DTF vs. DTG vs. Sublimation: Choosing the Right T-Shirt Printing Technique

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How To Start A Print On Demand Business

stat new print on demand clothing brand

Textile printing has witnessed incredible advancements, offering custom garment decorators a plethora of choices.

Three of the most popular techniques are Direct-to-Film (DTF), Direct-to-Garment (DTG), and Sublimation.

Each excels in specific areas— let’s break down the key factors to find the best fit for your business.

What is the difference between DTG, DTF and sublimation printing?

dtg vs dtf vs sublimation

Direct-to-Garment (DTG)

Think of DTG as a giant inkjet printer for fabrics. Specialized inks are sprayed directly onto the garment’s fibers, creating the design. Ideal for intricate details and photographic images on cotton-rich fabrics.

Direct-to-Film (DTF)

DTF involves printing your design onto a special transfer film. This film is coated with a powdered adhesive that, when heated, bonds the image to the fabric. DTF is remarkably versatile, working with a broader range of fabric types.

Sublimation

Here’s where things get scientific! Sublimation uses special inks that transform from a solid to a gas when heated (sublimation). This gas then permeates the fibers of polyester fabrics (or items with a polyester coating), creating a permanent, vibrant image within the fabric itself.

Which is better, DTF or DTG?

custom stf transfers for tshirts

There isn’t a single ‘better’ technique – it depends heavily on your specific needs. Here’s a comparison:

FeatureDTGDTF
Fabric TypesBest on cotton, blends with high cotton contentWorks on almost any fabric (cotton, polyester, blends, etc.)
Print FeelInk sits on the fabric, can have a slightly rough textureSmoother feel, slight ‘plastic’ texture
DurabilityGood wash durabilityExcellent wash durability
ColorsBest for photographs, gradientsVibrant colors, can struggle with some gradients
Startup CostModerate to highRelatively low

Is sublimation better than DTG?

screenprinting vs sublimation vs dtg

Again, the ‘better’ option depends on your priorities. Let’s compare:

FeatureSublimationDTG
Fabric TypesPolyester or polyester-coated items onlyBest on cotton
Print FeelSoftest, becomes part of the fabricDesign sits on top of fabric
DurabilityExtremely durable, won’t fade or crackGood durability
ColorsExcellent vibrancy, especially on whitePhotorealistic images possible
White InkNo white ink neededCan print on dark fabrics

Is DTF cheaper than sublimation?

is dtg better than sublimation

Considering the operational costs, DTF and sublimation printing have comparable costs.

Sublimation often has a significantly lower entry cost since the equipment tends to be less expensive.

What are the pros and cons of DTF printing?

pros and cons of dtf transfers

Pros:

  • Versatile: Works on various fabrics.
  • Durable: Withstands washing well.
  • Vibrant Colors: Produces strong colors.
  • Low startup cost: Relatively affordable setup.
  • Potential to sell transfers: You can pre-print transfers to sell to others

Cons:

  • Print feel: Slightly textured, ‘plastic’ feel
  • White ink base: Requires a white ink underbase for printing on dark fabrics.
  • Can be slower: Compared to sublimation, production may take longer.

What are the pros and cons of sublimation printing?

pros and cons of sublimation printing

Pros:

  • Soft hand-feel: Design is part of the fabric, no texture change.
  • Extremely durable: Resistant to fading, cracking.
  • Vibrant on white: Excellent color output on white polyester.
  • Fast production: Can be very quick for large runs.

Cons:

  • Fabric limitations: Only for polyester or polyester-coated items.
  • No white ink: Designs are limited on dark garments.
  • Colors on dark fabrics: Colors can be less vibrant on dark substrates.

In Conclusion

dtg vs dtf vs sublimation

Selecting the perfect printing method requires a careful analysis of your business goals.

Consider the type of fabrics you’ll use most often, the desired design aesthetic, your budget, and production volume needs.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but this guide helps you make an informed decision!

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