What is DTF Printing? Process Explained Step by Step (FAQs Answered)

dtf printing in print on demand business

DTF printing is a method of digital printing where ink is directly transferred onto a material using a special film layer. This technique offers a cost-effective and efficient way to produce high-quality, full-color prints on various surfaces.

Qikink has installed 2 head and 4 head DTF printers to enhance the production capabilities and deliver high-quality prints efficiently. We look forward to serving you better with our advanced printing technology.

In this article, we will see everything from what is DTF printing, the process involved, the quality, pros and cons of this technology. So let’s get started.

Table of Contents

What Is DTF Printing?

DTF stands for Direct-To-Film printing. This process involves printing your design straight onto a film and then transferring it to a T-shirt made of cotton, polyester, or their mixes, regardless of colour, because white ink may be used.

Although DTF printing appears to be a version of transfer printing, it needs a desktop inkjet printer equipped with DTF-specific textile inks.

The best feature of DTF printing is its versatility of printing on any fabric and this is what makes it stand out from all other printing technologies. You can print on any polyester, cotton, silk, or synthetic fibres like rayon or terrycloth.

Direct-to-film printing is noted for its ability to generate high-quality, full-colour graphics on a range of materials, including dark and colourful fabrics, as compared to other printing technologies such as screen printing or sublimation printing.

DTF is also quick and simple to start up, with no high minimum order quantities, making it a popular choice for small to medium-sized businesses.

DTF Printing Process, A Step by Step Explanation Guide!

DTF, or direct-to-film printing, is a novel technique that allows users to print graphics directly onto specific films. These films are then applied to the fabric of choice.  A high-quality printer and heat press, like with other heat transfer methods, are required to maximise this procedure. The printing process is simple and easy. Here’s how

Step 1: Direct to Film Printing

A PET film is used in direct-to-film to achieve quality. To begin, print the entire image on PET film, with white at the bottom. Then, select the desired colour and print the picture on the white layer. Keep in mind that the picture on the film must be reversed.

PET films have a thickness of around 0.75mm, which gives them greater transmitting properties. On the market, these films are also known as DTF Transfer Films.

They are available as cut sheets for small-scale applications or as rolls for large commercial settings. PET Films are classified into two types based on their temperature. These are cold-peel and hot-peel films, respectively.

Step 2: Ink Drying

Once the design is printed on the film, it is dried using powered glue on the back to secure the print. This powder acts as an adhesive between the inks and the fabric.

Step 3: Film Transfer

The final step includes transferring the film onto the fabric using a heat press machine. The film is then peeled off from the fabric transferring the design to the fabric.

Advantages Of DTF Printing

1. High Print Quality

Although DTF prints may not have the same soft feel as DTG prints, they can nevertheless provide a relatively soft touch once transferred. Your consumers will receive a significantly smoother print than with vinyl printing.

Now try to stretch and bend the design as much as possible. You will notice that your design can keep its original form. In fact, if you look closely at the pattern, you’ll see that there is no cracking or peeling!

2. Cost Effective solution

DTF and DTG printing almost serve the same purpose. However, the print look and feel have a major role to play.

3. Larger Print Size

You heard this right. Like DTG, DTF does not bind you to a certain print size area making it more desirable. You are free to design to the maximum printing area and print placement.

4. No Fabric Restrictions

DTF is compatible with any kind of fabric from cotton, polyester, silk, linen, etc. Since the patterns or designs are first printed on the PET film and later heat transferred, there are no restrictions on fabric here which makes DTF an easy-to-scale option for online sellers.

Global digital textile printing DTF printing

5. No Minimum Quantity

DTF is print-on-demand friendly. This means you can print your designs on the garments whenever there is a demand for that product. This also makes it partially eco-friendly as you do not have to store any inventory.

6. No Color Restrictions

There are no restrictions on the design colours. You can print a single-colour design to a multiple-colour design within a couple of minutes. Unlike screen printing, you are not restricted to using a solid colour. DTF can print any number of colours, shades and patterns.

7. Print Durability

DTF printing durability is what sets them apart from other printing technologies It prints absolutely bright colours, has good gradations and is fade and peel-proof.

So does DTF printing last long? Of course, it lasts longer than the fabric itself.

