How is DTF printing done?
1. Printing on PET Film
Instead of printing on regular paper, printing is done on a special PET film in the printer feed. The printer will first print the fully coloured image as the first layer, then a full white coloured layer on top.
This step is to apply the hot-melt powder on top of the white ink. This special hot-melt powwer will act as the adhesive used to transfer the printed design onto fabrics, t-shirts, polo t-shirts, totebags, and many other items. The powdering machine will then remove the excess powder by agitating the film.
3. Melting the Powder Adhesive
As the title suggests, this part of the process is to melt the powder which lays on top of the printed design on the film. This is done by a timed curing sequence through an oven. Melting duration will vary based on the type of oven used, but it is generally between 2-5mins at 160~180degrees celcius.
After step 3, the first part of DTF printing is done. The designs printed on the PET film is noww ready to be heat pressed and transferred onto a product such as a t-shirt.
4. Heat Press
As like what you will do with regular heat transfer vinyls, place your item or t-shirt onto the heat press machine’s platen and your film over the position you would like to print and press!Temperature should be set between 160~180degrees celcius and pressed for approximately 10~20seconds depending on the material of the t-shirt. Let the t-shirt sit for a couple of minutes before proceeding with the next step.
5. Cold Peeling
It is important to check that the PET film is now secured on the t-shirt and cooled down to room temperature, this will mean that the adhesive melted powder has cooled down and securely binds the print to the t-shirt. Peel off the film leaving the desired design nicely on the t-shirt.
6. Post Pressing (2nd Press)
This is optional but a highly recommended step to produce longer lasting and durable prints. Lay a teflon sheet over the print and heat press it for the second time for about 10seconds. This will help in ensuring that the ahesive melted powder to be securely binded the t-shirt and the printed design.
Pros and Cons of Direct to Film Printing
- 1 It works on almost all types of fabrics unlike DTG printing (only cotton)
- It does not require tedious pretreatment of the t-shirts
- Print is more durable compared to DTG printing
- Print finish feels soft and comfortable
- Great for images with many colours
- Print finish is still not as soft as Sublimation or DTG printing
- May not be able to recreate fading print effects accurately
Equipments required for Direct to Film Printing
Direct to Film Printer
Printers that are modified to be DTF printers or specifically built for DTF printers. These printers usually work with CMYK + White Inks.
This Films serve as the base for the inks and powder to sit on, similar to films used for heat transfer vinyl printing. These films are usually have a thickness of around 0.75mm thickness for efficiency of the transfer of heat from the heat press’s heating element through the film and to wards the melting powder.
Hot-melt Adhesive Powder
DTF adhesive powders are white in colour. This powder acts as the adhesive agent to bind the printed design to the t-shirt. The powder will melt and secure the design onto the t-shirt when it is heat pressed with a heat press machine.
DTF Printing Inks
These are specially manufactured pigment inks in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and White (CMYK + W). White inks are a spacial component that acts as the foundation of the print on over the coloured design.
Small Industrial ovens that is used to melt the powder that is applied over the transfer film. These ovens often come with a conveyer belt specialled timed to the curing time needed to melt the adhesive powder.
Heat Press Machine
A heat press machine is used to transfer the image printed on the film onto the t-shirt. Having a high quality heat press machine is important as it ensures good heat distribution across the whole heat press machine’s platen to produce better print finish and durability.
Monsterprints entry level heat press machine $550 nett gets you started on your t-shirt printing journey!