Waxed Branding

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Is DTF better than sublimation?

Is DTF better than sublimation?

When talking about printing on clothes, DTF and sublimation stand out. DTF uses direct-to-film technology, while sublimation is a heat transfer process. Both have their unique methods and effects on the clothes. Let’s dive into the comparison to see which one is more suitable for different needs.

Choosing the right method is key, especially at Waxed branding. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option for large orders, or exceptional quality for custom designs, we’ve got you covered. We help you understand the pros and cons of DTF versus sublimation printing.

Key Takeaways

  • DTF is great with many fabric types and colours. Sublimation, though, shines on light polyester blends.
  • For endless print runs, sublimation is the go-to. But for one-of-a-kind prints, DTF is the better choice.
  • DTF prints have high image resolution, and you can use them on a broader range of materials.
  • Sublimation prints are durable with soft textures, unlike DTF prints.
  • Your decision might consider the fabric, the design, the scale of production, and your budget.

Understanding DTF Printing

Direct-to-film (DTF) printing is a modern way to design clothes. It uses special printers and heat to make bright, durable pictures on items. Companies worldwide, like Waxed branding in South Africa, choose DTF for its quality and ability to print on many materials.

What is DTF Printing?

DTF printing is done in two stages. First, a design is printed on special film with a DTF printer. Then, this design is pressed onto an item using a heat press. It allows detailed designs in full colour on fabric, leather, and silk.

The DTF Printing Process

First, a digital design is made with graphic software. This design is printed on a PET film with a DTF printer using special ink. Then, an adhesive powder is added and the print is heated to fix it. After that, it’s pressed onto the item to get a strong, clear print.

Advantages of DTF Printing

  • Suitable for printing on all types of fabric
  • Ideal for both dark- and light-coloured fabric
  • Produces more vibrant colours compared to sublimation printing
  • Allows for printing on one item at a time
  • Can be applied to a variety of materials like metal, wood, leather, and fabric
  • Generally provides better print quality and higher image resolution than sublimation printing

Disadvantages of DTF Printing

  • Results in more rigid images that may crack over time
  • Requires high maintenance and daily usage to prevent clogging and drying out of the printer
  • DTF printers have smaller platens (12″ x 15″) compared to sublimation printers (16″ x 20″)
  • May result in prints that feel harder due to the adhesive used in the transfer process
  • DTF printers are more expensive, starting at around R55000,00
  • DTF adhesive powder can cause damage to skin and respiratory system if inhaled
DTF PrintingSublimation Printing
Works on all types of fabricOnly suitable for polyester fabric (minimum 65% polyester)
Ideal for both dark- and light-coloured fabricNot ideal for dark-coloured substrates
Produces more vibrant coloursColours may appear less vibrant
Allows for printing on one item at a timeOffers unlimited print runs, more suited for large-scale printing
Average setup cost: $3,000 and upAverage setup cost: Under R9000

Exploring Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is a top choice for making prints. It works best on polyester and blends. This method is well-liked in the garment industry. It makes colourful, lasting prints that feel soft.

What is Sublimation Printing?

It’s a digital way to print using special ink and paper. These prints last and feel good because the ink goes from a solid to gas. This lets it bond well with materials.

The Sublimation Printing Process

First, a digital design is made. Then, it’s printed on special paper. This paper is placed on the material and pressed with heat.

The heat turns the ink into a gas. This gas bonds with the material. When it cools, the print is part of the material, lasting a long time.

Benefits of Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing has many good points for designs:

  1. Prints stay bright and don’t wear off
  2. They feel nice and last well
  3. It can do detailed, realistic images
  4. Great for big printing jobs
  5. Works on various solid surfaces

Limitations of Sublimation Printing

But, sublimation printing isn’t ideal for all fabrics:

  • It only works well on polyesters or blends
  • Natural fabrics and dark colours don’t work
  • It needs special machines and supplies
  • Can cost more because of the material it needs
Substrate CompatibilitySublimation Printing
Polyester and polyester blendsExcellent
Cotton and natural fibresPoor
Hard surfaces (metal, ceramics, glass, etc.)Good (with polymer coating)

Businesses like Waxed need to think about what they’re printing on. Sublimation is great for polyester and coated items. But, for other materials or dark fabrics, DTF printing might be better.

