HTV Vs DTF: Will DTF Take Over the Custom Apparel Market?

HTV Vs DTF: Will DTF Take Over the Custom Apparel Market?

For quite some time, heat transfer vinyl (HTV) has been the go-to method for creating custom apparel, proven and relied upon by numerous print businesses and their clientele. In contrast, there has been a surge in the popularity of direct-to-film (DTF) transfer, presenting itself as a viable alternative for personalising fabrics and more. The question on the market’s lips remains – is DTF viable enough to completely replace HTV?


The short answer, DTF printing will unlikely take over the garment customisation market completely. The simple reason being that each method houses its own pros and cons, and each technique might be more suited to certain jobs in comparison to the other.

What Is the Difference Between DTF & HTV?

Direct-to-film (DTF) printing involves a multi-step approach to customising apparel, where an Inkjet printer deposits ink onto a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) film. Subsequently, an adhesive is applied to the print, and the entire print undergoes a high-temperature curing process. This curing step enables the PET film to be stored for extended periods without experiencing substantial loss in image quality. The film is then placed on the garment and transferred using a heat press.


Advantages of using DTF, include: 

  • DTF is versatile and can be applied to a large variety of materials.
  • DTF uses less white ink (40% versus the 200% DTG (direct-to-garment) printing uses).
  • DTF is considered more durable than DTG printing.

Heat transfer, commonly known as HTV printing or heat transfer vinyl, has proven to be a longstanding and reliable technique for applying uncomplicated decorations to garments. Vinyl lettering and numbering have adorned millions of athletic uniforms, with some asserting that the origins of print shops can be traced back to the custom HTV printing industry.


Advantages of using HTV, include:


  • HTV is considered a cost-effective approach to garment personalisation.
  • HTV is commended for its durability.
  • HTV delivers rapid, high-quality results.


With both options offering exceptional benefits, it can be difficult to know which method would work best for your business. Bulk Apparel recommends asking 4 important questions before deciding on which method would suit your company the best.

1. How complex is your design?

Customising apparel encompasses a wide range of requests, varying from straightforward letters or shapes to intricate designs. As a general guideline, designs characterised by simple, distinct outlines are well-suited for HTV, whereas conversely, complex or intricate designs are better suited for DTF. 

2. What substrate are you using?

When selecting the appropriate print technology for your substrate, there are several factors to consider:

-Fabric Colour:

For both HTV and DTF, opacity is crucial when transferring to coloured substrates.

HTV requires choosing a vinyl that complements the background colour while ensuring the correct opacity for the desired effect. DTF on dark or coloured materials necessitates a white ink layer to enhance image visibility, creating a solid backdrop for subsequent colours.

-Fabric Type:

Conduct practice transfers on the intended fabric to ensure compatibility, good adhesion, and the required durability before full-scale printing. While both HTV and DTF generally work well with common garment fabrics, differences may arise based on specific fabric characteristics.


HTV provides a smooth and flat finish, adhering to the fabric’s surface with a thin, flexible feel. DTF, on the other hand, allows the texture of the fabric to show through, offering a more natural look and feel after application. It typically results in thin transfers with a fabric-like texture.

-Heat Sensitivity:

Consider the heat sensitivity of the fabric; both HTV and DTF can be applied at lower temperatures than the sublimation process, reducing the risk of damage to delicate materials. Verify that your fabrics can withstand the temperatures used in HTV and DTF processes.

-Non-Fabric Substrates:

HTV is primarily designed for garments and textiles but can be applied to non-textile surfaces with the correct temperature and pressure.

DTF offers more flexibility for transferring onto various hard surfaces. Non-fabric applications include lanyards, mouse mats, umbrellas, leather items, photo albums, diaries, journal covers, and some plastics, metals, wood, and ceramics (subject to verification).

3. What are your production requirements?

In simple terms, for short runs, HTV tends to be more efficient compared to DTF. The process of cutting, weeding, and heat pressing is likely quicker than the steps involved in printing on a film, adding adhesive, curing, and applying.


However, as production volume increases, DTF becomes more efficient. Combining steps in the process, such as bulk printing and storing transfers for later use, becomes easier with DTF. When complexity, such as intricate designs, is introduced to HTV, the process becomes more time-consuming.

4. How long should the end product last?

The durability of transfers on apparel, considering factors like fading, peeling, or cracking, varies depending on the fabric and materials used. HTV lasts approximately between 25 and 30 washes, as it is sensitive to wear and washing conditions.


DTF, on the other hand, is known for its slightly higher durability, often tested positively for upwards of 35 washes. The inclusion of a white ink layer in many DTF prints contributes to the overall resilience of the ink during washing, drying, and ironing.

The choice between these two methods can only be answered by each business or consumer’s needs and requirements. Neither option can be considered a one-size-fits-all answer to every consumer need within the market, and consumer preference and requirements will determine your choice of product at the end of the day.


Intamarket Graphics offers both heat transfer (HTV) and direct-to-film (DTF) solutions. Contact us today for all your garment and apparel customisation needs.


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