What is DTF Printing? A Guide to Understanding DTF Technology

direct to film printing

In the rapidly evolving world of fabric customization, new technologies continuously emerge to enhance both the quality and efficiency of textile printing.

One of the latest advancements making waves is Direct to Film (DTF) technology. Renowned for its flexibility and high-quality output, DTF is becoming increasingly popular for decorating apparel such as t-shirts and other garments.

Here are a few quick questions our customers ask us which can help you:

What type of printer do you need for DTF printing?

Specialized DTF printers are required, which use specific DTF inks and are capable of handling & printing on clear PET film. Keep in mind there are additional steps involved after DTF printing, such as powder shaking and oven baking.


Can I print DTF transfers at home?

Yes, with the right equipment like a desktop DTF printer and essential supplies, you can print DTF transfers at home.

Which is better: DTG or DTF printer?

DTF printers offer a versatile and cost-effective method that works on a variety of fabrics and colours, including dark materials while DTG is slower & more expensive because of pre-treatment onto garments, but is ideal for detailed designs for direct fabric printing on cotton.

Understanding DTF Printing

It is a digital printing technology that allows designers to apply detailed graphics to a wide array of fabrics.

The process involves printing a mirrored image onto a special polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film. This film can be of various types, such as single or double matte, and may require either a hot or cold peel after application.

Unlike Direct to Garment (DTG) printing, which prints directly onto fabric and often requires the material to be pre-treated, DTF simplifies the process by using this intermediary film.

This method broadens the scope of materials that can be decorated, accommodating fabrics that are non-cotton or have dark colors where traditional methods might falter.

dtf printers


How Does DTF Printing Work?

The DTF printing process involves a series of precise steps that ensure the final product is of high quality and durability:

1) Design Preparation

Everything begins with a design, typically created using graphic design software such as CorelDraw. This design is mirrored and printed onto a clear PET film, preparing it for the printing phase.

2) Printing

Using a specialized DTF printer, the design is printed with DTF inks, which include layers of CMYK and white ink. The white ink underbase is crucial as it ensures colours are vibrant and opaque, especially on darker fabrics.

3) Powder Application

After printing, the design is coated with a fine layer of adhesive powder. This powder adheres only to the wet ink and is essential for the transfer process. Depending on the printer’s size and design, this step may involve automatic or manual removal of excess powder.

4) Curing

The film, now embedded with the design and powder, undergoes curing, typically in an oven or through a heat press. This step melts the powder, forming a strong bond with the ink and solidifying the design for transfer.

5) Transferring

In this crucial phase, the cured design is transferred from the film onto the fabric using a heat press. The fabric is preheated to ensure it’s flat, and the design is precisely positioned for optimal transfer. The heat activates the adhesive, bonding the design to the fabric.

6)Sealing the Print

Finally, the fabric with the transferred design undergoes another round of heat pressing to seal the print. This ensures that the print is durable, wash-resistant, and ready for regular use.

View the video below to see the whole DTF printing process.

Advantages of DTF Printing

DTF printing offers several compelling advantages that make it an attractive option for businesses and hobbyists alike. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Versatility in Material: DTF printing is not limited by fabric type. It works equally well on polyester, cotton, silk, and heavily blended materials, giving users a broad canvas for their creativity.
  • High-Quality Results: Thanks to the white ink underbase, DTF prints are bright and vibrant on any colour fabric, including dark and light materials. The detail in the print is sharp and precise, making it ideal for designs with complex patterns and multiple colours.
  • Durability: Prints made with DTF technology are known for their durability and washability. The bond formed between the print and fabric is strong, making it resistant to fading, peeling, and cracking.
  • Cost-Effective: DTF printing is economical, especially for small to medium-sized runs. The setup costs are low compared to traditional screen printing, which requires screens to be made for each colour & space to accommodate the multiple screens.
  • Ease of Use and Efficiency: The process is streamlined and less labor-intensive than other printing methods. It doesn’t require pre-treatment of fabrics or extensive setup & space, making it faster and reducing the chance for error.
  • Eco-Friendly: With less waste produced in the process and no need for water (unlike in dye sublimation), DTF printing is also a more environmentally friendly choice.

These advantages underscore why DTF printing is becoming a preferred method in the textile printing industry, offering significant benefits over traditional methods and aligning with modern production values and environmental considerations.

Disadvantages of DTF Printing

While DTF printing offers numerous advantages, like any technology, it also has its limitations and challenges. Here are some of the key disadvantages:

Initial Investment: The startup cost for DTF printing can be significant, especially when purchasing high-quality DTF printers and the necessary ancillary equipment like powder shakers and heat presses. This initial expense can be a barrier for small businesses or individuals just starting out.

Technical Complexity: Although the DTF process is streamlined, it still requires a certain level of technical skill to manage the equipment, handle the materials, and ensure high-quality results. This learning curve can be steep for those without prior experience in digital printing technologies. At MaxLaser, our technical team will deliver thorough training to ensure our clients are well-versed in operating the printer and maintaining it in optimal condition. This training typically spans 2 to 3 days.

Print Feel: The feel of a DTF print can be heavier or stiffer compared to other printing methods like DTG, particularly when large areas of ink are applied. This might affect the comfort and wearability of the printed garments, especially for designs that cover a substantial portion of the fabric. Opting for fine powder can improve the texture, but it may also decrease the durability through multiple washes.


direct to film printer

Business Opportunities with DTF Printing

Versatile Printing Applications

DTF showcases exceptional versatility, compatible with a wide range of materials, each offering unique advantages for various products. 

  • Cotton and polyester are staples in the apparel industry, perfect for t-shirts and hoodies, while blends provide a balanced canvas for both comfort and print durability. 
  • Leather items such as jackets and custom bags benefit from DTF’s ability to adhere well and maintain colour fidelity. 
  • Nylon is ideal for sports apparel and outdoor banners due to its resilience and weather resistance. 
  • Denim can be transformed with custom designs, enhancing fashion items like jeans and jackets. 

Lastly, silk offers a luxurious option for high-end apparel and accessories, proving that DTF can meet both everyday and upscale printing needs.

Leveraging DTF for Business Growth

Businesses can harness DTF printing to tap into various markets, offering customized solutions that meet specific customer needs. Small businesses and startups can produce short-run custom apparel economically, appealing to local sports teams, businesses looking for promotional items, or fashion entrepreneurs testing new designs. 

Additionally, setting up an online store that offers print-on-demand services can attract a wider audience, providing a platform where customers can submit their designs to be printed on an array of products, enhancing customer engagement and satisfaction. This approach minimizes inventory risk and maximizes flexibility, adapting quickly to market trends and consumer preferences.


As we’ve explored, Direct to Film stands out as a powerful solution in the textile industry, capable of producing vibrant, high-quality prints across a diverse array of materials. 

Its versatility, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness make DTF an ideal choice for businesses looking to innovate and expand their product offerings. Whether you’re a small startup, a designer eager to explore new creative avenues, or a business aiming to enhance its promotional merchandise, DTF technology offers the tools to transform ideas into tangible products. 

By integrating DTF printing into your production processes, you’re not just keeping up with industry trends—you’re setting them, ensuring your business remains competitive and relevant in the fast-evolving world of textile printing.

If you ever need to enquire about a DTF printer or wish to order one to begin your DTF printing journey, please contact our friendly team of experts, and we will gladly assist you.


MaxLaser offers heat press machines essential for transferring prints onto t-shirts from DTF printers. Our product lineup also features UV printers, laser cutters, and laser engravers, among others.