DTF stands for Direct to Film. Direct to film printing method is as simple in its work as its name suggests. It prints on a film and directly transfers it onto fabric. This process involves printing your design straight onto a film, which is then transferred to a cotton, polyester, or blend T-shirt, regardless of color, because it also works with white ink.

Even though direct to film printing appears to be a variation on transfer printing, it calls for a desktop inkjet printer with textile inks that are specifically made for DTF printing. While DTF printing is a relatively new technology, it has quickly gained popularity among those in the garment printing industry. This printing method is long-lasting, and the designs come out very detailed and vibrant.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the direct to film printing working technique, the pros and cons of direct to film printing, and the comparison between DTF and other printing techniques.

How Does Direct to Film Printing Work

Direct to Film printing is relatively quick to do compared to other printing methods. It’s an excellent technique for printing detailed designs on bulky outdoor products. DTF printing follows a few steps to transfer the design onto the garment:

Step #1: Prepare the Film and Powder Adhesive:

The Direct to Film printing machine first prepares a film and places it in the DTF printing machine so that the full design can be printed in color. After the first layer is made, the machine prints a white layer over the entire picture, fully covering the first layer.

Now, the wet ink is then uniformly covered with a powder adhesive. Finally, the film is heated to prepare it for fabric transfer after the powder has been evenly applied and all excess powder has been removed. A curing oven or a heat press machine is used to heat the adhesive.

Step #2: Using a Heat Press and Pre-pressing the Fabric:

The fabric receiving the pattern is dehumidified and pre-flattened by being maintained under heat for 2 to 5 seconds inside the heat press machine while the PET film is preheated.

The film is taken and installed on the pre-pressed fabric after first flattening. The design on the film is then applied to the garment using a heat press for 15 to 20 seconds at a temperature of around 165°C.

Step #3: Peel the Film and Post-press the Fabric:

When the design is transferred onto the fabric, the second to last step is carefully cold peeling the film. When the film is removed, the created cloth is flattened a second time in the heat press to improve the design’s longevity. And after post-pressing, the printed garment is ready.

Direct to Film (DTF) Pros & Cons

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of direct to film printing technological advancement in the printing industry.


  • You feel a little bit of the material it is printed on when you touch it. The fabric will have outstanding wash resistance after printing.
  • The DTF process is less tiresome and quicker than other printing methods, such as DTG.
  • You can use this printing technique on almost any material or fabric.
  • DTF does not require any pretreatment.
  • Direct to Film gives high-quality prints with vibrant colors and sharp details.
  • DTF is fairly cost-effective for large quantities of prints.


  • Direct to Film requires a separate stencil for each color used in the design, increasing setup time and cost for multi-color prints.
  • Direct to Film (DTF) is unsuitable for small-scale or one-off printing jobs.
  • The color vibrancy is somewhat lower in DTF than in sublimation printing.
  • The printed area is a little more noticeable than subliminal printing.
  • Limited color options compared to other digital printing options.

Direct to Film Printing Compared to Other Print Methods

With so many print methods to choose from, you’ve got to narrow down which method suits your long-term business goals the best. We’ve put together a brief comparison of DTF printing with other well-liked print methods to make it simpler for you.

Pay attention to the types of designs and fabrics that work best for DTF prints, DTG prints, as well as with sublimation or screen printing. That way, you can plan what technique to use with your brand’s product selection in mind.

Features Direct to Film (DTF) Sublimation Screen Printing Direct to Garment (DTG)
Process Prints design onto film, then heat presses film onto garment. Dyes fabric with heat-activated inks. Stencils ink onto fabric through mesh screen. Sprays ink directly onto garment.
Fabric Compatibility Widest range - cotton, polyester, blends. Limited - light-colored polyester, polyester blends. Limited - cotton, cotton blends. Wide range - cotton, polyester, blends (may require pre-treatment).
Design Complexity Handles complex designs, photos well. Handles complex designs, photos well (best for vibrant colors). Limited detail - best for simple, bold designs. Handles complex designs, photos well.
Color Vibrancy Very vibrant. Most vibrant on light-colored polyester. Vibrant on cotton, good on polyester. Very vibrant.
White Ink  Yes No (cannot print on dark fabrics).  Yes Yes
Minimum Order Quantity Lower (suitable for small batches). Higher (bulk printing preferred). Higher (bulk printing preferred). Lower (suitable for small batches).
Setup Cost Moderate. Moderate. High. Moderate.
Printing Cost per Garment Moderate. Lower for bulk orders. Lower for bulk orders. Moderate (higher for light-colored garments).
Durability Good. Excellent. Excellent. Good.
Feel of Print Slightly raised texture. Feels like part of the fabric. Thick, raised texture. Slightly raised texture.

Overall, Direct to Film, Screen Printing, Sublimation, and Direct to Garment are all popular printing methods and have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on the specific needs of the printing job. And it’s important to consider above mentioned factors before choosing a technique for printing designs


In conclusion, Direct to Film printing is an effective method in the printing industry. Its process, involving the transfer of designs from film to fabric, offers a unique solution for intricate designs with vibrant and durable results. While DTF printing offers several advantages, such as its versatility and ability to handle complex details, it’s important to consider its pros and cons against other printing methods. Ultimately, the choice of print method depends on factors like design complexity, fabric type, and desired outcome. However, direct to film printing stands out as a promising option for those seeking high-quality prints on various fabrics, making it a valuable addition to the printing store for garment decorators and designers alike.