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How Does Direct-to-Film Printing Stack Up to Other Decorating Methods?

How Does Direct-to-Film Printing Stack Up to Other Decorating Methods?

Screen-printing shops should understand the differences between various printing methods when considering expanding their services. Each technique, from sublimation to direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, has strengths and limitations. 

One printing technique that stands out for its versatility and ability to cater to various fabric types and colors is direct-to-film (DTF) printing. However, like any technique, DTF printing requires proper training and practice to ensure optimal customer results.

How Does DTF Compare to Other Printing Methods?

Let’s compare DTF with three other widely used imprinting techniques. 

Sublimation printing produces impressive results but is suitable primarily for white polyester fabric, which limits its application to other fabrics or darker colors. DTF printing works on a variety of fabrics, as well as light and dark fabrics.

Direct-to-garment printing (DTG) is ideal for cotton fabrics but may have limitations with other fabric types. DTG allows for full-color designs, but may not offer the same versatility as DTF regarding fabric options.

Screen printing offers various inks for different fabric types, but achieving full-color designs can be challenging. It also involves minimum order quantities and preparation processes.

With DTF, you can turn out higher-volume orders, as well as quickly produce full-color, custom runs of 35 pieces and under, a more efficient option than screen printing when you’re doing smaller, full-color jobs. If you're a screen printer, having DTF transfers at the ready makes you more versatile, since you can produce DTF film positives fast.

The Advantages of DTF Printing

DTF printing offers unparalleled versatility. It adheres to almost any kind of fabric or textile, from cotton/polyester blends and leather to nylon or cordura. DTF printing offers high-contrast results that are suitable for light and dark garments. 

Ready for full-on, vibrant color? DTF transfers use a white base layer for vivid printing, ensuring crystal-clear images with clean edges, even on darker backgrounds. Decorators love DTF for its ability to produce vibrant, long-lasting, full-color photorealistic designs with a limitless color palette of CMYK hues. This printing method allows printers to expand their offerings and cater to customer needs, providing soft-hand feel designs for maximum comfort.

Pro tip: Proper design and execution are crucial for achieving desired results in DTF printing to avoid prints with a heavy plastic feel.

While each printing method has strengths and drawbacks, DTF printing is one of the most versatile options for screen printers looking to expand their services. By offering the ability to print on various fabric types and colors, DTF printing provides printers with greater flexibility and opens up new possibilities for customization. 

To DTF Print or Not to DTF Print

Is DTF printing right for your shop? Before diving in, assess your business model and goals. Check your order history for established shops to gauge demand for small print runs that DTF can serve well. However, it might not be the best move if your focus is mainly on large orders and the investment doesn’t match your needs. 

For newer shop owners, think about your long-term vision. Traditional screen-printing gear might suit you better if you're aiming for high-volume printing. But DTF could be worth exploring if you prefer a more leisurely start or want to offer small custom runs. Your choice should align with your business strategy and customer demands.

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