What Is DTF Printing

DTF printing is a new custom-designed printing method that has emerged in the printing industry in recent years. This technology is becoming increasingly popular due to its versatility, quality, and efficiency. So, what is DTF printing? In this blog, we will take a deep dive into how it works, its pros and cons, and DTF printers.

I. What Is DTF Printing

What does DTF mean in printing? DTF stands for Direct to Film Printing. DTF printing is a printing method that transfers vibrant patterns onto the surface of textiles. It involves printing the pattern onto a special film and then using heat and pressure to transfer it to the fabric.

What Can DTF Printing Be Used For?

DTF printing has a wide range of uses and can be used for both mass production and personalized design of textiles, especially clothing.

  • Fashion: Mass-produced clothing or personalized apparel, including T-shirts, hoodies, and sportswear.
  • Promotional Products: Customized items, such as bags, hats, and accessories.
  • Home Products: Home textiles, such as pillows, curtains, and upholstery.
  • Small Businesses and Hobbyists: Create personalized gifts, custom designs, and more.

What Do I Need for DTF Printing?

Generally speaking, the DTF printing process requires the following items:

  1. DTF Printer Software: RIP software(Raster Image Processor software) is a special software used to process design files in DTF printing. It controls the printing color, ink drop size, ink volume, and several factors that affect the printing quality to ensure accurate color reproduction.
  2. DTF Printer: DTF printer is the core of DTF printing. It uses specific ink to print on PET film. Regular inkjet printers cannot perform DTF printing unless it is improved with a DTF conversion kit and DTF ink.
  3. DTF Film: PET films(Polyethylene Terephthalate films) are also known as DTF transfer films. It is the medium that transfers designs onto fabric. Usually available in the shape of sheets and rolls. It is classified into cold peel DTF film and hot peel DTF film based on temperature.
  4. Adhesive Powder: DTF powder is white granular. It is applied to wet ink on printed film and acts as an adhesive during the transfer process, bonding the design to fabric.
  5. DTF Inks: Specialized inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and white) used in the DTF process are designed to adhere to PET film and produce vibrant colors.
  6. Automatic Powder Shaker: A machine that spreads adhesive powder evenly on the printed film and removes excess powder, often used for commercial purposes.
  7. Curing Oven: An oven used to melt the adhesive powder onto the PET film in preparation for transfer, also commonly used for commercial purposes. For personal use, you can use a heat press to melt the adhesive powder.
  8. Heat Press: A machine that uses heat and pressure to transfer patterns from PET film to fabric. You can also use it to melt DTF powder on PET film.

    II. How Does DTF Printing Work

    How to print DTF transfers? Here is the step-by-step process for DTF transfer printing.

    1. Design Your Pattern

    The first step in the DTF process is to create or select a design. You can use RIP software to create or adjust your colored designs to ensure accurate color reproduction and print quality.

    2. Print the Design

    Take a sheet of PET film and place it into a DTF printer equipped with DTF inks. The printer first prints the image in color onto the film. After creating the first layer, the DTF printer lays a layer of white ink over the entire image, completely covering the first layer. This white layer ensures that the colors in the image remain vibrant when transferred to the fabric.

    3. Applying Adhesive Powder

    After printing, the ink on the DTF transfer film is still wet. Apply adhesive powder evenly over the wet ink. This powder will stick to the ink, allowing your design to adhere properly to the fabric. Then, shake the DTF film to remove excess powder.

    4. Cure the DTF Transfer Film

    Use a curing oven with an air purifier to heat the film to melt the powder. A heat pressed machine can also perform this step. The melted powder will look like orange peel.

    5. Pre-Press and Heat Transfer

    Before heat transfer, place the fabric in a heat press for 2 to 5 seconds to dehumidify and pre-press it. This makes the fabric smooth and ready to receive the pattern.

    Then, place the DTF film on the fabric with the printed pattern facing down. Use the heat press for 15 to 20 seconds to transfer the pattern on the film to the fabric.

    6. Peeling and Final Pressing

    After heat transfer, wait until the design cools slightly and carefully peel off the PET film. Once the film is removed, the patterned fabric needs to be placed back into the heat press for another press. This final press helps increase the durability of the pattern, ensuring it will withstand washing and wear.

