The direct-to-film (DTF) printing process starts with printing a graphic onto a piece of film using multiple water-based colored inks, adding adhesive powder, and curing the film. The film is then applied to a garment with heat and pressure from a heat press machine, resulting in a highly detailed and long-lasting graphic. This method can be used to decorate a wide array of apparel and other items.
DTF is most commonly compared to the direct-to-garment (DTG) printing method, however, DTF is much more versatile and durable. DTG only works on pretreated cotton or natural fiber garments, whereas DTF can be put on just about any fabric. DTF can also produce more bold and vibrant colors.
Compared to standard apparel decorating techniques like screen printing, DTF printing is very much in its infancy. The printing process premiered in 2021, with mainstream adoption in late 2022. As we continue to explore the possibilities of DTF, we are discovering new and innovative applications for this printing process all the time.
Bringing DTF In-House
Apparel decorators should review a few factors when adopting DTF technology in-house: workflow, quality of equipment and products, staff training, sustainability, support, and education. If these factors don’t align with your current setup, there are many alternatives to offering DTF to your clients, such as ordering transfers and heat pressing in-house or outsourcing to another print shop.
Workflow: This process includes printing, curing, and finishing. You must understand each step before purchasing equipment.
Quality of Equipment + Products: The inks, films, and powders you use will affect the durability, feel, and appearance of the print. Do your research and be open to testing.
Staff Training: DTF involves specific techniques and knowledge to run efficiently and achieve quality results. Many machines on the market require routine maintenance. Ensure you and/or your employees are well-versed in the new technology.
Sustainability: The print shop is the last group in a long chain to touch the final product before the customer receives it. You’ll need to learn how to dispose of inks and consumables responsibly.
Support: As more US-based manufacturers are building DTF printers, the more accessible direct customer service is for US print shops. Consider this when purchasing.
Education: Continuous learning and education must be top of mind for those in the DTF space. This includes the latest advancements, certifications, and new materials and equipment, which are changing quickly.
Where to Learn More
DTF Printing is hosting DTF Expo in Phoenix, Arizona, February 23-34. The tradeshow is completely free to attendees. It’s the ultimate gathering of top brands and experts, showcasing the coolest tech and techniques in this cutting-edge field, including the ROQ IMPRESS, an automated heat transfer press, which will be utilizing Supacolor’s heat transfers. DTF Expo is your hub for all things direct-to-film printing. From the latest gear to ingenious solutions, we have the leading minds and innovators shaping the future of direct-to-film printing.
Dive deep into learning sessions tailored just for DTF printing – whether you’re a pro or new to the scene. Gain priceless insights, practical tips, and hands-on know-how to up your game.
Learn more at dtfexpo.com.
In the meantime, head over to DTF Printing, an educational platform for the direct-to-film space. DTF Printing is your number one resource for anything and everything DTF-related, including industry news, how-to’s, shop profiles, DTF basics, new products, demos, directories, and more. Our website, newsletter, and podcast (DTF Printing Podcast) are dedicated to helping apparel decorators grow their businesses and brands with DTF technology.
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