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What is DTF Transfer?

What Is DTF Transfer

As the demand for DTF printing continues to rise in the customization market, DTF transfer wholesale emerges as a lucrative business opportunity, particularly for those collaborating with textile printing companies. If you are contemplating a transition from conventional printing technologies like DTG or wish to establish a customization shirt business without exhausting your savings on equipment, you have come to the right place. In this post, we will provide answers to all inquiries concerning DTF transfer. So, keep reading to discover valuable insights.

What Is DTF Transfer?

What does DTF mean?

DTF, which stands for direct-to-film, is an innovative printing method that involves using a transfer film to apply a design onto various substrates. Unlike other printing techniques, DTG (Direct-to-Garment) for instance, DTF involves printing the design onto a PET film first and then utilizing heat and pressure to transfer the design onto the surface of the substrate. This process offers a unique approach compared to directly printing the design onto the substrate itself.

What is a DTF transfer?

DTF transfer is essentially a PET film either in sheets or rolls that acts as a carrier for the printed design. The film is coated with a layer of adhesive powder that allows the design to adhere to the target substrate. In DTF printing, a customized design is printed on the transfer film and then transferred onto the substrate surface by applying heat and pressure. Similar to sublimation paper and vinyl, DTF transfers also require the use of heat press devices for the heat transfer process.

How to make a DTF transfer?

How are DTF transfers made? The process of creating DTF (Direct To Film) transfers involves several major steps to produce DTF transfer films. Here is an overview of the process:

Design File Preparation: The first and crucial step in all heat transfer printing methods is preparing the design file. It is important to note that for DTF printing, special attention must be given to mirroring the design image since a film is used to transfer the design.

Printing: After the design file has been prepared, it is uploaded onto a dedicated printer to print the design onto the PET film. Alternatively, a converted inkjet printer can be used, but it is essential to ensure that the ink is specifically formulated for DTF printing purposes.

Printing & Cutting DTF Transfer Films
Printing & Cutting DTF Transfer Films

Powder Shaking: The heat-sensitive adhesive powder is the key element that enables the design to adhere to the substrate. To ensure even distribution of the adhesive, a powder shaker or powder applicator machine is used. While manual powder distribution is possible, using powder shakers is a more efficient and time-saving option for this task.

Manual Powder Shaking & Distribution

Film Curing: Proper film curing is essential to achieve consistent and long-lasting prints that can withstand washing and wear. By activating the adhesive properties of the powder, curing ensures that the ink adheres firmly to the film. This process guarantees the design’s proper adherence to the substrate, preventing low-quality prints that may peel or wash off easily.

Film Curing with DTF Oven Machine

Traditionally, film curing is carried out using an oven. However, few manufacturers including DTF Station have developed comprehensive solutions that automate and synchronize the powder shaking and curing processes. These advanced systems may also include additional pre-heating functions to enhance adherence further, providing a more efficient and effective overall solution.

Miro 13 Powder Shaker with Upper Cover for Easy Maintenace
Miro 13 Powder Shaker with Film Curing & Integrated Air Purifier

Printing Complete: Once the film curing process is complete, the DTF transfer films are ready for heat transfer. At this stage, you have the option to use the films immediately for your intended application or store them for future projects or wholesale purposes.

To provide a clearer understanding, you can watch a demo video showcasing the entire printing process. This video will walk you through each step, giving you a visual demonstration of how to print DTF transfers.

How to use DTF transfer film?

DTF printing is emerging as the future of textile printing, but its significance extends beyond that. A comprehensive understanding of how to use DTF transfer film can assist you in making informed decisions when selecting from various printing methods.

When should you consider customizing with DTF transfer?

