Film vs. Sublimation: Understanding the Differences

Film vs. Sublimation: Understanding the Differences

BY : Jarrolte Productions

In the world of apparel and merchandise printing, two popular methods often discussed are Direct to Film (DTF) and sublimation printing. While both techniques offer unique benefits for creating high-quality printed products, they are fundamentally different in their application, compatibility, and final product outcome. Formulated Prints, a leader in innovative printing solutions, dives into the key differences between DTF and sublimation printing to help you choose the best method for your project needs.

What is Direct to Film (DTF) Printing?

Direct to Film printing involves printing a design onto a special film that is then transferred onto the fabric using adhesive and heat. This method is celebrated for its versatility, as it can be applied to a wide range of fabrics and colors, including dark textiles.

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a process where ink is transformed into a gas under high temperature and pressure, bonding directly with polyester or polymer-coated substrates. This method is known for producing vibrant, full-color images with a seamless integration into the fabric.

Comparing DTF and Sublimation Printing

1. Fabric Compatibility:

  • DTF: Works on a variety of fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and blends, making it highly versatile for different product types.
  • Sublimation: Best suited for polyester fabrics or materials coated with a special polymer, limiting its use to specific items.

2. Color and Detail:

  • DTF: Produces vibrant and detailed prints with a wide color gamut, applicable on both light and dark textiles.
  • Sublimation: Offers exceptional color vibrancy and detail but is limited to light or white-colored materials for best results.

3. Durability and Feel:

  • DTF: The transfer creates a slight feel on the surface of the fabric, but with high durability and washability.
  • Sublimation: Results in a “zero-hand” feel, as the ink becomes part of the fabric, offering excellent durability and resistance to fading.

4. Application Process:

  • DTF: Involves an additional step of applying an adhesive powder before heat pressing, adding to the process complexity.
  • Sublimation: Requires only the transfer of ink to the material, making it a simpler process but with the need for specific fabric types.


While DTF and sublimation printing share the goal of producing high-quality printed items, their differences in fabric compatibility, color and detail, durability, and application processes make them suitable for various project needs. DTF offers greater versatility across a wider range of fabrics, while sublimation excels in creating vibrant, fade-resistant images on polyester materials.

Call to Action:

Considering DTF or sublimation printing for your next project? Visit Formulated Prints to explore our range of printing solutions and discover how we can help bring your designs to life with the perfect printing method for your needs. Let us guide you in choosing the right technique to achieve outstanding results for your apparel or merchandise.

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