direct to garment vs direct to fabric

Printing Technique Overview: Direct-to-Garment (DTG) vs. Direct-to-Film (DTF)

by Gooten Editorial Team on Apr. 5, 2023

Print on demand technology has evolved by leaps and bounds in recent years, providing superior solutions to sellers and higher levels of quality for buyers. One of the most significant innovations is direct-to-film printing (DTF). 

As you look for the right print on demand partner for your eCommerce store, we recommend double-checking that the vendor you select employs the DTF method. But first, it may be helpful to understand what this method entails and how it compares to DTG.

DTG vs. DTF: Defining the Terms​

Let’s start by clarifying our terms.

When we talk about DTG printing, we’re talking about an approach to custom garment-making where the image is printed directly onto the garment itself. It works much the same way as your home printer, except instead of printing the image onto a piece of paper, DTG prints it onto a shirt or hoodie.

By contrast, the DTF printing method prints your design onto a special transfer film. The film is then heat-pressed onto the garment, where the inks are bonded with the fabric to create your decorated garment. This new technology emerged in the race to mimic screen printing output at low minimum order quantities.

Understanding the DTF Process

Before choosing the DTF approach, you may want to know a bit more about its technical intricacies. Here’s a quick, step-by-step summary.

  1. First, your design is printed onto a sheet or a roll of film.
  2. Your printed film is then coated with an adhesive powder.
  3. From there, the printed film is placed onto a garment and into a heat press for image transfer.
  4. The film is removed from the garment, leaving the printed design behind.
  5. The printed garment is then passed through heat one more time to ensure the ink is properly cured.

Why Choose Direct to Film?

More and more print on demand vendors are adopting DTF to expand their offerings while at the same time improving the efficiency of their shops. In 2023, Gooten is proud to offer DTF to partners eager to try different PoD solutions to support the best execution of their brand’s artwork. But what exactly makes DTF so advantageous?

It Unlocks a Broader Product Line

For one thing, the DTF method allows you to expand into polyester garments. Think windbreakers, workout shirts, polos, and more. As such, DTF opens up new value streams for your print on demand product line.

It Expands Print Output

The direct-to-film technology produces prints with full-color details and techniques not accessible to direct-to-garment printing. DTF can produce halftone gradients and higher-resolution image detail, which is extremely valuable for brands that design complex or colorful artwork.

More Image Consistency

With DTF, there is less interference from the garment material and color, so the print image is more consistent across garments. This means that the colors in your image or design will be the same regardless of the color of the t-shirt or garment it is printed on.

With DTG, if a shirt’s color is red and the image is yellow, then the red in the shirt can interfere with the appearance of the yellow ink in the image. This is because the image is printed directly onto the garment itself. However, because DTF is printed independently of the garment, the colors on the shirt design are consistent with those on the design your customer sees online. This means your customer’s expectations are more likely to be met when they receive their new shirt.

No Vinegar-Like Odors

With DTG apparel, it is common to notice a vinegar-like smell at first. This is due to the fixation agent which is applied during the printing process and ensures the ink bonds with the garment. While this fixation agent, or pre-treatment, is common across all DTG printed products and goes away after the garment has been washed, it can still be an unpleasant experience for a customer when they receive their new t-shirt or sweatshirt. The great aspect of DTF is that there are no vinegar-like odors left on the apparel because the fixation agent is not required for the process.

Choose the Printing Method That’s Right for You

The bottom line is that DTF is catching up to DTG as an effective printing method with high-quality results. Keeping up to date with these innovative trends in printing technology will ensure your print on demand business remains competitive.

We’re thrilled to make DTF an available option for our partners here at Gooten. And we’re always happy to discuss further what might be the best choice for your brand. With any questions about printing methods or other print on demand concerns, feel free to contact the Gooten team at your convenience.