4 Ways to Make Digitally Printed T-Shirts – DTG, DTF, Dye Sub, and Heat Transfer

Briana gives a brief overview of the 4 ways to make digitally printed t-shirts. If you’re considering starting your own t-shirt printing business, adding this offering to your shop, or you just want some clarification on the different processes, watch our video linked below!

There are a lot of different ink technologies and processes to consider when you’re looking into t-shirt printing. In today’s video, we’re going to focus on digital printing. The topics covered will be Direct to Garment, Direct to Film, Dye-Sublimation, and Heat Transfer Vinyl. We’ll keep this pretty brief and explain each process including its’ versatility, durability, and process time.   

We won’t get too deep into the cost because it can vary greatly from printer manufacturer and model, to ink used and finishing equipment. If you want to find out more information on costs, check out our other videos or give us a call to discuss. 

First, we’ll explain how each technology works. DTG, also known as direct to garment, is pretty self-explanatory. It lays ink directly onto the garment. The fabric has to be pretreated with a spray. DTG really works best with cotton or poly/cotton blend shirts because the ink is designed to adhere to natural fibers. You can print on full polyester fabric with DTG, but you have to use a poly pretreat and image quality is sacrificed. Basically, the higher the natural content of the fabric, the better the image quality.  

A lot of people who have DTG printers, use the Direct to Film process for polyester fabrics. You just need a special powder which acts as a glue and film for the transfer. There are also many DTF printers on the market. DTF is done by printing an image onto a transfer film and then using a heat press to adhere the image to the fabric. DTF has a low curing temperature, so it can be done on any fabric, light or dark. The end result comes out with a feel a bit thicker than what you would get with a DTG print.

The durability for DTG and DTF is about the same. You can expect the print to last about 40 washes, very close to what you get with a screen print.  

Another digital print technology is dye-sublimation. This process consists of printing to a transfer paper which you heat press onto your fabric. Dye-sub requires that the transfer paper and the fabric have a polymer coating in order for the ink to adhere. For this reason, you are strictly limited to printing on polyester fabric or poly coated substrates. Dye sublimation is the quickest process out of the four we’re discussing today. It’s also the lowest cost per print. We have to mention that dye-sublimation can get much more expensive depending on the size of prints you want to produce.  

The final digital print technology we’ll talk about is heat transfer vinyl. This is the process a lot of shops use when they are first beginning to offer t-shirts. With this method, you would use a signage printer like an HP latex for instance, to print your design, then use a masking film to pick up the vinyl so that your adhesive is facing out. You would then place the adhesive onto your shirt and use a heat press to adhere it to your fabric. The durability of the design really depends on the adhesive vinyl you’re using. This can be done on cotton or polyester fabric. This process takes the longest of any we’ve talked about today because it requires either a cutter or for you to weed out areas of your design. It’s a great place to start if you already have a signage printer and don’t have the volume of t-shirt orders to justify buying another machine.  

Overall, we’ll sum it up this way. Heat transfer vinyl and DTF are the most versatile printing methods for t-shirts since your fabric can be cotton, polyester or a blend. Although, these are also the most time consuming.  

Dye-sub gives you the most durable product since the ink combines with the fabric.  

Like we mentioned earlier, costs can vary greatly depending on the printer manufacturer and model.

Below is a list of how much the ink cost was for each method on the printed t-shirts shown by Briana throughout the video.

The DTF print cost 75 cents in ink, plus the film and t-shirt 

The DTG print cost $1.10 in ink + the pretreat and t-shirt  

Finally, the dye-sub cost 10 cents in ink + the transfer paper and t-shirt 

If you want to dig deeper into t-shirt printing, give us a call to discuss your desired product and we will help you navigate which method will work best for you. Thanks for watching! 

Shop DTG https://www.itsupplies.com/Direct-to-…

Shop DTF https://www.itsupplies.com/FTF-DTF-Po…

Shop Dye-sub https://www.itsupplies.com/Dye-Sublim…

Shop DTF Transfer Film https://www.itsupplies.com/DTF-Transf…

Still have questions regarding the EPSON SureColor DTG, Dye-Sublimation, DTF (direct to film), or Heat Transfers? Call 1-800-771-9665 and ask to talk to one of our commercial sales specialists or visit our website https://www.itsupplies.com.

IT Supplies is your single source solution for everything relating to the perfect print. We represent some of the top manufacturers in the industry. Our full lineup includes Eco Solvent, Latex, Flat Bed, and Aqueous printers by EPSON, HP, and Canon. We also carry a large selection of Dye-Sublimation and DTG Printers by both EPSON and HP. Visit us at www.itsupplies.com

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