are DTG-compatible. Yet, shops still try to print hoodies with big zipper seams, polyester, or other problematic types of apparel. The challenge with raised areas on shirts is their potential for the printhead to strike them, a disastrous outcome. Some shirt dyes react to the pretreatment in unexpected ways, too. It’s a chemistry-based problem that won’t go away unless you change one of the variables – the substrate (shirt), the pretreatment fluid, or the ink.

Pretreatment. Pretreatment is absolutely mandatory for printing on dark garments. This fluid sets up the printed image by giving the water-based CMYK ink something to latch onto. Dark garment prints often fail because the pretreatment solution wasn’t applied correctly. This process has to be dialed in perfectly. All DTG systems with the exception of Kornit handle this step in a secondary process. (Kornit owns the inline pretreatment patent.) This is such a vital step that a market has developed for pretreated garments that are ready to print right out of the box.


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