Thanks to advances in digital printing technology, it’s now easier than ever to get your custom designs printed directly onto fabric. Direct-to-fabric or DTF printing allows you to forgo traditional screens and transfers and print vibrant, soft fabrics from digital files in a fraction of the time. However, not all DTF printing services are created equal.
Image and print quality
The important consideration is the actual printed output from potential DTF providers. Be sure to ask for physical samples of their printing work, especially on the types of fabric you plan to use. Evaluate image resolution, vibrancy of colors, accuracy of designs, and consistency across multiple prints. Subpar printing and lazy color management will result in murky, distorted, and inconsistent prints unfit for retail products. A quality DTF printer will showcase razor-sharp images, vibrant and accurate colors, and consistency across repeated prints.
While polyester and poly-cotton blends are the most common, some DTF printing services print on alternative fabrics like nylon and spandex. Know what fabrics you intend to print on and confirm potential printers have successfully printed on those textiles. This may require sourcing your fabric if a printer only supplies standard options. Ask about fabric pretreatments as well. Quality printers will preprocess fabric for maximum ink adhesion and minimal image distortion.
DTF printers come in different formats suited for different applications. Smaller printers may only accommodate letter or tabloid-sized prints sufficient for sampling. Larger wide-format printers are needed to accommodate the larger panels used for apparel and home goods. If planning to print apparel or large banners, you’ll need a DTF printer with a wider print carriage.
Order minimums and lead times
Depending on your production needs, order minimums determine printer eligibility. Some only accept large wholesale orders, while others cater more towards independent designers with lower minimums. If planning small test batches, look for no or low minimum order quantities. Also, confirm expected production and delivery timelines. Quality control and prep work vary widely, so get clear expectations of when you expect to receive your prints.
Pricing and budget
Pricing usually comes into play when selecting between printing alternatives. But don’t let budget constraints cause you to sacrifice print quality and service reliability. The per-print pricing model of DTF por metros is already extremely competitive compared to screen printing and dye sublimation. Be wary of services with abnormally low per-print pricing as quality and consistency often suffer. Prioritize printers with strong portfolios over basement bargain printers. Also, allow for possible tiered quantity discounts if ordering large batches.
Trust and references
When entrusting a new service with printing your prized designs, be sure to vet both their capacity and trustworthiness to deliver as expected. Some basic background checks like years in business, total customers served, and online reviews gauge trust factors. More valuable are personal referrals from past clients on their experience with the printer. Ask to see sample work they’ve printed for other designers and brands. If possible, request contact info for references you reach out to directly to inquire about reliability and communication from the printer. Take your time vetting services since switching printers mid-way through a project severely impacts deadlines, quality, and budgets.