8. Customisation

DTF printers enable a high level of customisation since they can print patterns, photos, and text into fabric in a variety of colours and fabrics. They can be highly customised. With DTF printing, your pattern is first pressed into a film.

This enables extremely accurate ink amounts, resulting in vibrant colours, opaque whites, and amazingly crisp and fine edges. DTF film absorbs practically every drop of colour, allowing for high detail levels and colour gradients.

Global digital dtf printing

What Are The Disadvantages Of DTF Printing?

The printing process is simple but the print feel is heavy and textured. Because of the fixing powder, there is a plastic, glossy and less blended feel. If you wish to sell a premium quality product and wish to provide a soft, blended and comfortable feel to your customers, then this wouldn’t be the ideal print technique for you. It is simply not as smooth and light as DTG printing.

Now that we have covered all about DTF printing, here are a few questions that usually pop up while considering a printing technology. So let’s quickly look into those.

Which Is Effective – DTG or DTF?

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing has traditionally been the most popular method for t-shirt printing and small productions, but in recent months, Direct-to-film (DTF) has gained traction in the industry, with more supporters on the way. 

While both technologies have their own advantages, with the rise of business expenses, sellers are more likely to consider a cost-effective alternative that can also produce high quality.

So without further ado, let’s see the process of both DTG and DTF printing.

DTG (Direct to Garment) Printing 
DTF (Direct to Film) Printing 
Printing process DTG involves 4 steps – 

  • Pre-treatment 
  • Drying 
  • Printing 
  • Heat press
DTF includes 3 effortless steps 

  • Preparing DTF Film 
  • Transferring print on the garment or fabric 
  • Curing or heat press
Cost of printing  Due to the cost of inks and process is time-consuming and require skilled labour, the printing costs are high.  Due to technology development and the presence of the film, the printing costs are lower compared to DTG printing. 
Fabric Flexibility  The pigment ink is heat-pressed to the fabric surface in DTG printing, which is challenging to do on every fabric due to its compatibility. As a result, this procedure is limited to a narrow fabric range. Cotton, Cotton, Combed Cotton, Organic Cotton, Linen, and so on. Because the design film is applied to the garment using a heat-melting adhesive, there is no need to worry about the fabric’s compatibility with excess heat to print on, as there is with DTF. As a result, this method is suitable for a wide range of fabrics like cotton, silk, linen, polyester, etc
Print Texture and Feel Despite the fact that only a little amount of ink is sprayed on the clothing, the hand feel is excellent.  The clothing has a normal hand feel, with a tiny film of hot-melting powder sticking to them.
Eco-friendliness DTG printing inks are eco-friendly and there is no wastage in the entire process DTF printing is not eco-friendly as it involves a huge waste of PET films. 
Print Size  Because the technique uses frames to print on the specific size of the garment, set-up expenses for all sorts of garment sizes might be high.  There are no additional fees with DTF. To accommodate all clothing sizes, just modify the size of the print film.
Print texture  DTG inks are blended with the fabric and have a rougher feel, similar to the base DTF ink giving a plastic, glossy, and less blended feel with the fabric due to the fixing powder.

Is DTF Better Than Sublimation Printing?

Because of the increasing demand for dye-sublimation in customised printing services, the sublimation category held more than 52% of the global market share in 2022. Sublimation inks are more lasting than other types of inks because they are absorbed into the cloth rather than simply adding a coating of colour to it.

Both DTF and Sublimation on demand printing involves heat transfer technique. DTF is a new printing technology that uses digital transfers to design dark and light fabrics. Sublimation printing uses a chemical process in which a solid quickly transforms into a gas without passing through the liquid stage.

The graphic is printed into the fabric using transfer PET film in direct-to-film printing. Sublimation printing, on the other hand, uses sublimation paper. 

Here’s what makes the difference, 

DTF transfer produces photo-quality pictures and outperforms sublimation. The higher the polyester content of the cloth, the better and more vivid the image quality. However, the difference is the touch and feel of the print. 

DTF generates a heavy and glossy finished print. On the other hand, the prints are soft and matte in sublimation as the designs are printed directly on the fabric. 

Since both these technologies are suitable for printing high-quality prints, as they have their own uses in the printing industry. So you get to decide if is DTF better than sublimation according to your requirements.

How Long Does DTF Printing Last?

