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all about dtf

Everything you need to know about dtf printing and heat transfering

If you are curious about whether you should start printing and heat transferring to your garments or other materials using the direct to film (dtf) method, please read some of our FAQ's and blogs. Everyone is fairly new to dtf as it really has only been around since the end of 2020, but it's use is growing rapidly in Australia and abroad. Learn about it and compare it with sublimation and dtg.

There are three stages when using the direct to film (DTF) printing and heat transfer method:

  • print your design with your DTF printer onto the PET heat transfer film

  • sprinkle your DTF adhesive powder onto the film and shake off the excess powder

  • place the film onto the garment or other material and apply the heat press

The results are incredible in terms of durability (from washing and stretching) and quality of your colours/ texture.

The DTF process produces stunning and durable artistic or branded finishes. The process will produce amazingly vibrant and durable prints on a wide range of materials, including all kinds of natural (eg cotton) and synthetic textile (eg polyester, nylon, polypropylene), and other materials such as ceramic, and glass.


It is easy to get started as a good printer and consumables (ink, powder and film) will cost around AUD 3,000 to 3,500. Any Epson printer of 6 or more colours can be modified to be a DTF printer but you will need a dongle and RIP software in addition to the printer, which can be either an Ecotank model or cartridge model.

  • For how long should I shake the ink if I haven’t used it for a few days?
    We’d recommend a good shake of around 15 to 20 seconds. It is important to shake it a few times during days you are using it and shake it again if you have not printed anything in the previous 15 minutes, just to avoid any issues with it settling. Most of our customers have electric stirrers fitted to their bottles or tanks, so they don’t need to do this, except if they are using a cartridge rather than an Eco-tank printer, it is a good idea to just pull it out and give it a 15 second shake if you haven’t used it for 15 minutes (or a few times a day). You definitely need to shake (stir) the ink before each day’s work. Our white ink looks brilliant, but the higher the quality, the bigger the difference between good (bonded particle) white ink and settled/ separated white ink.
  • Is DTF ink the same as that used for DTG?
    No. DTF inks (which are water-based) are a different chemical formulation. They have been formulated so as to react with DTF PET film and powder under heat to produce these outstanding transfer results. They are also less likely to clog your print head than DTG inks.
  • Can you supply the ICC profile for your ink for my printer?
    Yes we can send you the ICC profile for free with any ink purchase. We want you to acheive the best result with our ink, so will be happy to send it to you. Please email us before or after you have bought Redback premium ink and tell us the printer model. If you are used to sublimation, DTG or have been working with vinyl, the results you'll get from DTF will astound you.
  • How can I stop white ink from running down the PET film?
    Tip 1: The first thing you need to check is the ink loading. For most types of prints, we'd recommend printing with a white ink resolution of 60-70%. Some of our customers want to print with a white ink resolution of 100% to give their colour a great base. (For those new to DTF printing, you print your coloured image first, then print using white ink, so that when you turn the print over and place it on your garment on the heat press, the coloured ink layer sits on top of the white ink layer). If you use such a high resolution, the white ink may run. So try to decrease the ink loading. Tip 2: If reducing the white ink resolution does not work, try our double side frosted DTF PET film (available in A3; A4 sheets, and 30cm; 33cm and 60cm rolls), which absorbs more ink more than single side frosted film because it has 7 layers of coating which is designed to absorb more ink. (Our single sided PET film has 5 layers of coating). Tip 3: You can buy a heating plate to help dry the ink immediately. Most of our customers don't use them but a lot of the DTF printers coming in from China have one built-in to the front of the printer (where the printed PET film is dried after coming out of the printer). They can definitely help, especially if you are printing in a cold environment or using very high resolution white ink. If you have a plate, make sure it is turned on, of course. Tip 4: Check whether your PET film has absorbed moisture/ humidity. Moisture has been known to affect the PET film’s ink absorption. Use a hair dryer on very low setting to dry it out if that is the case. Whilst most PET film can withstand some humidity most of the time, you need to ensure you are storing it well, away from moisture, and that your workspace is reasonably dry. It is not a good idea to set up your workspace somewhere where there is dampness/ humidity. Our redback premium PET film comes in aluminium zip-locked bags with a silica moisture absorber for added protection from moisture. Our customers report that different weather conditions and even different times of the year require different settings if their setup is their garage (with open door). You can see an image of the problem here
