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DTF printing vs. Heat Transfer Vinyl: What's the Difference?

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Update time : 2022-11-17 14:05:16

With the gradual maturity of DTF (direct-to-film) printing technology and its widespread use in the digital printing industry, part of HTV (heat transfer vinyl) has gradually been replaced. As we all know, DTF and HTV are both heat transfer materials, which can be applied to textiles such as clothing, shoes, hats, luggage, etc. So how are they different?


What is DTF printing?
DTF printing is a process that uses a heat-pressure mechanism to transfer a print onto a fabric or other substrate. It uses a DTF printer to print ink onto a DTF transfer film, which is then sprinkled with hot melt powder, baked, and ready to be transferred to the substrate by heat pressure.

The main advantage of DTF printing is its excellent versatility. You can easily transfer designs to surfaces such as cotton, polyester, canvas, leather, etc., and still, restore the color of the design on a variety of color substrates. DTF printed designs are durable and you will not experience cracking or stretching problems. With proper care, DTF prints can last a considerable amount of time.

DTF printing is also a cost-effective way to maximize your profits while keeping your costs relatively low. You can print and transfer quickly while reducing inventory costs without impacting your profit margins. With larger, industrial-grade equipment, you can go even further!



What do you need?
DTF printers: For starters, you can choose basic desktop DTF printers at relatively more affordable prices, with the caveat that you need to choose a reliable brand with after-sales service. For technically mature workers, choosing mid-range and industrial-grade DTF printers is a better choice for improving productivity. The printer supporting the shaking powder machine now has an automated system that can automatically return to the powder, shaking powder, eliminating the need for manual operation.
DTF ink: Ordinary DTF printing choice CMYK + W DTF ink can be completed in many printing designs. If you need more professional and advanced printing artwork, R/G/B/OR spot color DTF ink and LC/LM/LK/LLK gradient color DTF ink can give your design a brighter, more delicate color. Printed designs in neon colors can also be achieved with fluorescent DTF inks.
DTF Film: DTF film is made of PET film with a special coating and is available in sheets and rolls. You can refer to the article on How to choose DTF transfer film.
Hot melt powder: DTF hot melt powder also called DTF polyamide powder, there are medium powder, coarse powder, anti-sublimation powder, and black anti-sublimation powder to choose, you can choose the appropriate application solution according to your printing needs.
Software: Design software and a raster image processor (RIP) are required to print your design from computer to printer. The former allows you to create the design, while the latter provides the printer with detailed instructions on how to print the design.
Heat Press Machine: A standard flatbed heat press machine is sufficient for DTF printing. Simply place the transfer film with the design on the garment, then use the heat press to apply pressure and heat to the film. That allows the design to be transferred from the film to the substrate. You will need to adjust the temperature and pressure settings to get the desired print.


What is HTV?

Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) uses a unique polyurethane-based material to decorate garments that typically has an adhesive backing that allows the material to adhere to the surface of the substrate, so no additional adhesives such as hot melt powder are required. It requires the use of a vinyl cutter to cut out the desired design, then a scrap removal tool to remove excess material, and finally the same transfer to the substrate by heat pressing.

The technology of HTV is now so mature that you can pick up various kinds of HTV on the market, such as PU, PVC, glitter, reflective, laser, metallic, and flocking ...... Despite the variety, if you buy just one roll of vinyl you will only have one color and the effect is very single. Unless you buy many different colors of vinyl rolls, after a complex operation to make a multi-color design.


The Products You Need
Cutters: Vinyl cutters are what you need for all your HTV printing needs. You will need to create your design and send it to the vinyl cutter. Load a piece of vinyl into the vinyl cutter and the machine will begin cutting the vinyl into the desired pattern.
Vinyl: Vinyl comes in a variety of sizes and types. They are sold in single-color sheets or rolls, and you can choose different colors and materials depending on your design needs.
Scrap tool: If your design has some fine lines or patterns, you will need the scrapping tool to help you remove the excess vinyl to show the design pattern, this step should be done very carefully or the scrap rate will be high.
Software: Design software is used to create designs for the printer on your computer. Most vinyl cutters come with their easy-to-use design software.
Heat Press Machine: Very similar to DTF printing, just choose a regular flatbed press machine.


What is the difference?
1. From the design point, DTF can achieve more colors. A roll of DTF film can print many colors, while a roll of HTV can only make a design of one color. To make a colorful pattern, you need to use multiple rolls of HTV in different colors.
2. In terms of production speed, DTF has an absolute advantage compared to HTV. In the case of DTF, after the printer prints out your design, you can immediately heat press and transfer it to the garment after the automated shaking and drying operation. And HTV cutting time is relatively longer, also needs to consume a lot of time to discharge waste, which will affect your production rate.
3. The input cost issue is the focus of the producer's attention. In addition to the initial input equipment costs, you also need to consider the consumables required for subsequent production, energy consumption, yield rate, and other issues.

· DTF requires input consumables including film, ink, and hot melt powder. HTV requires the purchase of a variety of different vinyl sheets or rolls. However, if you are trying to achieve a complex design, HTV may consume more of your investment and inventory costs.

· Larger DTF equipment will consume relatively more energy, and vinyl cutters less.

· DTF printing has a higher yield, as well as faster production rates.

If you need to run a garment printing business, the DTF unit printing cost is cheaper than HTV in the long run.
4. Printing quality and durability. The printing quality of DTF will be affected by the ink and hot melt powder. Good DTF print feels soft, will not easily break, durable. HTV texture feels the impact of vinyl material, PU vinyl will be softer, and PVC, glitter, metal, and other vinyl will be harder. At the same time, because the adhesive used in HTV is not like DTF hot melt powder will be bonded to the fabric, it is more attached to the surface, so it is easier to fall off.


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