Direct-to-Film Printing: A Beginner’s Guide

Direct-to-Film Printing: A Beginner’s Guide

Direct-to-film (DTF) is a new printing technique that prints the designs directly on PET films and then transfers these designs onto the material. Whether you have a custom printing business or are delving into new printing options, learning in detail about DTF will offer great insights. 

We’ll discuss the prerequisites and process of direct-to-film printing in detail. The article will also talk about the advantages of DTF printing over traditional methods. So read along and prepare to create some cool printed apparel. 

DTF Printing

What is DTF?

DTF is a digital printing technique that can transfer the most intricate designs accurately on different types of materials. You can use it for fabrics such as cotton, nylon,and poly blends. etc

Direct-to-film printing uses special ink, powder, and DTF films to transfer the colored print over the choice of material. Heat is used to layer the prints, giving them a more high-definition impact without the bleeding of colors and design separation. 


Process of DTF Printing

The process includes creating the design, preparing materials and learning how the equipment works. Here are the steps that are involved in DTF printing:

Step 1: Create Designs

Create a digital design that will be added to the fabric or other material of choice. Use design programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Canva, and CorelDraw and create files in JPG, JPEG, TIFF and PDF. 

Step 2: Print on Film

The DTF printer will print the designs into a semi-transparent PET film. During the printing process on the film, the first printed layer is the colored layer which is followed by a white layer. The process is done at a low heat temperature. 

Step 3: Apply Powder

The hot melt powder will be applied to the PET film. The printed film will go through the powder shaking machine that will evenly spread the powder. This white granular powder works as an adhesive material. Note that the powder has to be applied while the colored print is wet on the film.

Step 4: Cure Film (Melt the Powder)

Once you have printed on the film and added DTF powder to it, the printed film with powder will need to be cured using heat. Use a curing oven or belt system oven in the shaker machine for curing at 110 degrees Celsius for a few minutes. 

Step 5: Cut Film

Cut the DTF transfer film to separate the design from it. Leave a small border around the edges for easy transfer. 

Step 6: Transfer Film Prints to Garments

Place the cut film of the designs with the print down. Set the heat press machine temperature at 160 degrees Celsius and press the fabric for 15-20 seconds. Each fabric will have a different printing temperature, so make sure to test the suitable temperature and pressing time. 

Step 7: Peel Off the Film

After the design is printed on the surface, peel off the film very carefully after cooling. While peeling, see that the design is completely sticking on the surface and not coming along with the rest of the film. 

Step 8: Post Pressing

To improve the print quality, you can flatten the printed fabric one more time over the heat press. This will enhance the durability of the design. Before creating a bigger batch of printed goods, it’s best to test the prints and do tests like wash and rub fastness. Once you’re sure of the quality, your printed garments are ready for use.  

dtf process

What are the essential requirements for direct-to-film printing?

You will require a special printer and ink for DTF printing. Apart from these, we have listed all the prerequisites to start direct-to-film(DTF) printing.

DTF Printer

A DTF printer is the backbone of the whole process. You may find various options such as high precision, high quality, A4 and A3-width DTF printers. Compare price, design elements, printing output and size of the printer when choosing a model. 

You may choose from small, medium or large printers. The small one will have a printing width of 30-35 cm. On the other hand, medium and large printers can print ranging from 60 cm to 1.2 meters. So, choose according to the prints you will be printing on surfaces. 

DTF Hot Melt Powder

The hot melt powder is the adhesive for the ink printing. You may choose TPU hot melt powder, anti-sublimation or regular powder. All these have different durability and washing resistance. For instance, TPU powder will resist heat and washing more than others. Anti-sublimation powder will offer better colors to the prints. 

DTF Film

Pick a good quality DTF PET film that is at least 90μ thick. This will make the transfer easier with its high ink absorption and easy handling. Moreover, it is anti-static and hence will tear off easily when the design is transferred. 


