The Difference Between Dye Sublimation and Direct to Garment

In this article we have listed key Difference Between Dye Sublimation and Direct to Garment also known as DTG printing. If you’re looking to get custom shirts, hats, or other clothing items made up, you’ve probably heard of Direct to Garment printing, also known as DTG printing, and you may have even heard of dye sublimation printing.

While the two are very similar in some ways, they are actually quite different in others, so it’s important to know what makes them different and how that will affect your project before you start anything. Let’s look at what makes dye sublimation and DTG different from each other, and which one might be best for your project or business.

What is Dye Sublimation?

Dye sublimation is a type of printing that uses special inks or dyes (sublimate) that change from a solid state to a gas state (sublimation) and back again as they pass between layers of polyester. This helps provide an image with incredible color gamut. Many believe it provides more vibrant images than DTG print methods do.

How Dye Sublimation works

This process is most commonly used for business printing, event signage, corporate awards, store displays and promotional products. In short, in its most simplistic form, a dye sublimation printer produces digital images that are printed directly onto transfer paper.

This transfer paper (which looks like a sticker) is then put into an industrial heat press machine along with your garment. The heat press machine will heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point a roller will apply pressure on your garment while transferring the ink from your logo onto your garments.

Advantages of Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation printer can print on nearly any substrate, including large formats, glass, acrylics or plastics. DTG printers are not able to print on these substrates. Dye sublimation printers are excellent for printing gradients of colors as well as fine details due to their ability to overlay one color over another in order to create a more detailed image.

Dye sublimation printing does not require dry time between prints, however DTG printers do need a drying time between prints of approximately 20 minutes. This gives an advantage for dye sublimation over DTG because it allows prints to be completed faster. Dye sublimation offer bright colors, but only white is available in grayscale or black & white.

Disadvantages of Dye Sublimation

-In general, dye sublimation is seen as being very slow. On average, it takes a few hours for a design to transfer onto a t-shirt or other garment. This makes dye sublimation more time-consuming than DTG printing, which can be turned around in as little as one hour.

Dye sublimation requires airbrushing of each product, meaning that you’ll need a studio or dedicated work space.

What is Direct to Garment (DTG)?

The DTG process is a newer method of printing your own clothing that was first made commercially available in 2004. The process uses a heat transfer system to permanently print images onto garments. This type of printing cannot be done by hand, so it requires large machinery or heavy ink-filled tanks to print.

Unlike traditional silk-screening methods where ink is pressed through a stencil onto fabric, DTG directly applies dyes, pigments or solvents onto your garment with heat press technology. With DTG you can print on many materials such as shirts, hats, bags and more!

Whether you require just one shirt printed for an event or want thousands printed for an online store; you can get it all done with DTG technology.

How DTG Sublimation works

DTG (direct-to-garment) printing is a special kind of inkjet technology that deposits color pigments directly onto fabrics, making it possible to print full-color designs on T-shirts and other textiles. A DTG printer creates an image by spraying tiny droplets of color onto fabric.

The image gradually appears as each droplet dries, until it reaches full opacity after about 30 minutes. Although DTG garments often look vibrant, they’re actually created using only three primary colors—cyan, magenta, and yellow—along with black or gray.

Advantages of Direct to Garment (DTG)?

If you are looking for a process that provides unlimited design potential at an affordable price, direct-to-garment printing is an excellent option. With DTG you can print large quantities of high quality garments with photo-realistic graphics. Your designs are printed right on top of your garment, not just on a sticker.

On the other hand, dye sublimated garments use heat to press ink into your fabric. Since dye sublimated shirts are printed under more pressure, they can only be made using thick cotton fabrics such as baseball style shirts or canvas t-shirts. They cannot be made from polyester or other thinner fabrics without compromising image quality or durability.

Disadvantages of Direct to Garment (DTG)?

There are a few disadvantages of DTG, but some only apply to certain situations. For example, there are still very few DTG printers that can print large orders at one time. This means that if you have a ton of printed items (think 5,000 shirts) you’ll still need a traditional printer.

It can also be hard for smaller companies who don’t have as much money in their budgets as big corporations. DTG printers aren’t very expensive, but they do require high quality ink and paper, which can drive up your printing costs significantly. Finally, because all DTG printers are made differently, it is best if you test them before buying in bulk.

Things to consider when choosing your printing method

The biggest differentiating factor between sublimation (dye transfer) and DTG printing is image quality. Dye-sub printers generally produce a more vivid, detailed image than their DTG counterparts. If you’re looking for a near match of your original print, a dye-sub printer will likely get you closer to that goal.

There are also a number of factors that influence these results, including; inks used, fabric type and resolution outputting files. Understanding all of these factors will help you make an informed decision when picking your preferred printing method as they relate to your project specifications.

Difference Between Dye Sublimation and Direct to Garment

Direct-to-garment printing is a new technology that uses heat to transfer an image onto clothing. This kind of printing does not require screens, plates or setups. The garment must be stretched on a frame in order for an image to be transferred onto it.

When using DTG printers, there is also minimal waste since you’re not creating vinyl stencils that can be used just once.


The biggest difference between DTG printers and dye sublimation is that DTG printers use a heat press. The DTG printer uses heat, pressure, and UV-cured ink to print on garments. There are positives and negatives for both types of machines: dye sublimation prints on white garments using large format printing equipment, while DTG printers can handle smaller orders.

If you’re interested in learning more about starting your own business or want advice from experienced entrepreneurs, check out our resources for entrepreneurs. What type of clothing printing process do you plan on using? Let us know in the comments below!

Last Updated on October 31, 2022

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Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith is an editor and author for Printerchief, specializing in creating informative content on the topics of office printing and paper processing technology. When he is not working, he enjoys exploring the great outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, along with activities like hiking, cycling, fishing, and reading. Additionally, Andrew loves working on various projects for his home and garden to keep himself busy and continue learning new skills.


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