DTF vs DTG: What’s the Difference?

Alex Galindo

5 mins read

When selecting printing methods for custom shirts, popular options include direct-to garment (DTG) and direct-to-film (DTF). The texture of your prints, costs and many other factors in your shirt manufacturing process will be determined by which printing method you choose. Thus, to help you make the best decision for your shirt printing business, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on the differences, benefits, and drawbacks of DTG vs DTF printing methods.

What Is DTF printing?

what is DTF printing, DTF tshirt printing
Image from Crown Graving

Direct-to-film (DTF) printing is a method of garment printing that uses a heat transfer process to apply your design onto your shirt. It’s similar to screen printing in that your design is first printed onto a sheet of transfer paper before being pressed onto the garment. DTF printing offers full-color, photo-quality prints with diverse colors and effects.

DTF is a popular choice for printing custom shirts because it’s a relatively simple and straightforward process. Plus, the prints produced are of high quality and can last for years with proper care.

What Is DTG printing?

DTG printer, Brother GTX Pro DTG printer
Image from Hi-tec Ink

As you may have guessed from the name, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a method of garment printing that applies your design directly onto the fabric of your shirt. DTG printers use inkjet technology to print your design onto the garment, much like you would print onto a sheet of paper.

Because of its quick and easy setup, DTG printing is often the preferred method for small businesses and startups. Additionally, DTG printers can produce full-color and high-quality prints within minutes, making them ideal for on-demand printing.

Differences Between DTF vs DTG

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of DTF vs DTG printing methods.

Fabric Types You Can Print On

what fabric can you print on using DTF, what fabric can you print on using DTG, DTF vs DTG fabrics you can print on

One of the major differences between DTF and DTG printing is the type of fabrics you can print on. DTG printing limits your options to natural fabrics like cotton and linen. This is because the inkjet technology in DTG printers can only penetrate natural fibers, resulting in prints that are lower in quality when printed on synthetic fabrics.

On the other hand, DTF printing can be used on both natural and synthetic fabrics such as polyester or even a blend of both. This makes DTF a more versatile printing method that can be used on a wider range of garments. And unlike sublimation that barely works with dark-colored fabrics, you can use DTF to print vibrant and long-lasting designs on both light and dark garments.

Texture of the Prints When Using DTF vs DTG

DTG prints, direct to garment print examples, DTF prints, direct to film print examples, DTF vs DTG tshirt examples

If texture is an important factor in your shirt designs, you’ll also have to take that into consideration when choosing between DTF and DTG printing methods. DTF prints tend to be thinner, flatter, and less raised than DTG prints. Since an underbase is required when using DTG, and the ink is transferred directly onto the fabric, there tends to be a slight buildup of ink on the surface which gives the print a 3D-like effect.

However, this texture can sometimes be undesirable, especially if you’re going for a more subtle look. In that case, DTF printing would be the better option as it produces prints with a softer feel. Some DTG prints will feel as if they’re part of the fabric (when you don’t apply an underbase), while all DTF prints will sit on top of the fabric.

Range of Colors in the Image

Both DTF and DTG printing methods can produce prints with a wide range of colors. However, because DTG printers use inkjet technology, they have an advantage in that they can print CMYK + white ink. This means that you’ll be able to create even more vibrant and realistic prints with a DTG printer.

DTF printing, on the other hand, is limited to CMYK colors. While this may not seem like a big deal, it can make a significant difference in the final print quality, especially when printing images with a lot of white in them.

Pros and Cons of DTF Printing

If you’re still unsure about which printing method to choose, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each one, starting with DTF.

The Pros

One of the obvious pros of using DTF is that you can print on almost any type of fabric. This makes DTF an incredibly versatile printing method that you can use on a wide variety of garments.

Another advantage of DTF is that it’s a relatively quick and easy process. Once you have your design file ready, the printing itself doesn’t take very long. Plus, you won’t need to pretreat the shirts or dry them before printing, which further cuts down on the overall production time.

Finally, DTF prints are less likely to crack or fade over time than DTG prints. This is because the ink is actually fused onto the fabric of the shirt, making it more durable and long-lasting.

The Cons

Of course, DTF also has its fair share of disadvantages. One of the main cons is that it may not be as high-quality as DTG printing. This is because the ink isn’t actually absorbed into the fabric but rather just sits on top of it. As a result, the print may not be as sharp and the colors may look different from DTG prints.

Pros and Cons of DTG Printing

Moving on to DTG, let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of this printing method.

The Pros of DTG

DTG printing produces incredibly high-quality prints that are sharp, vibrant, and realistic. It’s also the printing method that works best with black or dark-colored garments. This is because the inkjet technology used in DTG printers allows for a much higher level of precision, making it possible to print on dark fabrics without any show-through.

Another big advantage of DTG is that it lets you produce rush orders with relative ease. This is because the printing process is relatively quick as long as the shirts have been properly pretreated.

The Cons of DTG

However, DTG does have a few disadvantages. One of the main cons is that it’s a bit more expensive than DTF printing, both in terms of the equipment and the printing process itself.

Another downside is that DTG printed designs tend to crack or peel over time, especially if they’re not properly cared for. Nonetheless, this is still a fairly minor issue and one that can be easily remedied by following the proper washing instructions.

And lastly, DTG printing doesn’t work well with stretchy or knit fabrics. So if you’re looking to print on t-shirts made from such materials, DTF would be a better option.

DTF and DTG at Awkward Styles

print on demand, awkward styles, POD, sell tshirts online

Choosing between these two printing methods can be quite tricky especially if you’re planning on designing and selling apparel made with different types of fabrics.

At Awkward Styles, we offer both DTF and DTG printing to make sure that your designs are printed with the best possible quality, no matter what type of garment you’re selling. We provide print on demand DTG printing on the majority of our apparel products, and DTF printing on an exclusive line of apparel. POD means there are no MOQs, so you don’t need to worry about storing inventory. We integrate with Etsy, Shopify and WooCommerce for a seamless setup to start selling online.

If you’re still unsure about which printing method to choose, feel free to contact us and we’ll happily assist you!

Start Your
Print On Demand
Business with
Awkward Styles

Sign up for free

Related articles