What Is DTF Printing? A Complete Process Guide 2022

DTF stands for direct-to-film printing. DTF printing is a new technology in which water-based ink, powered glue, and a particular type of transfer film transfer the image onto the garments and other substrates using a heat press.

DTF stands for direct-to-film printing. DTF printing is a new technology in which water-based ink, powered glue, and a particular type of transfer film transfer the image onto the garments and other substrates using a heat press.

what is dtf printing

The DTF printing gives you the freedom to print on various fabrics, including cotton, nylon, and polyester blend, unlike DTG printing (direct to garments), which is only used for cotton-based stuff.

In addition, the DTF printing also gives reliable results; prints last longer than traditional screen print, and versatile and quality printing at a low cost compared to other methods. Furthermore, the DTG printing gives you the smooth and lining-free finish that you want on your fabric.

This article will discuss the complete DTF printing process and its pros and cons in detail.

Essential Pre-Requisite for DTF Printing

The DTF printing does not demand a costly investment for crucial requirements from the user. If you are new or want to move to DTF printing to expand your business, you just need the following things.


1. DTF Printing Software:

DTF printing software is an essential tool because the DFT printing process is incomplete without software. DTF printing software helps optimize color intensity & sharpness, ink output, and overall print quality on fabric after transfer.

The most popular software used for DFT printing is RIP software which can handle CMYK and White Colors and help optimize vital aspects of DFT printing like image quality, ink drop size, and color profile.

2. Direct to Film Printer 

Direct-to-film printers are modified DFT printers that use 6-color ink bottles or tanks for printing. The most commonly used DFT printers that work with 6 colors of ink are Epson L800, L805, L1800etc. The CMYK inks have pored in their respective CMYK tanks. These printers allow you the convenience of operation. In addition, lines at a margin of DFT films are moved with the help of rollers to slide the page.

3. Printing Films

Unlike screen printing, particular types of PET films are used instead of regular paper in the DTF printing process. The PET films have around 0.75mm thickness and transfer images efficiently. In the market, you can get these films as DTF Transfer Films. These films are available in two forms sheets and rolls. Choose according to needs as sheets are used for small scale while rolls are used for commercial and large scale projects.

In addition, based on temperature, two types of PET films are available once the transfer process is

  • done, and the films are peeled off or removed accordingly.
  • Cold peel type PET films

4. Hot-Melt DTF Printing Powder

In DTF printing, the specialized form of powder acts as an adhesive that binds with ink pigment and fabric fibers and attaches to the printing object firmly. The adhesive powder is available in different grades of a micron in the market. So, select wisely according to your work requirements.

 5. Inks for DTF Printing

The particular type of ink is used in DFT printing and is available in CMYK colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) and white pigments. The white color is used as a base color, while other colors are printed on the surface of white.

6. Automatic Powder Shaker

For small-scale printing, a brush can apply the power to the film. Whereas for commercial setups, the automatic powder shaker is used to apply the powder evenly, and it also helps to dust off or remove the excess powder.

7. Curing Oven

 The adhesive powder is melted by using the curing oven. The curing oven is a small industrial scale oven that melts the sticky powder and applies it over the transfer film. Alternatively, a heat press machine also helps to carry out this task.

8. Heat Press Machine

The heat press machine is used for two reasons. One is for transferring the image onto the fabric, and the second also helps to melt the adhesive hot melt powder onto the film.

The Basic Steps Involves In Direct Film Printing Process

Print on Film

The first and most crucial step is to print the image onto the PET film in white color. Then print the image on a white layer after setting the colors by using the mirror image setting.


 After printing the desired image, apply an even layer of hot melt powder on the backside of the film. Do not apply a thick layer of powder, and dust out the excess powder by using a brush or automated shaker.

Melting the powder

The hot melt powder melted after its application over the film. The most common way to melt the powder is to place it in a curing oven. If the curing oven is unavailable, may use a heat press machine d noncontact mode.

For getting the best result, place the paper at a gap of 4 to 7 mm between the heat press and DFT film, and set the heating temperature up to 160 -170 degrees Celsius for 2-5 minutes.


Pre-pressing fabric is also vital before transferring the image and is mainly done by pressing or applying pressure with a heat press machine for 2-5 seconds. This process helps to remove wrinkles on the fabric and also helps to transfer a smooth image with cracks or lines.


This step is also known as the heart of DFT printing. The film with melted power and the pre-pressed fabric is placed in a heat press machine for 15-20 seconds at a 160 170 degrees temperature. This heating temperature firmly adheres the image onto the textile.

Cold Peel

Remove the fabric from the heat press and allow the film to cool down. Once it comes to room temperature, peel it off from the material.

Pros And Cons Of DFT Printing

Now we will discuss some pros and cons of DFT printing.

Pros of DTF Printing

  • It is compatible with all types of fabrics
  • can be easily used without any pre-preparation
  • Versatile and cost-effective
  • Fast process than DTG printing

Cons of DTF Printing

  • Color is less sharp and vibrant than sublimation printing.


Overall, one could say that the DFT process is cost-effective, easily applicable to all types of fabrics, does not require any pretreatment, and the overall cost of printing is less than other methods of textiles printing.

In conclusion, the DTF printing process is the most effective and convenient way to produce printing designs on a small and large scale economically.

Check the best DTF printer overview