Due to the inherently high cost of most Direct to Garment printers, the comparison is often made to the automotive industry. For this comparison, we will be using the analogy of a delivery company needing to cover as many miles as possible, in the shortest amount of time (relative to a DTG print shop hoping to produce as many shirts per hour, as quickly as possible).
SCENARIO 1: Buy one high-end supercar for $30,000 – Maintenance costs are 5 times as high and gas is a special blend which costs twice as much. However, you never have to change your own oil or work on your own brakes – a special technician will come to you, whenever needed, to work on your car. If you try to change your own oil, your warranty may be cancelled. All replacement parts must come from the manufacturer. Top cruising speed is 200 mph.
SCENARIO 2: Buy 3 low-cost cars (at $10,000 a piece) for $30,000 – Maintenance costs are very low and gas is standard unleaded at 1/2 the cost of the special blend. However, you have to change your own oil and replace your own brakes when they wear out. Parts wear out faster, but when they do you can purchase them at a variety of auto-parts stores for 1/5 the cost of the supercar. Top cruising speed is 80 MPH.
With the first scenario, a business could easily cover 1,600 miles in a standard 8-hour shift, ensuring reliable operation at a significant cost. Assuming $2 per gallon for special-blend gas (let’s pretend standard Unleaded is a reasonable $1 per gallon and for the sake of simplicity, both vehicles get the same 20 mpg mileage) they would spend around $160 in gas (or around $0.10 per mile). Over the course of 30 working days, the fuel cost would amount to approximately $4.800 for 1,600 miles traveled.
With the second scenario, a business could easily cover 1,920 miles in a standard 8-hour shift, although more parts may need to be replaced in the process (for a fraction of the cost for similar parts of the hypothetical supercar). Assuming $1 per gallon for special-blend gas (let’s pretend standard Unleaded is a reasonable $1 per gallon and for the sake of simplicity, both vehicles get the same 20 mpg mileage) they would spend around $96 in gas (or around $0.05 per mile). Over the course of 30 working days, the fuel cost would amount to approximately $2,800 for 1,920 miles traveled.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer – each hypothetical delivery company is going to have to weigh the factors which are most important to them, which may include (but are not limited to):
Investment / Maintenance costs
Cost of fuel, per mile travelled
Amount of “hands on” work required
Availability of parts
When determining which model is right for your Direct to Garment printing business, be sure to properly evaluate all relevant factors – rest assured, there are options out there for virtually any business model! Finding the RIGHT machine is far more important than finding the BEST machine…
Printing on wood is fun and easy with most direct to garment printers. As long as you have the ability to adequately adjust the z-axis height (the relative distance between the print head and the substrate), the process is relatively simple!
WHAT YOU NEED
Blank wood panels (the ones we used are available from Hobby Lobby and other craft stores)
Masking tape or painters tape
White gesso or water based primer
Acrylic finishing spray to protect the printed image
STEP ONE: Wipe down each piece of wood to remove residual sawdust and other debris.
STEP TWO: Mask the outside edges of the wood with tape.
Using a low-tack masking tape, tear off small pieces and work your way around the border of the wood. This allows you to preserve the outer bark layer, which enhances the final appearance of the printed wood. If you are using pieces of wood without bark, you can simply tape around the outside edges to prevent runoff from the primer layer or overspray from the printing process.
STEP THREE: Coat the wood in some sort of water based primer or white gesso.
The gesso (or primer) allows the inks to adhere properly to the wood, creating a beautiful print. You can use any sort of white water based primer, white gesso (a common painting product artists use to coat their canvas prior to painting), or even a clear gesso if you want more of the wood grain to show through. For this example, we used a Bob Ross brand white gesso, available from Hobby Lobby and other craft supply stores. Allow the primer coat to fully dry, prior to moving on to the next step.
STEP FOUR: Measure the wood (we’re gonna gloss right over the myriad of joke opportunities) and set the general size of the artwork in the RIP.
Measure the width and height of each piece of wood, prior to attempting to print. Set the width / height to ensure the printed image will cover the entire piece of wood. This step can take some practice, as you want to ensure all critical parts of the image are printed within the boundaries of the odd-shaped wood – make sure you select each piece based on its general compatibility with the desired artwork.
STEP FIVE: Print a test image for alignment.
Tape a piece of paper (or paper towel, in our case) to the platen, lower the ink volume significantly to reduce potential bleeding, then print a test print directly on the paper. Once the image is printed, tape the wood in the desired location, directly on top of the test print – make sure you adjust the z-axis at this point, to accommodate the thickness of the wood (once again, glossing right past that).
STEP SIX: Print your image!
