Not Quite The Same
White toner is not dtf
"Strength lies in differences, not in similarities."
This month, we wanted to look at a couple of different transfer printing methods to go over some of the reasons people need to understand they are just that - entirely DIFFERENT processes. I feel this is valuable with the expansion of direct to film, the DTF method itself becoming so much more stabilized and accessible, and the growing field of printers/crafters who are beginning this journey to make this perfectly clear. Those starting off, looking at options, or not knowing what to believe, can make this process seem uncertain - especially with some companies looking to piggyback off direct to film without actually having any experience in it, can make this brave new world tricky to navigate, which is one of the reasons I feel so fortunate to have been an early adopter of DTF.
Firstly, the 'F' in DTF stands for film... seems to reason if you are going to call something 'direct to film,' it should involve... film, right? Let’s start with the media: as the name implies, direct to film is printed onto PET film. One media, endless substrate opportunities. The white toner system will require a particular media for a particular project - these papers are known as A sheets. While some may have a degree of translucency, for the most part, they will be white, opaque papers that we print on. So that is a similarity, I suppose (printing onto media).
Next, let’s talk about adhesive: with your chosen printer and media, how do we apply these to our substrates? With direct to film, we will be applying hot melt powder either manually by hand, with the use of an auxiliary powder machine, or through automation with the use of a roll-to-roll set up. In this last option, a roll of PET machine is loaded onto the direct to film printer where designs are continuously produced and then fed into a powdering station of a second machine. This machine will apply the powder to the wet print, agitate off any excess, cure the powder to the printed images with a conveyor dryer set up, and then wind up the completed transfers for later use (application, storage, sale), all hands-free. With white toner, this will be a single piece-by-piece process to complete each print regardless of equipment on hand. The adhesive in the white toner decorating method is another sheet known as the B sheet which must be heat pressed to the printed A sheet. Manufacturer advises the use of American-made presses to perform this, applying for about two minutes and then peeled apart in a timely and specific fashion. The B sheet should be specific to the chosen A sheet to ensure compatibility for each individual print/project. Because there is no roll option for white toner, all steps must be performed manually by hand to make each individual transfer one by one.
By definition, direct to film involves printing various colored inks onto the aforementioned PET film, and the machines we see in the market today use a water-based formula similar to what you will find in a direct-to-garment machine. If anyone reading this has any screen print background, you already know that water-based ink delivers some of the softest hand feels on the market. The white toner system involves, drumroll please, toner instead of ink. The white element does allow for different color fabrics but the hand feel will be different.
Meet our author
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.