Anyone dabbling in Direct-to-Garment knows about pretreatment, which is an essential part of any DTG print. Applied as a base for your inks, it brings a vibrancy to your colors and enhances the quality of your prints. Nevertheless, pretreating can be a difficult technique to master, especially as there are countless application options out there. DJ Kinslow, DTG expert and founder of Constantly Create, is here today to give us some of the best pretreatment tips he’s collected over time.
Before you start, get things straight
“Always press your shirt first; it’s the most important step,” DJ says. It’s the first thing he tells us, and the first thing he does before any DTG pretreatment. DJ explains how fibers aren’t always laying flat on a shirt straight out of the box. By pressing it, you flatten everything down, prepping a perfect canvas for an even and effective pretreatment later.
Find the pretreater that works for you
There’s a lot of pretreaters on the market, but DJ recommends the Pearl PTM machine, which doesn’t have a draw, meaning he ultimately saves time with a simpler loading and unloading process. He found the Pearl worked best for him after trying a bunch of other machines: “For me, it’s not just about good quality, but [the Pearl] offers great customer service too,” DJ notes, which is also something to weigh up when you’re picking a pretreater.
All in the application: go above and beyond
Find a way to apply your pretreat with a wide spray and strong nozzle for an even spread. This is why DJ recommends a machine over a spray bottle, as spray bottles or guns can give an irregular application, no matter where your shirt is resting. DJ also applies about 10 grams of extra pretreat per shirt to account for the product that’s lost when it sprays over the edges of the garment. That way, you can ensure you’re putting enough down for a thorough coat.
Allow it to fully dry, and don’t be afraid to leave it longer
When it comes to drying the shirt once the pretreatment is applied, finding the right temperature and dry time can make a difference. DJ likes to heat press his shirts at 335°F for 40-45 minutes to set the pretreat. Contrary to the recommended time of 30-35 minutes, DJ found that the longer exposure simply worked better for him, which he discovered through trial and error. For your own practice, touch the corners of the shirt after drying to see if they’re still moist. From there, you can see if you need to leave your shirt in the dryer for longer.
Test to see if your pretreatment is working
DJ also has a useful trick to check if you’ve applied the right amount of pretreatment: “Turn the shirt inside out on a final print, and if you see white on the inside, that’s the ink coming through the shirt and through the pretreat. If that happens, you need to put more pretreat next time!” DJ also emphasizes how important it is to put pretreatment as highly as the print itself. “When colors aren’t vibrant enough, it’s not always about the ink,” he says. “You might think you need more ink, but sometimes it’s about needing more pretreat.”
Lastly, patience and care is key
When it comes to DTG printing, you’ll get the best results when you’re patient. “It’s easy to get caught up and let everything get into a rush,” DJ notes, “but always make sure you let [the shirt] dry fully, make sure you see no white on the inside, and you’ll get a professional-looking print.” This also goes for the pretreater itself. As some parting advice, DJ reminds us to take care maintaining and cleaning the pretreater, and always give the pretreatment solution a shake every 20 to 30 times: “It really makes a world of difference!”