Is DTF Transfer the Same as Sublimation? Understanding the Differences in Fabric Printing Techniques

Is DTF Transfer the Same as Sublimation? Understanding the Differences in Fabric Printing Techniques

BY : Jarrolte Productions


In the diverse world of fabric printing, Direct to Film (DTF) transfers and sublimation printing are two popular methods, each with unique characteristics and applications. While they may seem similar at a glance, significant differences set them apart. This article aims to clarify these differences, helping you understand which method might be best suited for your specific printing needs.

Understanding DTF Transfers

DTF transfers involve printing a design onto a special film, which is then transferred to the fabric using heat and pressure. Key aspects include:

  1. Ink and Film: DTF uses a specific type of ink printed onto a PET film. After printing, an adhesive powder is applied and cured.

  2. Versatility in Fabrics: DTF transfers can be applied to a wide range of fabric types, including cotton, polyester, blends, and more.

  3. Color Vibrancy: DTF is known for its vibrant color output and is capable of printing complex, multi-colored designs.

  4. Texture: DTF prints have a slight texture and are flexible and soft to the touch.

Understanding Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing involves transferring a design onto fabric using heat-sensitive inks. Key aspects include:

  1. Ink and Process: Sublimation uses special dye-based inks that turn into gas under heat and pressure, bonding with the fabric.

  2. Fabric Limitations: It works best on polyester or polyester-coated materials. The process is less effective on natural fibers like cotton.

  3. Color and Design: Sublimation is known for vibrant colors and is excellent for detailed and intricate designs. However, it cannot print white color.

  4. Feel: Sublimation prints are part of the fabric and leave no texture, maintaining the fabric's original feel.

Key Differences Between DTF Transfers and Sublimation

  1. Fabric Compatibility: DTF can be used on a broader range of fabrics compared to sublimation, which is limited primarily to polyester.

  2. Color Output: DTF is capable of printing white ink, allowing for vibrant prints on dark fabrics, whereas sublimation cannot print white and is best suited for light

-colored fabrics.

  1. Texture and Feel: DTF prints have a slight feel to them, whereas sublimation prints are indistinguishable to the touch from the fabric itself.

  2. Equipment and Setup: The equipment for DTF and sublimation printing can vary, with DTF requiring a specific type of printer and transfer film, while sublimation printers use dye-based inks and require heat presses with specific temperature settings.

  3. Durability: Both methods offer durable prints, but their resistance to fading and wear can vary depending on the fabric used and the conditions they are exposed to.

Choosing Between DTF and Sublimation

The choice between DTF and sublimation depends on several factors:

  • Fabric Type: If you're working with a variety of fabrics, DTF might be more versatile. For polyester fabrics, sublimation is ideal.
  • Color Requirements: For designs that require white or are to be printed on dark fabrics, DTF is the better choice.
  • Texture Preferences: If a 'no-feel' print is desired, sublimation is preferable.
  • Equipment Availability: Consider the type of equipment you have or are willing to invest in.


While DTF transfers and sublimation printing both offer high-quality, vibrant prints, they cater to different needs and applications in fabric printing. Understanding these differences is crucial in selecting the right method for your project.

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Whether you're leaning towards DTF transfers or sublimation printing, offers expertise and quality in both methods. Visit us to explore your options and find the best printing solution for your needs.

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