DTG FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

QUESTION:  What kinds of graphics can I print with a direct to garment printer?
ANSWER:   Almost anything - from portraits to logos to custom designs. The real key is the QUALITY of the graphic you're printing from - good contrast, high resolution, large bitmapped images print very well, and vector images print even better!
QUESTION:  What are bitmapped images in DTG printing?
ANSWER:   Bitmapped images, also called raster images, are made of pixels. Pixels are tiny dots of solid color that make up what you see on your computer screen. Most computer monitors display approximately 70 to 100 pixels per inch -- the actual number depends on your monitor and screen settings. Your printer needs much more image data than a monitor. In order to render a bitmap image accurately, the typical desktop printer needs 150-300 ppi(pixels per inch). Best results with a Summit DTG Direct to Garment printer are achieved with 300 dpi (dots per inch) images. All scanned images are bitmaps, and all images from digital cameras are bitmaps. Common bitmap formats include bmp, jpg, tiff, gif, png, and psd.
QUESTION:  What are vector images in DTG printing?
ANSWER:   Vector images are made up of individual, scalable objects. These objects are defined by mathematical equations rather than pixels, so they always render at the highest quality. Objects may consist of lines, curves, and shapes with editable attributes such as color, fill, and outline. Changing the attributes of a vector object does not affect the object itself, so you can change the color, shape or size of a vector image without affecting the quality. Resolution is irrelevant when working with vector images on the computer, until it is ready to be printed, then you will want to use the highest recommended resolution to get the highest quality. Vector images have many advantages, but the primary disadvantage is that they're unsuitable for producing photo-realistic imagery (at this time - graphics software and graphic artists are now starting to produce nearly photo-realistic images).

Vector images are usually made up of solid areas of color or gradients, but they cannot depict the continuous subtle tones of a photograph. That's why many of the vector images you see tend to have a cartoon-like appearance. Common vector formats include cdr (CorelDRAW), ai (Adobe Illustrator) and eps. Please note that a bitmapped image can also be saved as these file types but they will still be bitmapped images regardless of the file type or file extension. Saving a vector image as a bitmapped file type, such as jpg or bmp, will convert the image to a bitmap.
QUESTION:  Can I convert a bitmapped image to a vector image for DTG printing?
ANSWER:   Yes, by using software designed to convert images to vector. Some software programs have an automatic trace program, such as PowerTrace® which is included in the CorelDRAW® Graphics Suite. Automatic trace programs generally work best on simple images such as logos. For a very intricate design, you many need to manually trace the image, which means opening the image in a vector graphics program such as CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator®, and drawing the vector shapes by hand, using the original image as a guide that you can trace over.

You can also use a service to convert any bitmapped image to a vector image. MESA Design Services offers vectorizing services at affordable prices, with fast turnaround.
QUESTION:  Can I convert a vector image to a bitmapped image for DTG printing?
ANSWER:   Very easily! All vector graphics programs will let you save or export the vector image as a bitmapped image (as a jpg or tiff, for example). Just be sure you have the vector at the correct size before saving as a bitmap - once the image is saved as a bitmap, making any changes to it becomes much more difficult and will have a negative impact on the quality.
QUESTION:  Can I scan an image and print it on a tshirt with a direct to garment printer?
ANSWER:   Of course - just make sure the image is large enough and has enough contrast to scan well, and scan it at 300 dpi or higher. Remember that scanned images are bitmaps, and cannot be resized without losing quality. Depending on the exact image and desired results, you may be able to slightly resize an image with little noticeable loss of quality, but don't expect to scan a wallet-sized image and print it as an 8 x 10 image without significant loss of quality.
QUESTION:  Are the prints produced very detailed with a Summit DTG printer?
ANSWER:   Summit DTG Direct to Garment printers produce graphics with up to 5760x1440 dpi. We recommend 1440 x 720 dpi. Many designs look great at 1440x720 dpi, rarely will a design need to be printed at a higher resolution. Just for reference, traditional screen printing is approximately 72 dpi.
QUESTION:  How many colors will the Summit DTG printer produce?
ANSWER:   CMYK inks allow you to produce MILLIONS of different colors. These are the same ink colors used by 4 color process printers when printing brochures or other professionally printed pieces. The only difference is that dtg printer inks are formulated to stick to garments instead of paper.
QUESTION:  Are there any secrets to getting great prints from a direct to garment printer?
