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Transfer or Direct: Which one is right for you?

April 23rd 2019


Generally speaking, transfer dye-sub printing costs £0.50 / £1.00 more per square metre depending on the type and weight of the transfer paper used. But calculating the difference between transfer and direct is a little more complicated than it sounds.

Pretreated fabrics for direct printing are 5-10% higher in cost than non-coated fabrics for transfer printing. That said, transfer paper costs about £0.60 per metre square on average, so while the fabric is slightly less expensive, the cost of transfer paper might make up for that.


Depending on the application and labour involved, a transfer system could be more economical and leave more room for growth into other markets. If you wish to offer several fabrics you may find yourself changing over these rolls several times a day, if these fabrics were available uncoated then you would lean towards a transfer system. By and large, when producing a range of different products, whether sublimating onto fabric or a ChromaLuxe metal panel, then it makes sense to go transfer because of the versatility. If a smaller company just cares about running 3 or 4 fabrics for a specific set of applications (flags and banners or backlit), they would be ideally suited to direct sublimation printing.


While people like the versatility of transfer printing, the physical space required by a printer and a heat press is one of the biggest challenges with transfer printing. The two machines combined take up roughly 2.5x the space of an inline direct system.

However this being said you have two completely seperate machines so you can print and press two completely seperate jobs at the same time. With two seperate machines you also have the flexibility should your production volume grow you can purchase another printer which will cost considerably less than with inbuilt fixation. You have much more flexibility with production and potential growth.


We often recommend the DGI FH-3204 & FT-3204X sublimation printers which both do direct and transfer printing, giving you the ultimate in versatility and an efficient workflow. Two of the biggest applications, backlit and flags, can be printed direct. and then for applications with stretchier fabrics you can print with transfer paper on the same printer. Having the versatility of a direct and transfer hybrid means you can offer a much wider variety of sublimation products and not just be restricted to one market sector, this helps to increase profit margins for your company.


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