Log DTF vs. DTG printing: what are the differences.

What is DTF printing?

Direct-to-film printing is a relatively new technique that’s growing in popularity. DTF prints have excellent color accuracy and detail, are durable, and look fantastic. 

Other DTF printing benefits include low production costs, a wide range of color options, and the ability to print on dark and light garments. It’s also suitable for materials such as polyester, cotton, nylon, and fleece.

How does DTF printing work?

Here are the basic steps of DTF printing:

  • The design is printed onto a special transfer film with water-based inks
  • The ink on the film is then coated with a special adhesive powder
  • Then, the design is transferred onto the fabric using a heat press
  • While the process seems lengthy, involving multiple steps and actions, print time for one garment is just a few minutes.



What is DTG printing?

Direct-to-garment printing (DTG) is a method in which the ink is sprayed directly onto the garment. This allows for high-quality, full-color prints. DTG prints are soft, breathable, and very durable.

DTG printing is best suited for fabrics like cotton, bamboo, and other natural materials, as the material absorbs the ink. DTG is one of the most popular printing methods in on-demand production.


How does DTG printing work?

Unlike DTF printing, DTG requires fewer steps to get the design printed on the garment:

  • First, the pre-treatment is applied to the garment to help the ink bond with the fabric
  • Then, the garment is mounted on a platen, and the design gets sprayed with water-based inks on the fabric
  • After that, the ink is cured to make the print more durable.v

The main advantage of DTG printing is that it’s easy to print one-offs because there’s almost no setup time. Printing one t-shirt takes just a few minutes, and the production costs are low too.


DTG vs. DTF printing: what are the differences

While both printing methods may seem quite similar—they have some substantial differences. Both printing methods provide fantastic results, but there’s more than meets the eye.


Print quality and durability

DTF print quality is excellent. Even though the print has a plastic feel and might be slightly stiff initially, it’ll wear in after a few washes. Other than that, DTF prints are smooth and elastic, which ensures longevity. The prints resist cracking and can handle heavy use and cold to lukewarm washes without fading color. However, if garments are washed in boiling water, the design may develop cracks. 

The DTF method is excellent for printing photos, colorful designs, graphics, and fine art. The results will be amazing because the ink doesn’t soak into the fabric but is pressed on top. The print is very thin so that it won’t feel bulky.



Direct-to-film printing colors

DTG printing also provides fantastic print quality. A fresh print may feel slightly rough but smooths out after a few washes. The print might have a somewhat rubbery feel, but it doesn’t cause any unpleasant sensation to the touch. Usually, it won’t be noticeable at all. 

The DTG technique is great for printing colorful designs, graphics, text, and more. These prints always look great, but some factors may influence the outcome. For example, since the fabric soaks up the ink, the print may be less vibrant, especially on black or colorful garments. 


Print complexity

When it comes to printing complex designs, DTF prints are unparalleled. DTF printing can reproduce photos, detailed full-color designs, fine art, small text, graphics, and more with sharp, clear, and realistic results that closely resemble the original design. Additionally, DTF printing allows for printing gradients. However, it's important to note that the base of a DTF print is white ink, which may impact the gradient or transparency of your design.

Similarly, DTG prints also support colorful designs, graphics, photos, fine art, small text, and more, producing vivid, clear, and detailed prints. It's worth remembering that the fabric absorbs the ink, which may affect the clarity of the design. Printing gradients with DTG requires careful adjustment of your design. If you want to learn more about transparency in DTG printing, you can find additional information here.


Color vibrancy

DTF printing utilizes primary colors (CMYK - cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) along with white ink as the base. This ensures that all designs appear vibrant and vivid, regardless of the fabric color or type.

Similarly, DTG printing also relies on the CMYK color model for printing designs. The prints have a white base color, but this is only used when printing on black or colorful garments. The white base color is not utilized when printing on white fabrics. Since the ink is sprayed directly onto the fabric, it is absorbed, which means that prints may not appear as bright or vivid as those produced with DTF printing. However, DTG printing still produces incredible prints.


