The next time you happen to visit a textile store, look around for those vividly colorful decorated fabrics. How would you imagine those designs got there? They are most likely to be created by employing textile printing techniques. Printing decorates fabrics that last a lifetime. There are numerous fabric printing methods, some taking advantage of new technologies and some going back hundreds of years.
FABRIC PRINTING TECHNIQUES
A dye is used to add color to a fabric in direct printing.
Block printing is one of the most traditional direct printing techniques. Here a design is engraved into a wood or any hard material. The fabric is then laid flat and dipped in dye and pressed on a fabric. Block printing can be done manually and doesn’t require many tools. This process is repeated until the desired effect is attained. Few printing blocks can be very intricate when used on textiles from India.
ENGRAVED ROLLER PRINTING
Engraved roller printing is similar to block printing, but this is done on an industrial level. Designs are engraved on large copper cylinders which are then printed on textiles since it is fed through a machine. The design can be repeated as many times as you desire. Most textiles printed in industries in the eighteenth and nineteenth century employed this technique.
Screen printing employs a template or a pattern with gaps in it to make a design. This is burnt on a screen using an exposure light. Inks formulated for specific kinds of textiles are employed to print color on the fabric in the pattern gaps. Screen printing can be done on a rotary printing press or flat. Each color requires a separate screen.
DIGITAL FABRIC PRINTING
Digital fabric printing is popularly known as the ink jet method of printing colorants on fabric. It is a relatively new technique which comes with heaps of applications. Digital fabric printing was introduced to the world in the late 1980s as a substitute for analog screen printing. It’s generally referred while printing smaller designs on garments (promotional wear, dresses, t-shirts and so on) and printing large designs on larger format rolls of fabric. Digital printing on silk fabric is trending nowadays which can be used in making some stylish attires.
Digital fabric printing employed inkjet technology which was initially patented in 1968. In the 1990’s inkjet printers became very popular and available for printing papers, just like a home printer. Specific inks are formulated for different fabrics. The technique has evolved over the years and now the specialized wide format printers can deal with a variety of substances from canvas to vinyl to paper and fabric. This textile is fed into a printer, using rollers which imprint the designs through many thousands of ink drops. This technique is expensive but has the ability to create professional designs on fabrics. Digital fabric printing is environment-friendly because it uses a minimal amount of ink. The fabric is then steamed or heated to cure the design permanently. Digitally printed fabrics can be washed and worn just like any other fabric although you may see some initial bleeding or fading with certain types of ink after the first wash.
Commercially available fabrics are mostly rotary screen printed; the run of each print is typically many thousands of yards. The high minimum is because of the time and cost involved in preparing a unique set of screens, with each color demanding a separate screen.
Designs can be digitally created employing any graphic design software. Alternately photographs and existing artwork can be scanned and manipulated digitally to form a pattern. Designs are usually created as seamless patterns that are replicated all over the fabric. A design that fills the entire yard without repetition can also be prepared, but you may get into trouble if the file size is too large to process the print.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
MAKING COLOR EASY
Figure out the color model your printer uses although it is mostly Lab or CYMK and accordingly pick your colors. Expect the colors differently on the fabric compared to your computer screen. Deep rich reds and few other colors may be difficult to reproduce. Setting the design to easily change colors can be a saving grace.
Fabric is always a part of something else; it is never an end product. It is very easy to get lost in the art of creating a beautiful design but it is important to picture the print as a part of a finished product, especially when it is concerned with the size of the print.
The texture and color of the fabric can have a substantial effect on the print. The prints may seem lighter when printed on shiny fabrics and may look washed out on thin fabrics.
Print designs can be copyrighted by the manufacturers or artists, unlike clothing designs. Sticking to your own unique designs is the best idea. If you are not inclined artistically, you can always hire a designer to make that perfect print for you.
Every print on your fabric can be completely personalized and customized. Print fabrics with dates, names, use as quilt blocks, doggy raincoats, t-shirts, pillow covers and many more. Every item can come in the desired color. More practical customizations like having sequentially numbered labels can also be done.
JUST IN TIME
There is no need to hunt low and high for that perfect print, only to realize that it’s no more available when you need it. Small runs of textiles can be easily printed for sampling. It is possible to print the fabric as soon as it is cut and you can also have the pattern printed directly on the fabric.
Cost is the major downside to digital printing. Just like any new technology, the costs are relatively high when they are initially introduced to the market. As the technology evolves, it will become less expensive.
You can expect a cost of 20$-40$ per yard of finished fabric while dealing with printing services. Most organizations have no minimums and enable you to make a purchase as less as 1 yard at a time. The turnover time is typically 3-4 weeks and may go up if the base fabric is out of stock.
Regardless of being a photographer or just a creative person or an artist and if have some drawings, photograph or a design that you want to have on your favorite piece of fabric creating something memorable and unique like a scarf, a wall covering like a curtain, bedroom decoration or an apparel. You can realize your design dreams choosing from a wide array of fabrics like linen, cotton, spandex, rayon, polyester, silk, linen, and many more.