Transfers are a game changer in the garment decorating world. These bold, vibrant & easy-to-use designs allow crafters to create garments with complex, multi-color designs in literal seconds. No cutting or weeding is involved and you don’t have to worry about complicated computer files or lining up layers.

If you’re wanting to give t-shirt transfers a try, you’re probably wondering if you should use sublimation or DTF (direct to film) for your next craft project. Well, we’re here to break it down for you to help you understand what each are, instructions for use and which to choose.

P.S. - you can press on more than just t-shirts, but we will get into that later in the blog.

What are sublimation transfers?

Your sublimation transfer will come with a paper backing. Since we use a special ink, the design you choose will transfer from a solid to a gas when proper pressure, heat and time is applied. The design becomes part of your garment because the ink fuses with the individual fibers of the fabric. That means the design will likely outlast the shirt!

The only thing to note about sublimation - other than the fact that you need to apply the transfers with a heat press - is you can only apply them to high-count, white or light color, polyester garments (or poly coated items).

How to Apply Sublimation transfers

1. The transfers will arrive already mirrored and ready-to-press.

2. Place design-side down on your garment and cover it with parchment paper. We don’t recommend a teflon sheet.

3. Press for 400º for 40 seconds.

4. You can peel hot or cold. Remove the parchment paper and paper backing and reveal your finished product. It is ready to wash & wear.

    What are DTF transfers?

     Direct-to-film (DTF) transfers are printed directly on to a special film in-house at our facilities. It is then ready for the crafter to apply at home. We save you the hassle, time and money of printing your own transfers and ship them right to your door.

    These transfers can be applied to light or dark materials, and you don’t have to stick to polyester like you do with sublimation. You can press on polyester, cotton, 50/50 blends, silk, leather, nylon and more.

    How to Apply DTF Transfers

    1. Unlike sublimation transfers, you are going to place DTF designs face up on your garment.

    2. Cover with parchment paper and press at 310º for 20 seconds.

    3. DTFs are a cold peel, so give it time to cool before peeling off the film.

    4. Cover with parchment paper and press again for 10-20 seconds. 

      Some more differences between sublimation & DTF transfers

      Since the sublimation fuses into the garments, you cannot feel it at all once it is applied. DTF feels more like heat transfer vinyl when you run your hand over it.

      Also, sublimation prints will not include white ink, so any part of the design that is white on the paper backing, will be void of color once applied. If you apply on another color polyester shirt then white, the “white” parts of the design will be whichever color the shirt you’re applying to is.

      Which to choose, sublimation or DTF?

      That is really up to you and how you plan to use the design. Just take note of which material you’re planning to apply to, and if you want something that feels more like it is a part of the shirt rather than sitting on top.

      At iCraft Vinyl we have 1000s of designs for you to choose from. From holidays, to pop culture and everything in between, we have something for everyone. We also have themed bundles available in both sublimation and DTF, and a custom transfer option where you can upload your own design.