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What is the difference between Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) and DTF Printing?

There’s a lot of talk about DTF printing and how it’s the most advanced and superior technology on the market. It is said that it puts heat transfer vinyl printing to shame, but is this the truth, or is it a sales gimmick?

In this article, we will discuss the differences between heat transfer vinyl (HTV) and direct to film (DTF) printing. We will cover the advantages of both HTV and DTF Printing and give you a clear picture (excuse the pun) of both, which will help you decide which is better for your business or side hustle.

What is direct-to-film printing, or DTF printing?

In a previous article, we explained what DTF is and the difference between sublimation, DTF, and DTG apparel branding.

However, here’s a brief DTF printing definition:

DTF printing, also known as direct-to-film apparel branding, involves printing DTF waterbased pigmented ink to PET film (polyethylene terephthalate film) in a mirror image and then adding a second layer of powder coating (known as the "powder curing process") to the print to allow the film to be placed on the fabric or merch you want to brand. Then it can be transferred directly from the PET film onto the apparel using a heat press. (No weaving is required, and it's environmentally conscious.) You can either ask a company to print for you and use your own heat press to transfer the image, or it can be done for you by the DTF print shop.

What is heat transfer vinyl, or HTV printing?

Before we can discuss HTV, we must first define print vinyl. Print vinyl, also known as vinyl, used in the marketing sector to promote businesses or events, is available in a variety of forms, including banner printing, apparel branding, and sticker printing. You get the picture.

What is HTV?

Basically, it is a polyurethane film, a type of coated plastic film with an adhesive backing. You can get vinyl with a sticky adhesive back (like a sticker) or vinyl that has an adhesive back, but the "glue" is only activated during the heat transfer process. Once the vinyl has been printed and then cut with a plotter (some printers, such as the Roland SG300 that we use, will print, and cut, you will weave the print (peel the vinyl parts that must not be transferred to the clothing). Then heat transfer takes place when the apparel is placed on a heat press and then transferred onto the fabric.

Advantages Comparison Table Image – DTF vs HTV:

(if you cannot see the image, I’ve written out the advantages below the comparison table image)

Advantages Comparison Table Text Only – DTF vs HTV:

Advantage DTF

  1. Full-colour printing

  2. Detailed graphics

    1. Print Colours

    2. White

  3. RGB and CMYK full colour

  4. No weaving

  5. High quality

  6. Long-lasting—does not flake off

  7. It is pliable and does not crack

  8. Print on

    1. Cotton

    2. Nylon

    3. Silk

    4. Polycotton

    5. Polyester

    6. Denim

  9. Print on any fabric colour you want.

  10. Environmentally friendly

  11. Print speed: up to 4.8m2/hr

  12. Quick bulk supply and turnaround time

  13. Great for bulk orders

  14. More affordable than screenprinting

  15. Very affordable when doing large quantities of printing

Advantage HTV

  1. Variety of Vinyl Colours

    1. Gold

    2. Silver

    3. Reflective

    4. Frosted

    5. Glitter

    6. CMYK

    7. Metalics

    8. Glow in the dark

    9. Flock (makes you think of velvet)

  2. Can print detailed artwork if you are using a printer with cutter however fine artwork might lift from material.

  3. No messy inks or chemicals

  4. Affordable when printing low quantities

  5. Great for small orders

  6. Cutting speed: 10 to 300 mm/s (With Roland SG300)

  7. Output speed: up to up to 6.9m2/hr (75 sqr ft ph) (With Roland SG300)

  8. 710mm wide print (With Roland SG300)

  9. More affordable than screenprinting

  10. Prints on fabric and other materials such as plastic, porcelain, or glass

  11. Shirts, hoodies, sweaters, pants, and bags can all be printed.

  12. Individual names or numbers with no high set-up fees (great for sport teams or 1 day event like "The Muddy Princess")

So which is better, HTV or DTF printing?

It really will depend on your needs. If you are a small business that does not keep a lot of stock on hand, then HTV is a perfect and affordable fit. If you are a business that only needs t-shirt printing for a certain event with no major fine details in your print, then heat transfer vinyl is great.

For a company, school, or small business that requires detailed, long lasting, quality print branded clothing, uniforms, or apparel, DTF printing is ideal. It is more detailed, faster, and lasts longer. There’s no weaving, which immediately decreases the time spent on the garment, even if the technology is more advanced. And it can print on almost any material.

Both have their advantages. Before you google "dtf printing near me" or "print shop near me" in the Western Cape, rather contact Campus Solutions to help you figure out what the best fit is for your business. We will listen, we will be honest, and we will produce quality work should you choose us to be your printing company of choice.

Campus Solutions | Print Shop in the Helderberg, Western Cape

The experts in printing who listen to you.


Samples of DTF Prints


Samples of HTV Prints


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