Find the Best Direct to Garment Printer for Your T-Shirt Business

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Direct to garment (DTG) printing has become one of the most popular ways to print custom t-shirts, apparel, and other fabric goods. With a DTG printer, you can print full-color graphics, photos, and designs directly onto a garment with no setup costs. DTG allows for fast turnaround, photorealistic quality, and the ability to profit off short runs or even single prints. It’s an on-demand fulfillment dream.

But not all DTG printers are created equal. With so many models on the market, how do you choose the right one for your t-shirt printing business? In this guide, we cover the top 5 DTG printers – from Brother to Kornit – and outline the key factors in selecting the best DTG printer for your specific needs and budget. Let’s dive in!

The Top 5 Direct to Garment Printers

1. Brother GTX Pro Garment Printer

The Brother GTX Pro is one of the most popular personal DTG printers thanks to its reliability and print results. This compact printer delivers full-color prints up to 14” x 16” for printing both front and back of shirts, hoodies, totes and other items.

Key Specs:

  • Max Print Size: 14” x 16”
  • Print Speed: Up to 330 shirts per hour
  • Ink Types: CMYK + White & Pretreat Inks
  • Pretreat Required: Yes, manual pretreat

Notable Features:

  • Prints photorealistic, full-color images
  • No heat press required after printing
  • Designed for easy maintenance and upkeep

Ideal For: Startups and print shops focused on volumes under 500 shirts per month. The Brother GTX Pro delivers pro print quality with an easy learning curve and lower investment cost.

Pros:

  • Very affordable entry-level pricing
  • Intuitive software with short learning curve
  • Reliable print performance and results
  • Automatic maintenance features
  • Strong technical support from Brother

Cons:

  • Manual pretreat can be time consuming
  • Only handles light to medium production loads
  • Ink costs are higher than bulk ink printers

Price Range: $6,000 – $8,000

2. Epson F2100 Direct to Garment Printer

Known for its high print speeds, the Epson F2100 is a step up for growing DTG print shops. It delivers vivid prints at volumes up to 350 shirts per hour.

Key Specs:

  • Max Print Size: 14” x 16”
  • Print Speed: Up to 350 shirts per hour
  • Ink Types: Epson UltraChrome DG Inks
  • Pretreat Required: Yes, manual pretreat

Notable Features:

  • High speed production with dual print heads
  • Designed for faster, high-volume printing
  • Automatic maintenance for printheads

Ideal For: Mid-volume print shops doing over 500 shirts per month. The fast speeds make the Epson F2100 ideal for handling orders with tight turnaround.

Pros:

  • Very fast print speeds for high productivity
  • Epson printheads have long lifespan
  • Produces bright, saturated print colors
  • Higher capacity ink cartridges

Cons:

  • Manual pretreat is time consuming
  • High volume prints use ink quickly
  • More expensive purchase price over $10k

Price Range: $11,000 – $15,000

3. Kornit Breeze Direct to Garment Printer

The commercial-grade Kornit Breeze takes DTG printing to the next level with industrial print quality and bulk ink system. It’s built for serious production.

Key Specs:

  • Max Print Size: 14” x 19”
  • Print Speed: Up to 225 shirts per hour
  • Ink Type: Kornit NeoPigmentTM bulk ink
  • Pretreat Required: Integrated pretreat station

Notable Features:

  • Bulk ink system for heavy production
  • Integrated pretreat station speeds workflow
  • Industrial print engine for 24/7 printing
  • High opacity white ink for dark garments

Ideal For: High-volume production shops doing over 800+ shirts monthly. The Kornit Breeze is built to handle rigorous production demands like bulk orders.

Pros:

  • Commercial grade workhorse, 24/7 production
  • Superior neon and white inks
  • Save on ink costs with bulk ink system
  • Integrated pretreat station
  • Kornit has stellar customer service

Cons:

  • Very expensive, over $40k investment
  • Significant learning curve
  • Bulk ink has added maintenance needs

Price Range: $40,000 – $60,000

4. Mimaki TX300P-1800 Direct to Garment Printer

Mimaki is known for lightning fast print speeds, and the TX300P-1800 can crank out up to 450 shirts per hour. It’s the DTG printer built for high volume, full-speed production.

Key Specs:

  • Max Print Size: 16.5” x 22”
  • Print Speed: Up to 450 shirts per hour
  • Ink Types: Mimaki Textile Pigment Refillable Ink
  • Pretreat Required: Integrated pretreatment

Notable Features:

  • Blazing fast print speeds up to 450 shirts/hr
  • Continuous printing with ink fill-up on the fly
  • Three printheads for color, white, and pretreat

Ideal For: Shops printing over 500 shirts daily will benefit from the TX300P’s crazy fast speeds. It’s built for 24/7 production.