  • What is the difference between fine DTF powder and course DTF powder?
    Fine powders are very powdery (the grains are tiny) and they glue well to dampness at the edges of the PET film. Course powder has bigger grains and is a heavier adhesive layer (heavier means thicker) which is great, but does not glue so well to the PET film’s edge’s dampness.
  • DTF black powder vs white powder
    For most types of prints, a good quality fine white powder will give you great results. But for some prints, you may get better results with black DTF adhesive powder (technically a specially formulated Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) Hot Melt Adhesive Powder) is used to achieve extremely vivid dark colour print transfers. It is ideal for dark colours on your print as the black powder will melt to give a dark base on the T-shirt or whatever else you are printing on. It is not ideal for white and light colours on your prints, actually, so if your print is light, or a mix of light and dark, the fine white powder is the better option. The black adhesive powder is also great for outlined drawings (not filled in with colour) and silhouette figures. There is also one more advantage of black powder. Sometimes white powder will leave a white outline, or random white spots. If you are using a black powder, if can do the same, but if your T-shirt (or whatever you are printing on) is a dark colour, they won't be detectable.
  • Why is my print cracking (when on the garment)?
    The most common cause of cracking is overheating the powder when curing it (‘curing’ is when you melt the powder on the PET film before placing it onto the garment to heat press). Only cure the powder under an open heat press or in an open sided oven until it turns into a gel. If it hardens, you have over-cured it and it can cause cracking on the garment when the PET film is peeled off after the heat press. Here is the correct process, whether you use black or white adhesive powder. 1. Press the garment with the heat press (as if you were ironing it) for around 5 seconds to take out any moisture in the fabric 2. Place your print onto the garment and press, as you normally do (the time and the temperature being as you normally do with your particular DTF equipment and consumables) 3. Remove the garment from the heat press and wait for it to cool down for a few seconds 4. Peel the PET film off 5. Return the garment back to the heat press and cover the transfer with a clean piece of DTF film, or butcher's paper, or a Teflon sheet, or even a piece of grease -proof oven paper from the kitchen. 6. Press again for around 5 seconds Note that generally black adhesive powder takes a few seconds longer than white powder to cure, but you still need to be careful not to overheat it. Everyone has teething issues with DTF which can be very frustrating but with some persistence we are confident you will happy with it. The black powder is especially good for silhouettes/ outlined drawings (not filled with colour) and printing on black fabric.
  • What is the difference between single side frosted and double side frosted PET film?
    Why are there two types: single side frosted and double side frosted? Originally, there was only one type of PET film used in DTF printing, which was single side frosted, but some desktop printers didn’t recognise it perfectly at all times. For some desktop printers, this resulted in the printer rejecting it as an intruder media and pushing it through without printing. The single side frosted PET film is shiny on the back and this meant that some printers’ paper roller does not function well with it, causing the film to sometimes slip, which naturally compromised the printing. It should be stressed that these issues occurred in a small number of cases. Most of our customers and most industry participants still use single side frosted PET film and have no issues at all with it. Double side frosted DTF PET film was developed to address these two issues. The double side frosted PET film has frosting on the back (the non-print side), which is better for printer recognition of it. In addition, the frosting on the back side provides more friction/ grip than the single side frosted PET film for the paper roller. If you want to read on, I’ll provide a little more detail here. The DTF process is still in its infancy and pioneers used modified Epson printers which of course were not designed for PET film, but rather for paper, especially plain paper. These printers have optical sensors which ‘read’ the unique ‘signature’ of the media (the paper), this being its inherent optical properties. When the printer compares the signature of the media being fed into it with other media’s signatures, it knows how to optimise its settings for that particular media. Of course, the PET film did not have an optical ‘signature’ that the printer was designed to configure for, and therefore the printer’s sensors at times treated the DTF PET film as an ‘intruder media’ and pushed it out without printing on it. There was a lot of experimentation and frustration for pioneers as it was, and still is, often unclear why some printers can detect /feel/sense the film all of the time, and others not. The other issue