How Are DTF Transfers Different From HTV Transfers?

How Are DTF Transfers Different From HTV Transfers?

Sep 01, 2023Mike Powers

If you’re used to HTV transfers, you may be looking for an alternative solution that offers more vibrancy and durability. Enter DTF transfers. While both techniques have their advantages, we’re looking at a clear side by side comparison to help you decide which technique works best for you. Read on to view our guide on HTV vs. DTF transfers below!

Table Of Contents

  • HTV Transfers
    • What is heat transfer vinyl? 
    • How does HTV work?
    • How long does HTV last?
  • DTF Transfers
    • What is a DTF transfer?
    • How does DTF work? 
    • How long do DTF transfers last?
  • DTF vs HTV: Which Is Better?

What is heat transfer vinyl?

Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is also known as iron-on vinyl or heat press vinyl. Heat transfer vinyl is a time-tested method to apply decoration to garments. Many companies use heat transfer vinyl to customize lettering and numbering on sports apparel and athletic uniforms. HTV can be found in sheets or rolls.

How does HTV work?

The process of HTV is as follows:

  1. Material Composition - HTV is usually made from a thin, flexible polyurethane or PVC material. The colored or patterned side is the side that will be adhered to the fabric, while the backing sheet protects the adhesive on the vinyl.
  2. Design Creation - Once you have created your design, this is then mirrored (flipped), as the design is applied to the garment in reverse.
  3. Cutting - Once the design is ready, a vinyl cutting machine is used. This machine precisely cuts out the design from the HTV sheet while leaving the backing intact.
  4. Weeding - After cutting, the excess vinyl around the design needs to be removed. Only the desired design should remain on the backing sheet.
  5. Heat Press Setup - The garment should be placed onto a heat press or ironing surface. This is then preheated to the appropriate temperature based on the type of vinyl and fabric being used.
  6. Application - The vinyl is positioned onto the fabric, adhesive side down, and the design should be carefully aligned.
  7. Heat Press - The heat press is then closed, applying even heat and pressure. The heat is what will activate the adhesive, causing it to bond to the fabric.
  8. Cooling & Peeling - Once pressed, the HTV should be cooled. Once cool to touch, the backing sheet should be peeled off to reveal the finished design.

How long does HTV last?

High quality HTV can last on average 50 washes, and sometimes longer when cared for and washed correctly. To improve the durability of your HTV garment, there are a few care instructions that you can follow:

  1. Wait at least 24 hours after the HTV has been applied before washing
  2. Turn the garment inside out before washing to protect the graphics
  3. Avoid dry cleaning the garment
  4. Use only a mild washing detergent (avoid bleach and fabric softeners that could contain harsh chemicals)
  5. Use only cold or warm water when washing

What is a DTF transfer?

A DTF transfer, short for direct to film transfer, involves printing a full-color design onto a film that can be applied to various garments, materials, and substrates regardless of their color. This method enhances transfer speed and simplifies application by directly transferring the design from the film to the chosen garment. Learn more about what a DTF transfer is.

How does DTF work?

This modern printing method involves printing the design onto a specialized film and then transferring this directly onto the desired surface using heat and pressure. The DTF transfer process is as follows:

  1. Create a digital design & print this using a specialist DTF printers
  2. Apply adhesive powder evenly across the surface of the design while it’s still wet
  3. Melt & cure the design and powder
  4. Once cured, the design is ready to be applied to the garment
  5. Press the transfer using a heat press, handheld press or household iron
  6. Let the transfer cool
  7. Peel the transfer
  8. Apply parchment paper and second press

Find out more about how to press a DTF transfer.

How long do DTF transfers last?

DTF transfers are one of the most durable printing methods on the market. They can last for 60+ washes and even longer when looked after properly. Avoid excessive heat and wash on a cool or warm temperature avoiding harsh chemicals.

DTF vs HTV: which is better?

When comparing DTF vs. HTV, there are many factors to consider such as durability, flexibility, vibrancy and cost. Here, we’ve broken down all of the factors you can consider in order to find the right printing technique for you.

HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl)
DTF (Direct to Film Transfers)
Printing Process
Design is cut from colored vinyl sheets and heat-pressed onto the substrate
Design is printed onto a specialized film and transferred directly to the substrate using heat and pressure
Vinyl sheets
Specialized DTF film
Simple process; cutting and weeding vinyl can be time-consuming
Very simple and fast process, as little as 15 seconds per press and ability to press with a household iron if no heat press available 
Color Vibrancy
Can provide vibrant, solid colors
Offers better color vibrancy and detail due to the printing process
Fine Details
Limited by the cutting process; fine details might be challenging
Suitable for intricate and fine details
Multi-color Designs
Requires layering different vinyl pieces for multi-color designs
Supports multi-color designs without layering
Adds a thin layer on top of the substrate, may have a slightly raised feel
Generally provides a smoother texture on the substrate, particularly after a second press 
Durable and long-lasting up to 50 washes 
Durable and long-lasting for 60+ washes. One of the most durable printing methods available 
Works well on a variety of fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and blends
Suitable for ANY fabric, including specialty fabrics
Print Size
Limited to the size of the vinyl sheets
Can accommodate larger print sizes
Production Speed
Slower for complex designs due to cutting and layering
Faster for complex designs due to direct printing
Costs can increase with multiple colors, as each color requires a separate vinyl layer
Costs can be relatively low once a specialist DTF printer & film is purchased. Even more affordable when printed externally 
Can feel less flexible on certain fabrics
Tends to provide better flexibility


Finding the right technique for you is easy when you compare HTV vs. DTF. With so many options to choose from with both printing techniques, the opportunities to create your design and bring it to life are endless. With our DTF transfers, you can enjoy both flexibility and durability, unrivaled by any other printing method. Choose between gang sheets or DTF transfers by size for the right solution for you.

More articles