Opting for customization with DTF transfer can be considered in several scenarios:

  • Complex Designs: DTF transfer is well-suited for intricate and detailed designs with vibrant colors. If you have a design that includes fine details, gradients, or multiple colors, DTF transfer can accurately reproduce them on various substrates.
  • Small Batch Orders: DTF transfer is a cost-effective option for small batch orders. If you require a limited quantity of customized products, such as personalized merchandise or promotional items, DTF transfer allows for efficient production without the need for large minimum order quantities.
  • Versatile Substrates: DTF transfer can be used on a wide range of substrates, including cotton, polyester, blends, and even hard surfaces such as ceramics and wood. If you need customization on diverse materials, DTF transfer provides flexibility in substrate selection.
  • Quick Turnaround: DTF transfer offers fast turnaround times, making it suitable for time-sensitive projects. If you have tight deadlines and require rapid production and delivery of customized products, DTF transfer can help meet your timeline requirements.
  • Full-color Printing: DTF transfer enables full-color printing, allowing you to reproduce complex and vibrant designs accurately. If your customization project requires high-quality, full-color prints, DTF transfer is a viable option.

Consider opting for customization with DTF transfer when you have complex designs, small batch orders, a need for versatile substrates, quick turnaround requirements, or full-color printing specifications. Evaluating these factors can help determine if DTF transfer is the right choice for your customization needs.

What substrates can be used with DTF transfer film?

DTF printing is primarily designed for fabric printing. It’s considered the best garment printing solution because of its versatility in compatible substrates. Compared with DTG which only works on cotton-based fabric or sublimation which works on polyester-based fabric, there are fewer limitations on material for DTF. DTF transfer films thus could be used for fabrics including cotton, Polyester fiber, denim, leather, nylon, or blended fabric (50/50 blend). You may find more details on compatible fabric in our previous post “What Is DTF Printing?“.

DTF Printers Artworks Show
DTF Printers Artworks Show

It’s important to note that the specific characteristics of the substrate, such as texture and composition, may affect the final result. It’s recommended to conduct testing on a sample of the intended substrate to ensure compatibility and desired print quality before proceeding with large-scale production.

What types of customization projects can be achieved using DTF transfer?

DTF transfer enables a wide range of customization projects across various industries. Here are some examples of customization projects that can be achieved using DTF transfer:

  • Apparel and Fashion: T-shirts, jerseys, hoodies, sweatshirts, denim, caps, canvas bags, leather jackets, pants, shoes, etc. It enables personalized designs, logos, graphics, and patterns to be applied to garments.
  • Promotional Products: Branded tote bags, backpacks, purses, lanyards-mousepads, keychains, umbrellas, awards, and other merchandise items. This enables businesses to effectively market their brand and create unique promotional giveaways.
  • Home Decor: DTF transfer can be used to customize home decor items such as pillows, blankets, curtains, and tablecloths. It allows for personalized designs and patterns to be printed, adding a personal touch to interior spaces.
  • Accessories: Bags, wallets, phone cases, and shoes, allowing for customization and personalization of these everyday items.
  • Sports and Team Apparel: DTF transfer is commonly used for the customization of sports jerseys, team uniforms, and athletic wear. It enables the printing of player names, numbers, team logos, and sponsor logos with high quality and durability.
  • Personalized Gifts: DTF transfer allows for the creation of personalized gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings. Customized mugs, photo frames, and other gift items can be easily produced using DTF transfer.
  • Covers and Cases: Journal covers, diary covers, leather cases

How to use & apply DTF transfers?

If you’re new to DTF transfers and unsure about how to use or apply them, the following video will provide a step-by-step guide, explaining and demonstrating the process. By the end of the video, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to dive into your printing and customization projects.

How to use and apply DTF Transfers?

What are the benefits of DTF transfers?

There are numerous advantages to choosing DTF printing and utilizing DTF transfers over other printing technologies. Here are some key benefits to consider:

  • Versatility on Materials: DTF can be applied on a wide range of materials including, cotton, nylon, treated leather, polyester, 50/50 blends, and more (light and dark fabrics).
  • Photo-realistic Details: As a modern digital printing process, DTF allows for high-resolution prints with vibrant colors and fine details.
  • Cost Effective: DTF printing can save up to 50% white ink and supplies are also significantly more affordable.
  • No Pretreat Required: Compared with DTG, you no longer have to worry about pretreating the garment prior to printing when applying DTF printing.
  • Production Speed: Since you essentially take out a step of pretreating, you’re able to speed up production.
  • Washability: DTF has been proven through testing to be equal to if not better than traditional direct-to-garment (DTG) printing.
  • Easy Application: DTF allows you to apply the artwork on hard-to-reach/ awkward parts of the garment or fabric with ease.
  • High Stretchability & Soft Touch: You might not get the same soft hand of DTG prints, but once transferred, a DTF print can still give you a decently soft touch

What are the differences between DTF printing and other printing technologies?