    By following the above steps, you will get high quality DTF transfers prints with vivid colors. These printing designs are usually high resolution and last a long time.

    Watch the video below to learn more about film DTF printing.

    III. Pros and Cons of DTF Transfers


    1. No Pretreatment Required: Unlike some other printing methods, such as DTG printing, DTF printing does not require pretreatment of the fabric, saving time and effort.

    2. Versatility: This is one of the main advantages of DTF printing. It is compatible with a wide range of fabric types such as cotton, polyester, and blends. Due to its versatility, it proves to be an excellent choice for a variety of uses.

    3. Quality: Heat transferred DTF prints feature vivid colors, high resolution colorfastness, and fine details. The prints are clear and can accurately reproduce complex designs.

    4. Durability: After printing, the fabric will have a long-lasting print and excellent washability. The prints can withstand multiple washes without noticeable fading or deterioration.

    5. Fast Print Speeds: The printing process is simplified compared to traditional screen printing or DTG printing. This makes it an ideal choice for businesses that need to produce customized prints quickly and efficiently.


    1. Durability issues: While DTF prints are durable, they may not last as long as other methods, such as sublimation or screen printing. Frequent washing and wearing may cause certain areas of the pattern to crack or fade over time.

    2. Cost: First, DTF printers are more expensive than sublimation printers. In addition, the initial investment for this printing is also high because you also need to purchase other DTF equipment, especially for small businesses or hobbyists.

    3. Breathability: DTF printing is not suitable for large designs as it is not breathable. Wearing DTF-printed clothing for a long time may cause discomfort.

    IV. What Is a DTF Printer

    What kind of printer do I need for DTF transfers? The answer is a DTF printer. A DTF printer is a modified professional inkjet printer that can print designs onto PET film using DTF inks. This printer is the core part of the DTF printing process and transfers high quality, vibrant designs onto a variety of fabrics.

    The DTF printing machine market is growing rapidly, driven by the growing demand for custom-printed apparel and other products. As more businesses and individuals recognize the benefits of DTF printing, the market is expanding with new models and innovations. Although the initial cost of DTF printing is higher compared to other printing methods, its versatility and quality make it an attractive option.

    How much is a DTF printer? Generally speaking, a desktop DTF printer costs between $1,500 and $5,000. A large DTF printer costs between $8,000 and $30,000.

    Currently, more and more brands are launching new DTF transfer printers. Popular ones include:

    Procolored F8 Panda DTF Printer, Prestige A4 Direct To Film (DTF) Printer, EnjoyColor A3 DTF Transfer Printer, PUNEHOD L1800 DTF Transfer Printer.

    V. DTF Printing vs Sublimation Printing

    DTF printing differs from dye-sublimation printing in several ways:

    1. Material Compatibility: DTF printing can be used on a wide range of fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and blends. In contrast, sublimation printing is limited to polyester fabrics or items with polyester coatings.

    2. Print quality: Both methods provide high quality prints, but DTF printing tends to produce more vivid colors and finer details. Sublimation printing, on the other hand, allows for deeper color penetration, making the prints less likely to fade over time.

    3. Durability: Sublimation printing is generally more durable and can withstand frequent washing and wearing without fading noticeably. DTF printing is also durable but may not last as long as sublimation printing with frequent use.

    4. Complexity: DTF printing involves more steps. such as applying adhesive powder and curing, making the process more complex. Dye-sublimation printing is simpler but requires a special polyester substrate. It is precisely because of the simple steps that many people wonder if they can use a modified inkjet printer for sublimation printing. We have a blog, Can You Use a Regular Printer for Sublimation, for your reference.

    5. Cost: DTF printers are generally more expensive than sublimation printers, although DTF offers greater flexibility in printing materials. Additionally, DTF printing costs more because it requires more equipment than dye-sublimation printing, such as an automatic powder shaker and curing oven.

    VI. Wrap Up

    DTF direct to film DTF printing is an interesting and innovative printing technology that we highly recommend you give a try. It has many advantages, including versatility, high print quality, and fast print speeds. Although there are some disadvantages, such as high initial cost and complex process, many users believe that it is full of unlimited potential.

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