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Silk Screen Printing vs. Direct to Garment

Updated: Feb 9

In the world of apparel, a variety of methods are being used for printing garments, both new and old. Silk screen printing, a time-tested method for high-quality t-shirt prints, has been continually refined over the centuries. In recent years, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing has become a strong contender for screen printing. Are you curious about which of these printing methods are ideal for your project? I’ll cover some of the pros and cons of both screen printing and DTG:

What is silk screen printing?

Screen printing is a printing method that involves creating a stencil on a fine mesh material and forcing ink through the mesh and onto the fabric using a squeegee. It's known for producing high-quality, long-lasting prints and is often used on t-shirts and other apparel.

screen printing vs direct to garment

What is direct-to-garment printing?

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a digital printing method that involves printing a design directly onto a garment using specialized inkjet technology. It can produce full-color designs with a single pass and is known for producing highly detailed prints with a soft feel. DTG printing is often used for printing small quantities of custom t-shirts and other apparel.

screen printing vs direct to garment

Print durability

Screen printing is generally more durable than DTG printing because it uses thicker, more opaque inks applied in multiple layers. DTG printing uses thinner, water-based inks that can fade or crack over time. However, with proper care, both methods can last for years.


Both screen printing and DTG printing can produce vibrant and colorful results. DTG printers are generally thought to produce a larger spectrum of colors for photographic prints, as most screen printing shops use CMYK printing, which can be dull and limited. However, with simulated process printing, there is no limit to the color spectrum that screen printing can produce. At Hard Eight, we specialize in simulated process printing and can produce vibrant, high-quality prints using this method.

screen printing vs direct to garment

Vibrant multi-color screen print

Print resolution

Direct-to-garment printers produce incredibly detailed and high-resolution prints. On the other hand, screen prints can also be quite high in resolution, but they use tiny dots, known as halftones, to create photographic images. However, halftoned screen prints may not be as high in quality as DTG prints. Nevertheless, screen prints can still achieve impressive resolution with the use of smaller halftones.

Print Feel

It's a common belief that DTG prints have a softer texture than screen prints. While this can be true when comparing a DTG print to a screen print made with plastisol ink, it's important to note that screen printing provides the flexibility of choosing the type of ink to use, thus determining the texture of the print. Screen printers can use water-based inks to achieve a soft texture that feels lightweight. We have a dedicated page that compares different types of screen printing inks for your convenience.

Minimum order quantity

It is common for screen printing shops to require a minimum order of 12 shirts as preparing screens, setting them up on the press, and cleaning them up is a time-consuming process. However, DTG printers eliminate the need for extensive setup times, making shops with DTG printers capable of printing just a single item. Therefore, they typically have a minimum order requirement of only one item.

screen printing vs direct to garment


When it comes to cost-effectiveness, screen printing and DTG printing have their own pros and cons. Screen printing is best suited for larger orders due to its time-consuming setup process, but it becomes more cost-effective as the order size increases. On the other hand, DTG printing is ideal for smaller orders as it eliminates the setup time and allows for printing just a single item. However, the cost per print is generally higher for DTG printing compared to screen printing. Therefore, while screen printing is more cost-effective for larger orders, DTG printing can be a better option for smaller orders.

Visual Comparison

Screen Printing




Vibrant colors



Photographic prints



Soft-feeling prints



Low minimum order


Discounts for larger quantities


In conclusion, both screen printing and DTG printing have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to cost-effectiveness. If you're looking to place a large order, screen printing might be a better option for you. However, for smaller orders, DTG printing can save you time and money. If you're unsure which printing method is best for your needs, reach out to us to get a quote. We will help you make an informed decision and get high-quality prints at an affordable price.

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