DTG vs. DTF Printing: What You Need to Know

A company’s success depends on its promotion and marketing abilities. We all know that the more visible a brand is, the more likely consumers are to engage with them. One of the most powerful tools to generate brand awareness is through branded merchandise and apparel. 9 out of 10 customers that receive branded merchandise remember the name of the brand, while the promotional item itself can generate hundreds to thousands of impressions over its lifetime.

The options for branded merchandise are endless. Different types of merchandise can satisfy different objectives. In this blog post, we will be focusing on the printed apparel industry. After all, a branded T-shirt has the potential to reach 3,400 new customers and is one of the most popular promo items amongst both consumers and marketers. Whether a business offers an integrated brand merchandising program or needs a last-minute apparel order, it is important to understand different garment printing techniques.

As the garment printing industry grows, so does the associated technology. Direct-to-garment printing (DTG) and direct-to-film printing (DTF) are two of the main types of apparel decorating techniques. Depending on various specifications, one may be a better option than the other for overall production quality. Read on to learn the differences between DTG and DTF printing so you can choose the best option for your business needs.


What is DTG?

Direct-to-garment, or DTG, is a printing method that prints the graphic directly onto the garment using a DTG printing machine. It requires a pretreated ink-fixing agent and is best suited for cotton, cotton-blend, and other natural fiber garments. DTG relies on these types of materials because the water-based ink used by the printer must be fully absorbed prior to being cured. After curing, the ink is ingrained within the garment's fibers. This leaves a soft, breathable, long-lasting design that can weather the elements.

DTG has been around for just over 2 decades and continues to be in a rapid growth phase. It is known throughout the branded apparel world as one of the most reliable and efficient ways to obtain high-quality prints. With little setup time and low production costs, DTG is any garment designer's best friend.


What is DTF?

The direct-to-film, or DTF, printing technique differs from DTG in that the design is printed directly to a film, rather than the garment itself. Once printed, the ink on the film is then coated with a special adhesive powder ahead of being transferred to the garment using a heat press. Since the ink does not soak into the fabric like it does with DTG, DTF printing is applicable to additional material types like polyester and nylon and offers excellent color accuracy and detail. There is little concern when printing on dark garments as the film sits atop the fabric, making it a more flexible option for more elaborate designs. While not as frequently used, DTF has a wide range of capabilities and can print onto hats, shoes, and backpacks.


DTG vs. DTF: Which is Right for You?

Both DTG and DTF printing techniques work to achieve the same goal of providing your brand with high-quality, durable branded apparel items. However, they utilize different means to enable unique results depending on the print medium and desired designs. While direct-to-garment thrives at producing large designs without the uncomfortable heavy or plastic feel, direct-to-film excels at providing photo-realistic prints with sharp details and vivid colors.

Whatever business needs arise, Helm is here to guide you. The Helm production and distribution facility houses direct-to-garment and direct-to-film capabilities. We are here to ensure your planned or on-demand branded apparel orders are executed with speed, efficiency, and quality in mind. Our specially trained creative and production teams utilize the newest design and printing techniques to adapt to the changing needs of your brand.

Contact us today to learn more about Helm’s DTG and DTF capabilities. You can also reach us by phone or email at 1-800-445-4831 or info@helm.com.

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