Search
Close this search box.

DTF Film 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Basics and Beyond

DTF Film GUIDE

What’s DTF Film?

DTF film, crafted from PET material, functions as a designated design carrier in the textile printing process, commonly referred to as Direct-to-Film printing. This specialized medium possesses a clear or translucent composition, featuring a frosted coating on one side and a glossy surface on the opposite side (In the case of double-sided film, both surfaces exhibit a frosted texture). The frosted side serves as the designated printable surface for imprinting intricate designs.

Though DTF film is also a PET film but it’s with specilized layers and coatings for DTF printing purposes including: anti-static layer, PET layer, release layer, ink receptive/color layer. And its special ink absorb coating and release coating enable DTF film absorbs ink well and have better transfer effects, achieves more vivid image color presentation.

DTF STATION Hot & Cold Peel DTF Film
DTF STATION Hot & Cold Peel DTF Film

When printed with a design (referred to as DTF transfer), DTF film facilitates the seamless transfer of the design onto a wide variety of fabrics available in the market. This transfer process is achieved by applying heat and pressure. This dynamic capability positions DTF film as a versatile tool for creating vivid and detailed prints on diverse textiles.

What are different film types?

By Coating Process: Single-sided & Double-sided

Through the coating process, DTF films can have a frosted coating on either a single side or both sides. The introduction of double-sided films aimed to address the challenge of sliding dislocation that printers faced in the earlier stages of DTF technology. Beyond resolving this issue, the additional advantage of employing a double-sided coating is its capacity to accommodate more ink and powder, ultimately resulting in prints of superior quality and increased durability. That’s also the reason why we use double-sided coating for all our films.

By Peeling Process: Cold/Hot/Cold&Hot/Instant Peel

In terms of the release process, DTF films can be categorized as hot peel, cold peel, cold&hot pee, and instant peel films. Cold peel films require the backing to cool down after heat pressing before peeling, ensuring optimal transfer. In contrast, hot peel films, containing wax content, allow the carrier sheet to be torn off approximately 5 seconds after heat pressing, facilitating a quicker process. The cold & hot peel DTF film (the film offered by DTF Station falls into this category) offers users the flexibility to choose between peeling off the carrier sheet either when it’s cool or hot. DTF Station’s latest instant peel film enhances productivity and efficiency while preserving the highest quality and intricate details of designs.

Instant Peel Film

By Visual Results

While standard DTF film delivers vivid and vibrant results suitable for most garments, incorporating DTF films with special visual effects can offer added advantages for business owners. Various options for unique visual effects include glitter film, golden film, reflective colorful film, luminous film, temperature-change film, and more, providing a diverse range of choices to enhance the appeal of printed designs.

Glitter DTF Film: Infused with a glitter coating on the DTF transfer film, this variant creates a dazzling glitter effect, offering a perfect alternative to Glitter vinyl.

Golden DTF Film: Coated with golden glitter, this film expands your options for DTF printing by adding a luxurious and shiny golden bronzing effect to your designs, enhancing the overall application range.

Reflective Colorful DTF Film: When illuminated, this DTF film reflects colors similarly to reflective heat transfer vinyl, making it ideal for personalized customization and providing a vibrant color reflection effect at specific angles.

Luminous DTF Film: Featuring a photoluminescent effect for prolonged afterglow, this film is perfect for special clothing designs, adding a creative touch to garments like t-shirts, bags, shoes, socks, and more, allowing prints to glow in the dark.

DTF Gold/Silver Foil: With a shimmering metallic sheen, this film brings flair to your designs, and its washability ensures a lasting shine.

Fluorescent DTF: Achieving a neon effect requires DTF fluorescent ink, complemented by any of the aforementioned DTF transfer films when used with a fluorescent DTF printer.

Temperature Change Film: This film produces varying effects under different temperatures, brightening designs as the temperature rises and darkening them as it decreases, providing an engaging visual dynamic.

How does DTF film work?

Load Media

The initial phase involves configuring the machine for the correct loading of media. Ensure that the matte printable side is positioned outward, and take precautions to secure both the film roll and the feed bar to prevent any unwarranted movement. This meticulous setup is crucial for a seamless printing process. Furthermore, handle the DTF film with care, ensuring that the surface remains free of any scratches.

