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Everything to Know About Direct to Film (DTF Printing)

If you're just getting started with DTF Printing, are curious what it is, or if you're considering investing in a desktop DTF printer for your business this is a great place to start. 

I have four DTF printers. They're all a little different and there's not one that would be perfect for everyone. It will all depend on your needs, budget, space, and business.  No matter what phase of the DTF journey you're in, I am here to help. 

I have put all of our resources and information on DTF printing in one spot so you can easily find what you're looking for whether that's comparing DTF printers for small business or looking for troubleshooting help with a specific printer. Even if you're still trying to figure out "What is DTF printing" or you're looking for an honest DTF printer review, you will find it all here.  

What is DTF (Direct to Film) Printing?

DTF printing stands for Direct to Film printing. The four-step DTF process involves printing a full color image - including white - directly to DTF film, applying a powder adhesive, curing that adhesive to create a ready-to-press transfer and then applying that transfer to a garment. 

If you're still in the research phase and are trying to figure out "what is DTF printing" and if it's right for your business - this comprehensive introduction to DTF printing should answer all of your questions. 

This video is a quick look at the DTF process from start to finish so you can get a full understanding of how it works. 

Is a Direct to Film Printer Right for My Business?

Because DTF printing does not require any cutting, weeding, or marrying and because it can print white it fills in the gaps where other printers can't. For example because DTF printers can print white and the transfers can be applied to any color surface or type of garment, it solves a problem that sublimation struggles with: application on darks and cottons. 

SIDE NOTE on the DTF Hack with Sublimation Ink

With DTF taking off, so has a popular DTF hack with sublimation ink. The process works by putting DTF film into a sublimation printer to create DTF transfers. But with this method one of the big problems and drawbacks of sublimation remains: you still can't apply the transfers to darks because sublimation printers do not print white ink. 

The price of a DTF printer puts it out of range for some. But even aside from the price, a DTF Printer is not for everyone. It's not for crafters or hobbyists. Due to the maintenance to keep them in good working order, a DTF printer is not even for small businesses who don't need to print transfers on a regular (aka daily) basis.  If you're trying to figure out where a DTF printer fits into your Silhouette or small business, take a look at this post to determine how it may fit in. 

What's Needed to Get Started with DTF Printing?

I know the buying options when getting started with DTF Printing can be overwhelming so I've put together a DTF supply list of what you need to get started to help make sure you don't miss any essentials, while also not overbuying. I think the best way really though is to purchase a DTF printer bundle so below the supply list (which is shoppable by clicking) you'll find a DTF Printer comparison chart. 
Now that you know everything that's needed to get into DTF, it's time to decide which DTF printer is best for your small business. As I mentioned, I have four DTF printers - they're marked with a Silhouette School logo in the DTF printer comparison chart below. 

I have a whole post dedicated to an indepth comparison of DTF printers that you can check out here.

How Much Does a DTF Printer Cost? 

One of the big questions is always "how much does it cost to get into DTF?" You can get a full setup with the desktop Prestige A3+ DTF printer for an investment of about $4600, while a full set up with the Epson F2100 will cost you about double that - however that printer is MAC and PC compatible AND doubles as a DTG the added value can't be denied.  I will also say...the saying "you get what you pay for" is definitely true with DTF printers.

What's the Cost in Ink, Film, and Powder to Print a Full DTF Sheet?

Keep in mind one of the great things about DTF is the transfers are inexpensive to make with an A3 size costing just about $1 to print and a full printed 8.5 x 11" sheet of film even less than that! 

With that being said, the ink prices range between brands and the ink is where your cost per transfer will start to add up. 

What Type of Maintenance is Required for a DTF Printer?

All DTF Printers require some level of pretty much daily and weekly maintenance.  It can be as little as five minutes a day and as simple as shaking the white ink and running a nozzle check. But the best way to keep a DTF printer working well and prevent the lines from clogging is to keep it printing regularly.  Below you will find videos on the maintenance for several of the DTF Printers I own.

Getting Started with DTF

It's relatively easy to get started with direct to film although the set up of each of the DTF printers is slightly different. 

The Epson F2100 and Roland BN-20D are the easiest to set up since they both use cartridge ink and the charging (pulling the ink through the lines) is done automatically. 

The Prestige A3+ and A3+ R, along with the Uninet 100 DTF printers both require the printer be filled with ink from larger bottles. This is a much more manual and messy - but less expensive - way to go.  

Of course for all every DTF printer that I own, I set up tutorials and videos to help you along the way. 

Below you'll find the main page for each of the four DTF printers I own where'll find a lot more information and printer-specific tutorials on each. 

And I have a special offer for you - if you buy a Prestige Bundle you can get an EXTRA 200 sheets of DTF film - free.  Get the free DTF film offer by clicking my link to unlock the code. 

Best Place for Full Color Images for DTF

Not a designer? Let So Fontsy do the designing for you...thousands of ready to print full color digital images and art for Direct to Film printers all with the free commercial use license. 

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