Is DTF Better Than Sublimation?

Both DTF (direct-to-film) and sublimation printing have their good points and not-so-good points. The better choice depends on the material to be printed, the print quality needed, how much you’re making, and your budget. It’s crucial to look at these factors to see which method fits best for a project.

print quality analysis of DTF and sublimation printing

Looking at costs, DTF printing starts at R55000 or more, but sublimation starts under R9000. Yet, DTF can print on a wider variety of materials like cotton, nylon, and silk. Sublimation works best on polyester, doesn’t do well on dark colours, though.

Thinking about how easy they are to use and keep up, DTF printers can be harder to set up. They might need help from the company for setup. They need to be used regularly to avoid parts clogging. Sublimation printers are usually easier to start using and don’t need as much care.

FactorDTF PrintingSublimation Printing
Initial CostR55000 and upUnder R9000
Material CompatibilityCotton, nylon, polyester, treated leather, silk, and morePolyester and poly blends; not suitable for dark colours
Ease of UseChallenging setup; may require customer supportGenerally easier to start using
MaintenanceRequires consistent daily use to prevent clogging and drying outLess stringent maintenance requirements
Ideal Production ScaleBest suited for businesses printing high volumes of garmentsSuitable for hobbyists and small businesses with less frequent printing needs

In terms of print quality, DTF can create very detailed images on cotton, polyester, and nylon. Its prints often look close to real photos. Sublimation printing, though, makes colours that are very long-lasting. They won’t crack or peel, which is great for durable products.

The choice between DTF and sublimation printing really depends on what a project needs. Businesses must weigh what’s most important, like the material to print on, print quality, and how much they’re printing. By doing this, they can pick the right printing method for their needs.

Comparing Print Quality and Durability

Choosing the right method for print quality and durability in garment decoration is key. Let’s explore how DTF and sublimation printing stack up. We will compare them based on image sharpness, colour strength, how well they stand up to washing, and the feel of the fabric.

print quality comparison

DTF Print Quality

DTF printing stands out for its top-notch quality compared to sublimation. Direct to Fabric method means the ink goes straight on the fabric. This gives high-resolution images and detailed prints. You can print on various fabrics, light or dark, which makes it very adaptable.

Sublimation Print Quality

Sublimation prints the image into the fabric, creating a soft, lasting finish. The prints are a bit less sharp but remain vibrant and won’t crack or peel. It’s great for light fabrics and items like mugs too.

Durability Comparison

Both DTF and sublimation prints last well, even after lots of wear and washing. But, there are some key points to remember:

  • DTF prints are super tough, they won’t easily wear out or tear.
  • Sublimation makes prints that fuse really well with fabric, so colours keep vibrant and resist fading.
  • DTF prints might feel a bit harder due to the glue, while sublimation offers a softer touch.
CharacteristicDTF PrintingSublimation Printing
Image ResolutionHigher, more detailed printsLower, but still vibrant prints
Colour VibrancyVibrant colours on all fabric typesVibrant colours, best on light fabrics
Wash ResistanceHigh, durable against repeated washingHigh, colours remain vibrant over time
Fabric TextureSlightly harder due to hot glue meltSoft, natural-feeling texture

Your choice between DTF and sublimation depends on what you need for quality and durability. At Waxed Branding, we help you pick the best for your project. We make sure our customers get great results for their designs.

Suitable Materials for Each Printing Method

DTF and sublimation printing each suit different materials. Waxed branding finds this very useful. DTF is versatile. It works on many materials. These include metal, wood, and lots of fabrics. It’s great for light and dark materials, perfect for bright designs on cotton or polyester.

Sublimation printing is best for polyester and its blends. It’s perfect for light fabrics. The ink goes into the material, making it last longer. Sublimation works on more than just cloth. It’s good for metal, glass, and more.

