With the popularity of DTF printing exploding, we've put together an article that explains the process of Direct To Film Printing from start to finish. This article will give new D.T.F owners a better understanding of the entire process, from understanding basic print set up, to applying the finished print to your garment or substrate.
Setting Up Your Artwork For DTF Printing Process
Every print begins with original artwork. There are various file types and software programs for designing the artwork your customers will bring to you. Depending on the RIP (raster Imaging Software) you are using, there are various file types you can print. The three MAIN file types you will see are:
.PNG (Portable Network Graphic) - this is by far the most popular file type to print. The advantages to the .PNG file type is it's size. These files are able to hold color and bitmap information without having to exceed your computer or RIP software memory capabilities. PNG's smaller file size also allows for quicker data transfer between your computer and your printer. PNG will be your #1 option for file types.
.TIFF (Tag Image File Format) - these file types are typically quite a bit larger than .PNG files, but their upside is that they hold color information much better. They are harder for your RIP and printer to process, so they will take a little longer to transfer from your computer to the printer.
.EPS (Encapsulated Post Script) - These files can vary in size, the biggest difference between a .EPS file and either of the two files above is, .EPS is typically a VECTOR file format. Vector files are comprised of lines and points that have fill colors inside of them, they are typically scalable without losing quality.
There are several other formats that you can create or your customer might bring such as .JPG, .BMP, .PS, .AI etc....most of these formats can be printed as well, depending on your printer and RIP software, but you will huge differences in your prints. It's best to stick to .PNG format or .TIFF.
You can convert files in programs like photoshop or illustrator into whatever file type you would like. If you do not have either Photoshop or Illustrator there are two GREAT software options that are free, and are very similar to the Adobe programs:
INKSCAPE is very similar to Adobe Illustrator, it can be downloaded free at this link.
Loading Your DTF Printer With Printing Film Process
After preparing you artwork and saving it in the .PNG format, or the format of your choice, you will need to load your film into your printer. There are two basic film sizes that your system will be using.
A3 size D.T.F film (11.7 in x 16.5 in), this film can be loaded on a roll (if your system has a roll feed option on the back) or it can be sheet fed (you load one sheet at a time, similar to a regular desktop printer)
2. A4 size DTF film (8.3 in x 11.7 in) just like the A3 size film, you see two options with these substrate type, either roll (only works if you have a roll feed attachment on the back of your printer. Or sheet fed (where you load one sheet at a time, similar to a regular desktop printer)
Applying TPU Powder To Your DTF Prints
After printing the next step in the process is take your finished print (be careful with the finished print off the printer, the ink has not been cured yet and can smudge or run easily), and apply the DTF TPU Powder.
There are several ways to apply DTF TPU Powder to your prints. Some of the larger industrial systems have "TPU Powder shakers" with a DTF Curing Oven attached, these only work with roll fed DTF Printers and automatically apply DTF TPU Powder and cure, it's a faster easier process for the end user, but is a complicated system and requires set up and heavy maintenance.
In this article we will go over how to manually apply DTF TPU Powder to your prints.
After the print comes off the DTF Printer, you want to have a large container filled about 1/4 with DTF TPU Powder.
Carefully bring your print over to the DTF TPU Powder box (most customers use a large plastic storage container, like what you can find at home depot or wal-mart). Hold your over the DTF TPU Powder in the container and dust the BACK of your print with the powder (seen in the images below)
There are two types of DTF TPU Powder available, White DTF TPU Powder which works for 99% of DTF Printer applications.
And Black DTF TPU Powder, which is especially great for applying your prints onto dark garments, Black DTF TPU Powder will help the DTF Prints pop better and hold the color vibrancy after applying.
Curing Your Prints
After printing the DTF prints and applying the DTF TPU Powder, you will need to cure the prints. This is a simple process that involves placing your finished DTF Print that has been dusted with DTF TPU Powder into your DTF Curing Oven. Curing time typically takes 3 minutes at 150 degrees Fahrenheit .
Pressing The Print Onto The Garment
After curing the DTF Print and the DTF TPU Powder together, it is time to finally press the DTF Print onto your garment.
For this process you simply place your garment onto your heat press, and press for 15 or 20 seconds at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (different garments and substrates will require testing to get the finish just right)
Now you will have finished T-Shirt ready to distribute to your customers. Over all , with a single A4 sheet fed DTF Printer, each shirt will take approximately 6-8 minutes from start to finish.
Using a sheet fed DTF Printer will speed the process up a little and help save money and time by allowing the sheet feed roller to consistently feed the printer (so you can send multiple prints at once.
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Certified Inkjet Technician