affecting a small number of printers, again mostly desktop ones, was the slipping issue from the back of the single side frosted PET film being shiny and therefore providing less friction/ grip than paper. DTF double side frosted PET film was developed in early 2021 to address these issues. The back side of the PET film (the non-printing side) was given a frosted coating to enhance recognition and friction/ grip, solving those issues. Again, it should be stressed that these issues with single side frosted PET film affected only some (a small number of) printers, mostly desktop ones, some of the time, but of course when it happened it caused delays and waste. We only sell A4 double side frosted PET film for this reason, as it was the smallest printers most at risk from these issues. Having said all of this, although most of our customers prefer single side frosted PET film, some of our customers using large format printers prefer the double side frosted PET film for other reasons, which we’ll elaborate on in the next section. What are the differences between the single side frosted and the double side frosted PET film? The main qualities of a quality single side frosted DTF PET film are: the printed image has more of a matt finish this PET film has fewer layers and therefore absorbs less ink than double side frosted PET film as it absorbs less ink, it dries faster. Not having a heat plate is less critical (than it it is for double side frosted film) The main qualities of a quality double side frosted DTF PET film are: the printed image is a little more shiny and vibrant than that produced using a single side frosted PET film, due to there being a little more ink absorbed (in the couple of extra layers of the film). your peeling result is more robust/ resilient in that it is slightly less affected than single side frosted PET film if your environmental issues are not great (eg if there is humidity when you are printing). it is slower drying, so a heat plate is more important for drying the ink out before adding the adhesive powder. this PET film type is less susceptible to rejection and slipping, as mentioned early. Is single side frosted or double side frosted PET film best for me? If you are just starting out using an A4 size desktop printer, we’d recommend using double side frosted PET film as you’ll be less likely to experience the recognition and the slipping issues. Beyond that, it will come down to individual preferences. We have customers of sheets (A3 and A3+ sizes) and rolls (30cm; 33cm; 42cm and 60cm) who regularly buy a type and they are happy with their results. For instance, some customers buy the 60cm single side frosted film and prefer it to the double side frosted film, whilst other customers buying this size film have the opposite preference. This applies for every size we stock (and we stock them all – which is Australia’s biggest range). It really comes down to your setup and how you print. We do sell more single side frosted PET film (apart from the A4 size) than double side frosted film, which is typical for other retailers in Australia and overseas, but that is probably more to do with the price (single side frosted is cheaper) than the performance related preferences. So you need to consider your own setup and your upcoming jobs. If you are printing an image with more of a matt finish, the single side may be a better option. If you are not using a heat tray, again, the single sided option is probably going to be better. If you are printing a more shiny and vibrant image, you’ll more likely prefer the double side frosted film.
  • Can I print my DTF transfers (on the PET film) and apply them later to my garments?
    In theory, yes, they could last a few days but they should be stored where moisture cannot get to them as moisture/ humidity can damage the print. If they are stored in a Ziplock back (which is a polyethylene plastic) at a constant temperature and away from direct sunlight, they could easily last a couple of weeks. Changes in temperature (eg cool nights and hot days) are not good, nor is a workshop with open windows in a rainy day, for example. We’d recommend you print them and heat transfer them shortly after, so no moisture/ dust or other contaminants can get to the print, just as we’d recommend the same for sublimation printing or DTG. In this short video, you can see that the PET film does not peel well for prints we left out in the open, unprotected, for a couple of weeks.
  • How long can the transfers (the printed PET film) be stored inside a Ziplock bag?
    We would not store them for very long but if you need to, they should last a few weeks. We used transfers which had been stored in a Ziplock bag for 16 days, but these were not moved in that time and the temperature was fairly constant in the storage room. You need to be careful when moving them whilst in storage, as the abrasion with other transfers or the bag can scratch the prints, meaning there could be a compromised finished product. For this reason, we’d recommend you print them and transfer them shortly after, which is what we’d also recommend for sublimation or DTG printing.
  • Can I reuse the PET film for another transfer after I have used it. If so, how many times can I use it?"
    You cannot use it more than once. Please don’t try to do so as the coating on the film has been used up so if you try to print on it the ink will just run off rather than adhere to it.