Printing MethodCompatible Materials
DTF PrintingMetalWoodLeatherPlexiglassPlasticCopperplate paperTextile fabrics (cotton, polyester, nylon, silk, etc.)
Sublimation PrintingPolyester and polyester blendsLight-coloured fabricsMetalCeramicsAluminiumGlassFibreglassPlasticAcrylic

Choosing between DTF and sublimation depends on your materials. DTF works with many fabrics and surfaces. For bright, lasting prints on polyester, choose sublimation. It also prints on hard surfaces well.

Choose DTF or sublimation based on what you need. Think about the materials you use and the look you want.

Cost and Efficiency Analysis

Deciding between DTF and sublimation printing means looking at costs and efficiency. Each has its own benefits and costs influencing choices. This is important for companies like Waxed Branding.

Equipment and Supplies Costs

DTF printers need important consumables like PET films and DTF inks. This adds to production costs. In comparison, sublimation printing uses transfer papers and inks which are often cheaper. Looking at both the initial and long-term costs is key.

Getting started with DTF can be costly. A DTF printer might start at R57500 . Sublimation printers are more budget-friendly, beginning at around R9100 . But remember, ongoing costs play a big part too.

Production Efficiency

DTF printing is great for small, custom projects because it works on various materials. Yet, keeping DTF printers maintained can slow down work.

Sublimation is ideal for big jobs. It works well on polyester and moves fast, cutting operational costs. Plus, subs require less maintenance to keep going strong.

FactorDTF PrintingSublimation Printing
Initial Equipment CostHigher (R57500+)Lower (R9100+)
Ongoing Supplies CostHigher (PET films, DTF inks, powder adhesives)Lower (sublimation inks, transfer papers, polymer-coated substrates)
Production EfficiencySuitable for small-scale, customised productionOptimised for bulk printing and large-scale production
Maintenance RequirementsHigher (frequent maintenance to prevent clogging and drying out)Lower (more reliable and streamlined production process)

Choosing between DTF and sublimation depends on what a business needs. Waxed Branding and similar companies have to think about their targets and budget. They must look at DTF and sublimation printers’ costs, speed, and output. Doing this helps them pick what best supports their future growth.


When comparing DTF and sublimation printing methods, each has its own benefits and downsides. DTF is great for vivid, detailed prints and suits small runs or customising. On the flip side, sublimation shines for large orders thanks to its lower cost and works well on polyester items.

The right method depends on the project’s needs. Companies such as Waxed branding, from South Africa, need to think about what matters most. They should consider print quality, what materials they are using, how much they need to make, and their budget.

Knowing what each method can do helps them choose wisely. This way, they can pick what’s best for their project. It’s about achieving top-quality decoration that catches the eye, whether through DTF’s precision or sublimation’s endurance.


What is DTF printing?

DTF stands for direct-to-fabric printing. It’s a process where a design is printed on a PET sheet. This design is then heat-transferred onto an item using a heat press.

What is sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is when an image is first printed on special paper. Then, heat is used to transfer this image onto polyester or a polyester mix. This method makes a lasting image without cracks.

Is DTF printing better than sublimation printing?

The comparison between DTF and sublimation printing depends on your needs. Consider the material you’re printing on, the quality and lasting of the print, your budget, and how much you’re printing. Each method has advantages and some constraints.

What are the advantages of DTF printing?

DTF printing excels in print quality and resolution. It also works on many materials, dark and light. This makes it great for small projects.

What are the advantages of sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is known for being cost-effective and great for big projects. It creates prints on polyester or polyester blends that last long. The colours stay vivid without cracks.

What materials can DTF printing be applied to?

DFT printing can be used on various materials. This includes metal, wood, leather, and plastics. It’s especially good for fabrics of all colours.

What materials are best suited for sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is best suited for light-coloured polyester items. But, it can also do hard surfaces. This includes metal, glass, and some plastics.

How do the costs of DTF and sublimation printers compare?

DTF printers cost a lot more upfront than sublimation printers. You can get a DTF printer for around $3,000, but a sublimation printer starts at under $500. Yet, DTF printers need regular use and care to stay functional.

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