Textile printing has been around for centuries.
Since the first printing block, which dates from around 300 CE, the technique has come a long way, becoming a staple for the clothing and marketing industries, allowing garments to serve more than their original purposes.
Today, the main printing methods include screen printing, pad printing, direct digital printing, folio, transfer printing, and sublimation. Each of them produces different results, and to optimise these results you must know which method is best suited to which material.
To this end, we have prepared a guide that will help you choose the most suitable fabric for each printing technique.
Screen printing originated in ancient China when tailors used to glue silk between two sheets of paper and, in this way, transfer patterns from the paper to the silk.
Today the process involves the pressing of ink through a stencilled mesh screen. The resulting print is vibrant with an intense color scheme, even on dark textiles.
And although it all started with silk, the fabric best suited for screen printing is cotton. Cotton and cotton blends absorb ink well and give the chosen pattern a soft, shiny finish. Synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyester, are not recommended as they do not absorb color well via this particular method. Wool is also unsuitable because inks cannot penetrate its thick threads evenly.
Pad printing is a fairly modern process, particularly when compared to screen printing.
It utilizes an ink cup and a polymer cliché – a thin metal carrier plate. The cup moves over the plate and fills it with the ink that transfers images to garments. The technique offers a complete solution for labelling various objects with irregular or uneven surfaces.
The fabrics that give the best results are nylon, tightly-woven cotton, fleece or flock: in other words, thicker materials, which prevent the ink from seeping through during the pressing of the pad.
Direct Digital Printing
Direct digital printing is perhaps the most inventive of all printing techniques. It supports complex artwork and detailed full-color photographs, which, once processed by the printing software, take minutes to transfer to the fabric.
Unlike other printing approaches, the ink in digital printing is adhered to the fabric directly, and thus the layer used must be slender. The fabric used also has to be thinner in order to retain the ink well. Cotton, single jersey, linen, silk, and rayon are best for this technique.
Folio printing uses flex and flock transparencies and a high-temperature heating press to stick designs onto garments.
It’s an old technique, which has evolved through the years.
Generally, we suggest that it is used with fabrics that have natural fibers, breathe well, and are flexible enough to bend freely underneath the ink. For instance, cotton, linen, and silk are the best option for folio printing. Cotton fleece and wool should be avoided.
When we transfer print, we use a thermal press and a special transfer paper or polyester film to transfer a design to a product. As a result, the image delivered is glossy and long-lasting.
Contrary to screen printing, transfer printing is appropriate for synthetic fibers such as polyester. Furthermore, the technique is suitable for all textiles, except nylon or acrylic which cannot withstand the heat of the iron and melt under it.
For sublimation, a polyester film and a thermal press is used to transfer an image to the chosen fabric.
Similar to transfer printing, this method is highly compatible with synthetic fabrics. It works very well with polyester and lycra, but it will not perform well with cotton and similar natural textiles. This is because natural fibers cannot bond permanently with the dyes in the sublimation inks. They wash out immediately.
Selecting the most suitable fabrics for your printing projects will make a significant difference to the end result.
Make sure that your designs reach their full potential, be informed. If you have questions, we will be more than happy to answer them.