DTF vs. Heat transfer vinyl, which is better? This is a question that plagues many crafters, as both printing methods have their pros and cons. In this article, we will discuss the reasons why direct-to-film printing is the superior printing method in terms of quality and durability.
What Is Direct To Film Printing?
DTF printing is the process of using a heat press to transfer inks from a special transfer film onto a substrate. The hot melt powder on the film acts as an adhesive, and once cooled down to room temperature; you can peel off the film.
DTF printing is notably versatile; for example, you can print designs onto cotton, polyester, and metal. With DTF printing, you have the freedom to create a customize an array of products, as the prints are also durable without risk of cracking or stretching. If well taken care of, a DFT print can last for an extended period of time.
The DTF printing technology process usually includes the following steps: design, print on film, apply adhesive powder, cure, trim, heat press, remove the film, and finish.
Vinyl Heat Transfer Printing
Another way to personalize fabric products is with vinyl heat transfer. The process starts by printing your design onto white-colored heat transfer vinyl using an eco-solvent printer. Then, use a vinyl cutting plotter to cut along the contours of the artwork.
After you print and cut your design, use a weeding tool to remove the excess vinyl around the artwork until only the desired image is left. Next, apply transfer tape overtop of the entire design to hold everything in place while removing the bottom liner of the heat transfer vinyl–you should be left with just adhesive vinyl at this point.
A heat press machine is used to transfer vinyl decals or stickers onto fabric. Using heat instead of adhesive, this method can be performed on various items, including t-shirts, activewear, sweatshirts, hoodies, bags & backpacks.
Not all heat transfer vinyl can be printed on. These types of vinyl come in a wide range of colors, patterns, and styles – from basic solid colors to shimmery, reflective materials and even glittery options.
Non-printable vinyl is also quite simple to use–only requiring the user to cut and weed the artwork using a vinyl cutting plotter. Then, apply it in the same method as mentioned above. The most common application for non-printable vinyl is in the customization of names and numbers onto jerseys for sports such as football and basketball.
One thing to note is that HTV has both a shiny and dull/muted side. The shiny side of the vinyl material is the carrier, which holds the heat transfer vinyl pieces in place during application to ensure that the cut design is aligned correctly. The opposite side, which has a muted color, is actually where the adhesive lies; this will be attached to your fabric surface.
The process for vinyl heat transfer is as follows: Design > print on heat transfer vinyl> contour cut > weed > apply application tape\> heat press \> remove application tape \> finish.
Why Is DTF Better Than Heat Press Vinyl?
There are various reasons why we recommend choosing DTF over vinyl transfers. Here are some of them:
Weeding is the first step—and arguably the most important one—in creating a vinyl heat transfer. If your artwork is detailed or complex, this process can take quite some time. Additionally, it’s easy to overlook small details while weeding, which may mean you have to reprint or recut portions of your design.
DTF printing is faster and more efficient because it doesn’t require weeding. With DTF technology, the print is transferred directly onto a coated PET film that acts as the transfer paper. This process saves time and money while increasing production rates.
DTF prints are also extremely versatile and can be printed on nearly any fabric, including but not limited to cotton, Cotton blends, polyester, rayon, and silk. Before printing on your chosen fabric with a DTF printer, you must configure your heat press temperature and pressure settings to prevent ruining the garment or causing burns. With DTF printers, you can print onto ceramics and even metallic surfaces–the options are endless! It’s easy to transfer designs regardless of the shape of the surface. You only need a heat press to apply prints to mugs and other items.
Not to mention, if you have extra prints, you can always sell them individually. If any of your customers want the print job done for themselves, they can buy the excess prints from you. You should keep these stored in a safe place (far from dust and other materials that could ruin them), like a drawer or cabinet, so they’re easy to access when needed.
The production rate will show you how quickly a machine can print, so it is an important thing to think about when you are looking for a t-shirt printer. Some entry-level DTF printers can print 4m2/hr, while Roland BN20 vinyl heat transfer printers prints 1.75m2/hr.
The DTF printing and powder curing process is quicker than the cutting process for the vinyl heat transfer printer, which can only be done once the print is completed. Besides printing and cutting, a lot of production time goes into weeding and transferring.
Quick And Easy Process
DTF printing is a relatively straightforward process: Design your artwork, Print it on the DTF transfer paper, apply heat and pressure to transfer the design onto the garment, remove the transfer paper and allow the design to cool. It’s a simple process that anyone can follow. On the other hand, vinyl printing is a more complex process that requires additional steps, such as weeding.
You don’t need to spend time treating clothes for DTG printing or preparing multiple screens for multicolor screen printing orders. You can quickly print out the same design on multiple sheets of film, or use larger, longer rolls to save even more on printing costs.
DTF printing is more affordable than traditional methods like screen printing, vinyl cutting, and direct-to-garment (DTG) printing. The initial investment for a DTF printer is lower because you don’t need to purchase any screens or other materials. You also don’t need to worry about the cost of darkroom chemicals for developing screens.
DTF printers are also more affordable to operate than other types of printers. For example, a DTF printer uses less ink than a DTG printer, and the film is cheaper than vinyl. Additionally, there are no set-up or screen-printing fees associated with DTF printing.
Also, you could buy two DTF ink bottles for the price of a single DTG ink bottle. You can also find competitively priced transfer films and hot melt powder that have different properties depending on the printing application.
DTF prints are more durable than vinyl or screen-printed designs. The ink is actually bonded to the fabric, so it won’t crack, peel, or fade like other methods. DTF prints can also withstand multiple washes without losing their color or quality.
Heat transfer vinyls are not as durable as DTF prints and can start to peel after a few washes. Screen-printed designs can also fade and crack over time.
Want To Get Started With DTF? Here’s What You Will Need
If you want to print your designs, you will need a printer that can handle the necessary inks. These printers print the design onto transfer film, which is then used to heat-press the design onto a substrate. If you’re just starting out, an affordable option is a converted DTF printer (which is simply a standard desktop inkjet printer that has been converted for this purpose). However, these are generally quite cheap and come with several caveats.
DTF printing uses digital water-based inks, which are fairly similar to DTG inks but with some pigment adjustments. Rather than using a wider color gamut, DTF mainly relies on white inks and the standard CMYK colors.
Hot Melt Powder
You need to apply the hot melt powder to your design while the inks are still wet. The powder melts and becomes a sticky adhesive, which then enables your design to stick to the adhesive side of the garment. Various elements, such as how much powder is applied, its general properties (e.g., white or black coloring), and even climate, can affect the overall feel/look of the print.
This is a clear film that the design is printed onto. Once the design is printed, the transfer film is used to heat-press the design onto the substrate.
A heat press machine is used to apply pressure and heat to the design, which helps to bond it to the substrate. You can use a standard iron, but a heat press will give you more consistent results.
Protective Paper/finishing Sheet
Whenever you heat press, it’s recommended that you use a (Teflon) protective sheet or finishing paper over the film and garment to prevent burning or damage. It’s also used in a second pressing which helps bolster the overall design durability.
If you’re hoping to create your own graphics, you’ll first need reliable graphic design software. Two widely used programs are Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator; however, they can be pricey. If this is your first time venturing into the field of graphic design, there are plenty of free or low-cost alternatives, like GIMP or Inkscape.
To sum it up, DTF printing technology is better than vinyl heat transfer in terms of consumable costs, manpower allocation, and production efficiency. The two printing technologies are often compared, but the main difference is in their workflow processes. DTF has a more efficient and streamlined production process without the need for weeding. This means that time and manpower can be better used for other purposes.