Helpful Information for Buying a DTF (Direct to Film) Printer
I have had a lot of customers recently talked to me about how great it is that they are setting up a DTF Printing business, where they are going to print their own transfers and sell transfers to customers. Sounds Great and a perfect small business to run from home, but there are a few pitfalls, and they can be expensive, so we have created this blog to help with some basic information to help before you spend thousands or tens of thousands and it all goes to waste.
First before we start or buy anything we want to have a few skills and things to have in place.
- Be able to use a graphic program something like Photoshop or Affinity Photo or something similar.
- Own a good quality desktop computer or Laptop computer with the Graphic Software on it, using apps on your phone or an online programme like Canva will not cut it you will need to be able to remove backgrounds, resize and edit the images you are going to print.
- Have a good Quality Heat Press, your Cricut Iron will not work with DTF, you will have to many failures. A cheap Chinese heat press will work ok, but it you are doing blended garments or some polyester garments, they can be difficult to fit, Pressure Time and Temperature control will be critical.
- A well-ventilated workspace that is large enough to move comfortably around, DTF Powder will get everywhere so you need to be able to easily clean.
- The work area needs to be able to be climate controlled, Temperature and Humidity are very important when creating DTF Transfers.
So, we will go over quickly the points above
IT is important to have the skills to create your own artwork and be able to manipulate it as required, you can use a web service like Fiverr, but paying for correct artwork can get expensive very fast. Learning a program like Photoshop or Affinity Photo is the best starting place, and YouTube have some great videos to help you learn what you need to know.
Have a good graphics PC or Mac with the software on it, Photoshop is a month-by-month subscription as is Illustrator, Affinity Photo and Affinity Design are affordable options that are just as capable, and you will own them outright. We are continually getting files from clients that have created their artwork using Canva or other apps or website, we normally must fix this artwork as it normally is not ready to print. If you want to do this as a Business, it is worth learning the needed skills.
Owning a Good Quality Heat Press, if you own a good quality Heat Press you can start to fit your transfers without any problems, trying to use a heat press that is not designed for the job or an Iron, even the Cricut Iron, will lead to failures. And wrecking a Blank T Shirt that cost $25.00 can be expensive especially if it happens a few times.
Having a good workspace that is the correct size and well-ventilated and able to have the temperature and humidity controlled is very important, the printer will want to be at around 22 degrees and 35% Humidity to work at its best, to cold or to hot will cause problems with the printing.
Now on with the Main Information.
Am I Ready to Purchase a DTF Setup.
Printing with White ink is difficult and needs to be done correctly to work well and have low maintenance. Here are some bullet points to think about.
- Do I have an existing sales channel?
- Am I printing transfers every day?
- Am I printing enough transfers to warrant the cost of the equipment?
- Am I printing enough transfers to work the printer hard enough to be problem free?
- Do I understand the process?
Let cover these, you need to be already selling transfers, weather you are fitting them onto garments or on-selling transfers, buying the equipment and then hoping to get enough sales is the wrong way to go about this as you will end up with a printer and equipment that you will either not be able to sell or will sell at a huge loss.
Already selling transfers great, are you printing transfers every day, as for the printer to be problem free you will want to print 4 out of 7 days. Many salesmen will tell you that you can hit it up once a week and print what you need and then leave it on to do its maintenance and it will be fine, I can assure you that this will lead to trouble with the printer in time, the White ink needs to flow through the lines regularly.
How Many Transfers are you printing? Are you printing enough to warrant the cost and keep the equipment running smoothly. These printers want to work hard, depending on the printer that you are looking at you need to look at how many transfers are being printed. If you are looking at a desk to printer you should be looking to do 50+ sheets per day. If you are looking at a roll feed printer, we would recommend doing around 25 meters per day, if the machine is a big industrial printer this will go up to a significant amount. If you are not already doing this type of numbers, we would recommend using a transfer supplier and get yourself up to these numbers before purchasing a printer. It does sound like a lot, but it really isn’t.
Do you understand the process, or have you watched a few videos and think this will be a great idea. DTF is a commercial process, purchasing a small setup and doing it at home will just end in tears, with lots of problems and maintenance. There are a few different printing processes that can be used, and we will go over them in a little while. Talk to people that are already doing the printing, get feedback, try, and understand how it all works, YouTube is great and will give you some general tips and ideas on how DTF works, but just remember that those who can do, those who can’t teach, this is not always the case on YouTube it is more than often true. Just make sure that when you purchase your equipment you get the training that you need.
I am ready to take the next step and buy the equipment.
I cannot stress this enough, buy from a reputable wholesaler. Do not buy a printer and setup from someone that is out to make a quick buck and when the big manufacturers start to make these printers, they just shut up shop and start selling the next big thing. Let go over a few things
- A wholesaler that has been in business for years will not put their reputation on the line to sell you a problem.
- A reputable wholesaler will offer training and consumables, along with peace of mind that if something goes wrong, they will help and that there is warranty.
- Buy a printer that has been designed to print DTF, do not buy a paper printer that has been retrofitted to print DTF, this will lead to problems and a lot of extra costs. Cheap at the start is not going to be cheap in the end.
- The RIP Software for the printer needs to be easy to use and have good colour profiles, if you are not getting manufacturer supplied software make sure the RIP software can have colour profiling done.
What type of Printer do I get?
This will be decided by the number of prints that you are doing, at the current time manufacturers like Brother and Epson do not make dedicated printers for DTF, but the transfers can be produces using manufactured supplied software and the DTG (Direct to Garment Printers). This is a great option, as it gives the ability to print using DTG and DTF, giving the ability to print onto 90% of garments available. Some of the advantages of doing this is the software supplied is designed to work with the printer, problem free and the printers are designed to print onto fabric.
You just want a dedicated DTF printer, there are a lot of Chinese made printers available now, and not all are equal. I have had a few customers come to me where they have brough a $35000 printer and told me how great it is going to be and only to have them come back to me in 3 to 6 months and offer to sell it to me and then they will buy the transfers off me. This is because they are a lot of work and just because you spent a lot does not mean that it is going to work straight out of the box how you think it will. I also strongly recommend against desktop printers, these are designed for a small hobbyist, and can have a lot of problems, flat bed and roll feed printers on average will be the best, ask the wholesaler for a reference of a customer that has been doing the printing with the machine for over 6 months and talk to them.
Some printers will print the film and then you need to apply the Glue and cure in separate processes, this is fine it just takes a little longer, some printers will come with a shaker and tunnel so the process is automated, this will be a lot quicker but does have more waste. This decision will have to be made on your business model.
Who do I talk to?
There are a lot of sellers at this current time, use the internet and do a little research, buying direct form alibaba.com will save you some money, just take onboard that there is no help with the printer after you purchase it, and any problems can become unsurmountable very quickly.
We recommend talking to
- ADZON, https://www.adzon.store/, based on the gold coast, Adam will give good advice and has excellent service and warranty.
- GJS, https://gjs.co/, Based in Sydney with sales and service Technicians in most capital cities.
- DTG Solutions, https://dtgsolutions.com.au/, they have a great DTF Roll feed printer and everything that you need to go with it.
While this is not an exhaustive information on purchasing a DTF Printer, I hope it gives you the basics and helps you make the correct decisions and helps give you the basics to stop from wasting your hard-earned money.
If there is an interest in how we have made the decisions and the equipment that we use to produce DTF transfers, let us know and we will put that information into a post