Designing for DTG

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Welcome to TeePublic, a community of the world’s best designers with actual humans curating and personally processing each of your designs. Since we use fancy, new, state of the art printing tech, we figured we would let you know just how it’s done.

WHY DTG?

We print every shirt using DTG (direct to garment) printers. This works just like an inkjet printer (a big, very expensive one!).

We could go the usual route and screen print your designs, but screens can be expensive, (especially for a low print run) and demand an inventory position and limited colors. With DTG printing we can print as few as 1 shirt at a time. This eliminates inventory entirely and you, as the designer, can work risk free! DTG printing is also more versatile; your designs aren’t limited by color or transparency.

We have a team of designers here at Teepublic that look over each and every design to make sure it will print beautifully. Here are a few things that our designers look out for and some things you should keep in mind to help this process go as smoothly as possible:

Files

We print using hi-res PNG files. The recommend resolution is 150 DPI or above, with dimensions set to 1500 x1995px or larger. Of course, the larger the better. We accept RGB files which we then convert to CMYK using our own color profiles.

Color Issues

DTG printers use a standard CMYK color model. This means printing with a mix of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks. Magenta tends to get a little obscured (remember, it's a new technology). Because of this, reds and deep blues in some designs tend to vary slightly. Our in-house designers color correct each design to fix this issue.

Here are some test prints to give you an idea of what this issue looks like, and some recommended CMYK colors to help prevent it:

Redsscreen 2fc1313e037572f07e44797a7217ae80876e516431ac5fbfcf890fe82273a476 Redsprint b400414402aae3894370e287f5e27992020bc4c82cf60bc77079fa33f8a8a833
Example of red color variation. Top: Computer screen (RGB). Botom: Printed shirt.
Bluescreen 21ad68f9c72294d9a406e58155f20ce0083e4da57d9434d2236a7b35272be5be Blueprint 1c702b9bef94929cde4c17d0b8ca8e6ffecc291e08c9b3a6e7388f199beaf7af
Example of blue color variation Top: Computer screen (RGB). Botom: Printed shirt.
Fluorescent Colors

Since DTG printers use the CMYK color model, there are no fluorescent inks. “Fluorescent” or “neon-like” colors in your design may print a little more muddled than expected. Here is an example of what “fluorescent” colors print like, and some recommended color options that will print as “neon” as possible:

Fluorescentcolorsprint bb13a53a3b72e118d818a40b9960a6da4ef23c81a35963eda691cef78634032c
Fluorescent color sample print
Underbases

Light color inks on dark colored shirts are printed with an underbase. An underbase is a white layer of ink that the design sits on top of. This is very similar to laying down a primer or a base coat before painting a wall.

Underbasemockup1 e346444c9a6cb5817c83661606396880d18814ecdfd438dd82040ce3058c9cd5 Underbasemockup2 7934680e7de289e82bfd94fbf8d4184fe3009d5b0216e084967cf9c446d4aa77
Underbase examples
Halftones/Splatter

Halftones are used in screen printing to create a gradient effect using tiny dots or lines. This is not necessary in DTG printing, but can still look pretty cool in some designs. If halftone dots are too small, too high frequency or just plain messy, the underbase might show through. This added white value around the halftone washes out some bright colors in the design. To prevent this we recommend a halftone frequency of 25 LPI or lower.

Halftonesprint 9c243d3f7d3ba19cd8b99c27ff819befc86e7ad5262dba19f8873664ca130bca
Halftone sample print examples
Fluorescentcolorsgradientprint b07ffad8583b9f9e0487a7b14752e942670297141bde1cc5c9ae1387e804ae47
Example of a 25 LPI halftone gradient
Halftoneexample1 e20f450ee9549fab1c1b76e7c6e439ab0c41241ae37feddd8cd261e5eeaca903
Printed design with a high LPI
Halftoneexample2 9a9553fe0ecbdea206dab947bc880016a4ed3bc7f7ba2d949b5969f6a3b1517d
Printed design with a low LPI
Transparencies

Unlike screen printing, DTG printing allows for transparencies. Sometimes on dark colored shirts printed with an underbase the transparency appears gray, or washed out. This is because the transparent color is mixing with the transparent white underbase. To prevent this, avoid transparent bright colors. Since the quality of transparencies are so variable in DTG printing, we recommend converting your transparencies to a halftone set at 25 LPI or lower (see above).

Transparencyprint 69e3fc592975119512cfa328fa5769befa3de49fc13dedc207b655e63d416782
Transparency sample print
Knockouts

In screen printing it is a common practice to use the shirt color as part of the design. This is usually done to reduce the amount of colors in a print. While this is also possible in DTG printing, it is not necessary. We can print as many colors as you want at no extra cost.

If you decide to create a knockout, keep in mind that you have the ability to offer your design on multiple garment colors. Make sure to only have your art available on the colors that work best with the design.

Knockout1 fb24d657a7fce18df219152c8c151fbb03f99dbb739c9b866ed6d3f27f817c02
Bad shirt color choice
Knockout2 480c214d1b6681a298cd023510d11f344494560b86b43429422255249585aedc
Great shirt color choice