Prestige R2 Pro: DTF Film Loaded on Holder

Print Design

In DTF printing, the initial step involves the printer applying a base layer of white ink onto the film. Subsequently, the designs are meticulously printed line by line atop this white foundation. This process makes DTF particularly effective on fabrics of darker hues, whereas sublimation tends to excel on lighter-colored fabrics. It’s important to note that creating designs in the correct orientation for the final prints often requires a mirroring process, where the design is horizontally flipped. This ensures that the intended outcome aligns seamlessly with the original vision.

Apply Powder

The role of hot melt powder in DTF printing is crucial as it serves as an adhesive, ensuring the firm adherence of the design to the fabric. The quality, quantity, and even distribution of DTF powder are paramount factors in achieving flawless results. While manual powder application can suffice for smaller Print-on-Demand (POD) orders, employing an automated powder shaker machine proves advantageous for achieving a more uniform and precise distribution of powder. This automated approach enhances the overall quality of the printing process, contributing to consistently optimal outcomes.

Powder Applying with Automatic Powder Shaker Machine

Cure The Film

The next step is film curing. This pivotal stage ensures proper adherence of the powder to the design, establishing a stable and well-bonded layer. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of powder scatter during the subsequent heat press, resulting in more precise and defined prints on the final fabric. Users equipped with a heat press can utilize the hover function for film curing. Nonetheless, for advanced users seeking more even heat distribution and enhanced efficiency, investing in a dedicated DTF oven proves to be a faster and more efficient solution.

Phoenix Air Oven for DTF Printing
Phoenix Air Oven for DTF Printing

Secure The Transfer

Once you have the cured film, proceed to place the transfer film onto the garment, utilizing the provided size and placement guide for accurate positioning. Prepare the transfer for heat application by securing it in the desired location and using heat-resistant tape to prevent unintended shifts during printing. For enhanced outcomes, consider utilizing a Teflon sheet or pillow if available.

T-shirt Design Size Chart Transfer Placement Guide
T-shirt Design Size Chart Transfer Placement Guide

Heat Transfer

Now, proceed with the heat transfer using a heat press machine. Before closing the heating platen, ensure that you have configured the correct temperature, time, and pressure settings for optimal results. While these settings may vary depending on your equipment and fabrics being used, you can initiate testing with the following parameters. It is also advisable to start testing with a lower temperature initially.

MaterialTemperatureTimePressure
Cotton320-350°F (160-180°C)10-15SMedium to Heavy
50/50 Blends320-350°F (160-180°C)10-15SMedium to Heavy
Synthetic & Polyester Fabrics280-300°F (140-150°C)10-15SMedium to Heavy

Additionally, the type of film utilized for DTF printing significantly influences the time settings. Hot peel film should be pressed at a temperature of 140-150℃ for 5-10 seconds. Conversely, cold peel film may necessitate pressing at 150-170℃ for 10-20 seconds.

Please note: All the recommended figures are tailored to our specific equipment and supplies. It is advised to conduct a few tests and calibrate the settings to achieve optimal results before proceeding with bulk printing on your own machines and supplies.

Peel Off

After the heat transfer process, the next step would be peeling off the carrier sheet. Depending on the DTF film type you are using, you might need to wait for different periods of time until it’s ready to be peeled off. The most popular DTF film types by peeling off method is cold peel and hot peel. For cold peel film, it usually requires to wait for about 30 seconds or the temperature is lower than 55℃ before it can be peeled off, otherwise, it is very likely to tear the hot stamping pattern. For hot peel film, you might peel off the carrier sheet 5 seconds after pressing. Apart from cold peel and hot peel, the instant peel DTF film from DTF Station allows for immediate peeling off while providing excellant printing results.

How to use DTF transfer film?

In the last part, we have explained how does DTF film and DTF printing works step by step. Now we would like to discuss on how to use DTF transfer film.

Essentials To Start DTF Printing

Before we discuss more details regarding how to use the DTF transfer film, it’s important to make it clear what essentials are required to start DTF printing. Following are the equipments and supplies necessary for using DTF transfer films:

  • DTF printer: Essential tool to print design onto DTF film.
  • DTF ink: Inks specifically formulated for DTF printers.
  • Hot melt powder: Functions as an adhesive to create a strong bond between fabric and designs.
  • DTF curing oven (optional): Users could either use heat press for film curing or use a DTF curing oven to have more even and efficient heat distribution and faster curing. (To prevent excess powder on the film, it’s also recommended to pre-heat film for 5 seconds before applying powder.)
  • Powder Shaker (optional): Users can opt for manual powder application or utilize a powder shaker machine, with many models also featuring integrated curing functions.
  • Heat Press: A heat press machine is a crucial tool for the heat transfer process. Depending on the substrate, you may require a hat press for cap printing or a flat press for printing on T-shirts.
  • Teflon cover sheet: While some may list the Teflon sheet as an optional accessory, its importance cannot be overstated. We strongly recommend using it during DTF printing to prevent direct contact between the platen and the film, ensuring even heat distribution for optimal results.
  • Heat-resistant tape (optional): Use to secure the DTF film on garment.
  • Protective Glove: Protection is necessary, and safety is always a top priority.

