What are DTF Transfers?
For many people out there, DTF or Direct to Film transfers are a relatively new heat printing option. You may have heard that Stahls‘ and Stahls’ Transfer Express now offers the service of DTF transfers, which means we will print them for you. Our DTF transfer is called UltraColor MAX. People who have tried them are finding them to be the perfect solution for a wide variety of jobs. Here’s what one customer recently said about them on our Facebook Group Heat Press For Profit:
“Just pressed an (DTF) Ultracolor Max transfer for the first time…let’s just say that I’m cracking open a bottle of champagne!!! This looks great, peeled easily and is fantastic as it opens doors for me. I now can take ANY order! This has been a problem for me – these smaller orders and hitting that point with profit margin.”
When created and printed properly, DTF transfers truly are a fantastic solution for so many jobs. Which brings us to another point–not all direct to film transfers are created equal. Brett Stahl, our Chief Innovation Officer, recently published an article in the Apparelist, which is a new online publication for garment decorators. Here are some excerpts from the article.
All DTF is Not Created Equal
What You Need to Know About Direct to Film Heat Transfer Technology
By Brett Stahl
Chief Innovation Officer GroupeSTAHL
If you are thinking about using Direct to Film or DTF transfer technology in your apparel decorating business, there are a few things you need to know. First of all, not all DTF is created equal. What does that mean? Before we take a deeper dive into the differences when it comes to DTF transfers, let’s learn a little more about them.
WHAT IS DTF?
DTF, or Direct to Film, is a new technology which allows users to print designs onto special clear polyester films using digital water-based inks and a powder adhesive coating, which requires curing. After curing, you can then heat press the transfer design directly onto your garment.
HOW IS DTF DIFFERENT FROM DTG?
If you are familiar with DTG or Direct to Garment printing, you may be wondering about the pros and cons when compared to DTF printing. Both options are digital and require no screens or art separation as required with screen printing.
In fact, when DTG was first introduced to the apparel decoration industry, it was applauded as the ultimate solution, especially for printing multi-color designs and low quantities. However, many who jumped on the DTG bandwagon soon learned of the limitations of the DTG process. DTG printers can have steep learning curves, including a complicated pretreatment process. You are also limited to certain garment types and may have limited placement options on each shirt or item. With DTF, there is no pretreatment process, you print directly onto film instead of fabric and you can print your transfers in advance. While there are many advantages of DTF over DTG, some things both processes have in common is the high expense, labor intense artwork prep and time-consuming learning curve. Neither DTG nor DTF will ever replace direct screen printing, but they are both important digital options to consider.
CAN YOU USE A DTG PRESS TO PRINT DTF TRANSERS?
At this time, there are some DTG press manufacturers offering a conversion option, which would allow you to print DTF transfers. This requires modification of the press, which usually includes a heated vacuum platen for printing DTF transfers. The downside is you have to hand-powder the transfers in a powder tray and then either put them under a heat press in hover mode for a few minutes or use a flash dryer for curing. The DTF inks are very similar to the inks used for DTG but there are pigment modifications in the DTF inks. Also, if you’re printing on a DTG machine you also have to use sheets of PET film instead of rolls.
COMPARING DTF to OTHER TRANSFERS
It may be fairer to compare DTF transfers to other transfer types. For example, DTF is different from using heat transfer vinyl because you don’t need to cut and weed your images. When compared to other types of digital transfers, DTF is usually more cost effective. This is especially true when there are multiple colors in a design and the quantities are low, less than 35 pieces. From a quality standpoint, DTF transfers have crisp, defined edges and you are able to print floating text and fine lines without a problem.
In addition, they are really a great option for small quantity orders and can be extremely user friendly. You get the same type of artwork flexibility—you can print any type of artwork—as you would find with sublimation transfers. But the advantage of DTF over sublimation transfers is that you can print on fabrics other than polyester. You can also print on dark or light colored shirts, instead of being limited to white or light colored shirts as you are with sublimation.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM SCREEN PRINTING?
As mentioned earlier, with DTF you don’t need to worry about making screens, separating your art by color or worry about the numbers of colors impacting the cost and difficulty of printing. While screen printing is probably the most inexpensive way to mass produce T-shirts, you may still experience artwork and garment limitations. Also, you need to be a master screen printer to achieve truly amazing results on a consistent basis. Screen printing also requires a fair amount of space and room for various steps in the process. Many early adopters of DTF are screen printing shops that desire to keep high color, complicated jobs off of their screen printing presses.
SOUNDS GREAT—NOW WHAT?
To recap, DTF transfers have no color limitations. You can print unlimited colors at no additional cost. They are perfect for gradients and shading, as well as extremely fine details with no outline. In addition, they can be heat pressed at lower temperatures, meaning you eliminate the dreaded scorch mark when heat pressing. You get a lightweight, soft hand result that adds no additional weight to the garment. DTF prints, when properly made and applied, blend right into the fabric. In short, they offer almost all the advantages you are looking for in a heat transfer.
All in all, after learning more about DTF transfers most people agree—they sound amazing. Everyone wants to try them. Everyday we are seeing more and more companies offering DTF printers and supplies. What else do you need to know about DTF transfers? This is where we explain how all DTF transfers are not created equal. You’ll understand why when you take a deeper dive into how direct to film printing works.
To read the complete article, click here.
Like Brett mentions in his conclusion: The benefits of using DTF transfers in your custom apparel business can’t be underestimated. Imagine being able to cost effectively create full color samples to wow new customers. Once you see a properly manufactured and applied DTF transfer, it’s impressive!
It’s true. DTF transfers can truly be a gateway to expanding your business and saying yes to more orders than ever before.
However, before you jump into manufacturing them on your own, try ordering UltraColor MAX transfers from Stahls’ or Stahls’ Transfer Express. This way, you can benefit from all the advantages of DTF transfers without a huge investment in equipment and supplies.
I have been reading about DTF transfers. I’m still confused about “curing” with powder. Is that something I do before applying the artwork to a T-shirt or is that part of mfg?
Also, Yesterday, I spoke with Trish about a different topic. My gosh, the girl knows her stuff! She is quite impressive.