In the market, there are various printing technologies, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. To provide a simplified and clear overview, I have prepared the following comparison table that compares the five most popular options available.

DTFSublimationDTGVinylScreen
Substrates108
(polyest-based fabric & polymer-coated hard surface)
8
(cotton-based fabric)
1010
Prints Quality109
(inks into fabric, potential loss of design details)
9
(inks into fabric, potential loss of design details)
8
(one layer per color, best for simple color and design)
9
(not as accurate as digital printing)
Texture9
(soft with plastic feel)
10
(water-based ink with zero feel)
10
(water-based ink with zero feel)
8
(pronounced plastic feel)
9
(using inks sitting on top of fabric)
Durability10
(excellent stretchability and resistance to cracking)
108
(withstand multiple washes without losing their color or quality)
7
(start to peel after a few washes)
9
(plastisol inks are more durable than water-based inks)
Cost-EffectiveSmall and medium ordersSmall and medium orderssmall to medium orders (pretreatment liquid is expensive and increases labor costs)small orderslarge orders
Unit Costs
(for orders)
9107
(weeding is required for each product, with high labor costs)
8
(pretreatment and post-treatment is required)
10
Easy To Use9
(powder shaking and curing is required but could be done automatically with equipment)
108
(pretreatment and post treatment is required)
7
(weeding is extremely difficult for complex design)
7
(high setup costs and complex process)
Overall9.59.58.37.89.0
DTF VS Sublimation VS DTF VS Vinyl VS Screen

While the table provides an overall rating for various printing techniques, it should not be assumed that sublimation is automatically the best choice for all projects. Determining the optimal solution for your business is a complex matter that cannot be adequately addressed by a simple table. For instance, although screen printing receives a high overall score of 9.0, it may not be suitable for small orders due to high setup costs and a complex process which would result in increased average costs per product (The cost rating of 10 points is based solely on bulk orders). As a prudent business person, it is crucial to conduct thorough research before making a decision, as careful consideration is essential.

Are DTF transfers a reliable printing option?

The two most apparent concerns revolve around the durability of DTF transfers, specifically whether they crack or peel, and how the softness of DTF transfers compares to other printing methods.

Do DTF transfers crack or peel?

With proper care and optimal conditions, a high-quality DTF transfer has the potential to outlive the garment it is printed on. When it comes to the durability of DTF prints, we are talking about longevity measured in years, not just weeks or months. Under regular use and standard washing and drying practices, a DTF print can typically withstand approximately 50 to 100 washes.

However, it’s important to note that this lifespan can vary based on several factors. For example, an athletic jersey that is frequently exposed to harsh weather conditions may exhibit signs of wear earlier than a promotional t-shirt that is worn sparingly at indoor events.

While it is challenging to provide an exact timeframe for the longevity of DTF transfers, you can expect a well-crafted and properly applied DTF print to maintain its appearance and texture for years under normal circumstances.

How does the softness of DTF transfers compare to other printing methods?

The softness and breathability of DTF transfers can vary significantly due to the different printing methods employed. Sublimation and DTG printing utilize water-based ink and directly print into the fabric, resulting in a zero-feel effect and excellent breathability for customized garments.

On the other hand, HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl) employs vinyl to create designs, essentially creating a plastic layer on the fabric. Consequently, it imparts a strong plastic sensation to the garment. Screen printing utilizes plastisol ink, which does not get absorbed into the fabric, resulting in a less soft and breathable feel compared to sublimation and DTG printing.

When it comes to DTF transfer, it falls somewhere between screen printing and sublimation/DTG printing. However, if your projects necessitate enhanced softness and breathability, it would be advisable to consider alternative solutions.

What affects the quality of a dtf transfer?

When considering the quality of a DTF transfer, numerous factors should be considered. The following are key elements that can significantly influence the overall quality.