Compatible Fabrics with DTF Film

DTF film is compatible with a wide range of fabric types available in the market, including the following popular materials:

  • Polyester fiber: Polyester is a synthetic fabric with a wide range of applications including sportswear, casual wear, swimwear, outwear, including lining.
  • Denim: Denim has always been very popular especially for denim jackets, jeans and skirts.
  • Cotton: Cotton fabric is more comfortable than polyester thus are popular choice for clothing and household items, such as decorative lining, bedding, children’s clothing and different professional items.
  • Leather: DTF printing is also suitable for leather and PU leather including leather bags, belts, clothes and shoes.
  • Nylon: Nylon fabric cannot be dyed or printed in high temperature environment, so direct jet printing is mostly used for printing, and acid dyes are also used. The difficulty of acid dyes lies in the unstable color and poor color fastness after printing. These problems have existed for a long time. While this won’t be a big problem for DTF printing.
  • Blended fabric (50/50 blend): Blended fabrics are fabrics that are composed of two different materials. For digital textile printers, each material requires different types of inks, we must use inks that are suitable for the main materials that make up the fabric. This also means that the ink won’t stain another material, resulting in lighter colors and white exposure, so printing blended fabrics is best done with a DTF printer to ensure color consistency.

How to use DTF transfer film?

The market for ready-to-press DTF transfer film is extensive, providing business owners with the option to either print and wholesale DTF transfers or create custom-made garments or products for direct sale to end-users. If you choose the latter, here are some ways to leverage DTF transfer film to enhance the value of your business.

  • Custom Apparel Printing: Create personalized and custom-designed clothing items, such as T-shirts, hoodies, and jerseys, catering to individual preferences and niche markets.
  • Custom Home Décor: Extend your services to include custom home décor items such as pillow covers, blankets, or wall art, catering to interior design enthusiasts.
  • Branded Merchandise: Produce branded merchandise for businesses, organizations, or events, offering a unique and tailored branding solution.
  • Promotional Products: Expand your offerings to include promotional products like bags, caps, or accessories, providing a diverse range of options for clients.
  • Fashion Accessories: Explore the creation of fashion accessories like scarves, hats, or socks, showcasing the versatility of DTF film in textile printing.
  • Event Merchandising: Partner with event organizers to create custom merchandise for concerts, sports events, festivals, or corporate gatherings.

Cold peel or hot peel: which one to use?

A highly debated topic of DTF film revolves around the choice between hot peel film and cold peel film. Making an informed decision requires a clear understanding of the distinctions between these two types of DTF film.

Differences between cold peel DTF film and hot peel DTF film

Cold PeelHot PeelHot & Cold PeelInstant Peel
Fabric TypesAll Fabric Types
(Better fors pecial fabrics like tarpaulin,coated cloth, and rough texture fabric)
All Fabric TypesAll Fabric TypesAll Fabric Types
Settings150-170℃ for 10-20s, 30s for cooling140-150℃ for 5-10s, 5s for cooling160℃ for 15s, 5s for cooling140℃ for 10s
Color
Matte (Stronger texture)
Brighter (Stronger color expression )Brighter (Stronger color expression )Even Better than hot & cold peel film
CostLowHigher Than Cold PeelSame As Hot PeelSame As Hot Peel
Transfer PerformanceBetter for designs with Complex, intricate patterns and fine detailsLarge images, patterns, such as: T shirt print on front and backLarge images, patterns, such as: T shirt print on front and backLarge images, patterns, such as: T shirt print on front and back
EfficiencyWait for over 30sWait for 5sDepends on users’ choiceNo Waiting
Washing FastnessBestGreatGreatGreat

Fabric Types

While all types of DTF film are compatible with most fabric varieties on the market, certain special fabrics, such as tarpaulin, coated cloth, or those with a rough texture like canvas and flannelette, exhibit better performance with cold peel DTF film compared to hot peel and instant peel DTF film. Due to the additional time required for these fabrics to restore adhesion and flatness after heat pressing, the cold peel method allows sufficient time for optimal results. Opting for hot peel or instant peel with these fabrics may pose the risk of wrinkles forming as the fabrics cool down. Therefore, when selecting the appropriate DTF film type, consideration of the fabric type is essential.

