How to Apply DTF Transfers
The Direct to Film (DTF) process is a new printing technique, developed since 2020, which provides versatility and speed in meeting the needs of printing businesses of all sizes. As the DTF name suggests, the desired image is produced onto a specialized film, and the image is then heat pressed onto the desired medium. The DTF process allows images to be transferred to a variety of objects, such as garments, mugs, cutting boards, and caps. However, the user’s process for how the image progresses from the digital image stage to the ready-to-press film stage is different, depending on the type of DTF printing equipment being utilized.
Desktop DTF Printer – Steps from Image to Ready-to-Press Film
Some small business owners and hobbyists utilize a desktop DTF printer with specialized printing software. Desktop models are available from companies such as Brother, Epson, DTF Pro and Ricoh. Users of such models typically purchase the specialized DTF film precut into rectangular shapes in a variety of sizes to suit their needs. Once the digital image is transferred to the film, a specialized powder must be applied to the image; the powder is the adhesive agent and bonds the image to the film. The powder is carefully brushed across the image, making sure that all areas of the image are covered. If the powder is applied quickly after the image is printed, the powder adheres well to the film, but if the powder is applied hours or even a day after the image is printed, the user will need to apply more powder and assure that the image is fully covered.
The next step is to melt the powder to the film and this can be done using an oven, a heat press, or a heat blower (which resembles a hand-held hair dryer). Upon completion of this step, the film is ready to be transferred to the final medium.
Professional-Size DTF Printer – Steps from Image to Ready-to-Press Film
Other business owners utilize a more costly professional-size DTF printer. Such printers are available from vendors such as DTF Pro (Panther or Midi models) and DTF Superstore (the Mongoose series or the Raptor). These professional models, which are operated with specialized computer software, are automated and consist of 3 major parts: printing, powder application/distribution, and curing components. In this case, the user purchases the specialized DTF film is on a roll that feeds into these machine components and is gathered onto the receiving roll at the end of the 3-component process. In essence, this type of professional printer prints the images, applies the powder, distributes the powder via a “shaking” movement, cures/dries the powder to adhere it to the film, and delivers the resulting images onto a receiving roll, replicating all of the steps that the user must perform if using a desktop DTF printer. Once the roll is removed and the various images are cut into ready-to-press film segments, the film is ready to be transferred to the final medium. As you may presume, this type of printer is typically desired and utilized by businesses with a high-order volume for DTF film and/or DTF printed products.
FINAL STEP: Transferring the DTF Film to the Product
Whether the final ready-to-press image on the specialized DTF film has been created using a desktop printer or a professional-size printing process, the final step is the same: the film is placed on the receiving medium, special transfer paper is placed on top of the film, and a heat press is used to transfer the image to the product.