print or buy transfers?

direct to film and what dtf mixed media all american print supply co

"A Small Profit is Better Than a Big Loss" 

― Ron Rash

With direct to film printing rapidly taking over the printing landscape, it’s never been easier to get involved - and with so many businesses jumping into the space these days, you don’t even need a DTF printer to start producing and selling direct to film goods. That’s right, we are seeing an emergence of print-on-demand operations specializing in taking YOUR artwork and producing custom transfers for you to go into business with nothing more than a heat press. Now, while that sounds convenient, is it actually better than printing your direct to film transfers? Let’s talk about it.

Buying Transfers

When we start a new business, especially in this industry, it is usually a process that we work through to build up an expansive customer base and consistent jobs coming in. In these building stages, we do not always have established clientele sending us job after job to keep production running, and without that consistent revenue, the fact of the matter is we may simply not have the capital yet for investing in printing equipment. THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO PUT OFF GETTING STARTED. A quick Google search will yield you a bounty of transfer printing services, and if you have been in any of the DTF Facebook groups, you already know what I’m talking about. When you factor in that direct to film will apply to virtually any material or fabric, with just a heat press and outsourced transfers, you are essentially a full-service print shop. That means without any actual printing equipment, you can begin generating revenue and establishing your brand. 

When to Start Printing Transfers

With that in mind, there will come a point where the volume of printing would be more economical to bring in-house, and with just a heat press, you can scale up to that. But where IS that point?

Transfer costs will vary from vendor to vendor, so for the sake of argument, let’s go with a low-end $6 per sq. ft. of DTF printing costs. To compare with printing, we will calculate against 13” in-house direct to film production costs, which rounds out to about $0.97 per sq. ft. From a profit margin standpoint, our production costs just dropped over 80%.

Let me be clear on one thing: even with the huge drop in price per sq foot, if you are only selling a few pieces a week, purchasing a machine may not make the most sense, and outsourcing is a great option. On the contrary, if you are spending $1000 dollars on transfers a month, in less than a year’s time, that would have paid for a full roll-to-roll printing, powdering, and drying system that runs essentially hands-free in the background, which would also enable YOU to be the one selling $1000’s of transfers a month to others.

If you do make the jump to bring in direct to film transfer printing in-house AND offer transfer printing services like we have outlined above, the potential for profit is huge. Let’s say $1000 of transfers equate to 200’ of printed film (327 feet of film priced at $180). Not to mention having your own machine means you print on YOUR schedule. With some suppliers taking days or even a week to produce and ship your transfers, do you and your customers have time to wait for their production schedule?

Expanding Further

An added benefit of printing your own DTF transfers is that the 80+% price drop in production costs will allow for EXPANSION when things do get busy. Think about when that huge order comes in or you land that big account. Rather than racking up an even bigger print-on-demand transfer bill, that extra revenue could go into marketing or even NEW equipment, and this all started with bringing production in-house with a single setup. Something to keep in mind the next time you order direct to film transfers that are lining someone else’s pockets and cutting into your potential profit margins.

Meet our author

All American Print Supply Co Estevan Romero Profile Picture

Estevan Romero

Brand Marketing Lead

Esteven Romero began making YouTube videos back in 2017 to help new business owners learn how to use their products and grow their operation.


He has been featured in many companies content such as Siser North America, Key Print Co and more. He has been featured as a speaker/presenter nationwide across the tradeshow circuit sharing information and insight to the print community audience and brings 13+ years of experience to the table.

You can meet Estevan and more of the friendly All American Print Supply Co team by visiting the company live events calendar and our YouTube channel.

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