DTF vs Sublimation, DTG, Screen printing, White Laser Toner And Vinyl

DTF Printing Technology is owned and operated by a printing company that’s been on the market for the best part of a decade. What started as a small side hassle, eventually grew into a state of the art print shop. Over the years, we’ve gained a lot of knowledge and first hand experience with all of the above mentioned printing methods. Here is how they compare to DTF at a glance.

Sublimation printing

Pros:

  • Very cheap and accessible. Most of the time you can simply refill an old printer with sublimation inks and you are ready to go. You can even get away with printing on regular office paper instead of using expensive sublimation sheets.
  • Requires minimal maintenance. Sublimation ink does not to clog up easily.
  • Works on a variety of products such as mugs, keyrings, coasters etc.
  • On industrials scale, a variety of all over print cut and sew products can be manufactured using large format printers.

Cons:

  • You are limited to polyester garments. Cotton sublimation is possible with use of additional sublimation sprays and transfer powders, which can be a complex process.
  • You are limited to light coloured products. You can’t sublimate onto black shirts.

DTG Printing

Pros:

  • DTG printed shirts have possibly the best feel to them. You can’t beat the softness, quality and washability of a well printed DTF shirt.
  • You can print on print on pretty much anything you can fit on your flatbed. Rough surface tote bag? No problem! A shoe? Easy!

Cons:

  • Very expensive to get into. You can buy a cheap Chinese flatbed printer for £2000 but those are nothing compared to a proper £13,000 machine or an industrial printer. Consumables are expensive, maintenance is expensive, spares are expensive. You can go on YouTube and search for “Why I sold my DTG printer” or “Why my t-shirt business failed” and you will realize that DTG is simply not financially viable for a starting business.
  • You will need to pretreat your t-shirts. This process can be more tricky than it seems. Ideally you would buy a pretreatment machine and a decent dryer, costing you even more money.
  • White DTG ink is famous for its clogging and daily maintenance requirement. Every time you leave your printer idle for a few days you risk ruining a £1800 printhead.

Screen Printing

Pros:

  • Best way to mass produce t-shirts on a budget.
  • Master screen printers can produce amazing results.

Cons:

  • Not for one off orders. It takes a long time to set everything up for each design. But once everything is running you can quickly print a large quantity of shirts.
  • Screen printing is an art form. It has a steep learning curve and will require a lot of practice to do right.
  • Requires more space
  • It’s one of the messier printing methods that involves spraying, washing, ink mixing, chemicals etc.

White Laser Toner Printing

Pros:

  • No ink to deal with. No clogs, no spills, no cleaning.
  • Can print on mugs, bottles and many other products.
  • Can print stunning white on black greetings cards

Cons:

  • Your t-shirts will feel like a plastic bag unless rasterized, which makes the design look terrible close up.
  • Washability is pretty bad unless using various workarounds such pretreatment and rasterization.
  • A sheet to B sheet marrying process can be tricky and inconsistent.
  • Cheaper printers suffer from alignment problems. Expensive printers are… expensive.

Vinyl

Pros:

  • Lots of funky effects that only vinyl can achieve. Metal foil, reflective, glitter etc.
  • Relatively inexpensive.

Cons:

  • Weeding can be time consuming.
  • Feels like… vinyl
  • Can be limiting with what you can do. Some designs simply won’t work.
  • Design usually starts to peel after a few washes

So what’s the verdict?

Overall, DTG printing is still king. If it was affordable, I would recommend it any day. Sadly, DTG just does not make any sense for a small business. Cheap flatbed printers are trash and expensive ones don’t make any sense financially. YouTube is filled with stories of people failing to make a return on their expensive DTG equipment. This is where DTF comes in. DTG’s close underdog, your second best option. It solves a lot of problems of other printing methods while producing great results and most importantly being affordable. DTF does everything you need. It will allow you to print on 100% cotton and black garments, it will have great feel and washability. You will be able to print on demand quickly and conveniently, without having to worry about sitting idle for a few days. DTF printing technology make a perfect setup for a growing business. Save some money, focus on developing your brand, make your customers happy and if you reach a point where you are generating enough revenue to afford a £22,000 – £250,000 DTG operation, you can always upgrade and take your company to the next level.

Buy DTF printing supplies here

4 Comments

  1. June 4, 2021
    Reply

    I am in the beginning stage of my small business,
    “ custom apparel business “. Already! I’ve been experiencing problems. What I though would be… has turned into a NEW DECISION, after discovering information about DTF I have now made the decision to go that printing route! Although I’ve already invested in sublimation printing cost! Long story short I was about to die after coming across information on DTG!! Thinking I’ve made another wrong turn for the quality printing I’m looking to guarantee my customers, well after reading the information provided here I am once again excited about my printing journey. Feeling positive to exceed my way to a DTG machine. I’ll still continue to use sublimation but only for accessories and non clothing material. Thank you much for simplifying my next question and helping me feel secure within my upcoming success!

  2. Sandy Ramon
    July 24, 2021
    Reply

    This is the perfect article and the one I have been searching for! Thank you for your tips and knowledge.

  3. Abdul
    July 29, 2021
    Reply

    Super article, explains everything. Cheers
    Please also tell about best DTF printers for hone business. Thanks

    • You can convert something like a P600 yourself if you are on a budget or buy a prebuilt machine from us.

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