  • DTF Transfer Film Quality: Higher-quality films tend to have better adhesion properties, vibrant color reproduction, and durability. It is important to select a reliable and reputable supplier for obtaining high-quality DTF transfer films.
  • Adhesive Powder Quality: The adhesive powder functions as a binding agent, acting like glue, and is essential for ensuring the durability of DTF transfers. The quality and effectiveness of the adherence between the ink, film, and substrates are significantly influenced by factors such as the adhesion properties and size uniformity of adhesive powder.
  • DTF Ink Quality: Quality inks should offer excellent color saturation, opacity, and adhesion to the transfer film and substrate. Using compatible and reliable inks designed specifically for DTF printing ensures optimal quality. That’s why DTF Station only uses Korean ink for DTF printing (The pigment itself may not differ significantly, but it is worth noting that Korean milling technology is widely recognized in the global market for its consistent color performance.)
  • Equipment Quality: This not only refers to the printer but also the powder applicator machines. Factors such as the precision, consistency, and even distribution of the powder application can affect the adherence and durability of the DTF transfers. Therefore, selecting reliable and well-maintained powder applicator machines is important to achieve optimal quality in DTF printing.
  • The Design: Designs with large, solid shapes provide more surface area for the adhesive powder and ink to adhere to the substrate. This results in a stronger bond and better resistance to wear and tear. On the other hand, designs with small, separate parts and thin lines may have less adhesive powder and ink coverage, making them more prone to cracking or peeling over time.
  • Application Process: The proper application of DTF transfers is of utmost importance. Achieving the right balance of temperature, pressure, and time during the heat press operation is crucial to ensure optimal bonding between the transfer and the fabric. Any mistakes or errors in this process can result in a less durable print. To ensure the best results, it is recommended to carefully follow the heat press instructions specifically tailored for DTF transfers.
  • Substrate Compatibility: Different substrates may react differently to DTF transfers. It is important to consider the compatibility of the transfer film and ink with the specific fabric or material being printed on to ensure good adhesion and durability.
  • Environmental Exposure: Environmental exposure, including sunlight, extreme temperatures, and weather conditions, can significantly impact the durability of DTF transfers. Prolonged sunlight exposure may cause fading, while extreme temperatures can weaken the bond between the transfer and fabric. Harsh weather conditions and engaging in activities like sports or outdoor work can also contribute to peeling or deterioration of the transfer. If you are planning to stock DTF transfers for wholesale, it is crucial to take extra precautions in maintaining the storage conditions to help preserve the quality of the transfers. Factors such as temperature, humidity, and exposure to light should be controlled to prevent any potential damage or degradation.
  • Care and Maintenance: Care and maintenance play a vital role in extending the lifespan of a DTF print on a garment. By following proper care instructions, you can significantly improve the longevity of the print. Gentle washing, using mild detergents, and opting for line drying whenever feasible can all contribute to preserving the print’s quality over time.

Where to get DTF transfers?

Having read all the preceding information and reached this point, you may have already decided whether DTF transfers are the perfect solution for your business or customization needs. However, the challenge arises when it comes to sourcing DTF transfers, as they are not typically found as standard goods in local shops. Don’t worry, here are some places where you can find the DTF transfers you need:

  1. Printing Service Provider: Numerous online and local printing companies offer customized printing services where you can upload your designs to obtain personalized DTF transfer films. Additionally, some providers may offer pre-designed stocked transfers that you can inquire about if interested. However, it’s important to note that many printing service providers may have a minimum quantity requirement for each printing order. This means that you may need to meet a certain quantity threshold to proceed with your order.
  2. Online Transfer Retailer: In addition, there are online retailers in Etsy or on their own website that specialize in stocked transfers featuring their own designs, catering directly to end-users. Some of these retailers have their own equipment setups and may offer customization printing services, even for small quantities. You can engage with them to purchase stocked transfers or explore the option of printing your own design.
  3. DTF Printer Dealers: Numerous DTF printer dealers not only offer printing services to companies but also engage in the wholesale of transfers as part of their business. While they may not provide customized transfers for your personal needs, you can reach out to them if you are considering starting a transfer business.
  4. Print DTF Transfers Independently: If you are contemplating starting a transfer reselling business, opting to print transfer films yourself can be a cost-effective long-term solution compared to relying on external sources. Moreover, it grants you the freedom to create your own designs, allowing you to differentiate your brand and business while avoiding price wars.