SOME NOTES FOR ADJUSTING YOUR PRINT SETTINGS:We used Kothari RIP on a Katana PRO printer, so we made a series of specific adjustments to get the best results on each piece of wood:
Printed in high resolution, 1440 x 1440 mode
Changed to uni-directional printing rather than bi-directional, allowing for more flexibility on the print head height
Lowered the color volume to 35% to prevent bleeding
Added a 300 ms delay between each scan line pass, allowing more time for ink to dry
Once your image has been printed, you can remove the masking tape from around the edges of the wood – your incredible wood print is nearly done, at this point!
FINAL STEP: Apply a clear acrylic top coat to protect the printed image.
You can use almost any type of clear acrylic spray coat for this step – the point is to seal in the image, since we don’t actually heat set the ink at any point. You can purchase various types of sealants at any art or craft store, or swing by your local hardware store and purchase a can of clear acrylic spray.
Use this awesome color chart to determine your full range of RGB printing range with your respective direct to garment printer. Keep in mind, this image is profiled using the “Adobe RGB (1998)” color profile in Photoshop – if you wish to reproduce these colors in your artwork, please ensure you have converted your working color space to match the same profile.
NOTE:Within your RIP settings, you need to ensure you are actually taking the input profile into consideration. If you have set your color management to discard embedded profiles, you will not be able to achieve the full range of colors.
A few years ago, we never would have recommended a bulk CIS system for ink delivery into any DTG printer. However, with recent advances in ink chemistry stability, many of our users have been switching to bulk systems with great success! It is our goal to provide current and useful information to our entire user base, to ensure everyone has the best tools available for their long term success. Along those lines, we have done extensive testing with a variety of bulk CIS systems and have determined that our preference is for systems which have an air chamber in the actual bulk ink reservoir. Our testing indicates superior reliability with such systems, although we have determined there is certainly a right and wrong way to fill these units!
NOTE:This article comes from KatanaDTG user Knowledge Base.
This tutorial is meant as a starter guide for properly loading a bulk CIS system for direct to garment printing – please note that these systems are designed to maintain a balance of ink and air, so properly managing your rubber plug arrangement is crucial!
INSPECT YOUR CIS SYSTEM
Almost all bulk CIS ink systems are manufactured overseas, and while most are relatively reliable there will be an occasional manufacturing or assembly error which can result in serious problems for DTG end users. Before attempting to load ink into your new bulk system, take a good look from every angle to determine if there are any potential issues with the system, itself. In particular, you want to ensure that the ink line leading out of the reservoirs are routed smoothly along the bottom side of the assembly. This is a major pain point for DTG users – a kinked line can lead to back pressure in the system, which will prevent ink from flowing along a particular path.
NOTE:A kinked line can be deadly for DTG users. The line starting from the Yellow reservoir can be a particularly annoying pain point, as this can sometimes be pinched if it is installed at an aggressive angle. Below is an example of smooth ink line routing in a bulk CIS system!
WHAT THE HECK ARE THOSE RUBBER PLUGS?
The rubber plugs for any CIS system are an important, yet often undervalued asset. These plugs allow you to properly balance the volume / flow of ink and air in the reservoirs. The plugs should be fully closed when the system is not in use, but when performing any functions on the printer which require the positive flow of ink, the Breather Plugs MUST be open! If these plugs are closed during printing, priming or cleaning, a back pressure vacuum will be created as the system attempts to pull a closed ink line.
The Fill Plugs should be closed at all times, except when refilling a reservoir. Before opening any Breather Plug, ensure you have fully closed the corresponding Breather Plug for the duration of the process!
FILL THE INK CHAMBERS
Open the Fill Plug for the reservoir you wish to refill – also ensure that the corresponding Breather Plug is closed. Using a small funnel or syringe, fill each reservoir to an appropriate level. Once completed, close the Fill Plug, ensuring a proper seal.
NOTE:If done correctly, ink should remain in the primary chamber, while air remains in the rear chamber. This balance is important for proper ink flow!
Below is what the system should look like, once you fill each ink chamber – keep in mind the MK is left empty, or loaded with a light cleaning solution. The PK / MK chambers are both routed to the same channel in the print head, and since we don’t switch between the two lines during normal DTG operation, the last chamber is left unused.
NOTE:Remember, the air chambers in the back of the reservoirs should remain empty after filling the system! Make sure the Breather Plugs remain in place before opening any corresponding Fill Plug.
As you fill each ink reservoir, you will hopefully notice ink flowing naturally down the lines until they reach a balance – while they won’t flow completely to the ink cartridges, they should flow easily with the help of gravity.
