Does DTG White Ink Really Cost Too Much? March 30, 2017 – Posted in: dtg printer

Does DTG White Ink Really Cost Too Much?



It seems that the interest in DTG or direct to garment printing is also starting to emerge from the dark days of winter into a new growth spurt. However, one of the biggest objections I hear from people who are looking to get into DTG printing is that the white inks are too expensive. Most of these people are screen printers who are used to having a per print cost of $.03 – $.20 per shirt total in ink cost. Of course, from that perspective then DTG printing with white ink IS expensive.

However, many screen printers do not take into account all of the extra costs associated with screen printin. Let’s take a look at just one example to illustrate how the industry needs to change their perspective on how they view DTG printing and pricing – and how it can benefit their business.

Every shop has a set hourly rate that they need to charge to keep their doors open. For some smaller shops it might be $40 per hour. For bigger shops it very well could be $200 plus per hour. In my example here I am going to assume a mid-range price of around $75 per hour.

Let’s say a customer comes into your shop and wants 40 T-Shirts. GREAT! Then they tell you they want a 4 color imprint. GREAT! But they want it on a black shirt!

In screen printing, one of the biggest time consumers is the entire process of getting to the point of being able to print the shirts and then the clean up after printing. The printing generally doesn’t take that much time. This is precisely what most printers think about when they consider screen printing versus DTG printing. However, the printing is the only visible result of all the time involved in making a shirt.

In general you can figure on average around 45 minutes to 1 hour per color for everything involved to just be able to print a shirt. You have to print the films, burn the screens, washout the image, dry, tape or blockout the screen, put it on press, ink up, align the image, and then you can start printing. After printing, you have to de-ink the screens, tear down and reclaim each screen. That is a lot of work and is time required that everyone seems to forget about during the production process.

So, our 4 color job described above will take about 3 to 4 hours total (excluding the actual printing portion) just in setup and tear down. Now, if you factor in actual printing time on a manual press it will take at least another hour or so to print depending on the number of flash cures involved and your press setup. So we are at a total of 4 to 5 hours total to just screen print this job.

In addition, most people forget the cost of actually producing a screen which when you factor in chemicals, film positives, emulsions, etc will run between $10 and $20 per screen.

So, with this information in hand, let’s take a look at the cost of screen printing this job with just these factors.

  • Screen Setup Costs: 4 screens x $20 per screen = $80 total cost
  • Actual Printing time and time involved in setup and tear-down: 4 hours @ $75 per hour = $300 total cost

The above costs will total about $380, or if we factor it on a per shirt basis: $380 @ 40 shirts = $9.50 per shirt – not including the shirt – remember this is just TIME and not ink or garment.

Now, production times on a white DTG printer will vary widely which will affect the per unit cost of a DTG printed shirt. However, some DTG printers are capable of printing up to 50 dark shirts with white ink per hour. That’s pretty impressive when you think about the fact that there’s not setup, tear down, etc. If the art is finished and ready to print, you just go to the printer, load your shirt and print.

Now, someone will say that you also have to pre-treat the shirts which is going to take time. This is true, however the pretreating can be done during the printing process which effectively eliminates this as a time consideration.

So, let’s assume that our DTG printer can print 40 shirts per hour. And, let’s just say for that our ink costs are high, at around $5 per print for both white ink and CMYK.

It will take us about 1 hour to print 40 shirts with the DTG printer. It will take about 4 hours to screen print these same shirts. That is a 3 hour savings. At 3 hours x $75 per hour that is $225 just in hourly savings. at 40 shirts that equates out to $5.62 in savings by printing via DTG. Plus you don’t have the mess, hassle and clean up or handling chemicals like you would if you had screen printed the job.

So, not only could you get more through-put on a DTG printer depending on the order size and number of colors in the design, but you could end up making more money in the long run.

Many people find that after they start DTG printing they don’t necessarily want to go back to screen printing, or will only print what needs to be done via screen printing. a 1 color 100 shirt order on white shirts? Screen print definitely. Forty black shirts with a 4 color imprint, DTG all the way.

By sitting down and taking a look at your real costs associated with screen printing you might find that for your business model DTG is a good substitute or replacement for many of your jobs.

DTG is the future of garment printing. It may not replace screen printing now or in the future but it is definitely something that has to be considered if you are going to want to stay competitive.

Plus, when that customer comes back to you two days later saying that you shorted them one shirt and they need it replaced IMMEDIATELY all you have to do is fire up your DTG printer and replace the shirt.

Try that with screen printing.