Commercial Garment Printers vs Consumer T-Shirt Machines
What makes commercial direct to garment printers different?
If you’ve been looking to purchase a professional garment printer, you might be asking yourself “Why is it so expensive?” -At least when you compare a professional printer to a smaller consumer t-shirt machine.
Of course, “expensive” depends on what you need to use it for.
For example, the oven in your home probably costs between $600 and $1,000. Whereas a commercial or professional oven can range from $5,000 to $14,000 or more.
That’s because it cooks things too slowly. The cheaper oven also doesn’t have the same level of temperature accuracy needed. And, of course, It can’t handle the size or number of the dishes that need cooked.
Your home over would probably burn out after a few weeks of serious professional use. It’s just not built for it.
How can you tell it’s a Consumer t-shirt printer?
Home use garment printers – and we’ll include home- “made” printers in this as well are very much like your home oven in our comparison above.
There are videos that show you how to make your own direct to garment printer out of a home ink jet printer. Which is like buying a small toaster oven, enlarging the casing and cranking up the heat, and using it to cook dinner for 10.
That toaster oven-on-steroids might work great for meal #1. And even make it to meal #30. But while it may work for a while it still won’t do it as well as even a regular store-bought oven.
And just like you could walk into a kitchen and immediately know that the franken-oven was home-made, you can tell a t-shirt printer the same way. Read below first, but in the end, it boils down to How to Print a T-Shirt.
Non – professional transfer printers for garments
DIY DTG printers aren’t the only consumer t-shirt printer out there.
You can legitimately get a home inkjet printer and buy transfer paper. Print color transfers and then use a heat press to put the design on a t-shirt.
It’s a little more like using your home oven because you’re not making any changes to it. No franken-oven.
But it’s still fundamentally not a commercial system, so there are still the following downsides:
1. There’s no white ink, so you can’t put these transfers on a dark garment.
2. The small ink cartridges will have you spending more time and money.
3. You’re limited to the printable area of the printer – normally 10”x7” or so.
Professional Garment Printers and Commercial Ovens
The COMMERCIAL garment printer has a lot in common with that commercial oven we’ve been talking about.
A pro direct to garment printer like the DTG G4, for example, might cost around $20,000. Like a commercial oven.
But it’s designed to print everything from 1 shirt a day to 100 or so. And it’s SUPER profitable with most digital printed custom tees selling for between $20 and $30! (learn more about the return on investment for these printers here.)
It can do that because it uses commercial print heads, ink lines encoder strip. Because it has more robust components. Because even the inks that it uses were specifically designed to work in that machine.
One hallmark of a business-orient printer too is that it will use WHITE ink. That white ink is what lets you print beautiful custom images onto dark garments.
And in the end, the prints look AMAZING.
Here’s a great example of what it’s like to print a shirt using a professional t-shirt printer:
T-Shirt Transfer Printers are the same way.
The same goes for professional t-shirt transfer printers vs the home-use or DIY ones.
A DigitalHeat FX White Toner Transfer Printer – like the 8432 model – is a professional grade full color led printer. That has, as the name implies, white toner included so you can apply it to dark garments.
You’ll typically pay about $10,000 for a pro, full-color transfer bundle. In exchange, you’ll get something that works. Built by the manufacturer for that purpose. And it gives you consistently sellable results.
Here’s what making a t-shirt with a white toner printer looks like:
Choosing which type of printer is right for you.
Both professional systems demonstrated make great custom t-shirts.
Many people choose the direct to garment printer even though it’s more expensive because of it’s more professional end result – the look and feel of the garment – and its much lower cost per print. It can cost just pennies to make a full color shirt with DTG while it’s dollars in transfer paper to make one with a white toner printer.
The commercial oven, and commercial garment printers are more expensive because:
So just like if you were opening up a new restaurant you wouldn’t choose to use your home oven, if you want to be in the custom t-shirt business you WILL want to use a commercial garment printing machine.