NOTE:On the p600 print engine, ink is internally pressurized once it is pulled from the cartridge into the printer system, itself. This helps considerably with smooth operation and ink flow!
USE SYRINGES TO PRIME THE CARTRIDGES
BEFORE YOU START
Make sure you have proper syringes which fit snugly into the bottom of the cartridge.
Make sure you have properly filled your bulk CIS system, so there is ink to draw into the carts.
REMOVE THE BREATHER PLUGS ON THE BULK INK RESERVOIRS, PRIOR TO PRIMING THE CARTS!
If ink does not begin to flow immediately, try shifting your syringe side-to-side, slightly, to ensure you have fully opened the rubber seal – you may also want to ensure you have fully inserted the syringe into the cartridge.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Try to keep the opening of the cartridge facing upward most of the time – the point where the syringe enters the cartridge is the last place you want ink to flow.
Keep your fingers away from the chip on the side of the cartridge, as it can affect the functionality if you get grease or residue from your skin on it.
Try to ensure the chip on the side of the cartridge is always facing uphill from any potential ink drips or spills.
While there should be some expected back-pressure, if you feel an extreme amount of resistance you should stop and inspect your system. Look for “pain points” where the ink lines may be kinked, or otherwise obstructed. If everything looks clear, try shifting your syringe slightly until you see / hear / feel the ink begin to move.
Once your CIS system is fully primed, you need to move the ink from the cartridges to the print head. To do this, use the Epson Adjustment Program to run an initial Ink Fill routine, which will subsequently prime the entire print engine!
NOTE:You can only run an Ink Fill routine if the Epson print engine thinks you have brand new cartridges installed. Use a manual chip resetter to fool the system into recognizing brand new cartridges – it can sometimes take several attempts to fully reset some chips.
Kothari RIP is by far the top RIP in the Direct to Garment printing industry, revolutionizing the print quality and efficiency across a broad range of printer platforms and brands. Most people don’t realize how critical the RIP is to the overall output quality limitations you will face when printing on garments… Make no mistake about it – the RIP is the brains of the whole operation, and a great RIP can easily turn an old, outdated DTG printer into a top quality printing beast!
You don’t have to take our word for it – ask around and go see what real users are doing in the field, and find out how Kothari has changed their printing business in a big way. Visit the Kothari Users Facebook page today, to interact with real users from around the world.
The Katana MIST is a highly affordable and industrial built pretreatment machine for automatic pretreat application in DTG. The open design makes the process fast and easy, and all replacement parts are incredibly affordable!
Consistent pretreatment application and incredible speeds make this a highly useful tool for direct to garment production.
The KatanaDTG printers are well built, with plenty of great features that make printing and maintenance easier. The modular print system makes it easy to swap modules in seconds, and the threadable platens load just like a standard screen printing press. Kothari RIP is included as the standard and ONLY option, because nothing else compares to the print quality available from this particular software. Complete with easy-access maintenance panels and an electronic z-axis control, the Katana line of DTG printers is a competitive option for an incredibly low price.
The newest p600 series includes the ability to run a one-touch Purge, as well as one-touch access for the capping station and wiper blade.
Without a doubt, Kothari RIP is the highest quality DTG RIP I have ever used for my business in the 10+ years I have been doing Direct to Garment printing. I did not fully understand how critical the RIP software was to determining print quality, until many years (and several DTG printers) into the game…..
I had owned multiple DTG printers (from Epson based to Brother to Kornit, then backed to Epson-based), and experienced a wide range of RIP software – up until that point, my assumption was that the printer hardware determined the ultimate print quality. However, after using Kothari RIP on some obscure printers back in 2007 / 2008, then transitioning to a different brand of hardware, I could not figure out how to reproduce the print quality I had become accustomed to with the Kothari RIP (both DTG printing systems were based on the Epson 4880 platform, so there should have been no difference in output). I ended up putting the two new printers in a corner for about a month, while I waited for the company to provide me with their “new” RIP (which I immediately recognized as being Kothari-based) – once I put Kothari on the new machines, the output quality was IDENTICAL to what I had grown accustomed to.
At the end of the day, any DTG printer is capable of outstanding output quality, provided it is being driven by the proper RIP. The RIP is the brains of the whole operation, and nothing has shown smarter results than Kothari RIP for DTG – heck, it has won every major print competition in the industry for many years! I myself was the very first DTG Battle Royale Champion on T-Shirt Forums, and I owe my success entirely to my choice of RIP software.
