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The Difference Between DTF Printing And Sublimation Printing: What You Need to Know

The Difference Between DTF Printing And Sublimation Printing: What You Need to Know

When it comes to getting printed promotional products for your business, there are many choices to be made. It can often be quite overwhelming to try and figure out what the best options are. Choosing a printing method is one of the most important decisions you will make, as it can affect everything from the quality of the print to the cost.

DTF printing and sublimation printing are two of the most popular printing methods available. They are both heat-transfer methods, but what is the difference between them? And which one is right for your business? In this article, we will explore the differences between DTF printing and sublimation printing, as well as their costs and benefits to help you decide which is the best for you and your business needs.

Let’s get started!


What is DTF Printing?

DTF or Direct to Film printing is a two-step digital printing process that uses inkjet technology and heat to produce printed designs on a wide range of promotional and personalized products. During the first step in the process, an inkjet printer applies ink onto a PET film (polyethylene terephthalate) using a four-color overlay CMYK process. Once the design is printed onto the film, an adhesive is applied to the print, then cured with heat. The image is then transferred onto the product surface using a heat press.

This method is often used for smaller runs of printed products and can be carried out on a variety of fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and nylon. The process produces realistic photo-quality prints that are vibrant in color as well as being durable and long-lasting. It’s a great choice for businesses who need promotional products like T-shirts, flags, banners, koozies, and similar items in smaller quantities.

 DTF & Sublimation printing for wholesale can coozies sleeves thick neoprene

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing uses a sublimation printer to print your design onto a sheet of transfer paper (or sublimation paper) using special inks. The inks are transferred to the substrate material using heat and pressure, which causes the ink on the transfer paper to turn into gas and bond with the substrate. The result is a sharp, vibrant image that won't fade or crack over time. Sublimation printing is often used for larger runs of printed products and is suitable for use on a variety of materials, including polyester, nylon, and acrylic.



What Materials Are Most Suitable For Each Printing Method?

While both DTF and sublimation printing can be carried out on a variety of fabrics and surfaces, some are better suited for each method. DTF printing is best suited to natural fabrics like cotton, canvas, and linen, while sublimation is best suited for synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon.

Product with hard surfaces such as plastics, metals, ceramics, and wood can be printed using either method.

 metallic neoprene and foam can koozies, printing

What Are The Key Differences?

When deciding which printing method is best for your needs, DTF or sublimation, it’s important to know the difference between the two. Now that we’ve explored what DTF printing and sublimation printing are, let’s take a look at some of the main differences:

  • The Transfer Process & Print Quality

Although the two processes share some similarities, they are actually quite different - especially in the way the design is transferred to the product. Both techniques use heat to transfer the design but DTF uses an adhesive to attach the design to the product while sublimation actually bonds the inks to the fabric at a molecular level. This difference in how the design is transferred affects both the quality of the print and the durability.

DTF printing involves the use of transfer paper to transfer the image into the fabric or material. Sublimation printing uses a chemical process in which a solid turns into a gas immediately without passing through the liquid stage.

When it comes to print quality, DTF printing offers a more vibrant and richer color palette because the inks are laid down on top of the product. DTF also has a higher resolution than sublimation, which means that you’ll be able to see more detail in your print.

Sublimation, on the other hand, uses a transfer process that embeds the ink into the fabric of the product. This results in a print that is less vibrant but has longer-lasting colors and will not crack or peel over time. Products printed using this method are extremely resistant to wear, so washing and repeated use will not result in fading or deterioration like that of other printing methods. Sublimation does have a lower resolution than DTF printing, which means that some of the finer details in your design may be lost in the print.

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  • Print Size

Another big difference between DTF and sublimation printing has to do with print size. DTF is limited by the size of its platen (the heated surface that presses against the garment), which is typically 12”x15”. Sublimation printers, however, have much larger platens that can accommodate prints up to 16”x20”.

DTF is typically better suited to smaller prints, while sublimation is ideal for larger projects. If you’re looking to print an all-over design on a garment, DTF will likely not be the best option as it would require multiple passes and a lot of time to complete the print.

  • Print Texture

With DTF printing, it's the glue applied to the print that adheres to the product - not the ink. Images using the DTF printing method are therefore soft and smooth in texture because they sit on top of the material’s surface rather than being embedded into it. With sublimation printing, the material absorbs the ink, and the image is embedded in the fabric, therefore the texture will feel just the same as the material itself without printing.

  • Suitable Materials

DTF printing can be done on many kinds of fabric, while sublimation is better suited to polyester or polyester-coated fabrics, metals, ceramics, and plastics.

  • Colors

DTF printing is suitable for use on both light and dark-colored materials, and DTF printers can print white. Sublimation, however, works only on light colors and cannot print in white.

  • Quantity of Products Required

As we mentioned earlier, DTF printing is often used for smaller runs of printed products, whereas sublimation is more suitable for larger print runs.



The cost of purchasing printed products using either method is similar. DTF printing may be slightly cheaper as it doesn’t require the use of transfer paper, but the overall difference in cost is not significant. Costs will vary depending on the type of fabric you are printing on, the size of your order, and the complexity of the design.


Which is Right for You?

So Which Printing Method is Right for Your Business? DTF printing or sublimation printing? The answer ultimately depends on your specific needs and budget. If you need smaller runs of printed products and are on a tight budget, DTF printing may be the best choice for you. If you need larger runs of printed products and have a bit more room in your budget, sublimation printing may be the best choice for you.

 The Difference Between DTF Printing And Sublimation Printing

Promotional Koozies


If you’re looking for a promotional product that is sure to turn heads, Quality Perfection’s koozies are the way to go!

Koozies are great for businesses of all sizes and can be used to promote events, product launches, or simply to brand your business. Whether your clients are at a sporting event or just enjoying a cold drink at home, koozies are a great way to keep your brand top of mind while providing a useful product that people will love - leaving a lasting impression and ensuring your business is remembered long after the event is over.



There you have it! Now you know the difference between DTF printing and sublimation printing, as well as their costs and benefits, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which method is best for your business needs.

No matter which printing method you choose, Quality Perfection can help you create high-quality printed products that will make your business look its best and delight your customers. We offer both DTF and sublimation printing and have a wide range of koozie styles and colors to choose from, all of which can be customized with your brand’s logo or design - you’re sure to find the perfect koozie to promote your business.

Contact us today to learn more about our DTF and sublimation printing services, and get started on your custom koozie order!


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