DTG vs DTF vs Sublimation: What Are the Differences?

Jan. 15, 2023


DTG vs DTF vs Sublimation: What Are the Differences?

Apparel printing is a growing industry that is evolving with changes in technology. Diverse types of printers, diverse types of ink, and different methods for transferring the image to the garment are all crucial factors in the quality of your product and what you are capable of producing. The 3 main types of apparel printing are DTG (Direct to Garment), DTF (Direct to Film), and sublimation. Here is a comparison to help you understand the differences between them so that you can choose the right type for your business needs. 

DTG Printing (Direct To Garment)

Direct to garment printing works just the way the name suggests: the printer prints the image directly onto the fabric. There is no film or transfer paper required, however, the garment does need to be pretreated to ensure that the image transfers properly. DTG printing requires a specific type of ink and is usually best when printed on cotton fabric. 

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DTF Printing (Direct To Film)

Direct to film, or film to garment printing, involves printing the image onto a film first, then transferring the image from the film to the fabric. DTF printing does not require any pretreatment of the fabric, but it does require a powder to be applied after the image is transferred onto the film to prevent the ink from running or streaking. 

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Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing uses a unique process that is different from DTG and DTF. Instead of liquid ink being printed onto fabric or film, a solid ink substance transitions from a solid state directly to a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The image is printed onto transfer paper and then transferred to the fabric. The ink is heated until it blends right into the fibers of the fabric. 

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Important Factors in Choosing a Printing Type 

When it comes to deciding which type of apparel printing is right for your business or the project at hand, consider the following factors: 

  • Fabric color. Sublimation printing works better on lighter colored fabric because of the way the ink blends into the fibers. To print on black or dark colors, DTG is a better printing method. 

  • Range of colors in the image. Sublimation has some color limitations, especially white. If there is white in your image you may want to go with DTG or DTF printing. 

  • Type of fabric. DTF printing works on any type of fabric, but DTG works best on cotton and sublimation works best on polyester. 

  • Size of the order. If you need to print a large number of items quickly, DTG printing is often the best option because it is faster. However, the pretreatment does take some time, so if you have a rush order you may want to try DTF or sublimation. 

  • Texture of the final product. The image on a DTG product tends to feel more rough as the ink bonds with the fabric, whereas DTF feels smoother and more plastic. A sublimation printed image feels the same as the rest of the fabric. You wouldn’t know it was there if you closed your eyes and felt the garment. 

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