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DTF vs DTG Printing: What's The Difference?

DTF vs DTG Printing: What's The Difference?

There are many different types of printing methods that can be used in order to create promotional products. Two of the most popular in recent times are DTF and DTG printing. You may have seen Koozies or can cooler sleeves that have been printed using one of these methods, but what exactly is the difference between them and how do you decide which is the best option for your printing needs?

In this blog post, we will be taking a closer look at DTF and DTG printing, how they differ, and what benefits each of them offers. By the end of this post, you should have a better understanding of which printing method is best suited for your project.

What Is DTF Printing?

DTF printing, also known as Direct-to-Film printing, is a process in which ink is applied directly to a piece of transfer film. An adhesive (hot-melt) powder is then applied to the back of the film, which allows the design to be transferred onto the desired substrate using a heat press. The entire process is completed in just a few minutes and can be used to print on a wide variety of materials, including Koozies, t-shirts, canvas bags, and more.

What Is DTG Printing?

DTG printing, or direct-to-garment printing, is a process of printing digital designs directly onto fabric using a specialized printer. DTG printers work by propelling inkjet dye-based inks onto the garment in a similar way to how an inkjet printer works on paper, but with much greater precision. Prior to printing, the garment is pretreated with a solution that helps the ink to bond with the fabric fibers. After printing, the garment is cured using heat to ensure that the inks are properly set.

So, although both methods are similar in terms of technology, the primary differentiator is that DTF printing uses a printed film to transfer the design onto the fabric, and DTG printing prints straight onto the fabric itself. For a long while now, DTG has been the method of choice for most T-Shirt printing projects and small-quantity production runs. However, DTF printing has been gaining in popularity in recent times and offers some great benefits.

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What Are The Key Factors to Consider?

To decide which printing method is going to be most suitable for your projects, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Here are some key factors to consider when comparing DTF vs DTG printing.

  • Initial Costs

To get started with DTF printing, you will need to purchase a DTF inkjet printer, software to create the design, special DTF textile inks, a roll of DTF transfer film, hot-melt powder, and a heat press. A complete DTF kit (including printer and consumables) can be purchased for less than $2000.

For DTG printing, you will need to purchase a DTG printer, RIP (raster image processing) software, and textile inks. You may also need to purchase a pretreatment machine and solution if you don’t already have one. DTG printers can be expensive - costing upwards of $25,000.

So, in terms of initial investment costs, DTG printing is going to be the more expensive option with DTF printing having a starting investment typically less than 10% of the cost of a DTG printer.

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  • Ongoing Costs of Consumables etc

When considering the costs of each printing method, it’s important to think about the long-term costs as well as the initial set-up costs.

In terms of ongoing costs, DTF printing is usually the cheaper option as there is no pre-treatment necessary and the process uses much less ink.

DTF printing also requires less white ink (around 40% white vs 200% white for DTG printing). As white ink is typically the most expensive, reducing the amount of white ink used makes DTF printing a more economical option in the long run. Consumables such as inks, transfer film, and hot melt powder are all relatively inexpensive.

For DTG printing, ongoing costs such as inks, pretreatment solutions, and power consumption can be high. In addition, DTG printers usually require a high level of regular maintenance which can significantly add to the costs.

  • Production Time

For any business, the truth is that time is money so the speed of printing and production is always going to be a key consideration. When it comes to DTF vs DTG printing, there is no clear winner as both methods have their own pros and cons in this area.

DTF printing can be a faster process as it doesn’t require any pre-treatment or drying of the fabric and the design can be printed directly onto the transfer film. Designs can be transferred to fabric in as little as 15 seconds. This means that DTF is often the preferred choice for print runs where speed is of the essence as it means that one-off or low-volume orders can still be profitable.

DTG printing is a slower process as the fabric needs to be pre-treated and dried before printing can begin. However, DTG printers have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and the latest machines are now able to print at speeds of up to 150 garments per hour.

