Tote Bag Printing Techniques: Screen Printing Vs. DTG

Tote Bag Printing Techniques

Tote bags have gained popularity as accessories for carrying various items, from groceries to gym clothes. They come in shapes and sizes, serving purposes for individuals. However, tote bags have also become canvases for brands and designers to display flair. Custom-designed prints on tote bags have promoted businesses and events and showcased artists’ work. Among the employed techniques for printing on tote bags are screen printing and direct-to-garment (DTG) printing.

As businesses and individuals seek unique ways to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace, custom-printed merchandise has risen in demand. Custom tote bags are at the forefront of this trend with their versatility and practicality. Beyond being functional accessories, they are valuable marketing tools and artistic canvases, driving home the importance of choosing the proper printing technique. Understanding the differences between screen printing and direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is essential for achieving the desired quality and visual impact in your custom-printed merchandise, ensuring that your brand or artistic expression shines through on every tote bag.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a method that has been utilized for more than a century. This process involves applying ink through a stencil onto the bag’s fabric. Each color is printed separately, employing screens to achieve multicolor designs. Screen printing is highly favored in tote bag customization because it produces high-quality images that stand the test of time.


One significant advantage of screen printing lies in its ability to deliver colors. The ink used in this technique is thicker, enabling the creation of images. This is particularly true regarding colors since the ink can cover the fabric.

Screen printing proves to be more cost-effective for orders. Once the screens are prepared, the production process becomes relatively fast and can quickly handle a volume of bags.


One drawback of screen printing is the setup cost. Creating the screens can be time-consuming and expensive for orders. Each color necessitates a screen, resulting in costs as the number of colors in the design increases.

Another disadvantage of screen printing is its limitation on designs. Fine details and small text can prove challenging to reproduce, mainly if multiple colors are involved in the design. Additionally, the product might have a textured feel due to ink buildup.

Screen printing works well for:

  • Large orders of tote bags
  • Designs with colors and simple details
  • Tote bags made from heavier fabrics
  • Designs that call for vibrant and bright colors

Direct to Garment Printing (DTG)

Direct-to-garment printing (DTG) is a technology that directly prints the design onto fabric using a digital printer. This printer uses water-based ink that gets absorbed by the fabric and dries rapidly.

DTG printing is quite famous for tote bags because it offers the advantage of full-color printing and the ability to create designs with details.


One major benefit of DTG printing is its capability to produce quality full-color designs. This technology can replicate images with photo quality and allow for designs with colors and intricate patterns.

In terms of cost-effectiveness, DTG printing is particularly advantageous for orders. Since there’s no need for screen creation, setup costs are eliminated. This makes it an excellent choice for businesses or artists looking to print a number of tote bags.


One drawback of DTG printing lies in its limitations regarding fabric compatibility. This technology works best on fabrics like cotton, while adherence to fabrics may need to be more reliable. Additionally, the final product might have a texture compared to screen printing.

Another disadvantage associated with DTG printing is the constraint on print size. The print area usually has a limit of around inches, which means larger designs may not be feasible.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when deciding between screen printing and DTG printing. Each method has its pros and cons. The choice ultimately depends on the specific requirements of the project.

DTG printing is ideal for:

  • Small orders of tote bags
  • Designs with intricate details and multiple colors
  • Tote bags made from natural fabrics
  • Designs that require full-color prints


Tote bags offer a canvas for creativity, making them promotional items for businesses and events. Regarding customizing tote bags, screen printing and DTG printing are two techniques, each with advantages and disadvantages. The choice between the two depends on factors such as the quantity of tote bags required, design complexity, and fabric type. To make a choice and create appealing and long-lasting tote bags, people must grasp the distinctions between screen printing and DTG printing.

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