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How to Best Work With Your DTF Vendor

Learn the ins and outs of partnering with your direct-to-film equipment supplier so you can be as successful as quickly as possible with this new innovative decorating technique.

By Brian Belk 

If you’ve decided to take the exciting plunge into adding a direct-to-film transfer printing system to your decorating shop, congratulations! 

DTF lets you quickly print incredibly high-contrast, full-color designs on a special film. Unlike other decorating methods, you can transfer a DTF print with heat onto almost any fabric or textile, from cotton/polyester blends and leather, to nylon or Cordura. That means you can decorate all of your clients’ T-shirts, bags, shoes, and other apparel and accessories with DTF.

Suppose you also want to imprint awards or promo products like phone cases or drinkware. UV DTF printer technology allows you to apply these durable transfers onto hard substrates like plastic, wood, glass, and metal.

One of the biggest keys to your success is choosing the right DTF vendor and creating a successful partnership. This will allow you to start making a profit quickly with this versatile decorating technique. 

How to Vet DTF Vendors

Finding the right DTF vendor is crucial for your printing business. Here’s what to look for when assembling your shortlist:

  • A solid, long-running reputation in the US market: Look for vendors with a history of providing quality equipment and services in the printing industry.
  • Proven, reliable equipment and software: Ensure your chosen vendor offers equipment and software they’ve tested and proven to deliver consistent results.
  • A comprehensive, done-for-you installation at your shop: Choose a vendor that offers complete installation services to set up your DTF system in your workspace correctly.
  • Solid training to get you and your staff up and running on the system quickly: Opt for vendors that provide comprehensive training programs to ensure you can maximize the use of your DTF system.
  • Fast stateside technical support if you’re experiencing an issue with your system: Access to immediate technical support can prevent downtime and keep your business running smoothly.
  • Top-notch customer service: A vendor with excellent customer service can provide you with the support you need throughout the lifespan of your DTF printing system.
  • Great reviews from happy clients: Check online for reviews and testimonials from other clients to gauge the vendor’s reputation and the quality of their products and services. Most reputable vendors will also provide customer testimonials and contact information if you want to learn about their experience. Don’t be shy about asking other decorators for their honest opinions of different manufacturers and machines!

8 Tips for Working With Your New DTF Vendor 

Once you’ve selected your DTF vendor, here are some of our best tips to get up and running as quickly as possible with your brand-new DTF printing system.

1. Set the correct expectations upfront.

When you first communicate with your vendor, accurately convey your goals and requirements. If you say, “I just want to make T-shirts,” and then change your requirement to, “I want to do six-point font neck labels,” you’re throwing a monkey wrench into the training. Be specific about your needs ahead of time to avoid getting sold the wrong equipment or slowing down your installation process.

2. Be prepared for your installation day.

Completing your pre-installation checklist from your vendor is crucial to save time and avoid delays. Ensure you’ve gathered any items you need for installation day ahead of time – this allows more time for onsite training with your technician. We also recommend preparing test artwork files in the correct format (i.e., PNG with a transparent background or a vector file).

3. A successful DTF launch in your shop starts with solid training.

Reputable DTF printer vendors will make onsite installation and training mandatory, so ensure you and your staff are present and attentive during the session. Don’t multitask or take calls. Remember, you’ve paid for the training, so make the most of it. If you miss anything during the session, ensure you’ve asked your vendor for access to training manuals or online videos to fill in the gaps.

4. Wait to take orders for DTF after your vendor installs your machine.

Completing the training provided by your vendor and practicing using your DTF printing system is a smart idea. This will help you avoid unnecessary problems and stressful situations. Don’t rush into accepting orders for DTF decoration until your team is comfortable with the process and can consistently produce high-quality imprinted products.

5. Take advantage of the valuable resources your vendor provides.

Before calling a technician, try to solve your problem using resources like online videos or training manuals. If you need to contact a tech, be patient and expect a reasonable turnaround time. Solid DTF vendors make prompt tech service a cornerstone of their offering because they know any downtime can dearly cost your business.

6. However, don’t wait too long to contact your vendor for an issue.

If you encounter any issues or difficulties with your DTF printing system, please report them immediately to your vendor. Waiting until the end of the day is inadvisable, as this may lead to more complications. Promptly addressing the problem will save time and prevent further issues or downtime.

7. Regular maintenance is vital.

Follow your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule to keep your DTF printing system in top condition. This can prevent downtime and ensure consistent print quality.

8. Continuously educate yourself and your team.

Attend workshops, webinars, and tradeshows to stay updated on the latest trends and techniques in DTF printing. This extra professional development can help you optimize your workflow and improve your shop’s printing results.

The Right DTF Vendor Will Be in Your Corner

Adding a DTF printing system to your print shop can be lucrative, allowing you to create high-contrast, full-color designs on various fabrics and substrates. However, success hinges on choosing the right DTF vendor and establishing a solid partnership. 

By vetting potential vendors carefully and following best practices for working with them, you can maximize your investment and start profiting from this versatile decorating technique quickly. Solid training, ongoing support, and regular maintenance are crucial to getting the most out of your new DTF printing setup.

Brian Belk, Axiom America Managing Partner

Bio: Brian Belk is managing director of Axiom America and its subsidiary Arcus Printers. The company is a nationwide provider of decorating equipment, including direct-to-film (DTF) printers, UV DTF printers, DTF software and sublimation printers. To learn more, visit:

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