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Sublimation vs DTF Transfers: Which Is Best?

Two of the most popular ways to make t shirt transfers are sublimation and direct to film or DTF transfers. 

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While neither requires cutting or weeding, there are some big differences between the two. Read on for a list of pros and cons for each, along with a brief comparison of sublimation vs DTF transfers. 

Since most people are more familiar with sublimation we'll start with the pros and cons of sublimation. 

Sublimation Pros and Cons 

There are a lot of benefits of sublimation printing. A sublimation printer can produces high-quality, vibrant, and long-lasting transfers. The transfers can be used on both hard goods and garments. 

Because sublimation ink is infused into the material, there is no hand. In other words, you can not feel the image when it's transferred. 

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Sublimation also allows for a wide range of colors and intricate details because you are simply printing and pressing and there's no cutting or weeding involved. 

The biggest downside to sublimation is its limitations to materials. You must have have a high polyester or polymer-coated substrates in order to transfer the sublimation ink from the printed sheet to the substrate. That means natural fabrics like cotton and non coated surfaces do not work directly with sublimation. 

Secondly, because a sublimation printer can not print white ink, sublimation is limited to light colored substrates.  You can not sublimate directly onto dark colored fabrics or surfaces. 

DTF Transfer Pros and Cons 

Sublimation's biggest drawbacks are DTF transfers biggest benefits. DTF transfers - whether you print them yourself or outsource -  are compatible and can be used on a wide range and colors of fabrics including cotton, polyester and blends.

In addition, because direct to film printers can print white ink, there is no limitation to color. Direct to Film transfers can be quickly and easily pressed on any color garment including black!  

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Like sublimation transfers, direct to film transfers are cutless and weedless so you can get a lot of detail. 

There are some drawbacks to DTF transfers though.  DTF transfers work best on fabrics and garments, rather than hard goods, although I have had some luck applying t shirt transfers to journals, canvas and wood.

When applied, the transfers sit on top of the fabric so there is a hand.  This means there is a chance for peeling or cracking if not applied or laundered correctly.

DTF printers are also usually more expensive than sublimation printers and require a lot of maintenance. If not printed on daily direct to film printers tend to get clogged with ink - specifically the white ink.  If not maintained correctly or routinely a DTF printer can be a real headache. 

Sublimation vs DTF Transfer Comparison Chart

Here's a side by side comparison between Sublimation vs DTF transfers. There are many different DTF printers just like there are different sublimation printers. The relative functionality and process is essentially the same. For price comparison sake, this chart looks at the lower prices desktop DTF printers currently on the market. 

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Ultimately, the choice between sublimation and DTF transfers depends on the substrate, the type of materials you plan to print on, and your budget constraints.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund Silhouette School so I can keep buying new Silhouette-related products to show you how to get the most out of your machine!

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