Pros:

  • Lightning fast print speeds for huge volumes
  • Continuous printing with no downtime
  • Automatic maintenance and nozzle checks
  • Mimaki provides great technical support

Cons:

  • $100k+ investment price tag
  • Complex software with steep learning curve
  • High production uses substantial ink

Price Range: $100,000 – $120,000

5. Ricoh Ri 3000 Direct to Garment Printer

For a compact DTG printer, the Ricoh Ri 3000 packs impressive production printing and a low price tag. It’s easy to operate while handling medium volumes up to 300 shirts per hour.

Key Specs:

  • Max Print Size: 12.6” x 18”
  • Print Speed: Up to 300 shirts per hour
  • Ink Types: Ricoh Gen4 DTG Ink
  • Pretreat Required: Integrated pretreat

Notable Features:

  • Fully automated pretreat station
  • Compact size with smaller footprint
  • User-friendly Ricoh DTG software

Ideal For: Smaller print shops doing around 300 shirts per month. The Ri 3000 provides an affordable DTG solution with automated pretreat.

Pros:

  • Aggressively priced under $20k
  • Automated pretreat function
  • Straightforward user interface
  • Strong prints for a personal printer

Cons:

  • Smaller 12” print size
  • Slower than industrial DTG printers
  • Limited to light or medium production

Price Range: $15,000 – $20,000

Key Considerations for Selecting a DTG Printer

With the top DTG printer models in mind, let’s walk through the crucial factors in choosing the right direct to garment printer for your business.

Print Size

One of the first specs to examine is the maximum print size – both width and height. Print sizes can range from 12” x 14” on smaller models up to full front and back coverage over 20” wide on industrial printers. Consider the garment types you’ll be printing; standard t-shirts need at least a 14” x 16” or larger print area. Also factor in multicolor prints or prints that cover the full garment front and back.

Print Speed

Print speed determines the printer’s hourly output, which directly impacts production capacity and turnaround times. Entry-level DTG printers print around 100-200 shirts per hour, while industrial models boast speeds over 400 shirts per hour for high volume orders. Evaluate your average monthly volumes to choose a printer that won’t bottleneck production. Speed also affects ink usage – the fastest printers guzzle more ink.

Print Resolution

Higher resolutions yield more detail and sharper image quality. Standard DTG printers print at 600×600 or 1200×1200 dpi. Industrial printers boast aResolutionTM with photographic 1440×1440 dpi quality that far exceeds screen printing. For photorealistic prints, aim for 1800+ dpi resolution and a printer with smaller droplet sizes for precision ink placement.

Ink Costs and Types

DTG ink is a recurring business expense, so consider long term ink costs before purchasing a printer. Some printers use individual cartridges while bulk ink systems with ink reservoirs provide massive savings on high volume orders. However, bulk ink requires more printer maintenance and nozzle clogs from sitting ink. Other ink factors are opacity for dark garments and branded inks that offer better performance but lock you into one vendor.

Pretreat Needs

Most DTG printers require pretreatment – a thin liquid coating applied before printing to prep the fabric. Some printers have automated internal pretreat, while others require manual pretreatment for each garment. Automated pretreat provides huge time savings that boost production capacity. External or manual pretreat stations add a labor step which can create bottlenecks.

After Sales Support and Warranty

Given the major upfront investment, purchasing from established DTG brands with proven reputations for service and support is advisable. Many offer one year warranties and continued technical support. Larger vendors like Epson and Brother have an edge here over smaller companies. Extended warranties are wise for peace of mind.

Maintenance Requirements

All DTG printers demand regular maintenance like printhead cleanings, nozzle checks, and replacing components to keep them operating in top form. Consider printers with automated maintenance features and self-cleaning to minimize hands-on upkeep. Tasks like replacing printheads two or more times yearly are common. Evaluate required maintenance compared to your staffing capabilities.

Software and Training

Efficient DTG printing requires mastering the printer’s included software for tasks like image preparation, color management, RIP, and printing. Look for intuitive software with an easy learning curve compared to overly complex programs. Most printers come with intro software training and access to resources like videos and guides from the manufacturer to ramp up quickly.

Bulk Orders vs On-Demand

DTG excels at fast on-demand fulfillment of short runs or one-offs with no setup costs compared to screen printing. But industrial DTG printers can still compete on larger bulk orders. Determine if you’ll be regularly printing over 500 shirts per order – if so, a high volume printer makes sense. For primarily on-demand orders under 100 shirts, a more affordable mid-level printer should suffice.

Leasing Financing vs Buying Outright

Leasing through financing companies provides an attractive option to get started with a lower initial investment. Monthly leasing fees are also tax deductible operating expenses. Buying outright costs more upfront but with full ownership. Consider both options and run the numbers with total cost comparisons.

