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What is Direct to Film Printing?

Direct to Film or DTF Printing is taking over the customization industry by storm. As the name implies, this process involves specialty machines that print directly on a film, making this a transfer printing method. What makes these transfer printing machines stand out is their speed, versatility and vibrance.

The growing popularity of DTF in the printing industry

If you’ve been in the apparel or promotional goods industry, you have heard about Direct to Film. DTF Printer users have the ability to sell their transfers and finished products.

But when we talk about Direct to Film Printing there are two major different technologies. DTF for fabrics and textile applications, as well as UV DTF Printing that is for decals and application on hard surfaced goods.

Keep reading to learn more about the machines taking over the market and for an exploration into the different types of DTF Printers.

>> Understanding Direct to Film Printing ?<<

Direct to film printing uses a combination of Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, White and Black pigment inks. The coloured pigment is printed face down on a translucent film, and then the white ink forms a layer of top, giving these transfers a vibrant, rich look when placed on garments.

Key components of DTF printing process
There are a few absolute must haves if you are looking to start DTF Printing. The number one necessity is a printer!

There are two major types of DTF Printers, those for fabrics and those for decals. The way the technology of the printing process works is relatively the same in all these printers. The big difference is the ink used.

But we’ll dive into that more later.

The second thing you must have for direct film printing is film! The film is basically a transfer sheet. Some films come in large rolls for high production, but you can also find the transfer film in precut sheets. The printer you are using will determine what film you need for the job.

Advantages of DTF printing
DTF or Direct to Film printing stands out for its phenomenal versatility across various substrates and its ability to deliver remarkable color accuracy and vibrancy.

One of DTF printing’s strengths is its compatibility with a wide range of materials, including textiles, garments, ceramics, wood, leather, and more. This versatility allows businesses and artists to explore and experiment with different mediums, expanding their creative horizons

DTF printers maintain a stunning level of accuracy and vibrancy. Whether it’s intricate designs on fabrics or detailed images on hard surfaces, DTF technology is known for its consistency and reproducing vivid and true-to-life colours every time.

>> DTF Printing for Fabric <<

Now let’s chat about DTF Printing for fabrics. This t-shirt customization method is truly what made DTF Printing rise to fame. This apparel decorating machine requires no pre-treat, has a super soft hand feel, and features amazing wash fastness.

The Digital HeatFX line of DTF Printers are commercial-grade, automatic transfer printers. The Digital HeatFX DTF 24/H4 features 4 print heads and a printing field width of 24 inches (60cm). And this machine is FAST. But how fast?

The Digital HeatFX 24/H4 prints 145 Linear Feet per hour (41 Linear Meters per hour). This translates to around 300 Full Front Transfers an hour.

This speed, accuracy and versatility has propelled DTF Printers into money making machines.

Printing the design on a film sheet
A DTF printer uses translucent PET films. They have a thickness of approximately 0.75mm. This is great for production, because they only need to be heat pressed onto garments for about 8-10 seconds.

Some business owners have transformed their Direct to Garment Printers into DTF Printers for smaller scale production. Because of this, the film can be found as cut sheets or as rolls for big commercial setups. There are two classifications of PET Films based on temperature. These are cold-peel type films and hot-peel type films.

Adhesive Powder
The Hot-Melt Adhesive Powder is what gives DTF prints their transferring power. This powder is a white granular product and works as an adhesive material. This helps bind the colored pigments in your printer to the surface you are printing on.

With commercial grade DTF printers like the DigitalHeat FX line, the application of the hot-melt powder is automatic. Meaning the machine has a powder storage container and carefully monitors and pours the amount of powder needed on the transfers.

The DigitalHeat FX DTF Printers are a production powerhouse, so of course they also have an onboard dryer that melts or “cures” the powder into a thin adhesive coating onto the printed ink.

For those using a converted DTG printer to produce DTF Transfers, they will need to purchase an additional curing machine or use a heat press with a hover feature.

Heat pressing the film onto the fabric
Now we’ve come to the last stage of the DTF Printing process for making custom t-shirts. These types of transfers require heat to adhere to garments and other fabrics.

So, if you plan on starting or expanding your customization business with DTF, you will need to invest in a reliable heat press machine.

Benefits of DTF for fabric printing
DTF Printing uses two things: water-based inks and the hot melt powder. They are extremely soft and flexible, making them ideal for clothing.

As discussed earlier, this specialty ink has amazing washability. These transfers will outlive the life of your garment.

The best part of transfer printing is if you don’t need to fit the object you’re trying to decorate in the actual printer. These transfers can be put on any hard to print areas. Think collars, tags, pant legs, etc.

BUT another great thing about transfers is you can decorate some items that are outside the box. Home décor like pillowcases, table runners, blankets and tea towels are an easy way to diversify your t-shirt business with DTF Printed transfers.

UV DTF Printing for Decals

With the rise of DTF Printing for shirts, there has become a big market for UV DTF Printing to great decals.

The process uses a transfer film and UV curable inks. Direct to object UV Printers, like the Compress iUV line, use a hard, semi-flexible and thermo-formable ink. Plus, they have no dry time.

Users of traditional UV printers looking to produce DTF transfers will require a separate laminating machine, that warms up the prints and marries them together with a carrier sheet.

However, if your business goals rely heavily on decals and stickers you will want to look at UV/DTF printers that have built in laminators.

Applications and advantages of UV DTF for decals
UV inkjet technology can produce prints at very high resolutions, allowing for the faithful reproduction of intricate details, subtle gradients, and sharp, crisp lines. This level of detail is especially beneficial for applications like fine art reproductions, photography, and product packaging, where image quality and clarity are paramount.

A big advantage of UV DTF Transfers is ease of application. Curvy objects, rough surfaces, or just odd shaped and large items can be extremely difficult to fit into a UV Printer. And the uneven surface doesn’t fair well with print head adjustments.

With UV Direct to Film transfers you can just print them on the film and stick them where they need to go!

Choosing the Right DTF Method

Now let’s review the key difference between UV DTF and DTF for fabrics.

UV DTF uses a hard, semi-flexible and thermo-formable ink. DTF Printers for garments use a water-based, flexible, pigment ink. And because of these different inks, your transfer applications will be strikingly different.

When selecting between DTF for fabrics and UV DTF for decals consider the project requirements and material compatibility of your businesses’ jobs.

Keep Exploring: What is DTF Printing?
Videos demonstrations are a great way to immerse yourself into the world of DTF Printing. This gives you a real look at the printing process and requirements of different machine types.

Still have questions? The printing experts at the YES Group are ready to answer. Send an enquiry on our contact page now!