  • Can you supply the ICC profile for your ink for my printer?
    Yes we can send you the ICC profile for free with any ink purchase. We want you to acheive the best result with our ink, so will be happy to send it to you. Please email us before or after you have bought Redback premium ink and tell us the printer model. If you are used to sublimation, DTG or have been working with vinyl, the results you'll get from DTF will astound you.
  • What is the best printer for DTF?
    This question cannot be answered well without you first answering some other questions about how you intend to use the printer What is your budget for the printer? What size film do you want to print on (A3 or A4) and what size transfers do you want to print? Do you want to use PET film sheets or rolls? Do you want a new or used printer and do you want to modify it yourself or buy it modified? What size heat press and heating oven are you using? How many transfers per hour or day do you want to print (how quickly do you want it to print?) Are you able to repair/ maintain it yourself? Do you know much about how a printer works? You need to be cautious when reading blogs or articles which recommend certain brands and models of printers. The authors are often biased because their company manufactories or retails them (or does both) or they are being paid to produce content marketing for that brand. We know people who are very happy with their modified Epson L1800 and some people happy with their modified Epson SCP406, which is slower but cheaper. We know as we’ve sold them these printers and asked them when they’ve bought ink, powder and film. As we’ve said above, your present satisfaction will be dependent on how well it matches your present needs. Any Epson printer (all of which have a Micro Piezo head) of 6 or more colours can be modified well for DTF. Bear in mind that most inkjet printers that are used every day only last a year or two before needing to be replaced. Bear in mind also that the cheaper the model, the more likely it is to overheat and the slower it is likely to be. However, there shouldn’t be much of a difference in the finished product from any printer, assuming it is well maintained and you are using the powder and film appropriately with it.
  • What printer models are the most popular ones to modify presently for DTF in Australia
    The most popular presently (March 2021) in Australia are the Epson L1800, The Epson SC (Sure Colour) P405 and the Epson SC706. The L1800 (which is an EcoTank model) is not retailed in Australia, so people are importing them and modifying them, or buying them modified from abroad. It is quite common for manufacturers to release models only in certain countries or regions, depending on those market characteristics, and nowadays with platforms like ebay and foreign direct ecommerce being so simple, it is relatively simple to source the printer you want and modify it in Australia. It is not a problem to buy the L1800 or the SCP400 from foreign sellers as there are plenty of parts available and the Australian warranty for any printer would be voided when you modify it anyway. Any Epson model that has 6 or more colours can be modified for DTF. You need at least 6 channels as 2 of them will be white ink.
  • Can you supply the ICC profile for your ink for my printer?
    Yes we can send you the ICC profile for free with any ink purchase. We want you to acheive the best result with our ink, so will be happy to send it to you. Please email us before or after you have bought Redback premium ink and tell us the printer model. If you are used to sublimation, DTG or have been working with vinyl, the results you'll get from DTF will astound you.
  • How durable is a DTF print? How many washes will my T-shirt print last?
    Properly applied DTF’s durability (in terms of being washed and stretched) is incredible and should easily outlast the T-shirt or other garment. Some people iron their T-shirts before wearing them and this is not a problem either – just turn it inside out before ironing it after it has been washed. Of course, you should read the garment’s labels regarding washing and ironing and follow the instructions as each fabric will have their own specifications (for cleaning/ ironing).
  • I have just done my first DTF print and the white colour on my T-shirt looks like silver. What has caused this?
    Perhaps your white ink had settled. You need to give it a good shake (15-20 seconds) regularly. We recommend using an electric stirrer fitted on top of your white ink tank(s)/ bottles which means you don’t need to do this manually. If you don’t have a stirrer, we’d recommend shaking the bottle/ tank and cartridge every few hours when using it or before every use when you are not using it for longer than 15 minutes between prints. The discolouration could have been caused by your AcroRip software thinking you are using a different printer from the one you’re using. Make sure you have selected the correct printer. It could have been caused by using expired ink. High quality DTF ink has a shelf life of 1 year (and lower quality not much more than half that), although that is unlikely as we’ve only been selling it since December 2020 (as this product market is new).
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