When creating a design or pattern for fabric for use in a garment, it’s important to consider the various printing methods in use today and how they can best be applied to create the visual effect you have in mind. Here are seven of the most popular printing methods currently available along with a description of the processes involved and the cases in which they are typically used.
In screen printing, a sheet applies layers of ink onto a printing surface. Each sheet represents a unique color and the sheets are applied sequentially to create the desired design. This is a very versatile method of printing that is well suited toward high rates of production. It’s estimated that 61% of all printed textile fabric worldwide is created through the rotary screen method, while an additional 23% is generated through flat screen printing.
The heat transfer method is used for transferring a design from one medium to another. This process commonly involves first printing a design on special paper using special dyes, and then placing it in close contact with the fabric. Heat is then applied, allowing the fabric to absorb the dyes from the paper, and the design is transferred to the fabric.
As the name implies, this method involves printing the colors for your desired designs directly on either white or dyed fabric—as opposed to other methods in which the designs or patterns are created by lightening or whitening fabric that has already been dyed, using a discharge process for example.
Also known as extract printing, discharge printing is a method in which a special solution such as a discharge ink is applied to dyed fabric in order to create a white pattern or simply a lighter design that contrasts with the deeper hue around it. Discharge printing can be an effective method of creating color on dark garments.
This time-honored, painstaking traditional method of printing involves manually stamping designs onto fabric, usually linen, cotton, or silk, using hand-carved wooden blocks. Although it is a labor-intensive process, block printing can achieve a gorgeous, ornate effect that is very hard to create using mass production techniques.
Dye sublimation printing
Considered an alternative to screen printing, dye sublimation (or “dye sub”) printing is a cost-effective method of printing designs on fabrics, particularly synthetic materials. It uses heat sensitive ink that turns into gas when exposed to heat. Heat transfer printing, mentioned above, is a form of dye sublimation printing, as is the direct-to-fabric method in which printing takes place directly on pre-treated fabrics.
Remember that the fabric you choose will influence how your design ultimately appears when the printing process is complete, and not all printing processes are universally suited to all types of fabrics. Call or contact us us if you have questions and need expert answers.