DTF Transfers vs. Sublimation

DTF Transfers vs. Sublimation

Sep 15, 2023Mike Powers

If you’ve been in the printing game for a while, then you’ll likely know of the printing method: sublimation. As one of the more traditional and well-known techniques, sublimation quickly grew in popularity as an alternative to DTG printing.

However, with DTF transfers being the new printing method on the block, it can be difficult to understand the difference between the two in order to choose the right printing method for you. Here, we’re taking a look at DTF vs. sublimation, giving you a side by side comparison to help you to get the perfect finished look.

Read on for our guide to DTF vs. sublimation.

Table Of Contents

  • What is sublimation?
  • Pros of sublimation
  • Cons of sublimation 
  • What can I print on with sublimation? 
  • What is DTF?
  • Pros of DTF
  • Cons of DTF
  • What can I print on with DTF? 
  • Which is right for you?

What Is Sublimation?

Sublimation is a printing method that requires a design to be printed onto a specific type of paper. This print is then transferred to the material by heating the ink until it combines with the fabric. Unlike other printing methods, it is only the ink that is transferred to the fabric. With other methods, a transfer layer is also transferred onto the material.

Scientifically, sublimation refers to the transition of the physical state of a solid to a gas. During this process, it skips the liquid state.

Pros of Sublimation

There are many pros to sublimation as a printing method:

  • As the ink fuses to the material, sublimation is durable.
  • Sublimation offers high-definition, full color prints.
  • Soft and smooth finish with no raised surfaces.

Cons of Sublimation

As with any printing method, there are some disadvantages to sublimation:

  • The versatility of the method is limited - you are only able to print on polyester or poly-coated products.
  • Poor visibility on dark or colored materials.
  • Detailing is limited compared to other printing methods.

What Can I Print On With Sublimation?

Due to the limited versatility of sublimation as a printing method, you are limited to the types of materials you are able to print on to benefit from the vibrancy it can offer.

However, as long as the product is polyester or poly-coated (and light colored), you should be able to create a full color, high definition print.

Some of the most common items that sublimation is used on include:

  • White / light colored polyester t-shirts & apparel
  • Ceramic mugs
  • Key chains
  • Mouse pads
  • Signs
  • License plates
  • Pens
  • Poly-coated bags

What Is DTF?

DTF stands for direct-to-film. This printing process is relatively new to the industry. Here, an image is printed directly onto a film, which is then applied directly onto the fabric. Take a look at our guide on what DTF transfers are to find out more.

Pros of DTF

DTF is quickly becoming a popular printing method as a direct result of all of its benefits. These include:

  • Quick and simple to apply yourself - in just 15 seconds per press!
  • Press with a household iron - although a heat press is recommended, it is possible.
  • Versatility of the materials - you can print on any fabric with no restrictions.
  • Durability - can last over 60 washes without fading and often last the lifetime of the garment.
  • Highly detailed - the crisp detailing of DTF prints mean you can print highly intricate designs clearly.


    Cons of DTF

    There are very few cons to DTF transfers, and the benefits strongly outweigh the disadvantages.

  • Gradients - DTF requires a workaround to print gradients, although they are still possible with this printing method.
  • Feel - DTF requires a second press to ensure shine is removed and the print is soft. This second press only takes an additional 15 seconds.
  • As you can see, there are very few cons compared to benefits, making this highly versatile and durable printing technique the ideal choice for all types of businesses, side hustles and individuals.

    What Can I Print On With DTF?

    In short - literally anything! DTF is an incredibly versatile printing method and you are able to print DTF transfers onto any type of material or fabric. Suitable for any form of apparel or even hard goods for your next promotional product.

    There are no limitations on the color you can print on or the type of fabric you choose.

    Which Method Is Right For You?

    The method that’s right for you depends on your requirements, time and overall the feel that you want from the printing method.

    As sublimation merges directly with the fabric, rather than being placed on top of the fabric, it will feel slightly softer and stretchier than a DTF transfer. However, you are restricted to the types of products and color of the products that you are able to use sublimation on.

    To decide which is best for you, sublimation vs. DTF transfers, review the pros and cons of both methods and the pricing options available for both to make your decision.

    Here at DTFTransfers.com, we believe that DTF transfers are the perfect choice for everyone. If you want to print your own transfers, these can be done simply and easily at home. If you simply want to apply, order our DTF transfers by size or by gang sheet to benefit from vibrant, durable and versatile designs.

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