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Direct-To-Film: The Next Generation of Digital Decoration

Posted by Sharprint Associated Press on March 14, 2023 4:53:39 PM CDT

What’s new in digital custom apparel?

Digital printing revolutionized the custom textile industry. There’s no question. By meeting the demand for affordable, mid-to-low volume print orders in full color,  businesses and organizations of all sizes have been able to customize apparel for work-related occasions and events. Samples for advertisers and marketers can be made quickly to support presentations. And we can’t say it often enough - YES! You can bring that hilarious t-shirt idea to life.


Direct-to-garment (DTG) is the pioneer process for digital printing on apparel and digital print shirt technology. Yet for all its advantages, printing directly on the garment is not great for every fabric. Direct-to-film (DTF) is the long-awaited digital solution for fabrics that aren’t well suited for direct-to-garment printing.


In this article, you’ll learn the limitations of direct-to-garment printing and how direct-to-film provides a solution. 


Pros & Cons of Digital Textile Decoration 

Both DTG and DTF are digital apparel decoration methods that need very little setup.  They are both very affordable - especially for smaller runs. High-resolution images make outstanding digital prints using both processes. The key to choosing a decoration method is in knowing how they differ.

Direct-To-Garment Printing

DTG printing must be on 100% cotton. Digital textile ink is water-based and doesn’t adhere to polyester fibers and other non-porous, synthetic fibers. Think of how water beads on a car that has been waxed.

That said, the dyes used for certain color tees can bleed into digital prints. This tends to happen with neons, purples, blues and charcoals. Check with your decorator on any extra bright or unusual colors from the get-go on this!


Direct-To-Film Printing


DTF printing is done on the same printer as DTG using the same water-based ink. The ink, however, is printed on a piece of specifically designed film. Next, the image is transferred to the garment using an adhesive powder. Since the transfers don’t require the same high heat as DTG, direct-to-film printing can even be used with water-resistant materials such as rain jackets, aprons, bags, and other products that can be challenging to print.

At this point, you may wonder why not to use DTF for every digital order. The answer is simple: time. DTF is fast, but DTG is still faster by a significant amount.




When To Consider Direct-To-Film

If you’re printing on a 100% cotton DTG is likely a good option. If it’s a color you haven’t used with DTG before, ask your decorator. Your decorator has probably printed DTG on every color or will know when to run a test. 

Common Uses For DTF Decoration


  • Polyester, polyblends, moisture wicking, or stain-resistant fabrics
  • Bright, rich, or unusual colors
  • Full-color hat logos
  • Inside tags
  • Coats
  • Aprons, chefwear, restaurant apparel
  • Raincoats, umbrellas, coolers




    What is digital decoration?
    Digital decoration refers to the process of using digital technology to create and produce decorative elements for various applications. This can include digital printing, digital imaging, and other digital techniques used to create custom decorations for events, parties, and other occasions.

    What are the benefits of digital decoration?
    Digital decoration offers many benefits over traditional decorating methods. It allows for greater customization, faster production times, and greater accuracy in design and execution. Additionally, digital decoration can be more cost-effective and can be produced on a wider range of materials and surfaces.

    What types of digital decoration are available?
    There are many types of digital decoration available, including digital printing, vinyl cutting, laser cutting, and CNC routing. Each of these methods offers unique advantages and can be used for different applications depending on the desired outcome.

    What can digital decoration be used for?
    Digital decoration can be used for a wide variety of applications, including event decor, trade show displays, signage, promotional items, and product packaging. It can also be used to create custom art and graphics for use in a variety of settings.

    Can digital decoration be used on all types of surfaces?
    Digital decoration can be used on a wide range of surfaces, including paper, fabric, plastic, metal, and wood. However, the suitability of a particular surface will depend on the specific digital decoration technique being used, as well as the type of ink, material, or medium being used in the process.

    Have any more questions or need help with your next direct-to-film order?


    Give us a shout! With nearly 30 years in the business, we are here to guide you through the complex web of possibilities, making it simple and easy to produce your apparel projects.