Fabric suitability

One benefit of direct-to-film printing is its ability to print on a variety of fabrics. This versatile printing method can be used on polyester, cotton, fleece, nylon, and fabric blends without the material affecting the print, allowing for a wider range of product options for your store.

In contrast, DTG printing is best suited for natural fabrics such as cotton, bamboo, linen, and fabric blends of natural fibers. The ink adheres better to natural fabric fibers than to synthetic fabrics.



If you need a printing technique for print-on-demand production, DTF printing is a great option. You can print just one shirt or make a bulk order of t-shirts, which is perfect for on-demand production. Similarly, DTG technology is ideal for both small and large orders. DTG is one of the most popular printing methods among dropshipping companies because it's easy to use for any quantity you need.



If you're interested in a sustainable fulfillment method, both DTF (Direct to Film) printing and DTG (Direct to Garment) printing are good options. With DTF printing, you can print one-off items, reducing the risk of unsold stock and eliminating overproduction. The water-based and non-toxic inks used in DTF printing make it an environmentally friendly choice. Additionally, the transfer film used is usually recyclable, resulting in minimal waste production. Similarly, DTG printing allows for on-demand printing and eliminates overproduction. For instance, Printful's partnership with Kornit ensures almost zero wastewater production and lower energy consumption. Furthermore, Kornit's digital printers use water-based vegan inks that are non-hazardous, toxin-free, biodegradable, and contain no animal by-products.



On-demand fulfillment

DTF printing and DTG are great on-demand fulfillment techniques. You can order one or multiple items, and the cost will remain the same (except for bulk orders, where you may receive a discount).

For instance, when using Printful, direct-to-film, and direct-to-garment print products are manufactured only after you or your customers have ordered them. Printful also provides discounts for bulk orders, which is a great option if you need to purchase multiple items.


DTF printing and DTG: What designs is each printing process better for?

After exploring each printing method in depth, it’s clear that both provide amazing results and suit businesses with print-on-demand production. However, each print offers a different outcome, which can improve or ruin your design. Let’s recap each technique. 


When to choose direct-to-film printing

DTF technology will be better for your business if you want to sell items made with polyester, nylon, fleece, or other synthetic materials. Printing on different items like bags and hats is also possible, giving you more product options.

This technique is worth trying if your designs are detailed and colorful and your art must be of the highest quality when printed. DTF prints always come out vivid and sharp, and they are also durable and long-lasting.

However, if you want to print a large design, such as a photo, this printing technique might be a bad choice. DTF prints are not breathable, which means that printing a large design makes the garment less comfortable for long wear.

Before selling items with DTF prints, you can always order one for yourself and compare the same design with different techniques.


When to choose direct-to-garment printing

The DTG technique is the best if you want to sell cotton garments or products made with other natural materials. This method can print apparel and accessories like tote bags, giving you plenty of choices.

You can also use the DTG technique if your designs are simpler, such as text, logos, or graphic art. However, DTG also supports colorful images and designs; just remember that prints may not be as clear or sharp as those produced using DTF printing.

Direct-to-garment prints are durable, long-lasting, and great for printing larger designs, as the prints are breathable. Just make sure to follow the garment’s care instructions.

It’s one of the most popular printing methods in the world, so not much can go wrong with direct-to-garment prints. Depending on your needs and designs, you can try this technique and see if the result matches your expectations.

When you follow the printed garment’s care instructions, the prints will last long. They won’t crack, peel, or fade. You may be surprised at how durable these prints are!



Are you looking to explore the vibrant world of DTF printing? At DTF New England, we specialize in bringing your designs to life with the highest-quality direct-to-film prints. Whether you are aiming for impeccable color accuracy, detail, or durability, we ensure the finest quality products reach you. Contact us today to embark on a journey of creative excellence with DTF impressions that stand out. Let us help you make a lasting impression!

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