What’s The Difference Between DTF Printing And Sublimation?

customised 60cm dtf fluorescent printer with three i3200 printheads

DTF printing and sublimation printing are two advanced printing technologies that belong to heat transfer. They both can transfer the designed patterns to the garment. Therefore, people are often confused by this question: DTF printing or Sublimation printing, what are the differences? Which is more suitable for my printing business? 

In a word, the key differences between DTF printing and Sublimation printing are: DTF printing can print on all types of fabrics with vivid color and touch-feeling layers while Sublimation printing can print on only light-colored polyester fabrics with photo-realistic quality and no touch-feeling layer.

Key Differences: Compare DTF Printing vs. Sublimation Printing

The following table presents major differences between the printing technology from the perspective of application material, print process, print quality, touch feeling, and market.

 DTF PrintingSublimation Printing
Application MaterialCan print onto almost ALL types of fabrics, both dark and light-colored itemsCan only print onto light-colored or white polyester fabrics
Print Process5 steps include: refine, print, cure pattern, heat press, and tear off the filmPhoto-realistic but the colors are not very vivid. Can’t print in white color.
Print QualityFantastic technique shines when used on white or light-colored polyester materials. Popular in the world of sportswear for creating eye-catching banners, flags, jerseys and home textiles.Vivid color with the finest details
Touch FeelingCustomers can feel layer (image) in addition to the material (such as feeling a layer on a cotton or fabric T-shirt)Without touch feeling, just like the image is merged into clothing
MarketAll kinds of clothing (T-shirt) printing. Applicable to a wide variety of materials, such as cotton, polyester, and blends. Open up endless possibilities.Fantastic technique shines when used on white or light-colored polyester materials. Popular in the world of sportswear for creating eye-catching banners, flags, jerseys, and home textiles.

Definition of DTF Printing, Sublimation Printing

What is DTF Printing?

DTF printing is a new type of printing technology, easy to operate. The printing process needs a DTF printer, Shaker Powder Machine, and a heat press machine. Firstly, DTF (Direct To Film) printer prints patterns to DTF film, then it uses a heat press machine to transfer the pattern on DTF film to the fabrics. DTF printing is an efficient method to transfer patterns to various fabrics.

60cm-DTF-Printer-Shaker-red-X6 r-right, nozzle recovery system, PLC touch screeen, printhead
DTF 24″(60ccm) printer DTF-X6R

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a digital printing technology that uses full-color artworks, using a sublimation printer to print the patterns to sublimation paper, then transfer the pattern to clothing or items made by polyester and polymer coatings with the help of a heat press machine under specified temperatures and pressure. This technology is usually used for decorative clothes, logos, and banners. It is also suitable for pillows, plaques, coffee cups, and other small items that are easy to sublimate. This technology uses sublimation science to print the dyes of the gesture (without passing the liquid stages) through pressure to print the surface of solid objects.  

Detail Explained: Differences Between DTF Printing and Sublimation Printing

Application Material

DTF printing can print on knitting, textiles, nylon, non-woven fabrics, Oxford cloth, and almost all fabrics.

Sublimation printing can only be printed on light-colored or white polyester fabrics. The more polyester the fabrics have, the more bright the color is.


DTF printing works in the following steps:

  • Use software to refine the images.
  • Print the image
  • Curing the pattern by shaker powder machine
  • Put the pattern on the clothing, using the heat press machine to press on it for 10-15 seconds. The temperature of the machine should be 135~165℃.
  • Tear off the transfer film

Sublimation printing needs to design the image first, and then print the pattern on the dedicated sublimation paper, no powder shaking. After that, transfer the pattern to the fabrics or other items with the help of a heat press machine.

Print Quality

Since sublimation printing is the process of transferring ink from paper to the fabric, it builds the photo’s realistic quality to the application, however, the colors are not as vivid as expected. On the other hand, white color cannot be printed out by using sublimation printing, and the color of raw material is limited, only light-colored substrate.

Different from sublimation printing, the quality of DTF printing can be finest detailed with vivid color on all types of fabrics and both dark and light-colored substrates.

Touch Feel

There is a layer of direct spray white ink on the back of the transfer film, so when you touch the fabrics made by DTF printing, you can feel the printing pattern, just like the feeling of the image layer on your everyday T-shirt.

In the process of sublimation printing, the ink is penetrated into the fabric. So it feels without touch feeling, feel like the Images and clothing merged into one.


DTF printing is truly versatile when it comes to fabric compatibility. It allows you to print on a wide variety of materials, such as cotton, polyester, and blends. This opens up endless possibilities for creating unique and eye-catching designs. DTF printing is truly remarkable when it comes to producing prints. The high-quality and exceptional detail, combined with the soft feel of the fabric, make it an outstanding choice for intricate designs and photorealistic images.

Sublimation printing is a fantastic technique that shines when used on white or light-colored polyester materials. It’s especially popular in the world of sportswear, where it’s commonly utilized for creating eye-catching banners, flags, jerseys, and home textiles.

Pros & Cons of DTF Printing, Sublimation Printing

Pros & Cons of DTF Printing

List of advantages of DTF printing:

  • Can be used on any fabric
  • Use for dart and light garment
  • The pattern is high-precision, vivid and exquisite

List of disadvantages of DTF printing:

  • The feel of the printed areas is not as soft as that of sublimation printing
  • Pattern printed by DTF printing is less breathable than that printed by sublimation printing
  • Suitable for partial decorative printing

Pros & Cons of Sublimation Printing

List of advantages of Sublimation printing:

  • Print on rigid surfaces like mugs, photo slates, plates, clocks, etc.
  • The printed fabric is soft and breathable
  • The ability to manufacture a variety of all-over print cut and sew products using large format printers on an industrial scale

List of disadvantages of Sublimation printing:https://allaboutdtf.com.au/portfolio/dtf-printer-z4-45cm-promotion/

  • Limited to polyester garments. Cotton sublimation can only be achieved with the help of sublimation sprays and transfer powders, which adds an extra layer of complexity.
  • Limited to light-colored products.
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DTF printing and Sublimation, Which is Better?

As details explained in the above content, choosing DTF printing or sublimation printing depends on the specific needs of the user, customer requirements, and the industry your printing business is in. Both printing methods have their own features.

Usually, sublimation printing is best for photorealistic print on bright color items such as in sportswear, DTF printing is the ideal choice for vivid color printouts on all types of fabrics with both dark and light color substrates (such as cotton T-shirt printing).

If you are still choosing between the powerful and cost-effective DTF printer and Sublimation printer, the experts (from the leading supplier: allaboutDTF) are ready to offer professional advice to your printing business for the excellent (T-shirt) printing performance, and gorgeous color to satisfy your customers

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