Should I start a DTF transfer business?

A highly debated topic within the customization community is “can I use a premade DTF transfer and sell it?”. If you are considering starting a DTF transfer business, it’s crucial to break down the question into three key inquiries. By examining our responses to these questions, you can formulate your own answer and make an informed decision.

Is there any problem using a premade DTF transfer?

Using well-maintained or properly stored pre-made DTF transfers generally poses no issues. However, it is crucial to note that storage of pre-made DTF transfers requires additional expertise. If not handled properly, problems such as bubbling, curing issues, loss of adherence, and transfers sticking together may occur. To prevent these problems, here are some valuable storage tips:

  • Use airtight containers: Opt for ziplock bags, plastic bins, or plastic folders that provide an airtight seal.
  • Lay them flat: Store the transfers in a flat position, avoiding any angles, edges, or bends.
  • Avoid over-stacking: Refrain from creating tall piles or placing additional weight on top of the transfers.
  • Interleaving: Place sheets of paper between transfers in a stack to prevent them from sticking together.

By following these storage tips, you can minimize the likelihood of encountering issues and maintain the quality of your pre-made DTF transfers.

Can premade DTF transfers be a profitable business opportunity?

When you search on Google, you will discover numerous websites engaged in DTF transfer wholesale, either through their own websites/blogs or platforms like Etsy. The concept of customization has firmly taken root in the minds of customers, and the affordability of customization services has made it accessible to everyone. As a result, the market for customization is vast and continues to expand each year. With its multitude of advantages, DTF transfers present a promising and profitable market to enter. The crucial question then becomes: How can you maximize the potential of DTF transfer for your business?

Are there any restrictions or guidelines for selling premade DTF transfers?

One of the primary concerns in the DTF transfer business is the potential infringement of copyright. In certain countries, such as the United States, creative protections are automatically granted from the moment something is created. Hence, it is advisable to always assume that an image is copyrighted unless you have explicit confirmation otherwise. Fortunately, there are numerous websites offering a wide range of free images available under Creative Commons licenses. Additionally, if you are willing to pay for copyrighted material, there are commercial stock photo sites that manage pictures on behalf of photographers, ensuring they are appropriately compensated for the use of their work.

If you have uncertainties about using such sites, an alternative approach is to capture your own photographs or create original designs to sidestep any potential copyright issues. This way, you can ensure that the content you use is either properly licensed or entirely your own, mitigating the risk of copyright infringement.

Essential Equipment & Supplies for DTF Transfer Film Printing

To start printing DTF transfers, there are some essential equipment and suppliers you need to get prepared. And here is a list of everything you gonna need:

  • Computer: This is the essential tool where you can either download design files or create them from scratch to be printed.
  • DTF Printer: The DTF printer is specifically designed for DTF printing, and its price can range from $3000 to $9,000 depending on the features and functions it offers. While there are cheaper options available, it’s important to note that the print quality may not be satisfactory with these lower-priced alternatives.
  • DTF Film: This is the medium on which the design is printed. The average DTF film cost for printing a shirt is approximately $0.98.
  • DTF Ink: DTF printers require CMYK+W inks, with the white ink typically needed in larger quantities compared to the other four colors. It is recommended to have approximately 2-3 times the amount of white ink compared to the quantity of the other colors. Therefore, when creating your buying list, ensure you include a sufficient quantity of white ink for your printing needs. The average ink cost for printing a shirt is approximately $1.74.
  • DTF Adhesive Powder: The average adhesive powder cost for a shirt printing is around $0.17.
  • Film Curing Oven: If freshly printed DTF artwork is not powdered and cured, the print may become sweaty and begin to drip when stored. The cost of a film-curing oven is approximately $900.
  • Heat Press: This is an essential tool used to apply heat and pressure to complete the heat transfer process. A decent heat press typically costs around $800.
  • Powder Shaking Machine (Optional): While powder shaking can be done manually, opting for a powder shaker with an integrated film curing function can be a business-oriented solution. This not only saves money as a complete solution but also automates the printing process, increasing productivity and reducing labor costs.
  • Air Purifier (Optional): If you are printing in a sealed room or enclosed space, there is a chance that odors or smoke may be present during the printing process. An air purifier can help keep your workspace clean and eliminate any unpleasant smells.
  • Printing Management Software: The printing process also necessitates the use of paid software to operate, control, and manage the printing operations. The cost of this software is typically included in the DTF printer package provided by the seller. However, it is advisable to verify and confirm this when purchasing your DTF printer.