The available colors are CMYK+W–cyan, magenta, yellow, and black + white. In addition, fluorescent colors with special fluorescent inks are also available. 

Powder Shaker

Choose a powder shaker to apply hot melt powder over the transparent film. This is doable only for small-scale printing as the labor cost will rise with manual work. For larger projects, go for a printer model that has an in-built powder shaker and dryer. 

Heat Press Machine

Flatbed heat press and rotary heat press machines are popular for transferring patterns via heat. The choice will depend on the designs and printing size. A flatbed is ideal for printing on the fabric by laying flat on it. In the case of rotary heat press, it offers 360 degrees heat transfer ideal for large-size prints that need continuous heat. 

Design Software

Choose a reliable design software such as Adobe, CADlink, or Canva for creating patterns. You may use the free version if you’re a beginner. Investing in paid software tools will provide more features for creating better prints.

What Fabric Can You Work with DTF Printing?

DTF printing is ideal for various fabrics and materials as the machines are super-versatile. Here are some of them: 

  • Polyester: DTF printing works perfectly for polyester for making swimwear, casual wear, sportswear and other accessories. It can create durable prints with vibrant colors. 
  • Fleece: DTF may be used for fleece with caution as the material is susceptible to heat damage.  
  • Cotton: Printed cotton t-shirts, bags, and other clothing items can be made as the material does not get damaged with heat. It also does not require any pretreatment compared to other cotton printing processes.
  • Nylon: This synthetic fiber works well with DTF printing as it is high in quality, elastic, and resistant to heat damage. 
  • Blended Fabric: DTF printing works well on blended fabrics that are a blend of two different fabrics.
  • PU Leather: High-quality leather can be printed with the DTF technique. Printed leather for bags, jackets, boots and wallets has become popular. 
  • Denim: A thick material that can withstand DTF printing and deliver fashionable clothing and accessories. 


What Products Can You Work with DTF Printing?

You may design the following products using the DTF printing process: 

  • Accessories such as bags, pillows, umbrella, printed fabric tags, and scarves.
  • Clothing items like t-shirts, sports team apparel, hats, pants, shorts and sweatshirts. 

dtf application

How Much Does it Cost to Print a DTF Shirt?

Once you have set up a DTF printing machine a single t-shirt may cost you $3-$6 depending on the quality of fabric, printing ink and film. The total cost of the project, including the printer and other consumables, is around $3000~$4000. Note that the exact price of the project depends on the choice of printer model and size, but per printed shirt, it will be no more than $6. 

Pros and Cons of Printer DTF

DTF printing proves to be better than other printing techniques. We’ll discuss both pros and cons of the printing process. 


  • Durable prints without cracking, peeling and fading.
  • Long-lasting print quality with vibrant colors. 
  • No need for pre-treatment of fabrics.
  • Versatile use for various fabrics and materials.
  • Affordable for making printed goods in bulk.
  • Quick turnaround with a simple printing process. 
  • More sustainable as it generates less waste and uses less water. 


  • The initial investment for the DTF printer set is high. 
  • There is a limited output and scalability when making large prints. 
  • Handfeel isn’t as good as sublimation printing or DTG printing

What Does UniPrint Offer?

Now you know all about Direct-to-film(DTF) and how simple the process is. You just need the right equipment and some excellent designs to print on the choice of material. Since the quality of print will depend on the printer model and ink, it’s crucial to invest in a reliable printer. 

UniPrint offers all the essentials you’ll need to set up a printing process. You may choose the DTF printer 600 model for large printing output. It is compatible with various surfaces and has a printing capacity of 60cm. If you’re looking for a sleek space-saving solution, go for the DTF printer 300. It is ideal for fabrics as well as hard materials with a printing ability of 30cm. 

UniPrint also offers DTF film, powder and ink to ensure you can carry out printing smoothly. Get in touch for all the DTF printing needs for quality-assured products. 


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