Settings

Another reason why hot peel DTF film excels in bulk production is that cold peel film typically demands higher temperatures and more extended heat pressing times. In contrast, instant peel DTF film requires only 140℃ for 10 seconds and requires no cooling, offering a time-saving and energy-efficient solution for business operators.

Color Expression

In comparison to cold peel DTF film, hot peel DTF film typically produces more vibrant and vivid colors. Cold peel film, on the other hand, tends to generate a more matte color finish and offers a stronger texture. As for instant peel DTF film, after conducting several tests, it has been proven to deliver even more vibrant colors than hot peel DTF film.

Cost

Due to the more intricate production process and stricter standards for consistency and coating accuracy in the coating machine, the costs associated with hot peel, cold & hot peel, and instant peel DTF films tend to be higher compared to cold peel DTF film. Nevertheless, with advancing technology and the maturation of the industry, the cost disparity has become negligible and can be safely ignored, particularly in the context of bulk production.

Transfer Performance

When it comes to the final results of heat transfer, cold peel DTF films typically excel in providing complex and intricate patterns, including fine lines, small icons, and detailed letters. This is attributed to the extended time it allows for the inks to solidify, preserving intricate details in the designs. However, for large-scale production orders or designs with fewer details, such as large images and patterns, hot peel DTF film would be more than adequate.

Efficiency

In terms of efficiency, the instant peel DTF film enables the immediate removal of the carrier sheet, significantly enhancing production efficiency. In contrast, cold peel DTF film may require at least 30 seconds to achieve optimal results. While this delay is acceptable for print-on-demand (POD) orders, for larger bulk printing projects, opting for hot peel or instant peel would be a more advantageous choice.

Washing Fastness

When assessing wash fastness through repeated launderings, cold peel DTF often surpasses hot peel vinyl, showcasing longer-lasting decals, a reduced likelihood of cracking or peeling, and superior color retention.

This distinction arises from the strength of the adhesive bond formed with the fabric. The ultra-sticky release layer of hot peel can adhere too aggressively to uneven textured fabrics. In contrast, cold DTF adheres more gently, allowing greater flexibility in the transfer film to move with the fabric, preventing rigid adhesion and subsequent cracking over time.

DTF printed t-shirts washing tips
DTF printed t-shirts washing tips

It’s worth noting that, beyond DTF film types, the washing fastness and durability of prints are also influenced by daily care and washing practices. For more detailed tips, you can refer to our DTF shirt longevity guide.

Cold peel & hot peel: which DTF film is better?

There’s no one-size-fits-all response to this question. For print-on-demand (POD) orders and specific fabrics mentioned earlier, cold peel would be the preferable choice. However, for large-scale production orders and different fabrics, hot peel and instant peel emerge as viable options to explore.

In practical scenarios, the decision-making process becomes more intricate, as business operators weigh numerous factors to achieve optimal results. For further details and guidance on selecting DTF film, refer to the next part of this post: How to Choose DTF Film.

How to choose DTF film?

When faced with various options for DTF film, the most recommended practice is to conduct tests and compare all available choices to determine the best fit for your business model and scale. Here are key features of a high-quality DTF film:

  • High Ink Loading: The ability to hold a substantial amount of ink without runoff, even during high-pass printing.
  • Fine Line Printing: Capability to print fine lines clearly, with ink that does not smudge upon printing.
  • Clean Shake Powder: Minimal excess DTF polyamide powder adheres to the unprinted area after the shake powder process, ensuring a smooth edge to the print.
  • Easy Peel-Off: Presence of a stable and uniform release layer in the coating, facilitating smooth and adhesive-free peeling of the base film.

To provide you with a clearer understanding and facilitate the comparison process, here are five essential factors to consider.

Factor 1: Ink-absorption Capacity

Within the layers of a DTF film, the paramount layer is the color or ink-absorption layer. The quality of this layer directly influences the film’s capacity to carry ink or powder, playing a crucial role in print quality. An indicator of inadequate ink absorption is the mixing or flowing of white and color ink on the films.

Factor 2: Adhesive Strength

Assess the adhesive strength of the film. A quality DTF film should have an adhesive layer that forms a strong bond with the fabric, ensuring proper adhesion during heat transfer. The adhesive strength would also guarantee great results with different fabrics and users could also run tests on different materials to confirm its performance in this term.

