DTF vs Screen Printing, Which is better DTF or screen printing?

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DTF vs Screen Printing
2022-08-12 11:30:47

Just about everyone is familiar with printed tee shirts. Characters, popular sayings, and designs of all kinds all seem to end up on clothing at some point. Many people, however, are not aware of just how those designs get onto the clothing and caps. For instance, there is more than one way to print artwork on a garment. We'll explain the two main types of garment printing.

What is DTF Printing?

DTF printing involves printing a design directly to a special film. It's then transferred to the substrate using a heat press.

The DTF process involves printing a design from a computer directly onto a special film. Several designs can be ganged up on a sheet of film. Hot melt powdered adhesive is applied to the back and heat cured, then the design can be heat pressed onto the garment or the film can be stored or sold as is.

Pros of DTF Printing

There is not a lot of setup time or materials involved in DTF printing. The design goes directly to the PET film, then to the garment. Finding a shop to handle your job is easier, as this type of printing takes much less equipment than screen printing, and you're more likely to find a shop that can do your job.

If you only want a few items for a party or reunion, this is the type of printing that can handle the job just fine. Most screen printers have a minimum order.

There are no restrictions on the number of colors used. Fine lines and small print are not a problem with this method. The quality of the print is usually rated as higher than it is with DTG printing and lasts longer.

Cons of DTF Printing

It's costly if you want a large order. Although the price of each item usually goes down with rising volume, it's still expensive if you want, say, 50 to 100 or more pieces.

The process is rather time-consuming since most heat presses can handle only a shirt or two at a time at most. The film printers are limited as to how many designs can be printed in a row, depending on the size of the design and the width of the film. If you have a small order, this should be no problem, but a larger order may take longer than you expect.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is the traditional way of printing garments, such as shirts and caps. It consists of forcing plastisol or water-based ink through screens that are basically stencils. Each screen prints one color.

Many garments use only one or two colors for the art, but complicated designs can require ten or more. Lifelike pictures can be printed, breaking down the art into small dots, much like photos are printed in newspapers. If you look very closely, you can see the dots, but from a distance, everything blends into a pleasing picture.

How Does Screen Printing Work?

The artwork is designed on a computer using the ink colors needed. A very slight overlap is usually used to allow for the fact that the surface of the fabric tends to move a tiny bit during the printing process. Each ink color is output either on a clear film or directly to the screen using a special printer. If the printer is using film, this is laid on a screen coated with a light-sensitive chemical, then exposed to bright light. Once the screen is washed, a stencil is formed. The direct-to-screen method produces the stencil right on the printer.

The screens are placed on the printing press in the order in which the colors will be printed and carefully lined up. The garments are placed carefully on pallets attached to a rotating set of arms that align them with each color in turn. The screens are lowered and the colors printed, then the shirt wheel is turned. When all the colors have been applied, the shirt is put onto a conveyor going through an oven that cures the ink.

Pros of Screen Printing

Screen printing is a very flexible way of printing. You can print on almost any flat surface. Many signs and posters are printed in this way. Curved surfaces, such as caps, can also be printed with presses made especially for this.

The ink used in most screen printing is called plastisol. This produces a bright, vibrant print that will last a long time if the ink has been cured properly. Special effects can be produced with additives, including a metallic flake look, a suede-like finish, slightly raised places, a glow-in-the-dark effect, and others.

When printing large volumes, screen printing is usually the most economical way to print garments.

Cons of Screen Printing

If a customer only wants one or a few shirts, screen printing can be too expensive, especially if multiple colors are used. This is because much of the cost of the prep work - preparing the art, burning and washing screens, and setting up the press - is spread out among the number of shirts to be printed. The fewer the shirts, the higher the cost to print each one.

Lighter colors printed on dark-colored shirts require a white or light grey underbase under the whole design or parts of it. This is because screen printing inks are not completely opaque, and some inks are less opaque than others. The underbase ensures that the colors look the way they are supposed to.

Screen printing, since it uses stencils and screens, is not suitable for really fine work. Screens come with varying-sized mesh, but there is a limit to how fine the screen can be so that the ink can come through smoothly. Fine lines and tiny print may not come out.

Screen printing does take longer to print a job than some other methods, depending on the job, mainly because the setup takes longer. It takes a larger press to print more colors, which means more investment in equipment. It also requires a curing oven and various chemicals to coat the screens and create the stencils.

Differences between DTF and Screen Printing

Basically, DTF printing involves printing a whole design onto special film, applying adhesive powder and melting it to the design, then using a heat press to print it on the garment. Screen printing involves using a stencil on a screen for each color. Once all the colors are printed one at a time, the garment is run through a special oven to cure the ink.

Why You Should Use DTF Technology

Unlike screen printing and DTG printing, DTF printing is versatile, allowing printing on many materials. Besides cotton, it can print on nylon, polyester, treated leather, 50/50 blends, and light and dark fabrics. With the right press, the transfers can even be used on glass, wood and metal, allowing printing on items such as shoes, backpacks and luggage.

You can print films for other shops that have a heat press. Once the adhesive powder is applied and cured, films can be sold as is.

DTF-printed garments usually produce better-looking prints than those printed with DTG. While they aren't quite as soft, the printing lasts longer. It also won't crack or peel. DTF prints can also be applied to hard-to-reach parts of a garment or surface.

Since DTF doesn't require pretreatment of garments, the printer saves on chemicals and time. In addition, DTF printing uses quite a bit less white ink for printing than the DTG process, saving the printer money.

This technology is a great addition to any screen printing shop, as it enables the printer to handle items the screen press can't, and in small quantities. You won't have to turn down those customers who just want a few party shirts. The more a shop can diversify, the more business it will have, and DTF technology won't break the bank if someone adds it to its services.

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