How Many DTG Shirts Can You Print Per Set of Cartridges?

TOP DTG QUESTIONS ANSWERED FOR 2020

One of the most common questions on the lips of business owners looking to purchase a DTG machine is:

“How many shirts can I print with a set of DTG printer cartridges?”

The short answer is 194 shirts, or 3,039 shirts or 64,516 shirts.  Wait… WHAT?? 

The reality is there’s no right way to answer the question in general terms.  That’s because there are too many variables to consider, and each business is unique.

So, while you CAN get a specific answer for a particular shirt, it’s not very easy to get a useful average.  That’s because the amount of ink used in one design DOES NOT relate to the amount of ink needed for the next design.

1

Each design has a different mix of colors needed for the print. So, you will drain some cartridges faster than others when printing. (see specifics below)

2

Each order is different.  One order may be printed full-front with full coverage of multiple colors of ink, while a separate order may only call for a half-front or left chest logo

3

Each shirt is different too. Shirts with a very tight weave will hold pretreatment better and don’t require as much coverage than loosely wound shirts (or fuzzy blends), and so you may end up using less ink for specific shirts.

Focus on The Questions You Can Answer

Let’s face it; some business owners shoot from the hip and don’t need all the details.

They have an idea and a dream and go with whatever “feels right” when the lease approval comes through.

Others NEED to know what they’re getting into.  What’s the upside? -The profits and advantages.  And what’s the downside?  Costs, costs, and more costs.  Bring on the details…

As you’ll see, we will show you two of the most typical types of prints and give you exact details on how much ink each print will use.  But knowing that answer at face value only helps a little bit when it comes to making day to day decisions.

 

Decisions like:

  • How soon do I need to reorder ink?
  • Which cartridges will run out first?
  • What does it cost to print a specific design?
  • Does maintenance and downtime affect ink usage?

Our Methodology

Luckily, every DTG G4 machine comes with RipPro software. The software not only serves as your production control room, but it also gives you precise details on ink usage.

Using the RipPro, we picked out a couple of good designs that represent a typical order you might print. The ink coverage figures are about average for the industry, and the size choices are what you would expect.

First, we’ll need to give you some background on how the ink interacts with the shirt.  This is important because some cartridges use LOTS more ink than others.  And that makes things a little tricky.

We’ll go over some of the differences between darks and lights ( and medium) shirts and boil all the information into cost figures that you can use as a good average.

The Difference Between Dark and Light Shirts

In the DTG printing world, there are dramatic differences between the way you handle dark shirts vs. light shirts. If you’re going to add up the costs, what kind of shirt you’re putting the design on makes a huge difference.

To start with, dark shirts absorb most or all of the light that reaches the shirt.  They don’t reflect light.  Very little of the light hitting a dark shirt bounces back into your eye, and that’s why it looks dark in the first place.

So, you can imagine if you were to spill some DTG ink from one of your print cartridges directly onto a dark shirt, the result would be a black puddle of ink on a dark shirt. White ink is the solution.

White Ink (The Underbase) to the Rescue

T-shirt printers learned long ago that the best way to get colors to show up on a dark garment was to lay down a layer of pure brilliant white ink first. 

In the ink industry, this particular kind of ink is often called “titanium” white.  It has some unique properties that make it especially suited for coating the dark t-shirt so you can print on it.

While the other inks are transparent, the white ink is designed to be opaque enough to:

1)  Block the Absorption of light.

2) Reflect as much light as possible.

That’s why, when you print dark garments, you’ll end up using white ink much faster than any other cartridge.

Always keep two extra white ink cartridges on hand!

Different Costs for Different Types of Designs

As mentioned before, the software that comes with the machine ( RipPro) can give you precise details on how much ink any particular design will use.  There are so many other things the software can do for you as well, but for now, we will concentrate on costs.

The software has a “Rip Only” option, which will give you an idea of the total cost of ink for your design.

Example: Dark Shirt Print

The first example is the “DTG Heart” design.   This design is best suited to demonstrate the brilliant colors that the G4 can print.  It has lots of Neon-like colors and tons of contrast, which makes for a great demonstration shirt.

We also polled our users and discovered that most t-shirt printers work with designs that end up around ten inches wide by ten inches tall.  We will use that “average” shirt-front design size for our example.

ColDesi Heart - 10.4" x 10.0" - Black Shirt - Photo Mode = 600 x 1200 dpi
Total Cost: $0.84

Ink Color Amount of Ink in Liters Ink Use in ML Designs in 1 Cartridge
BLACK .0000031 .0031 64516.13
CYAN .0000658 .0658 3039.51
MAGENTA .0001713 .1713 1167.54
WHITE .0020599 2.0599 194.18
YELLOW .0000866 .0866 2309.47

Dark Shirt Breakdown of Costs

In the case of the G4 DTG printer, each cartridge holds 200 ml of ink.  That’s five cartridges to equal a liter.  So, at the time of this writing, that works out to a “Per Liter” cost of $360.  Or $72 each cartridge.

If you use your printer more often and buy dtg ink cartridges in bulk (taking advantage of pricing specials that come up from time to time), then you’ll pay less.  The software gives you the ability to program in the cost per liter of ink as well as some other job costing constants.

The colored ink cartridges cost the same as the white, but as you’ll learn in this breakdown, you’ll go through many more white ink cartridges when printing dark shirts.

