DTF Sublimation Printing on Cotton Shirts at Home

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Learn how to use DTF film and transfer powder to safely make a cotton sublimation shirt at home!

Sublimation is SO cool, but the requirement to always use polyester is frustrating. A couple of months ago we talked about several different ways to sublimate on cotton, and I shared the cotton sublimation techniques that worked the best (and lasted the longest in the wash). So what if I told you I found ANOTHER way to sublimate onto 100% cotton and it didn’t require putting any HTV onto your shirt first? You CAN do it by combining a special film (called DTF film) and transfer powder. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you exactly to sublimate onto a cotton T-shirt using the DTF method at home!

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Watch the full step-by-step DTF T-Shirt Printing at Home tutorial at the link below:

Get the free SVG cut file for this project
Let me show you how to sublimate on cotton with this DTF film and transfer powder hack! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.

Materials to Make a DTF Sublimation Cotton T-Shirt

View my Amazon shopping list with the exact items we used to make this project

How to Make Your Own DTF Sublimation Shirt at Home

White cotton shirt with red cardinal made with DTF sublimation at home

DTF Sublimation on Cotton Shirts

Yield: 1 shirt
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

How to use DTF (direct to film) technology to sublimate in full color on cotton shirts!


Step 1: Get a Sublimation Print Ready

* Find a Sublimation design you want to use. If you want to use my cardinal design, you'll find it in the library as design #446.

Step 2: Prep Your Area

* Get your film ready. Check to see if it feeds through your printer by printing a blank sheet. If it does not, tape it to a piece of copy paper at the top leading edge.

* Get your work area ready

Step 3: Print and Powder Your Project

* Put on your protective gear -- respirator, gloves, goggles, and apron, and be sure you have good ventilation.

* Print your sublimation design on the matte, non-shiny side of the film

* Immediately put powder on the ink and wipe off excess, then put powder away. Keep your protective gear on.

* Heat your powder/ink on the film. I did it by hovering my heat press set to 385°F over my film (without touching) for 10 seconds. You could also do it in a convection oven that you aren't using for 2-3 minutes at about 285°F.

* Cut your design out of the film with at least 1/2" margin around it -- this helps you avoid getting extra ink anywhere.

Step 4: Sublimate Your DTF Design

* Pre-heat your shirt and position your sublimation film FACE DOWN.

• Cover your shirt with butcher paper to protect your press from blow out.

* Press at 385°F for 40 seconds

• Wait until the film cools down, then peel the film off. Enjoy!

Answers to Your Questions About DTF Printing on Cotton

Q: What kind of sublimation paper do I use for DTF?
You want to print on DTF film, not sublimation paper, for this technique.

Q: What kind of sublimation ink do I have to use for DTF?
While there is special DTF sublimation ink out there, we are not using it in our printers in this tutorial. Instead, we are putting a special transfer powder onto our wet sublimation ink as soon as it comes out of the printer.

Q: How well does a DTF shirt do in the wash?
Great question! We washed this shirt inside out in cold water — tumble dry low. Here’s how it turned out:

DTF Sublimation shirt after washing on cold

You can see that the inside, where there isn’t much film powder transferred, cracked a bit. Had this been more of a solid, I don’t think it would have cracked quite like this. But the film cracking is a thing.

I also attempted to iron it with the Cricut Mini Press, but forgot to iron it from the reverse side, and this is what happened:

DTF Sublimation shirt after ironing the decal

You can see where the press melted the film on the top right side of the cardinal, smearing it a little across the shirt. So if you want to iron, you’ll definitely want to turn the shirt inside out and iron from the back side, not the front side.

Get my free PNG files for the beautiful watercolor cardinal design.

I love seeing what you make with my designs and how you use them! Please share a photo of your sublimation projects with our cardinal in our Facebook group or tag me on social media with #jennifermaker.



Want to remember this? Save this DTF T-Shirt Printing at Home Sublimation Hack Tutorial to your favorite Pinterest Board!

DTF Sublimation Printing on Cotton Shirts at Home

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