DTF vs. Sublimation Printing: Which Method Should You Go For?

Whether your business makes custom designs for t-shirts, denim jeans, or everyday materials such as mugs, you’ve most probably wondered which printing technology would be best for you.

DTF and Sublimation Printing are currently market leaders in printing technology as both offer an array of benefits and good quality. So, if you are having trouble choosing the one that will work best for your business, then this article is for you.

Throughout this guide, we will cover everything from concepts and differences to pros and cons in order to help you make the right choice. So, if you are ready, let’s start.

What is DTF Printing?

DTF printing is a short form of direct-to-film printing. Compared to other printing technologies, this one is relatively new. However, its popularity keeps growing because of its high quality.

With this technology, the design gets printed on the special film, and afterward, heat technology is used to transfer the design to a garment.

Dtf heat transfer
Hot Printz™ DTF Heat Transfers by Apex Transfers

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a digital printing process. It involves using heat and pressure to transfer dye (sublimation ink) onto a variety of materials. A good characteristic of this technique is the fact that prints last quite long and don’t wash out quickly.

It is also worth mentioning that both sublimation and DTF printing will not cause you any worries regarding unsold stock. Both are speedy printing techniques that allow printing on demand.

Sublimation Product
Sublimation Heat Transfer by Apex Transfers

Key Differences between Sublimation Vs. DTF Printing

As far as the definitions are clear, it is time to briefly overview the key differences between DTF and Sublimation printing.

Touch Differences

One of the key differences between DTF and sublimation printing is the touch differences. If you print the same design on a t-shirt with DTF technology, then you can feel the layered image on the t-shirt. However, if you use sublimation printing, the image part of the t-shirt will feel the same as the rest, without additional layers.

Print Process

DTF and Sublimation printing also differ when it comes to the printing process, especially the steps involved in the printing process.

DTF printing includes five main steps that are: refining, printing, curing the pattern, heat pressing, and finally removing the film.

Sublimation printing includes only three main steps: designing, printing, and transferring.

Quality & Color Vibrancy

The quality of both printing technologies is quite high. With DTF printing, ink is layered on top of the material, which guarantees color durability. On the other hand, with sublimation printing, the ink is infused into the fabric. This ensures that the print won’t peel off. However, it can lose color vibrancy over time

Hot Printz Dtf Transfers
Hot Printz DTF Transfers for T-shirts

Complexity of Prints

When it comes to designs, they range anywhere from simple to complex, which have lots of small details. DTF printing technology is the leader in the market, especially for printing detailed designs on small to medium areas.

However, if you are planning to print larger areas, then you might want to proceed with sublimation printing. It is also quite good when it comes to printing details, yet it is more suitable for prints that require larger areas.

Fabrics Flexibility

When it comes to the flexibility and variety of fabrics you can print on, then it is worth mentioning that DTF printing wins in this category. While sublimation printing is good for 100% polyester (white colored) fabrics, DTF printing can be used on any fabric. It is still widely used for cotton, fleece, polyester, nylon, and different blends of the mentioned materials.

Product Range

Another difference between DTF printing and sublimation printing is what you can use these for. You can use DTF printing to print apparel, clothing, and so on. However, this technology does not yet offer the opportunity to print anything on home decor items (such as mugs, laptop sleeves, etc.).

Unlike DTF technology, sublimation printing gives you a wide range of opportunities when it comes to printing not just on clothes but also on other items. It has been tested throughout the years and is proven to be durable and efficient.

Pros & Cons of DTF Printing


DTF printing comes in handy with a range of benefits, such as:

  • DTF allows printing designs on any type of material (cotton, polyester, or else) and on any color.
  • Durable prints that last industry-standard wash quantities with ease.
  • Unmatched color vibrancy and accuracy. Due to the fact that heat is used to layer the print on top of the fabric, the color accuracy and vibrancy always remain on top.


The primary drawbacks include:

  • The printing surfaces are limited to textiles.
  • The area of the print is layered on top of the fabric, so there is a touch-feel difference.

Pros & Cons of Sublimation Printing


The main benefits of sublimation printing include the following:

  • Allows printing not just on textiles but on items such as mugs, plates, photo slates, and so on.
  • Unlimited range of colors, which allows you to accurately print a wide range of photos, designs, and digital illustrations with high color accuracy.
  • The final result is unnoticeable to the touch. The area with the print feels the same as the rest of the fabric.
  • Sublimation printing is done quite fast, which allows for on-demand printing.


Sublimation printing also has certain drawbacks, such as:

  • Guarantees the best quality only on synthetic fabrics such as polyester or containing a large portion of polyester.
  • The print area must be either white or white colored, which limits its potential.
heat sublimation transfers button
Sublimation on polyester coated button by Apex Transfers

Which one to Choose? 

When it comes to choosing between sublimation or DTF printing, the choice is entirely up to you. Both are good for on-demand printing and offer high quality.

Of course, each of these has certain benefits and drawbacks when it comes to different aspects. So, the ultimate decision should be based on your goal, the materials you plan to use, and your budget.

If you are looking for high-quality printing services, Apex Transfers is here to help you out. We use the latest technologies and best materials to ensure high quality and customer satisfaction. Contact us to find out more details on how we can help you with your production.

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