ANSWER:   The secret is in the artwork. The better the artwork, the better the print. Or as the old computer adage goes, "Garbage in, garbage out." If you expect the bulk of your work to be text and logos (from a stock logo supplier such as Great Dane Graphics), this will be fairly easy. If you plan to use customer-supplied artwork, you will need a firm understanding of your graphics software to make sure the graphics are print-ready - you may need to adjust the tone curve, contrast, saturation, or otherwise modify the customer's original graphic. A firm understanding of CMYK vs. RGB color modes, bitmapped images vs. vector images, and bitmap resolutions vs. print sizes will also help tremendously.
QUESTION:  Will you teach me how to use a graphics program with my Summit DTG printer?
ANSWER:   There are far too many graphics programs available for our trainers to be efficient in all of them. The techniques you will use when preparing artwork for a Summit DTG Direct to Garment printer are the very same techniques you would use to prepare artwork to print on your desktop printer - converting artwork to other file formats, creating multiple layers, adjusting tone curve, adjusting contrast, etc. If you have never used a professional graphics program before, we strongly suggest that you get additional training specifically for your graphics software. The most popular graphics programs are often taught at a community college, or you can find online training courses or training dvds.
QUESTION:  What is the difference between printing on a white garment versus a dark garment with a Summit DTG printer?
ANSWER:   When printing on a white garment, you only use CMYK inks - the garment IS the white background. When printing on a dark garment, you will print a layer of white ink first, then print the CMYK colors on top of the white layer. This extra layer of ink will make the ink thicker on the garment and you will feel the difference. You may also notice a slight difference in colors if you print the same image on a white garment and a black garment. This is because the colored inks soak deeper into the white garment, but on the black garment the colored inks bond to the top of the white ink layer.
QUESTION:  How is the ink supplied to the direct to garment printer?
ANSWER:   CMYK colors are supplied using a bulk ink system where each color is stored in a refillable cartridge or bottle. MESA sells only the highest quality inks designed specifically for garment printing, which is why we only carry Dupont, Kodak, and Image Armor brands of inks. DTG inks are available in 250ml, 500 ml, and 1 liter bottles. MESA Supplies offers extremely competitive pricing on DTG Inks, and you can save even more by purchasing CMYK ink kits.
QUESTION:  How long does it take to print a shirt on a DTG printer?
ANSWER:   It depends on the design and the specific printer model, but a standard sized 10 x 10 inch design on a white shirt at 720 dpi will print in approximately one minute. Dark shirts require a white layer to be printed first, which will roughly double the print time.
QUESTION:  What about the entire DTG print process - how long does it take from the time I start the job until I have a custom tee-shirt ready to give to my customer?
ANSWER:   Assuming that you do not need to make adjustments to the artwork, a general average is 5 minutes for a 10 x 10 inch design. This includes time to set the garment on the platen, print it, and heat set it. When printing more than one copy of the same design, using two heat presses can significantly speed up the process.
QUESTION:  How much will I spend on ink with DTG printing?
ANSWER:   Again, it depends on the designs printed, but a 10 x 10 design at 720 dpi on a white shirt will use approximately 25 cents worth of ink.
QUESTION:  Do I need to treat the garment after DTG printing?
ANSWER:   Yes. Use a regular heat press set at 338 degrees F and press for 90-120 seconds for light shirts (60 seconds for 100% polyester), or 60 seconds x 2 for dark shirts.
QUESTION:  What color of garments can a Summit DTG Direct to Garment printer print on?
ANSWER:   With our White Ink Management System it is possible to print on any color t-shirt or garment. The red dyes used in tshirts have a tendency to bleed, therefore we recommend pre-washing red shirts, or purchasing pre-shrunk red shirts to prevent the red dye from bleeding into your printed design.
QUESTION:  Will the ink from a DTG printer withstand washing?
ANSWER:   Yes, when the ink is properly heat-set it bonds with the material. You may lose about 1% of the ink during the initial wash but the colors are still so vivid the loss is not noticeable. If you lose more, you need to adjust the heat setting time or temperature. We highly recommend that you test different materials with your heat press, then wash test and adjust your heat press temperature and setting times accordingly. For best results, always wash Summit DTG printed items in cold water, and dry on low heat or line dry. Do not use bleach on Summit DTG printed garments.
QUESTION:  Is any special software or a RIP required for DTG printing?
ANSWER:   RIP software is required for printing with white ink. Summit DTG Printer Packages include Kothari Print Pro RIP (Raster Image Processor) software package, which unlocks the full potential of the Summit DTG printer, including the ability to print with white ink and transparent colors.
