Updated: Mar 31
Not sure whether you should be using single side or double side frosted DTF PET film? Read on to find out why there are two types; the differences in results you can expect; and which one is best for you.
The first thing that should be mentioned is that not all DTF PET films available on the market are the same quality. Make sure you are buying quality PET film as poor quality film is more likely than not to leave you frustrated and having to redo work after having paid for wasted film, ink and powder. The same advice applies to your powder and ink, naturally.
Why are there two types of PET film: 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 did 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, we’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
because it absorbs less ink, it dries faster. Not having a heat plate is less critical (as it is easier to dry the ink on the printed PET film without one than 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 mentioned at the beginning of this article.
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 particular 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 prefer the double over the single. This applies for every size we stock (and we stock them all – which is Australia’s biggest range, by the way). It really comes down to your setup, how you print, and what you print, as there are unique features of your set up and your printing processes and jobs that mean your preference may not the the same as others'. 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 our customers' performance-related preferences.
So you'll need to consider your own set up and 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.
We hope you’ve found this article helpful. Best of luck with your printing
Please check out our DTF information page, all about dtf, which has some FAQs and other content to help you troubleshoot and find the best DTF process and gear for your needs. Feel free to reach out to us also for advice and to tell us what has worked best for you in different circumstances.
Vien and Jason, Redback Premium Ink