When you print on film, the design is printed onto the film in thick layers with internal cohesion. The design is applied to the film layer by layer, and the thick coat of ink is literally pressed into the fibres of the garment.

DTF (direct-to-film) transfers are far better than traditional transfers. The ink and adhesive layers press into the garment.  When the patterns are pressed, they begin to reflect the texture of the garment, providing a more comfortable feel.

This means it’s far more durable and will last longer, even after several washes.

Does DTF Transfer Crack?

DTF lasts longer than sublimation since the ink stands out from the cloth. Direct-to-film transfers wash well and are flexible, which means they won’t split or peel, making them ideal for premium products.

Because the inks are elastic, the print does not crack when the garment is stretched.

Unlike screen printing or DTG, you will not notice the fibres pushing through the print if a cloth is pulled and stretched.

These prints are more durable than DTG prints, which means they will last longer before fading or cracking. For these reasons, DTF printing is frequently the chosen option for companies or individuals that need to generate high-quality printed clothes quickly.

DTF Printing vs Silkscreen

The direct-to-film printing technique is more versatile than screen printing technology. Cotton, nylon, rayon, polyester, leather, silk, and other textiles can be printed using DTF. In this sense, the DTF printer pricing is reasonable, and the process is quick and simple. This is a low-cost printing process.

Screen printing has the advantage of being ideal for managing large volumes of orders. Silk screen printing is the most efficient and cost-effective way for printing hundreds or thousands of t-shirts fast. Because only one colour is applied at a time, screen printing requires some preparation.

Both DTF and screen printing has advantages and disadvantages, and the success of your printing method is determined by a variety of factors. DTF may be the ideal solution if you want high-quality prints with brilliant colours and a particular feel.

If you need a low-cost alternative for large-scale orders, screen printing may be the way to go. Hence, it is important to analyze all of the elements and make an informed decision based on your print requirements

Is DTF Better Than Silk Screen?

Silkscreen, also known as screen printing or silk screen printing is a traditional method of printing that involves creating a screen of the design and then using that screen to apply ink onto the fabric. 

However, the silk screen or screen printing is a time-consuming process, whereas DTF is simpler and easy to print. 

The major drawback of screen printing is the limitation of colour, patterns, sharp edges, and gradients in the design. And DTF, on the other hand, can print any number of colours, patterns with sharp edges and gradients. 

Direct-To-Film and Screen printing, both have their own set of benefits and drawbacks. The best option depends on your needs and what you want to print. It is important to select a suitable print technique for your brand.  

The printing method you select will have a big influence on your costs and product quality. Screen printing and DTF are both appropriate for a wide range of printing techniques. The best approach is determined by factors such as print quality, material, and quantity.


The textile printing industry is expected to expand tremendously as more and more printing technologies enter the market. The benefits of DTF printing make it a desirable choice for anybody looking to start printing apparel.

With the way DTF utilises new applications and technology, we believe it will be the future of garment printing.

The DTF market is still growing, which means there is plenty of scope for experimentation and development. Don’t worry if you’re not convinced just yet.

DTF printing will continue to shake the print on demand business as technology advances.

We hope this article has helped you understand the DTF technology. Let us know in the comments if you would like us to write more on different printing technologies.


Is DTF printing good quality

Yes, DTF printing is comparatively good in terms of quality of printing. The design colours are vibrant and accurate.

Does DTF last long?

DTF printing involves 3 layers of print which is heat pressed on any garment and this makes the print last longer. It is also fade-proof and does not crack when stretched or pulled.

Does Qikink offer DTF printing?

Yes. Qikink offers DTF (Direct to Film) printing for print-on-demand t-shirt orders. This method is perfect for producing vibrant prints on dark-colored garments. DTF is possible to print on several types of custom t-shirt categories such as round neck t-shirts, polo t-shirts, oversized t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and sweatshirts.

What fabrics can DTF print on?

DTF printing method can be used on wide range of fabric types such as cotton, polyester, poly blends, nylon, leather, denim etc.

Can you iron on DTF Prints?

No, you cannot iron on DTF Prints.

Is DTF printing washable?

Qikink’s DTF Prints are high quality transfers. They are washable and durable.

Which is better DTF or vinyl?

DTF is better than vinyl because it us more versatile and offers better bonding with the fabric.

Are you ready to get started with Qikink?

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