Image Files for DTG Printing

File Preparation for DTG Printing

There are a number of ways of custom printing t-shirts and clothing. Obviously, which method you choose depends on your particular project. For example, screen printing tees is your best approach if you need lots of them. However, this may not be the best option for small print runs. Similarly with designs that are very colourful or feature photographs and images. DTG (direct to garment) printing could be the answer in these circumstances. But what file format is best for DTG printing? After all, you can’t create stunning shirts without the artwork. And these days, said design needs to be digitally formatted. This piece on preparing image files for DTG printing will give you the lowdown on doing exactly that.

How to make a digital file for printing.

Let’s jump right in with important specifics for this type of print project. It’s generally accepted that the best image files for DTG printing are created as follows:

  • File Type – .png with transparent background.
  • Image Resolution – 300dpi.
  • File Dimensions – optimum being the actual size for print.
  • Colour Mode – RGB.

Now, some of that may leave you scratching your head. Don’t worry, we’ll go into more detail below.

.png images with transparent backgrounds - image files for DTG printing tips.

.png images with transparent backgrounds

The best way to prepare files for DTG printing.

are the best way to prepare files for DTG printing

File types for DTG shirts.

Digital images can be saved in many different formats. The latter is designated by the file extension. In short, those letters you see after the dot at the end of a file name tell you the type. And as mentioned above, .png (Portable Network Graphics) is the answer when you ask what file type is best for DTG. In addition, image files for direct to garment printing should be saved with a transparent background. As illustrated, this leaves the design free of any other elements like background colour. In this instance, the Fifth logo. Incidentally, the white and grey check pattern is a way of showing that it’s in effect a blank space. We ought to point out that other file formats can be used but PNG is usually reliable with DTG prints.

Image resolution.

The image resolution is vital with how to make a digital file for printing. And this is all about DPI. Which stands for dot per inch. That’s to say, the dots of ink per square inch being printed. To explain, it’s a way of gauging the clarity of an image. Nowadays, some printers consider it possible to get away with less but 300dpi is still the recognised standard. That is in terms of dependable quality for your custom tees.

Correctly prepared artwork files are crucial for custom DTG tees.

Correctly prepared artwork files are crucial for custom tees

Digital file dimensions.

Size is another important part of prepping files for DTG printing. And it can be a slightly confusing aspect of the process if you’re not used to digital imagery. To explain, the file dimension is the actual size of the image. Which is obviously not what you see on a computer screen where you can zoom in and out. Setting the size of your image to what you want printed is a pretty good idea. So, you may want to change the dimensions of your artwork. But when you do, take care to keep the aforementioned DPI because changing it can compromise the quality.

Colour mode for DTG files.

Okay, we know, don’t just throw random letters at me. But we have no choice when it comes to guidelines for DTG t-shirt printing. Because it’s all about the detail for great prints. In this instance, it’s colour palettes. We’re concerned with two of them in regard to image files for DTG printed t-shirts:

  • RGB – stands for Red, Green and Blue and is colour mode used for digital stuff like websites and television.
  • CMYK – stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black and is what’s traditionally used in printing.

As mentioned, your DTG digital files are better made using RGB. For context, with screen printing the inks are mixed to spec for the project. However, the process for direct to garment printing is similar to how your home or office printer works. That’s to say, the colours for the print are created by mixing just four basic colours. As a consequence, it’s not possible to guarantee an exact match to the colours in your design. Beyond that, specialist inks such as metallics are not available for DTG.

In general, you can expect DTG prints to be less vibrant than those made with screen printing. It’s simply the nature of the process. And the fabric being printed is another point to bear in mind. As a rule, direct to garment printing 100% cotton shirts will give you the most reliable results.

Files for DTG printing summary.

Get it right with your files for DTG printing and you’re well on the way to creating great custom tees. Actually, prepping your artwork is crucial for any form of customisation whether it be screen printing, embroidery or any of the others. This aspect of things is obviously less of a concern when you have a professional designer or graphic artist. But you can still make it work even if you’re not in that position. Just make sure to give the preparation plenty of care and attention. And don’t forget, your printing company have done this a million times. If in doubt, ask them for advice.

Stay up to date