The pandemic prompted smaller studios to focus on print-on-demand production, and with it, DTG and DTF printing entered the market, increasing the interest of manufacturers who wanted to start working with personalized garments.
From now on, direct to garment (DTG) has been the main method used for T-shirt printing and small fabrication, but in the past few months, direct to film or film to garment (DTF) has generated interest in the industry, gaining more supporters each time. In order to understand this paradigm shift, we need to know what the differences are between one method and the other.
Both types of printing are suitable for small items or personalization, such as T-shirts or masks. However, the results and printing process are different in both cases, so it can be difficult for companies to decide which one to choose.
- It requires pre-treatment: In the case of DTG, the process starts with the pre-treatment of the garment. This step is necessary before printing because we will be working directly on the fabric, which will allow the ink to be well fixed and avoid transfer through the fabric. In addition, we need to heat the garment before printing in order to activate this treatment.
- Print directly on the garment: With DTG, you are printing directly onto the garment, so the process can be shorter than with DTF and you don’t need to transfer.
- The use of white ink: We can choose to put a white mask as a base color to ensure that the ink does not mix with the color of the medium, although this is not always necessary (for example on a white base color), or we can reduce the use of this mask and only put white in some areas.
- Printing on cotton: With this type of printing, we can only print on cotton garments.
- Final pressing: In order to fix the ink, we have to do the final pressing at the end of the process and our garments are ready.
- No pretreatment is required: In DTF printing, there is no need to pretreat the fabric as it is pre-printed on the film and must be transferred.
- Printing on film: In DTF, we print on film and then have to transfer the design to the fabric. This can make the process a little longer compared to DTG.
- Hot melt powder: This type of printing requires the use of gum powder, which can be used after the ink has been printed on the film. On printers created specifically for DTF, this step is included in the printer itself, so you can avoid any manual steps.
- Use DTF white ink: In this case, it is necessary to use a layer of white ink, placed on top of the color layer. This is transferred to the fabric and serves as the basis for the main color of the design.
- Any type of fabric: one of the advantages of DTF is that it allows you to use any type of fabric, not just cotton.
- Transfer from film to fabric: The final step of the process is the transfer of the printed film to the fabric using a press.
So, what factors should we consider when deciding which print to choose?
- The materials we print on: As mentioned above, DTG can only be printed on cotton, while DTF can be printed on many other materials.
- Production volume: Currently, DTG machines are more versatile than DTFs, allowing for larger and faster production. Therefore, it is important to have a clear understanding of the production needs of each company.
- Results: The end result of one print is completely different from the other. In DTG, the image and ink blend into the fabric and feel rougher, like the base color itself, while in DTF, the fixing powder makes it feel plastic, more glossy and less bonded to the fabric. However, it also gives the impression of higher quality colors because they are solid colors and the base color is not involved in them.
- The use of white: A priori, both technologies require a considerable amount of white ink to print, but with a good Rip software, it is possible to control the white layer of DTG based on the base color, thus reducing costs significantly. For example, neoStampa has a dedicated DTG print mode that not only allows for quick calibration to improve color, but also allows you to select the amount of white ink to use on different types of fabrics.
In a nutshell, DTF printing may seem to have an advantage over DTG, but in reality, they have very different applications and uses. For small-scale printing, where you are looking for good color results and you don’t want to make such a large investment, DTF may be better suited. However, DTG now has more versatile presses with different plates and processes that allow for faster and more flexible printing.