printing with white ink

Digital t-shirt printers have forever changed the way that we view t-shirt decoration.  Once you have decided to buy a digital t-shirt printing machine you are faced with not only a brand decision of whether you want and/or need the ability to print on dark garments.  Do you buy a dtg printer that uses white ink or not?

There are several pros and cons to printing with white ink.  They range from the cost of the actual output, to the added maintenance to the learning curve.  When you boil it all down, the decision to use white ink is really based on the market you will be addressing, your willingness to learn and your expectations of return on your investment.  Buying a direct to garment printer with white ink can be a great boost to your business – if the pros outweigh the cons.

Pros and Cons of Printing Dark Shirts

So, you've decided to add a direct to garment printer to your existing apparel decoration business or even to start a business based on direct to garment printing.  One of the first things to consider is the marketplace you will be selling to – simple example – are you selling to motorcycle clubs that require Harley Davidson style shirts?  If so, no doubt you will be printing a lot of black shirts – white ink is a necessity.  Unfortunately, not all situations are that cut and dried.

When you are considering whether your garment printer should have the ability to print on dark garments you should know and weigh the pros and cons.  Why is this so important?  Some printers, like the Brother GT 541 Digital Garment Printer, the Mimaki garment printer and the Sawgrass Direct Advantage printer do not offer a white ink solution at this time.  Other printers, like the DTG line of t-shirt printing machines, the Fast T-Jet machines by US Screen Printing and the Flexi-Jet garment ink jet printer offer white ink either as standard or an option.  By determining whether white ink is necessary for your business up front, you can quickly narrow your choices and save time researching printers that do not fit your needs.  Surveys of t-shirt blank distributors confirm that a full 70% of the t-shirts they sell for decoration are NOT white.


What exactly are the pros and cons of using digital t-shirt printers with white ink?  LetÙs look at the cons first:

printing with white ink costs more

o       true – you will generally spend as little as 20-25 cents to print a white shirt and $2 or more to print the same image on a dark shirt

o       just as in any other type t-shirt printing or decoration – the more it costs to produce, the more you need to charge

o       false – for short run jobs, the added ink costs far outweigh the costs of  separations, films, screens, and setup associated with traditional screen printing

printing with white ink is not as fast as printing a light shirt

o       true – when compared to printing the same image on a light colored garment with no white ink, when you have to print 2 layers as opposed to one it stands to reason that it will take longer

o       false – when compared with the time associated with traditional screen printing setup – short run orders done with a digital t-shirt printer can seem amazingly fast

printing with white ink is more difficult than printing white shirts

o       true – as above, when compared to printing on light garments without white ink, dark garments are more difficult, that being said, the perception of difficulty is more based on the ease of not using white in than on the difficulty of using white ink

o       false – as in all methods of garment decoration, once you have learned how to properly do something, it becomes a matter of consistent repetition

printing with white ink requires more maintenance

o       true – as the white ink used in all digital garment printers has different properties than the color inks, you will need to do a bit more maintenance than you will on a machine without white ink.

o       the difference in required/recommended maintenance between a machine with white ink and one without is literally only a few minutes a day – a small price to pay for potentially increasing your customer base by a factor of 3 to 4

Now, letÙs look at the proÙs of printing with white ink with your digital textile press

By offering white ink printing on your dtg printer – you are equipped to handle all colors of garments your customer will request

o       true - literally 70% of the imprinted t-shirts sold every year are not white and may require at least some white ink

o       you can always try to “sell” your customer on using a lighter color garment that does not require white ink – the problem with this is that you risk upsetting your client

o       this is really THE reason for buying a machine with white ink – if you are not willing to give up potentially 70% of the business that is out there and donÙt want to send your customers “somewhere else” to get their dark garments printed, you need white ink.

When it comes down to it, if you feel that you can keep your digital garment printer busy full time just printing light colored garments – then the decision should be easy.  If, on the other hand, you are like the majority of direct to garment printer owners, you will find that there are times when the light shirt business is not booming – then printing with white ink can be a saving grace.  Even if you do not want to print with white ink immediately, it is a good idea to buy a direct to garment printer that will allow you to print with white when you are ready.  The DTG line of digital t-shirt printers can be configured to print with or without white ink and changed at any point to fit your needs.

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