DTF vs Sublimation: Which Works Better?


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Struggling to choose between DTF and sublimation printing for your hobby? It can be difficult to pick one as both possess the top-notch capability of transferring images on various substrates. However, there are certain factors that give rise to DTF vs Sublimation, and they must be explored before you make a final decision. 

From required equipment to durability and cost, DTF and sublimation differ from each other in several ways. With that said, let’s discover the key differences between both and which technique can be more suitable for your needs. 

dtf vs sublimation featured image


Understanding Sublimation

In sublimation printing, heat and pressure transfer the design from sublimation paper to fabric. Sublimation printing has recently gained popularity due to the finished product’s superior quality and its high resistance to wear. Even after repeated washings, the prints won’t fade or deteriorate.

How Does Sublimation Printing Work? 

After choosing a design, you must print it on paper with a sublimation printer. The image is then transferred onto the fabric with a heat press by applying moderate pressure, or you can simply place it in an oven. The heat from the press or oven opens the fabric’s pores, while pressure cools the ink and solidifies it on the surface.

Understanding DTF

DTF is short for “Direct To Film”, a method that prints designs onto a film. You can then transfer the image from the film to cotton, polyester, or a suitable substrate of any color. Although DTF is a form of transfer printing, it requires a desktop inkjet printer with textile inks specifically designed for the process.

How Does DTF Printing Work? 

A DTF printer prints artwork or designs onto a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) film using water-based inks and adhesives. The material to be imprinted is dehumidified and pre-flattened, and the design is then heat-pressed onto it. This facilitates a seamless transfer of detailed, intricate images with vivid colors. 

After applying the film to the clothing, you must carefully peel it off. The fabric is then heat-pressed again, leading to a durable transfer. 

Main Difference Between Sublimation & DTF

Now that you have a clear understanding of how sublimation and DTF printing work, let’s discuss DTF vs sublimation further and find their key differences:


A sublimation printer (or converted inkjet printer) and ink, transfer paper, heat press, and heat tape or adhesive spray are required for sublimation printing. In contrast, DTF printing needs a special DTF printer and ink, along with a heat press, adhesive powder, and a transfer film to print the design onto the substrate. 

Both processes need specialized software to modify the printer and print the image in the correct sequence. Additionally, you will need various supplies like transfer gloves, thermal tape, silicone cover sheets, foam pillows, a weighing scale, cleaning solutions, and a heat gun while attempting both processes. 

Fabric Suitability 

When it comes to DTF vs sublimation printing, it’s important to think about how well the printing methods work with different surfaces and fabrics. Both methods are flexible, but some materials work better with one than the other. 

Sublimation works best with several materials made from synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, which let the ink bind strongly, leading to prints that look bright and colorful. DTF printing, on the other hand, works best with natural fabrics like cotton, canvas, and linen. 

Color Limitations

DTF printers can transfer designs on both dark and light color substrates. Meanwhile, the functionality of sublimation is a bit limited as it only works with soft colors and cannot print white.

Accuracy of Design Imprint

DTF’s higher resolution allows you to see more detail in your print. In comparison, sublimation has a lower resolution, so some of the finer details in your design might be lost.

Printing Size

DTF is restricted by its platen size, typically 12″ x 15″; therefore, it can only transfer designs on substrates with their size falling in this range. However, sublimation printers have platens that can accommodate prints up to 16″ x 20″ in length and width. 

Printing Texture

When it comes to DTF vs sublimation printing, there are notable differences in terms of texture. Sublimation gives the cloth a smooth feel since it adheres fully to the material with no visible layer on top. There will be no additional coating when you touch the cloth.

DTF printing, on the other hand, leaves a thin coating on top of the cloth, which gives the printed area a slightly raised or textured feel when touched.


As a result of the ink being embedded directly into the fabric, sublimation printing produces products with exceptional durability. Thus, even after multiple washings and uses, the prints will not fade or discolor as they would with DTF printing. 

DTF-printed images, on the other hand, tend to peel or crack because there is an additional layer on top of the fabric that is more susceptible to damage.


The difference between the cost of DTF and sublimation printing is not huge. But DTF is slightly cheaper as there’s no paper or film required. However, printers and other equipment needed for this technique are much more expensive, balancing the overall costs. 

DTF vs Sublimation – An Overview

Sublimation PrintingDTF Printing
Required EquipmentA Sublimation Printer and Printing Software, Sublimation Ink and Paper, Heat Press,
Sublimation Blanks
A DTF Printer and PET DTF Transfer Films, DTF Printer Ink, Hot-Melt Adhesive Powder, Heat Press Machine, and RIP software 
Additional SuppliesTransfer Gloves, Thermal Tape, Tape Dispenser, Spray Adhesive, Silicone Cover Sheets, Foam Pillows5-Gallon Tumbler Shaker, Weighing Scale, Masking Tape, Cleaning Solution, Heat Gun
Fabric SuitabilitySynthetic fabrics like polyester and nylonNatural fabrics like cotton, canvas, and linen
Color LimitationsWorks well with light colors but cannot print in whiteWorks well with both dark and light colors, can print in white
Print Size16” X 20” platen12” X 15” platen
Print TextureSoft and SmoothHard 
DurabilityMore durableLess durable
CostCheaperSlightly expensive

DTF vs Sublimation: Which Technique is Right For You?

The DTF vs Sublimation comparison is based on multiple factors, like required equipment and supplies, fabric suitability, print texture and durability, cost, etc. However, the right choice can vary according to your needs and budget. 

For example, sublimation is the ideal printing method if you are transferring designs on light-colored polyester fabric. On the other hand, DTF works best on 100% cotton along with other materials like canvas, linen, etc. 

Similarly, if you have enough budget for your hobby, consider getting a DTF printer. Otherwise, a sublimation printer would be suitable as it is slightly cheaper. 


Q. Does DTF last longer than sublimation?

When compared to sublimation, DTF printing is more prone to being peeled off and cracked with each wash. Therefore, images printed with DTF may not last as long as those transferred on the substrate via sublimation.  

Q. Can you print DTF on a regular printer?

No, DTF requires a desktop inkjet printer with textile inks specially designed for this type of printing.

Q. How is a DTF printer different from a regular inkjet printer?

A DTF printer differs from a regular printer in terms of the printing mechanism. In a regular inkjet printer, the print head has small nozzles that spray the ink onto the moving paper to make characters and images. A DTF printer, on the other hand, uses a special method in which the ink is first printed onto a release paper and then transferred to the fabric using heat and pressure. 

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