We will input the $360 figure per liter in Rip pro, and you can see from the spreadsheet results the following:

  • There is very little black ink that prints in this design.
  • In theory, you could print an entire concert of t-shirts before you would expect to change your black cartridge
  • You can print 1,167 shirts before expecting to change the Magenta
  • 2,309 shirts before expecting to change the Yellow
  • And, 3,039 shirts before you would expect to change the Cyan
  • Only 194 shirts before you need to change the white ink

Probably the most significant thing you’ll notice in the list above is that when printing dark shirts, you go through white ink about 5-10 times faster than the rest of the colors.

And so, by now you’re probably thinking, wait a minute, how am I supposed to KNOW how many printed shirts per cartridge -when the numbers are so general? 

And that’s the real problem that all DTG printers face when trying to estimate costs and ink quantity.

Focus on Overall Costs Instead

There’s no set answer to how many shirts you can get per cartridge.  Each shirt has a different balance of ink, and each size has a different quantity of ink.  Even the slightest of changes to the size can change the calculations.

In the example above, however, the more important thing to consider is the overall costs.

Dark Shirts on Average cost 84 Cents per print.

When you combine all the individual costs for dark shirts, you will typically find for a shirt front design that your overall costs are under $1.

How many light-colored shirts can you print?

The process for pre-treating the garment and preparing it for print is similar when working with white or light-colored garments.

Loading this design up in the RipPro software, we can get precise details on how much ink a light-colored shirt will cost.

Using the same “Rip Only” option, we find…

Example: White Shirt Print

For this next example, we will do a breakdown on is the “DTG Lady” print. This design is best suited to demonstrate how clean the print looks on the DTG G4 and how accurate the colors can appear on a shirt.

Many other printers have problems printing clean gradient tones such as on faces and in hairstyles. In these cases, you’ll want to know that the machine can print good clean images with crystal-clear contrast.

We chose a larger image size for this design because the ink costs are considerably less for light-colored shirts, as you’ll see.

Blond on White Shirt - 10" x 13.86" - White Shirt - Photo Mode = 600 x 1200 dpi
Total Cost: $0.19

Ink Color Amount of Ink in Liters Ink Use in ML Designs in 1 Cartridge
CYAN .000096 .096 2083.33
BLACK .0001029 .1029 1943.63
MAGENTA .0001868 .1868 1070.66
YELLOW .0001661 .1661 1204.09
WHITE --- --- ---

White Shirt Breakdown of Costs

The ink costs will remain the same.  You won’t need to swap out the ink when going from dark shirts to light shirts.  You can leave everything as it is.

Since each G4 DTG printer cartridge holds 200 ml of ink, it works out to five cartridges per liter. 

Again, that works out to a “Per Liter” cost of $360.  Or $72 each cartridge.

The good news in this calculation is you won’t be using any white ink at all.  Most designs look great on light-colored shirts without needing any underlying base of white.

Note:  on some light pastel colors, and most medium colored shirts, there will be some white ink used.

We will input the $360 figure per liter in Rip pro, and you can see from the spreadsheet results the following:

  • There is more black ink usage than before - 1,943 shirts before a black cartridge change
  • You can print 1007 shirts before expecting to change the Magenta
  • 1,204 shirts before expecting to change the Yellow
  • And, 2,083 shirts before you would expect to change the Cyan
  • No Need for White ink

White Shirts on Average Use 20 Cents Worth of Ink Per Print.

When you combine all the individual costs for white shirts, you will typically find for a shirt front design that you can get about five shirts printer per $1.   Approx. Twenty cents ink per light colored shirts.

What about Medium Colored Garments?

Even though you typically won’t need to use any white ink when printing on white-colored garments, you will need white ink for medium-colored garments and some pastels.

While you won’t need as much underbase white ink for medium-colored garments as you will for dark clothes, you can estimate about ½ the white ink usage as for the dark garments.  You want just enough of a white ink layer to make the design show up cleanly as if it were a light garment.

Conclusion

It’s pretty obvious now why you can’t REALLY tell how many random shirt designs you can get out of a set of ink cartridges. BUT since many companies DO we thought we’d offer the same kind of answer that they would give. The answers below are based on the amount SPENT on a printing a the DTG Heart design, comparing that to the cost of the ink, and dividing that out. This is not how many shirts you will actually get! 

Since the G4 requires 6 cartridges (4 colors plus 2 whites) and since each of them are $72 per cartridge, doing a little math we find:

Ink Cartridge Color Cost per Cartridge
CYAN $72
BLACK $72
MAGENTA $72
YELLOW $72
WHITE $72
WHITE $72
cmykww-icons-01 Full Set of Inks $432

Taking the average overall cost of the dark shirt design, 84 cents, it works out to 514 shirts per set of cartridges.

About 500 Dark Shirts per set of DTG Cartridges

Taking the average overall cost of the dark shirt design, 19.9 cents, it works out to 2,170 shirts per set of cartridges.

About 2,000 Light Shirts per set of DTG Cartridges

So What’s the Answer?

As you can see, there’s no way to give you an accurate “average” number of shirts is a set of cartridges because there are no “average” shirt designs.

Most of the images that are printed with direct to garment printers like the G4 are very colorful. And they range from a left chest logo to almost a 16″ x 20″ shirt front.

Unless you always print the same design, no one can tell you how many shirts you can get – but we
CAN give you an accurate readout on how many of a specific design you can get out of a particular cartridge. Knowing that can inform your buying decisions and the timing of your restocking.

But that doesn’t matter – what matters is how much that ONE shirt costs you to make, how much you can sell it for and how much cash you can put in your pocket when you’re done.

For more information on DTG cartridge ink usage and the G4 DTG Printer chat below, call 877-458-0444 or click the Contact button below.

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