Direct to film, DTF - who’s doing it, why is it everywhere, and why is everyone talking about it? This unique printing method has been steadily gaining steam for years now and for many of us here at All American Print Supply we actually learned the process originally on our direct to garment printers. It was at that point I realized how valuable the dtg printer, itself, is. As folks are flocking to these new DTF setups still in their infancy and here I am with a printer I know how to use, has tremendous warranty protection and is now a ‘dual-threat’ printing powerhouse. Which poses the question as a direct to garment printer owner: when should I run DTF?
Direct to garment fundamentals already let us know that we are going to get our best results with a well pretreated, mostly cotton fabric. Sure, there are pretreat solutions for polyester garments but what about athletic apparel such as jerseys and uniforms that may have mesh like holes? Or blended fabric? With all the tools in the tool box provided to us by owning a DTG printer it is imperative that we be wise with our resources and make the most of what we have available to us.
WHEN TO DTG: Cotton and cotton-rich material is going to do the best with the direct to garment printing process. I personally favor ringspun cotton for how tight the fibers are woven, how smooth of a printing area I can achieve. Other materials with high % of cotton can include but are not limited to: tote bags, denim, canvas, linen, cosmetic bags, pillow cases, sweatshirts and more. All of these sorts of products should be a breeze to prep and print with your choice of direct to garment equipment.
WHEN YOU HAVE OPTIONS: Cap printing has become so much more accessible to the custom apparel printer with the use of innovative accessories such as cap attachments. With a good method of pretreating you can achieve the same level of print quality and detail we enjoy on our regular printed garments. Next I would say is going to be neck labeling: rather than pretreating the small interior portion of a garment, I tell the printer I am working with a white garment so it prints no white but rather uses CMYK to create the gray used in most neck label prints -quicker and easier this way. Also, polyester material, while printable, is more sensitive to the printing/process and also may require more ink to achieve the same vibrancy as cotton material.
WHEN TO DTF: On garments that may be treated for weather proofing or water resistance, printing direct to garment can be difficult, at best. Items that are meant to stay dry, such as leather, nylon and windbreakers are perfect for direct to film transfers! Enjoy the same high quality prints and detail all while saving time and money on ink/pretreating! This is the time to use our existing printing equipment to get outside the box - we have literally not had a single type of material DTF transfers will not adhere to. Anything you can get even contact on with a heating element should provide a long lasting, vibrant transfer.
The neck labeling we mentioned earlier? In theory, these prints can be made on film ahead of time in bulk quantities and cut and applied as needed - no sitting on cold inventory. Polyester material? DTF transfers can save the time of pretreating, consume less ink and also put the sensitive material through less processing for a nicer final product. Basically anything that seems tricky for direct to garment prints can likely be achieved with direct to film transfer printing and if you already have a DTG printer you can run both practices through one machine!