There are many different types of fabric printing methods, and they all yield different results. The type of textile printing used is often based on a number of considerations, from print runs, to durability. We have pulled together some of the most popular, or most commonly used methods, and explained them below.
1. Stamp Printing
This method is pretty self-explanatory. A stamp is created, which is then used to imprint onto the fabric. Similar to the ink pad stamps you used growing up, your design is cut into the stamp, which is then dipped into the ink. Using even pressure, you transfer your design from the stamp onto the textile. Although we've come a long way from ink stamps, the level of detail that you can get from stamp printing is limited, so this is not suitable for the more intricate designs.
2. Transfer Printing
Another method is using transfer paper. This is a special paper for purchase at supermarkets or craft shops. You can use a standard household printer to print your design onto the transfer paper, which can then be printed onto your chosen fabric with a standard, household steam iron. Transfer printing can be upscaled and done professionally on larger runs; however, it will leave a shiny film or surface texture on your fabric. Transfer printing is not a permanent method of fabric printing, for it can crack and peel with multiple washes, and often fades.
3. Screen Printing
As we move towards the other end of the printing scale, we start to see methods that are used more commonly within the professional world of textile printing. Silkscreen printing is most common within the business industry. This method of printing uses a stencil and a nylon mesh to create the print design. Waterproof material will block out the spaces that you want your design to appear on, and then those blocked out spaces are flooded with ink. Due to the way that this method is carried out, you can only use one color for each screen; however, it does produce fantastic replications.
4. Dye Sublimation
This is a multi-step process that produces some of the best results of all the fabric printing methods. Designs are printed onto a thermal transfer paper, known as dye sublimation paper. The paper is used to print the design onto the fabric. Both heat and pressure are used to permanently bond the inks to the fibers of the fabric, leaving your fabric as soft as it was before it was printed on. The deep infusion technique penetrates special water-based inks deep into the textile, making your print permanent. Perfect for intricate details as well as colors.
5. Pigment Printing
Pigment printing is one of the most popular printing techniques for use on cellulose fibers, making them ideal for use on natural fabrics. This fabric printing method can also work on synthetic materials, making it versatile. It is a localized technique which involves applying dyes to the area of fabric that you want your design to be located. The process is repeated to make the color appear stronger on the fabric.
6. Reactive Printing
Reactive printing is one of the heat-activated fabric printing methods. It is done by pre-coating the fabrics with a binder (similar to that of pigment printing) and a printing additive. It prints a dye or wax onto the fabric, and the heat reaction permanently bonds the image to the textile. Put simply, it is similar to coating the fabric with the design, then steaming the fabric to create a reaction which bonds the design to the material.
Fabric printing! One of the best ways to make a design your own! If you're a small one-off designer then maybe you'd prefer more artisanal methods of batik or block-printing. But if you're trying to grow a scalable fashion business then you'll want to learn all about screen printing, digital (DTG), heat transfer, and sublimation textile printing methods! (fashionangelwarrior.com)4
Choosing a textile printing technique that fits your requirements
The first step in choosing a textile printing technique is knowing what's out there and what best fits your customers wants and needs. Do your customers want to rapidly print multiple designs so they can follow the latest fashion trends? And would you like to fulfill their wishes while simultaneously increasing production efficiency and lowering costs? Then digital textile printing could provide you with a fitting solution.
Textile manufacturer Adalberto Estampados also faced some of these challenges. They wondered how they were going to address the growth of fast-fashion, produce more challenging designs and offer new standards of quality and production efficiency? With digital printing, they managed to meet their customer's demands.