How Do You Make DTF Transfers?

What are DTF Transfers?

For many people out there, DTF or Direct to Film transfers are a relatively new heat printing option. 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.

DTF Step by Step Transfer Process

  1. Create/prepare the artwork. You’ll want to use an RIP software program with DTF transfer capability and get the ICC profile from the ink manufacturer. This will ensure that the color quality is optimized for the final product.
  2. Print the image. After the art is created, the image is printed onto the PET film. You’ll need a DTF printer to print the films. Several models on the market range from smaller desktop models to larger industrial printers for widths up to 24 inches. If you’re more technologically inclined, it’s also possible to modify some DTG printers into a DTF printer.
  3. Add adhesive powder. Once the film comes off the printer, the user sprinkles a heat-melt powder over the transfer. This method is done either by hand with a shaker or automated with a machine.
  4. Apply heat. With the powder on the film’s surface, the user transfers the film to a heat press. Unlike a traditional heat transfer, this step is different. Instead of closing the press fully, the top platen must hover over the powder and the transfer instead of clamping down. The time and temperature will vary depending on the manufacturer, so you’ll want to check with your supplier.
  5. Remove transfer. With this transfer process, some manufacturers, like Polyprint, recommend a cold-peel process (waiting until the film adhered to the shirt has cooled down) to peel the film off the fabric.

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.

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