Factor 3: Color Saturation

Choose a DTF film that maximizes color saturation, ensuring your prints are visually striking and true to your original design. The richness and vibrancy of colors depend on the film’s ability to effectively hold and showcase pigments. Opting for a film that enhances color saturation will make your designs pop with life and intricate detail, captivating viewers at every glance.

Factor 4: Heat Resistance

The heat resistance of the film serves as a crucial indicator of its quality. Insufficient heat resistance may result in inadequate drying and melting of the hot melt adhesive powder and ink, leading to film breakage and printing failure. It’s imperative to select a film with robust heat resistance; however, it’s essential to strike a balance, as excessive heat resistance is not necessarily advantageous. Finding the right level of heat resistance is key to ensuring successful and reliable printing outcomes.

Factor 5. Detail Preservation

Examine the film’s ability to preserve fine details, especially in small icons, intricate lines, and text. A good DTF film should maintain clarity and sharpness in the transferred design.

Factor 6: Durability

Prints capable of withstanding environmental challenges guarantee longevity, making them suitable for a range of applications, from apparel to promotional materials. Evaluate the resilience of the DTF PET film across various conditions, such as exposure to sunlight, moisture, and washing. Opting for a durable film ensures that your prints maintain their quality and integrity over time.

Factor 7: Film Thickness

The appropriate thickness enhances the overall durability of your prints while maintaining flexibility, rendering them suitable for a diverse range of applications.

How to sore DTF film?

The importance of proper storage for DTF film cannot be overstated for all DTF printing business runners. Without it, business owners risk facing losses and printing failures. To aid business runners in achieving proper storage practices, we have created a post offering tips and instructions on DTF film and transfer storage. For further guidance, you can refer to the post for valuable insights.

DTF Transfer Storage Tips
DTF Transfer Storage Tips

FAQs

What is double sided DTF film?

Double-sided DTF film features frosted coating on both sides. Despite the frosting on both sides, only one side is printable. Experienced users can easily identify the printable side through touch or visual inspection.

The development of double-sided DTF film stems from its capacity to accommodate more film and powder, leading to higher quality and more durable prints. Another advantage is that the friction from the frosted back side effectively prevents static electricity, ensuring the film stays in place during printing and guaranteeing optimal printing results.

Which side of DTF film to print on?

Whether you’re using single-sided DTF film or double-sided film, there is only one side that is printable. A simple method to determine the correct side for printing is to hold the film up to the light. The side that reflects more light should not be printed on, while the side that appears darker or less shiny is the printable side. During the printing process, if you observe the ink running, it is an indication that you are likely printing on the wrong side of the film. This straightforward technique ensures accurate identification of the printable surface, facilitating a smooth printing process.

How to remove DTF film?

If you are inquiring about the process of peeling off the DTF film carrier sheet, it is recommended to consult the supplier regarding the specific film type. Cold peel films typically require at least 30 seconds before peeling, while hot peel films may be peeled off after waiting for a few seconds. If you are looking for guidance on removing a DTF transfer from printed shirts, YouTube provides a comprehensive list of tutorial guides that you can refer to for detailed instructions.

Can you use sublimation ink on dtf film?

Yes, many DIY users have conducted tests using sublimation ink on DTF film, and the majority of the results have not been favorable. Here is a video that you can reference for more information:

Cand DTF film be reused?

No, DTF film cannot be reused. To facilitate optimal printing results by absorbing and retaining ink and powder, DTF film is engineered with a specialized coating. After the initial use, this coating is substantially depleted, rendering the film unsuitable for further printing applications.

Conclusion

You’ve completed the comprehensive DTF Film 101 guide, and now it’s all about practical application. Armed with insights into film types, operational techniques, and decision-making criteria, you’re ready to implement. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Take it one step at a time; experimentation is key. Got thoughts on DTF film? Share them below or on your socials! Your ideas can spark inspiration for others diving into this guide.

Share:

Recommended Readings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DTF Station Catalog 2024

Subscribe to Be the First to

⬇️ Download Latest Catalog
🚀 Discover New Product Launches
🎨 Master DTF Printing with Pro Tips
📰 Stay Informed with  Industry News

Hold On! Don't Miss Out!

Subscribe to Be the First to

⬇️ Download Latest Catalog
🚀 Discover New Product Launches
🎨 Master DTF Printing with Pro Tips
📰 Stay Informed with  Industry News