While it costs a little more and you have to buy additional licenses if you want to drive multiple printers (whether you want to do it from one computer or multiple computers, you still have to own a license for each printer you are simultaneously driving), the output quality absolutely speaks for itself. Also, many users fail to dive into the myriad of automation options which are available within the software, which extend the usefulness and efficiency, considerably! It is worth exploring some of the advanced options to see how you can truly put this software to work, for your business.
I would NEVER expect people to simply take my word for it! Go look at the results from every major print competition in the history of our industry – regardless of which hardware was used, Kothari RIP was driving the process almost every single time. Still need to be convinced? Take your own artwork to companies and ask them to print you some samples – it doesn’t matter which hardware they use, make sure you find out what RIP they are running! The best results will come from Kothari-based systems, 90% of the time. Let the results speak for themselves!
Direct to Garment printing can be exciting and rewarding, but from time to time we tend to get a little ahead of ourselves when it comes to diving in, head first. While the process of DTG is nowhere near as complicated and fickle as it was only a few short years ago, it is still absolutely important to understand the critical learning curve you will experience as a new user in the field.
In order to ensure the greatest chances of overall success, and to avoid stumbling right out of the gate, we encourage you to consider these following bits of advice if you are currently expecting (or have recently received) your new DTG printing hardware.
STUFF NEW USERS SHOULD GENERALLY AVOID
Booking jobs before your equipment arrives – You must understand there will be a (sometimes) long and difficult learning curve to overcome when you first start out with Direct to Garment printing. If your machine has not even arrived yet and you are already under the gun to deliver orders to waiting clients, the stress of setup and initial training will become practically overwhelming. We fully understand the excitement of new print processes coming into your shop, but working your way through the learning curve is going to be far more palatable if you don’t have clients breathing down your neck in the process.
Refilling your own ink bags or cartridges – Refilling your own bags or cartridges can be a truly cost-saving measure, which may yield substantial savings on ink in the long run. However, the process is fickle and requires careful control of a number of variables – at this early stage in the game, your time is better spent learning the fundamentals of your hardware as it was meant to be run, and understanding the complexity of the RIP and pretreatment processes. In an effort to save a few bucks on your first few ink refills, you may inadvertently introduce air bubbles or contaminants into the lines which could potentially compromise the entire system. Additionally, the manual process can be time consuming and messy, quickly negating any short-term effects. In the beginning, stick to using the bags and cartridges filled by professionals, and work your way toward a more complex process. You’ll thank us, later.
Attempting to print complex garments – Some folks receive their DTG equipment and immediately attempt to print on long sleeves, sweatpants, blended materials and all manner of complicated garments. Without establishing a base line standard, it is nearly impossible to gauge the true performance and quality of your machine while introducing so many different variables at such an early stage of the game. In the beginning, stick with high quality ringspun cotton garments with a proven track record, and work your way out from there. In some cases, new users will spend countless hours, days and weeks trying to figure out why they can’t get a decent print, only to finally discover that the blended material they are trying to use is not properly accepting the ink or the sweatpant legs are too complicated to keep level…. Once you have a solid understanding of the basics, then you can flex your true creativity by printing on complicated garment styles and locations.
Altering default printing environments without proper understanding – Understanding how your manufacturer intended the hardware to interact with their respective RIP choice is critical – too often, users jump to the conclusion that they must be using the wrong print settings without ever exploring other variables (such as their PT process, selected garment type, etc). This can cause new users to dive into the RIP with the intention of “making it work”, but they often create a ripple-effect of consequences which prevent them from getting back to the intended quality point. The first step is always to ensure the basic fundamentals are in place for high quality DTG printing, then as you begin to understand the various levels of RIP control you can dive in a little deeper and truly go wild!
… We will add more as they come to mind.
Being an overzealous new user can seem exciting for a moment, but may cause you to stumble on some of the most basic of fundamentals – and make no mistake about it, Direct to Garment printing is all about the fundamentals!
Of course, this is merely a simplified list and there are many more things to avoid, as a new user in the field of Direct to Garment printing. Feel free to offer any suggestions and tips in the comments below, and we will be sure to add some of the best ones to our list!
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This video shows the basic steps to optimize most standard images for Direct to Garment printing. Prior to printing any image, you should check to ensure that the color values are rich and saturated, or that they match the expected output you are looking to achieve in the final print.
You do not need to be a Photoshop expert to get the most out of your artwork! The general guidelines set forth in this video are easy to wrap your head around, and involve minimal steps…. However, the results you can achieve are absolutely noticeable and profound.
The process of fine tuning artwork is not an exact science, but you can certainly get the best possible print quality out of any image by following these basic guidelines. Keep in mind this process is relevant regardless of which printer hardware you are using, what RIP you are running or which ink set you prefer! ALL DTG setups can benefit from this basic knowledge.