  • Design Considerations

When it comes to design, there are a few things to take into account when comparing the two methods:

DTF printing is best suited to designs with limited colors as the process uses a CMYK color palette. This means that more complex designs or those with a large number of colors may not be possible to recreate using DTF printing. Detailed designs can also be tricky to recreate as the design is printed onto transfer film which is then heat-pressed onto the fabric. This process can cause some of the finer details of the design to be lost.

DTG printing, on the other hand, uses a much wider color gamut which means that designs can be printed with greater accuracy and detail. This makes DTG ideal for complex designs or those with a large number of colors. The detail possible with DTG printing also means that smaller text and images can be used, something which isn’t always possible with DTF printing.

  • Print Quantity

The increasing overhead costs of DTG printing (including the price of the machine, inks, and power consumption) means that it is only really viable for businesses that are printing large quantities of garments. DTF printing has much lower overheads so is a more economical option for businesses that are looking to print smaller quantities.

  • Print Quality

When it comes to print quality, both DTF and DTG printing can produce excellent results. However, there are some key differences between the two methods that are worth considering.

DTF printing uses a transfer film to apply the design to the garment. This can sometimes result in a “plasticky” feel to the print as well as a loss of detail in small designs.

DTG printing prints directly onto the garment so the design is less likely to crack, fade, or peel over time. DTG also allows for greater detail in small designs as there is no need to worry about the design being lost when it is transferred onto the fabric.

  • Versatility

In terms of versatility, DTF definitely has the edge as it can be used on a wider range of substrates including cotton, nylon, leather, polyester, and both light and dark fabrics - whereas DTG is designed primarily for cotton fabrics. When it comes to printing things like koozies, can cooler sleeves, and other promotional items, DTF is often the better option.

  • Durability

DTG prints are known for their soft, hand feel because the ink is applied directly to the fabric with no palpable layer in between. In contrast, DTF prints may have a slightly less soft, more plasticky hand feel because of the transfer film. However, DTF prints are also more durable than DTG prints as the film’s flexibility means they can withstand more washes and are less likely to crack or peel.

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Pros and Cons

As with anything, there are pros and cons to both DTF and DTG printing. It’s important to weigh up all the factors before deciding which method is right for your business. Here is a quick summary of the pros and cons of each method:

DTF Printing

Pros:

  • More accessible and lower startup costs
  • Lower consumable costs
  • Lower maintenance
  • Faster production time as no pre-treatment or drying of fabric is required
  • Greater versatility in terms of fabric options and colors
  • More durable prints

Cons:

  • Lower print quality - designs can lose detail during film transfer
  • Less soft feel - can sometimes result in a “plasticky” feel to the print

DTG Printing

Pros:

  • Higher print quality - designs retain detail
  • Great soft hand feel

Cons:

  • Higher start-up costs
  • Higher ongoing consumables costs
  • Higher maintenance
  • Longer production time due to pre-treatment and drying
  • Restricted to cotton fabrics

So, Which Printing Method Should You Use?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors including the type of garments you want to print, the quantity you need, your budget, and the level of detail in your designs. The high start-up costs of DTG printing can be prohibitive for some businesses but, if you are looking for high-quality prints on cotton fabrics, and really want that soft, hand feel then DTG is definitely the way to go. For businesses on a budget, or those that need to print large quantities of garments quickly and easily, then DTF printing is the better option. And for businesses that need to print on a wide range of substrates - including nylon, leather, and polyester - then DTF is the method for you.

At the end of the day, it’s important to do your research and weigh up all the factors before deciding which printing method is right for your business. We hope this article has helped you to understand the key differences between DTF and DTG printing and how to choose the best option for your specific projects.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about our range of neoprene and foam Koozies for wholesale bulk printing, please don’t hesitate to contact us. The team here at Quality Perfection would be more than happy to help! Why not give us a call today on (716) 848-0099. You can also check out our products here or pop over to our FAQ section to get more of your printing questions answered.

 

As always, thanks for reading!

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