The Best Setup for DTF Transfer Wholesale Startups

Choosing the right setup for your DTF transfer startup can indeed be a challenging task. With so many options available in the market, it’s crucial to make informed decisions that align with your specific business needs and goals. Factors such as budget, production volume, quality requirements, and future scalability must be carefully considered. Amidst the diverse range of choices, our A4 solution stands out as one of the finest options tailored specifically for startups and those entering the business world. With its thoughtful design and features, it offers a reliable and efficient solution to kickstart your DTF transfer venture.

Prestige A4 DTF Solution
Prestige A4 DTF Solution
  • Efficient and Space-Saving: Our devices are expertly designed to be compact and lightweight, optimizing your workspace. The package includes a powder shaker, a film curing machine, and an integrated air purifier, providing a comprehensive solution for the entire printing process while saving valuable space.
  • Excellent Value: Our printer offers exceptional value for customization business owners with its impressive printing speed of 0.8㎡/hour, making it a competitive choice in terms of cost-effectiveness without compromising on quality. We understand the importance of delivering the best value to our customers.
  • Safety and Intuitive Operation: With advanced features like a white ink circulating system and an auto-cleaning system, our setup ensures a safe and user-friendly experience. These features not only enhance safety but also make the entire process extremely intuitive, even for those new to DTF transfer printing.

Overall, it’s the perfect solution for entry-level DTF Printing.

The Best Setup for Businesses Transitioning to DTF Transfer

Transitioning from a traditional DTG or other printing approach to DTF printing can open up new possibilities for your customization business. To meet the demands of this expansion and ensure a professional and advanced setup, our A3 solution is the perfect fit for commercial printing businesses like yours. With its advanced features and capabilities, it provides the ideal platform to enhance your product line and take your business to the next level.

Pristige-R2-A3-DTF-Printing-Solution-to-Automate-Printing-Process
Prestige R2 A3 DTF Printing Solution to Automate Printing Process
  • Compact and powerful: As an A3 DTF printer, the desktop size and compact structure of the Prestige R2 allow it to easily fit in small workshops despite its limited footprint. Despite its compact size, it does not compromise on functionality. The Prestige R2 was developed for business owners with space constraints who need to print between 150 to 200 shirts daily with a printing speed of 2.5㎡/hour at 8pass.
  • Miro 13 Powder Shaker: The Miro 13 powder shaker is an all-in-one machine that automates the traditionally labor-intensive processes of powder shaking and film curing while integrating an air purification system. By automating these processes, the Miro 13 eliminates much of the trouble associated with shaking powders and curing films by hand. Its integrated air purification system also cleans the air during operation.
  • Enhanced Safety: Our R2 A3 DTF printer prioritizes safety and simplicity. Equipped with a white ink circulating system, auto-cleaning system, and an additional auto ink alarming system, it minimizes the need for manual intervention during the printing process. These intelligent features ensure a seamless and hassle-free operation, allowing you to focus on maximizing productivity and achieving superior results.

Conclusion

DTF transfer is an innovative printing technology that offers numerous advantages for customization businesses. Its ease of use, versatility, and cost-effectiveness make it an appealing option for both beginners and established professionals. Compared to other technologies, DTF transfer stands out with its ability to print on a wide range of substrates, vibrant color reproduction, and durable results. By harnessing the power of DTF transfer and understanding its unique characteristics, businesses can unlock endless creative possibilities and meet the evolving demands of their customers. Whether you’re looking to expand your product line or embark on a new venture, DTF transfer is a game-changing solution that can elevate your customization business to new heights of success.

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