Sublimation Vs. Direct to Film Printing: What Are the Differences?


There are various options available when purchasing printed promotional materials for your company. The task of selecting the greatest solutions can frequently be pretty overwhelming. One of the most crucial considerations is the printing method, which can impact everything from the cost to the print’s quality.

Two of the most widely used printing techniques are DTF printing and sublimation printing. What distinguishes these two heat-transfer techniques, even though they are both used? Which one is best for your company? To assist you in determining which is best for you and your company’s needs, we will examine the distinctions between DTF printing and sublimation printing, as well as their costs and advantages, in this post.

What is sublimation printing?

With sublimation printing, the design is first drawn on ink-absorbent paper and then heated to transfer to the substrate. In contrast to other printing methods, the sublimation ink forms a chemical connection ingrained in the substrate. So the pattern doesn’t feel uneven, and the texture looks much smoother.

What is direct to film printing

DTF prints on PET sheets (polyethylene terephthalate) rather than ink-absorbent paper. The sheet should then be covered in adhesive powder and allowed to cure. The design can then be heat-pressed onto the substrate at that point. You need a particular DTF printer and a curing oven to melt the glue.

What are the differences between sublimation printing and direct to film printing?

Transfer process and print quality

Heat is used in both DTF and sublimation to imprint the design on the product. While sublimation fuses ink to fabric molecules, DTF employs an adhesive.

While sublimation printing uses a solid quickly transformed to gas without first going through the liquid state, DTF printing transfers images using transfer paper. The quality and strength of the print are impacted by how differently the two printing processes embed the dtf print into the product.

Since the ink is applied directly to the product, DTF printing provides more excellent print quality than sublimation printing. You can see more detail in the print because of the DTF’s greater picture quality.

However, sublimation printing employs an image transfer technique that permanently fuses the ink with the cloth. Ultimately, the fabric creates a modest print, but the colors are more durable and won’t fade or peel with time.

This implies that frequent washing and wearing won’t cause the image print to deteriorate or fade. Still, the fabric’s design’s finer details will be lost due to sublimation printing’s reduced resolution.

Print size

The print size is one of the primary distinctions between DTF printing and sublimation printing in terms of practicality. Comparatively speaking, DTF printers have smaller platens than sublimation printers. The image designs are pressed onto the substrate by the platens.

The platen in DTF printing is 12″ x 15″. Sublimation printers, on the other hand, have larger platens that are 16″ X 20″. Printing is more appropriate for an all-over print design on a fabric sublimation. To completely cover the cloth with print using a DTF printer will take numerous passes, taking a long time to complete the print.

Print Texture

In DTF printing, the adhesive rather than the ink makes the print stick to the product. Because they are printed on top of the material’s surface rather than being incorporated into it, images produced with the DTF printing technique have a soft and smooth texture. The texture will feel precisely the same as the material itself without printing because the material absorbs the pigment ink, and the picture is entrenched in the fabric in sublimation printing.


Both methods have a comparable price when buying printed goods. Since DTF printing doesn’t require transfer paper, the cost difference may be marginally less overall. The type of cloth you are printing on, the quantity you are ordering, and the complexity of the design will all affect the price.

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