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

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

What is DTF Printing?

Direct Film printing (DTF) is a process that produces large banners, flyers, or posters using traditional offset printing techniques. DTF machines use the same technology and equipment as other printers, but instead of producing copies on paper, they produce high-quality prints directly on plastic film stock.

What are the benefits of DTF Printing?

There are several benefits to choosing DTF over other print methods. First of all, it's faster than offset printing because there is no need for registration and collation - the printer can run through the job once it has been set up correctly. This speeds up production time by orders of magnitude! DTF prints are much more durable than offset prints - they're resistant to fading and water damage, making them perfect for outdoor marketing campaigns or events that may be exposed to rain or snow powders. And lastly, they look fantastic - thanks to the advanced color reproduction abilities of digital printers, DTF prints can achieve levels of detail not possible with traditional offset printing methods.

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a process that uses heat and pressure to change the physical properties of a substance. This can be used to print images or text on various types of materials, including fabric, paper, plastics, and metal.

What are the Benefits of Sublimation Printing?

There are a few benefits to choosing sublimation printing over other print methods. First of all, it's incredibly versatile - you can use it to print images or text on virtually any type of material. Additionally, sublimation prints are very durable and resist fading and water damage, making them perfect for promotional materials that may be exposed to elements like rain or snow. Finally, they look fantastic - thanks to the advanced color reproduction abilities of sublimation printers, your prints will look just as good in person as they do on paper!

How Does Sublimation Printing Work?

When you sublimate something (take it from the solid phase to the gas phase), its atoms are forced into smaller and more common groups. The result is a material that has been changed in some way - for example, the material may have lost weight or increased in strength. This technology has many applications across many industries, including fashion design, advertising/marketing collateral creation, and manufacturing processes.

What Materials Can Be Used For DTF Printing?

Many different types of natural fabrics can be used, but cotton is the most common type of fabric used for DTF. Other types of fabrics that can be used include linen, Supima cotton, and silk.

When choosing a fabric for DTF printing, one must consider its weight and absorbency. Fabrics with heavier weight will make the ink more stable and resist smudging or bleeding during use. Absorbent fabrics will help increase the amount of ink absorbed, resulting in cleaner printouts.

What Materials Can Be Used For Sublimation Printing?

This printing method can be used on various fabrics but is better suited for synthetic fibers such as nylon or polyester. Both DTF and sublimation printing can be used for hard surfaces, including wood, ceramics, metals, and plastics, with great results.

Main Differences Between DTF and Sublimation

Knowing the differences between each print method is important to choose the best option for your project. Now that you understand what sublimation printing and DTF printing are let's explore some of the key differences between them.

Print Quality and Transfer Process

While both printing processes have similarities, they are very different methods. Heat is used for transferring in both techniques, but DTF printing attaches to a product with adhesive, and sublimation bonds with the product. The method of transfer impacts the durability and overall quality.

DTF uses transfer paper for transferring your image to the material, while sublimation immediately turns a solid into a gas. This allows DTF printing to provide brighter, more vibrant designs as they are laid above the surface. It can provide a higher resolution and detail but is less durable.

However, sublimation transfers by embedding the ink into the fabric. This provides results that do not crack, peel or fade like other methods. Sublimation is great for clothing that needs to be very resistant, but it will result in lower resolution and detail.

Print Texture

Because DTF printing glues the design to the product and not embedding the ink, it provides a smoother texture. Meanwhile, sublimation printing allows the fabric to absorb the ink, which embeds the design into the product itself. Because of this, the design will feel like the material it was transferred to.

Print Size

The print size is another major difference between these two methods. The print size of DTF products is limited to the platen area – a heated surface that lays against the fabric. Usually, the platen measures 12-inch by 15-inch. The sublimation platens are considerably larger, often allowing designs up to 16-inch by 20-inch.

Suitable Materials

Sublimation is best for materials such as polyester or polyester-coated fabric. It can also be used for transferring designs to plastics, ceramics, or metals. DTF printing allows for transfer to a wide range of fabrics.

Product Quantity

If you need a smaller quantity, DTF is the more common method, as it is easier to set up for smaller runs. However, sublimation printing is often used for larger runs.

Color Options

DTF printers have the ability to print white, making them suitable for light or dark fabrics. Sublimation printers cannot print in white, making them suitable for light-colored fabric only.

What Does It Cost?

There is not a major difference in the price between the two methods themselves. The overall cost difference often comes down to the fabric type being printed on, the design size, and how detailed the design is (i.e., how many colors).

Which Method is Best For You?

The best method for you depends on your specific needs. If you were printing on dark-color fabric, for example, DTF would be your best option. Whereas, if you have a large design between 15-inch and 20-inch, sublimation printing would be best. Other factors to consider include quantity being ordered, DTF for small runs, and sublimation for larger runs.


Finding the right printing method for your garment is one of the toughest tasks, but if you know where to start, it shouldn't be this hard. Depending on how detailed you want your design to be, choose the printing method accordingly. Both sublimation and DTF are incredible when it comes to creating designs, but only one can handle large prints, while the other works best with smaller designs.

To sum up, just keep in mind that sublimation allows for larger print areas while DTF requires a lot more time and effort as compared to auto-sublimation cycles. And since both methods have their own pros and cons, pick what suits you best!

Pricing for DTF Printing

Not that the print needs to be the same on all pieces. For example, if you order 25 t-shirts to be printed, all ten need to have the same print to get the 25-49 discount price. There is a $15 set up fee per printed location (front, back...). Price does not include shipping and the price of the item to be printed (such as t-shirts, polos...)

  • Small Design Print no larger than 36 square inch (such as a left chest print on a t-shirt) at: for 10-24 pieces: $7.29/printed item for 25-49 pieces: $6.40/printed item for 50-99 pieces: $5.60/printed item for 100+ pieces: $4.80/printed item

  • Medium Design Print no larger than 100 square inch (such as a front top print on a t-shirt) at: for 10-24 pieces: $8.40/printed item for 25-49 pieces: $7.60/printed item for 50-99 pieces: $6.80/printed item for 100+ pieces: $6.00/printed item

  • Large Design Print no larger than 180 square inch (such as a full front print on a t-shirt) at: for 10-24 pieces: $12.00/printed item for 25-49 pieces: $11.20/printed item for 50-99 pieces: $10.40/printed item for 100+ pieces: $9.60/printed item

  • Oversized Design Print no larger than 300 square inch (such as a full back print on a t-shirt) at: for 10-24 pieces: $16.00/printed item for 25-49 pieces: $15.20/printed item for 50-99 pieces: $8.96/printed item for 100+ pieces: $7.68/printed item

DTF works on a large variety of garments, including cotton, polyester blend, nylon and both white and dark garments.


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