DTF Vs Sublimation – Which is Good for You?

As we all know that textile printing is an emerging industry and people are investing more and more every day to help it grow further. Newer techniques are being invented that make fabric printing easier and more long-lasting. One such technique is DTF printing. It is a relatively newer technique as compared to sublimation printing which is why people usually find themselves comparing DTF vs sublimation printing. Some people would even go as far as to swear upon the supremacy of one over the other. However, the suitability of each printing method depends upon the need.

No one can tell you which printing method, sublimation printing method or DTF is good for you, because they don’t know your requirements. Your needs and preferences may be totally different from others. So you must have adequate knowledge about the pros and cons of each method. And also a thorough understanding of what you actually need to do.

After that you will be able to choose an appropriate printing method that goes best with your requirements. In any case, I would recommend you to read out this article till the very end so that you don’t miss out on any points in between.

DTF Vs Sublimation

What is DTF Printing?

DTF, Direct-to-film printing is also known as direct-to-screen printing. It is a traditional screen printing method used in the graphic arts industry. In this DTF process, the artwork is printed directly onto a transparent film using a printer. The film acts as a stencil or mask, which enables the ink to transferred onto the printing substrate.

What is Sublimation?

Sublimation printing is a digital printing method used primarily for transferring vibrant, full color designs onto various materials, especially fabrics like polyester. Sublimation printing does not use liquid ink. It utilizes sublimation dyes that can be converted from a solid to a gas state without going through a liquid phase.

Difference between DTf and Sublimation

Both techniques are good in quality. Somehow there are some differences, let’s discuss;

1. Transfer Process and Print Quality

There may be a lot of similarities between DTF and sublimation mainly because they are both textile printing techniques. However, there are certain differences between the transfer process and the print quality.

DTF stands for Direct to Film, which means that the image is first transferred to a film and then from that film to the fabric. The print does not integrate the fabric rather it sits on the surface of the fabric like a very thin sticker. It may peel off and wear out after repeated use over time. However, the print quality is much better and more vibrant.

On the other hand, sublimation printing is quite different. It involves sophisticated printers and heat press machines that transfer solid inks onto the fabric without converting to a liquid state. The most distinguishing feature of sublimation printing is that the ink integrates the fibers of the cloth and becomes a permanent part of it. As a result, it does not wash out, peel off, or wear out even after continuous use. However, sublimation prints have a good print quality and have vibrant coloring.

2. Print Size

Another major difference between DTF and sublimation printing is the print size produced by them. DTF produces smaller prints of maximum of 12 x 15 inches.

Whereas sublimation prints are much larger, accommodating size of 16 x 20 inches. So, that is also a defining difference between the two printing techniques.

So, it can be safely concluded that DTF is only suitable for smaller projects where you are not required to produce large prints. In all other cases, you can use sublimation printing.

3. Print Texture

As I mentioned earlier, DTF prints are like stickers that sit on the surface of the fabric. The inks do not integrate into the fibers of the fabric. In fact, an actual adhesive is used to stick the printing material onto the fabric. This is why the print texture of DTF prints are very smooth and shiny.

Sublimation printing involves a lengthy process in which the sublimation inks are ingeniously embedded into the fabric and become a part of it. As a result, the print texture is exactly the same as the texture of the fabric without the print.

4. Color And Material Suitability

There are also vast differences between DTF and sublimation in the case of color and material suitability. DTF can be done on almost all kinds of fabrics and materials.

Whereas, sublimation can be done on a selected few material types including ceramics, plastics, polyester, and metals.

Moreover, DTF printing can be done in light as well as dark colors and can also print in white colors.

However, sublimation prints on light colored fabrics and cannot print in white color.

5. Cost

There is not a big difference of cost between DTF printing vs sublimation. Somehow DTF printing is slightly cheaper than sublimation. As there is no need of transfer paper. Cost can vary product to product. It’s all depend on which type of fabric you are using for printing.

But the cost of DTF printers and heat press machines are more than the sublimation printers and heat presses. You can get an entry level sublimation printer about $300. For sublimation ink and sublimation paper, it will cost about $40 for each. After that you have to purchase a sublimation kit which cost is about $500. To start sublimation business, it will cost about $1000.

On the other hand, DTF printers are costly. Their starting price is $3000, oven ranges starting cost is $600 and the ink cost is about $60 per one liter. For start up of DTF, it will cost about $4000.

Tips to Choose Sublimation vs DTF

Choose Sublimation Printing if you primarily work with high polyester content fabrics and require photorealistic prints with outstanding color reproduction and excellent durability.

Choose DTF Printing if you need to print on a variety of fabrics, including both polyester and cotton, and if you prioritize vibrant colors and intricate designs.

It is necessary to consider factors like fabric type, color requirements, desired design complexity, and budget when making your decision. In some cases, you might even choose to use both methods based on the materials and designs you want to print. Ultimately, both DTF and sublimation printing offer high quality results, so the “better” choice depends on your specific printing needs and preferences.


What is the difference between DTF and sublimation?

The major difference between DTF and sublimation is in the printing technique itself. DTF is transferred to the fabric via a film. Moreover, an adhesive is used for sticking the pattern to the fabric which means that the ink does not integrate into the fibers of the fabric. However, in sublimation printing, the inks are embedded into the fabric thus becoming a part of it.

Is DTF the same as sublimation?

No, DTF is not the same as sublimation. In fact, there are some major differences between the two. For starters, in DTF printing the inks do not integrate into the fabric, unlike sublimation. Moreover, there are also various differences between the texture, print quality, colors, and durability of the two.

Final Thoughts

Now you have understood the difference between DTF vs sublimation printing, its cost, processing, print quality and which you have to choose for your business. It doesn’t matter which printing method you are following. Quality of the printing product does matter to enhance the business.

In the end, I would like to recommend you get sublimation printing done if your objective is to print large and long lasting prints. However, if you want to prints on small products you can go with DTF printing.

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