What’s The Difference Between DTF Printing And Sublimation Printing?

In recent years, DTF printing has been one of the best helpers for major clothing equipment manufacturers.

This technology uses DTF printer and DTF powder shaker to print design drawings directly on PET film or DTF transfer paper, then melt and dry them with hot melt powder, and then transfer them to all kinds of clothing by hot press.

Sublimation printing is a technology widely used in the industrial sector that uses a specialized sublimation printer to transfer a picture or pattern from a transfer paper to the target material.

The target material can be non-cotton clothing, or ceramic, glass, metal and other products.

First of all, the designed pattern is printed on the thermal transfer paper, and then the thermal transfer paper and the target material are placed in the hot press, adjust the appropriate temperature and pressure, after the hot press reaches the preset temperature, the pattern is transferred to the target material through the thermal pressure.

DTF printing and sublimation printing have in common: both need the help of hot press as a medium for transfer printing.

Sufficient temperature and pressure is required to transfer the pattern from the transfer paper or transfer film to the substrate.

In general, both processes require heat and pressure to make the pattern tightly bonded to the substrate.

The differences between DTF printing and sublimation printing are:

Different printing materials:

DTF printing uses PET film or DTF transfer paper as printing material, while sublimation generally uses sublimation paper as printing carrier.

The difference in fabric:

DTF printing can be printed in knitting, textile, nylon, non-woven fabrics, Oxford fabrics and other 90% of the market fabric, a variety of background color fabrics can be perfectly applied.

Sublimation printing can achieve vivid colors and distinct layers (showing the adjacent color difference) without affecting the original texture of the fabric, but sublimation paper can only be burned on light or white polyester fabric, while the effect of color display on dark fabric is not ideal.

Color difference:

When using a DTF printer to make a design pattern, you only need to provide a clear original file to achieve photo-grade printing effect, bright colors and clear patterns. sublimation process uses sublimation ink to print on sublimation paper, and the pigment molecules are transferred to the fabric by heating, which requires trial printing before printing, and the effect of sublimation printing is also closely related to the transfer fabric — the higher the content of sublimation, the brighter the color.

Transfer hot pressing conditions are different:

The thermal transfer temperature of DTF is generally about 150-160℃, and the pressing time is about 10-15 seconds (according to the variety and characteristics of the film, the specific temperature and time of the pressing will be slightly different), while sublimation process has higher requirements for the pressing temperature and time, which is basically about 200-230℃.

The pressing time is about 15-20 seconds.

The application scenarios of the two processes are different:

Compared with traditional screen printing, decal and other technologies, DTF printing can achieve the transition and gradient effect of color, and can achieve complex logos and patterns, and because of the good tensile resistance of DTF film, it can be applied in more and more complete fields.

So DTF printer is very suitable for making small batch, diversified, personalized T-shirt printing, can also be used for hats, backpacks, canvas shoes and other small area pattern production.

Sublimation printing can realize the visual effect of full printing and strong three-dimensional sense.

However, sublimation also has its own limitations, it cannot do the color transition and gradual change, only a simple dyeing effect.

Therefore, sublimation printing is often used to make large quantities of T-shirts, group clothing and other goods.

If DTF printing process is more suitable for areas with higher printing effect requirements, such as high-end clothing, home textiles, etc., then sublimation process is more suitable for areas with lower cost requirements, such as advertising display, disposable supplies, etc.

Feel comparison: DTF printing has hot melt adhesive on the back, so in the early stage of development, hot printing on the fabric feels a little hard, after all, it is an offset printing process, so it is more suitable for small area of delicate printing.

However, it has been developed for several years, the process has continued to improve, and now it feels softer, but the permeability has yet to be broken through.

Sublimation paper is ink permeated into the fabric, and the touch is not much different from that before printing. It’s when the paint blends in with the fabric. It’s natural. So it’s comfortable and breathable.

Washing fastness comparison:

If it is according to the previous process, in the initial stage of DTF printing, the washing effect of DTF is naturally discounted in terms of the comparison of washing fastness.

However, after the continuous progress and upgrading of digital printing in recent years, the current DTF products can also be washed several times (hand washing/machine washing can be done), and the hot paint color will not fade, the pattern will not fall, and the washing fastness can reach 3-4 levels.

Sublimation transfer requirements on clothing are generally 3-4, very individual brands can achieve 5, and then the price is naturally higher.

Cost comparison:

Because DTF printing does not need to make screen plate in advance, under the premise of small batch production, the total cost is lower than sublimation process.

Although the special inks for DTF printing are currently more expensive than the dyes used for traditional printing, the price gap is also narrowing. In the future, the price advantage of DTF printing will become more and more obvious.

And DTF printing is also gradually realizing the needs of customers for mass production.

Then the development of sublimation will also enter a stable stage.

Relationship between DTF printing and sublimation printing

In fact, DTF printing and sublimation printing are both thermal transfer, but there are some differences.

Customers mainly choose the right printing method according to their own product direction.

The two have their own characteristics, complementing rather than competing.

Those who want to focus on the field of clothing and want clothing printing to have a more design sense can consider DTF printing.

If large quantities, more comfortable and breathable and full print needs, you can consider sublimation printing.