By evaluating these factors against your business’ specific needs, you can zero in on the right DTG printer match. Don’t opt for more printer than you require, but allow room for growth to avoid outgrowing your equipment’s production capabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions About DTG Printing

For those new to direct to garment printing, here are answers to some of the most common questions about how DTG printers work and what they can do.

What types of garments can you print with DTG?

The direct to garment process allows printing on any natural fabric like cotton, bamboo, hemp, and poly-cotton blends. DTG prints beautifully on t-shirts, hoodies, hats, aprons, totes and bags, baby onesies, canvas shoes, and more. The fabric needs absorbency for the ink to bond properly.

How durable are DTG printed garments?

Today’s DTG inks are engineered for commercial-grade wash durability when properly cured. Expect DTG prints to last through dozens of washes without fading or cracking. Washing inside-out and hang drying further extends the print lifespan. DTG has much better durability than inkjet transfer printing.

What is the average DTG print cost per shirt?

Exact pricing varies based on factors like printer model, ink costs, pretreat use, and volume discounts. But on average, full color DTG printing costs around $3-$5 per shirt for short runs under 12 shirts. Per shirt cost drops to $2-$3 for bulk orders of 50+ shirts. Compared to other methods, DTG offers exceptional print quality at competitive fulfillment costs.

How does DTG compare to screen printing, vinyl, and transfers?

DTG can’t beat screen printing for mass 500+ shirt orders, but it wins on faster turnaround and photorealistic prints even on dark shirts. DTG also outperforms heat transfer vinyl with softer prints. It provides much higher quality than inkjet transfers. DTG fills the gap between screen printing and transfers.

What photo formats work best for DTG printing?

High resolution JPEG, PNG, PSD, and TIFF files work great for DTG printers, ensuring the most vivid and detailed prints. For photographs, 300dpi or higher is recommended. Avoid low resolution GIF and bitmap images for poor print results.

How many colors can DTG printers print?

Today’s DTG printers use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) plus white ink, allowing printing of full process color images. Some also offer expanded inksets with orange, green, gray and more for enhanced gamut and spot color matching. printers with 6-8 ink channels provide the most accurate color reproduction and gradients.

What equipment do you need to start DTG printing besides the printer itself?

At minimum, you’ll need an industrial heat press (16×20” recommended), a commercial garment pre-treater, graphic design software like Photoshop, and a computer with enough RAM and GPU for image processing. For curing, a conveyor dryer provides the best wash durability but a flash unit works too. A fabric printer like the Brother GTX is ready to run out of the box.

How long do DTG print heads last?

Printhead lifespan varies based on use and maintenance. For moderate production, expect around two years of usable life from a single printhead before quality degrades, with annual replacements recommended for best results. Some printers like the Kornit have printheads rated over 4 years. Using genuine OEM printheads is advised.

What kind of maintenance does a DTG printer require?

DT printers need regular tasks like nozzle cleanings, capping stations to prevent drying, and replacing cleaning pads and wiper blades. Most have automated maintenance features. But technicians should still perform weekly manual cleanings and checks. Some printers require monthly or annual maintenance kits with parts that need replacement based on usage.

Do I need graphic design experience to use a DTG printer?

You don’t need prior graphic design experience, but basic image editing skills help. Most DTG printers include software with tools for image processing tasks like converting to CMYK, adding underbases, and correcting colors. But knowing the printer’s file setup requirements or taking prepress training shortcuts the learning curve and avoids printing errors.

Ready to Upgrade Your T-Shirt Printing with DTG?

Direct to garment printing opens exciting new possibilities for t-shirt printers and clothing brands to profit off short runs, fast turnaround, and high margin custom apparel. DTG streamlines workflows, eliminates setup costs, and produces stunning full color prints.

This guide outlines the top performers among DTG printer models along with buying considerations for choosing the right equipment based on your business’ needs and budget. From compact starters like the Brother GTX Pro to lightning fast industrial printers like the Mimaki TX300P-1800, there’s a solution tailored for your shop.

Now that you’re armed with expert knowledge on DTG printer options, you can confidently invest in a direct to garment printer ready to handle your t-shirt order volumes while delivering exceptional print quality sure to wow customers. DTG lets you scale your offerings with print-on-demand and empowered by bold, bright designs.

To start exploring available DTG printers for purchase or lease financing, check out these leading vendors:

And expand your DTG printing expertise with training programs from:

With the right DTG printer powering your production, you’ll effortlessly print stunning, custom garments in record time that exceed client expectations and boost your margins. Let the DTG revolution take your t-shirt business to the next level!

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