QUESTION:  How do you connect the Summit DTG printer to the computer?
ANSWER:   All Summit DTG Direct to Garment printers include a USB cable to connect to the computer.
QUESTION:  Is any special power supply required for a Summit DTG printer?
ANSWER:   No. Summit DTG Direct to Garment printers use regular AC power 115V.
QUESTION:  What kind of ink is used for a Summit DTG printer?
ANSWER:   DTG inks that are developed especially for printing on garments. MESA highly recommends Kodak, Image Armor, or Dupont Artistri inks. The CMYK inks are environmentally-friendly water-based pigment inks. White inks use a different formula. While there is no data to suggest that white inks aren't safe, reasonable precautions should be taken due to the chemical composition. Please read the Safety Data Sheets for Image Armor White Ink, Kodak White Ink, and Dupont Artistri White Ink.
QUESTION:  What types of fabric can I print on with a Summit DTG printer?
ANSWER:   You can print on almost any fabric that won't be damaged by the heat-setting process and that will absorb the ink. 6.1 ounce cotton works very well because it absorbs the ink very well. Cotton-poly blends also work well, but the less cotton in the blend, the less vibrant the prints will be. 100% polyester is more challenging because it doesn't absorb the ink well, but there are techniques and pre-treatments available which helps bond the ink to the polyester. White ink cannot be used on 100% polyester at this time.
QUESTION:  When the garment is being printed with a DTG printer, how do you keep ink from bleeding through from the front to the back?
ANSWER:   6.1 ounce cotton will not bleed through. With more thinner or more porous materials, we recommend using kraft paper to prevent bleed-through.
QUESTION:  Should I use spray tack (adhesive spray) to hold the garment before using a DTG printer?
ANSWER:   Adhesives are not necessary unless the garment will not lay flat in the platen.
QUESTION:  Is financing available for Summit DTG printers?
ANSWER:   Yes, through third party leasing companies such as Adia Capital.
QUESTION:  Can you print on sleeves with a Summit DTG printer?
ANSWER:   Absolutely, if you can get it under the print head and make it lay flat, you can print on it. The Tucloc platen included with Summit RT Printers makes this very easy!
QUESTION:  Can you use a Summit DTG Direct to Garment printer to print on transfer paper, then transfer it to the garment?
ANSWER:   We don't recommend this. Each droplet of ink from a Summit DTG Direct to Garment printer is at least 1½ picoliters and can be as much as 7 or 8 picoliters, but this is not enough ink to perform well with transfer paper. MESA carries a selection of laser transfer printers. Laser transfer printing is another great way to start a t-shirt business with even lower start-up costs and less maintenance than a DTG. Be aware that laser transfer prints will have more of a "plastic" feel than DTG prints, and will eventually start to crack and peel with washing, whereas a DTG print will eventually begin to fade with washing. If you expect to sell less than 200-300 shirts per month, please consider a laser transfer printer instead of a DTG printer.
QUESTION:  What operating system(s) is required for a Summit DTG printer? Will it work with a MAC?
ANSWER:   Kothari Print Pro RIP requires Windows 7 or higher. There is no support for printing from the Mac Operating System at this time.
QUESTION:  What are the recommended computer specifications for RIP software?
ANSWER:   System requirements for Kothari Print Pro RIP software can be found here. Fast processors, plenty of RAM, and dedicated graphics memory are required for the best experience.
QUESTION:  Can the DTG printer be used on a network of PCs?
ANSWER:   Yes. You can share the printer using the Windows printer-sharing function.
QUESTION:  Will I need a technician to install my Summit DTG Direct to Garment printer?
ANSWER:   No. You can set up your Summit DTG Printer in less than one hour without the help of a technician. The manual provided on the cd contains all of the information needed to setup your printer. If you do need help, call support toll-free at 800-330-3867 Option 2, and our experienced Summit DTG technicians can help you through the setup over the phone.
QUESTION:  What are the advantages of digital apparel printing over traditional screen printing?
ANSWER:   Traditional screen printing may still be best suited for very large production jobs, but for smaller jobs some of the advantages are:
  • Save money and time - on operations, preparations, labor, space, and ink.
  • Flexibility - never turn away a job because it's too small. Small custom jobs can now be your most profitable item!
  • No hazardous chemicals to store or clean up - Summit DTG inks are environmentally friendly. For pretreatment sprays, normal precautions to prevent inhalation of the spray should always be taken.
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