The DTF Printing Process: How It is Done

Jun 21, 2022 · Direct to Film (DTF)

Any business leader new in the apparel industry or not will know that printing is a huge factor contributing to product quality and, later on, to the success of the overall sales. In 2016, the global custom t-shirt printing market was valued at 1.16 billion USD and was forecast to reach a value of 3.1 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. (Statista)

With the growing market demand for customized shirts and apparel, competition is more and more becoming heightened which means the better need for standout product lines from businesses. While there are other important aspects of a successful clothing brand, the physical presentation of apparel design is perhaps the most apparent. It starts with the print quality.

In our previous articles, we have already briefly discussed DTF printing and its features, but we have yet to talk about how it is done and how the modernized apparel printing method is beneficial to your business.

What's DTF Printing?

If you are new to the business, there is no need to fret. Direct-to-Film (DTF) (also known as DTG Transfer) is exactly what it sounds like. You print an artwork on a special film and transfer said film onto fabric or other textiles. It is similar to Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing in that it uses the same textile ink. Instead of printing directly onto the garment, DTF prints directly onto a special film.

The DTF Printing Process

Print your image design with a quality printer

  • Place the Ecofreen DTF Film onto the platen.
  • Remember that the flat/matte side should be faced up before going into the printer.
  • You can use tape to secure it firmly in position.
  • The printing will be done inverted, which means the colors will be done first and then its white base.
  • Remember to print the design onto the glossy side of the film in a mirror image, so it would face the right way once printed on the fabric.

Apply Ecofreen Hot Melt Powder

  • Depending on the number of shirts you are designing, estimate the powder you will need and place them on a separate container that can accommodate the application process.
  • Remember to apply the powder evenly. Not too thin and not too thick, and remove the excess powder.
  • Bake the powder for five (5) minutes at 302 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Make sure the powder is fully dried by the heat before transferring the design.

Design transfer

  • Carefully place the design on the apparel, and press the design for fifteen seconds at 104 degrees Fahrenheit with medium pressure.
  • Let the shirts cool down before peeling off the film.


  • Lastly, repress the shirt design at 284 degrees Fahrenheit for five seconds with medium seconds. This allows the image to be set properly onto the fabric.

How DTF printing technology can help your business

  • Saves time

Once you print the design and you have already coated it with the adhesive powder, it's all cured. It's ready for application. You simply put it directly onto the apparel heat press it and then that's how the design transfers on the fabric. Get a good press, and that's it. There's no pre-treating stage at all.

  • Cost-efficient

With DTF printing, you are using films to digitally print out shirt designs. This means a lesser margin for printing errors such as discoloration and technical difficulties. See, normally, pre-treat solutions commonly used with DTG have discoloration risks for some bright-colored fabrics.

Additionally, you would need less ink compared to DTG application methods.

  • Convenient

Businesses that entertain bulk orders of customized shirt prints can acquire smart digital printers that can print out films faster.

  • Retail-ready

The faster apparel lines complete their production stage the faster it is to provide for the consumer demand every day. 

Compared to traditional silk screen printing whose mass production setback is its lack of adaptability to sudden design changes or edits, DTF can deliver 500-pieces of order even with only one heat press with an estimate of 30 seconds application time for each shirt. All the while allowing you efficient room for changes or improvements during the process.

DTF Printing drawbacks businesses ought to consider

To talk about the cons of DTF printing means mentioning why its traditional counterpart, DTG, is superior in some other printing aspects.

  • Unlike DTG, DTF prints do not have that cotton soft feel on fabric
  • Apparel with DTF prints require special washing instructions that can be a turn-off for a number of consumers
  • Depending on the printer used, DTF prints can sometimes produce low-vibrant image designs that affects the overall color quality

What you need to start with your own DTF printing process

Quality DTF equipment

We have already established the importance of quality and how the whole printing process is critical, but to produce ideal and optimal results, you ought to invest in good printing equipment.

You need a quality printer to digitally print out your designs, an advanced heat press machine for the application, and recommended CMYK ink that would not give you blotting problems.

Quality DTF Films

The films used in DTF printing are thicker than those used in traditional screen printing methods, and have better printing transfer attributes, hence DTF's durability on fabric. 

To ensure ideal printed designs, go with trusted DTF films. Ecofreen DTF film has good coating to better absorb inks, opacity for better print transfer, and has great resistance to high temperatures. You wouldn't have to worry about melting films anymore.

Robust adhesive powder

Your chosen adhesive acts as the determining factor of your apparel's durability. The hot-melt adhesive powder will assure your design prints are firm, lasting, and smooth on the fabric. Qualities that make a fine clothing brand in the market. You would not want to be selling out apparel whose designs cannot withstand handwashing.

Ecofreen adhesive powder is sure to bind every color pigment of your design to the cloth and even down to the small micro-fibers of the fabric. As long as it is applied evenly and consistently, and cured properly, you wouldn't have to worry about annoying print bubbles.

Printing software

DTF is only as digitally efficient as the software you would be using. Why is printing software important? Together with a DTF printer, software regulates technical aspects of the process such as the color and ink levels, design drop sizing, and the printing press itself. Whenever there are design adjustments too late to edit, the printing software smartly takes care of it, making sure everything is aligned from printer to fabric.

Conclusion: DTF Printing Offers More Business Possibilities

While the whole DTF printing technology offers beneficial features and scalable efficiencies, think about how large the demand is for customized shirt designs today as aforementioned.

Marketing opportunities do not only come as an apparel line but also as a provider of the technology in the subject. Today, countless apparel brands allow their customers to personalize their shirts, whether for direct sales or as reward programs. The marketing opportunities with customized printing with DTF technology are just starting. DTF technology is just beginning. Think about it.

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