Everything you need to know about textile printing

estampacion textil

Textile printing is the method of fixing color to fabric to make decorative patterns evenly, using a variety of techniques and types of machines. It involves the superficial use of color in a specific pattern, design or motif through directed mechanical or manual discharge, direct or resistance methods.

Of the many textile printing techniques, the most popular is the rotating screen. However, other methods, such as direct, discharge, resistor, flat screen (semi-continuous), and roller printing are often used commercially. Pigments are used in 75 to 85 percent of all printing operations, require no wash steps, and generate little waste.

Fabric Printing

Before delving into this article about fabric printing, it’s important to give a brief introduction to the topics and concepts to be covered.

Fabric printing is the process of applying designs or patterns onto fabrics using various printing techniques. It’s a popular method for creating custom clothing, home decor, and other textile products.

The fabric printing process typically involves applying ink, dye, or other types of pigments onto the surface of the fabric to create a specific pattern or design. There are several printing techniques used in fabric printing, including screen printing, digital printing, block printing, and more.

Each printing technique has its own advantages and limitations. Screen printing, for example, is a popular technique for creating designs with vibrant and long-lasting colors. Digital printing is a newer technique that allows for high-quality printing of images with precise details and vibrant colors, while block printing is a more traditional technique that involves carving a design into a block of wood, linoleum, or other material and using it to print the design onto the fabric. With this introduction in mind, we can now study these techniques in more detail.

Characteristics of textile printing

textile printing
  • Textile printing is distributed in the form of a design or pattern. One or more colors can be used.
  • A special type of viscous liquid is used to hold the dye / pigment and chemical called “Printing Paste”. The high viscosity of the printing paste allows the dye to stick to the surface of the fiber. Although fixing is done by applying steam which is called “curing”
  • Viscous or low aqueous medium is used for dyeing, but printing is carried out in wet viscous medium.
  • The dyes used for printing mainly include vat, reactant, naphthol (azo) and disperse dyes that possess good fastness properties.
  • Pigments, which are not colorants, are also frequently used for printing. About 96% is made by pigment. These colors are fixed to the fiber through the binder.

Textile stamping, frequent doubts

What is textile printing?

It is the stamping on textile products. Colors and patterns are often printed on fabrics using a variety of techniques and machine types. It is the process of passing color, pattern, motif or decoration of one or more colors to the fabric through manual or directed mechanical discharge, direct or resistance methods.

Textile stamping, how to do it?

Textile printing is the process of attaching color to fabric in defined patterns or designs. In properly printed fabrics, the color mixes with the fiber, to withstand washing and friction.
Below is an infographic with the textile stamping process.
proceso de estampación textil

What is better printing or sublimated?

This concern is common, however sublimated is one of the textile stamping techniques described later, in which the graphic must be printed on paper through a paper printing machine, and then the graphic printed on the Paper must be brought to the fabric by means of the heat transfer machine. This technique can ensure a sharper and more vibrant color.

Techniques for textile printing

Techniques for textile printing

Some textile printing techniques or methods are described below:

1. Screen printing

This technique requires a screen for each color to be printed, which is a frame with a fine mesh fabric stretched well over it. A pattern is in the form of a stencil or is blocking the screen, and the dye is pushed through the mesh fabric with a tool called a squeegee to evenly spread the dye on the fabric below in the areas that have not been blocked.

2. Embossing roller printing

Engraved roll printing is an industrial technique for large stamping runs. The metal rollers are etched with a pattern and the ink tanks apply color as needed. One roller is required for each color, which makes the technique too expensive for short runs of fabric, but can be very cost-effective for large runs, because hundreds of meters per minute can be printed.

3. Transfer printing

Transfer inks are applied directly to the paper and then heat transferred to the fabric. These chemical transfer inks are better suited to synthetic fabrics, where they give better color depth.

4. Stencilling

This technique uses insoles made of acetate; the pattern is cut out and the ink is subsequently applied with a sponge or brush to the cut out areas. Each template can be used multiple times. Today, many templates are made with computerized cutting machines for greater precision than hand-cut templates.

5. Rotary screen printing

Rotary screen printing uses cylindrical screens for each color, which are made of seamless and aluminum foil. While the fabric is fed with a uniform tension into the machine’s printer, its back is commonly covered with an adhesive that makes it adhere to a printing blanket. The fabric passes under the rotating screen whereby the printing paste is automatically pumped from the pressure tanks. Lastly, the fabric then goes to a drying oven.

6. Direct printing

This technique uses a large cylindrical roller that collects the fabric and the smaller rollers that contain the color and are engraved with the design, are put in contact with the fabric (the number of rollers corresponds to the number of colors). The scraper blades scrape excess color from the roller so that only the etched parts bring the color to the fabric. The fabric is supported on a rubber blanket in the printing process, which provides a solid surface for printing, and a layer of gray cloth is used in the middle of the fabric and the rubber blanket to absorb excess ink.

7. Download printing

Discharge printing is done on piece-dyed fabrics. Patterns are created by removing color, therefore most download printing is done on dark backgrounds. Dyed fabric is printed with discharge pastes, which remove background color from the substrate when exposed to steam. Colors can be added to the discharge paste to create different color discharge areas.

8. Inkjet printing

Inkjet printing is a non-contact printing technique in which dye droplets are propelled onto a substrate and driven to the desired point. Inkjet is a new technology in the textile industry and has not yet been adopted for widespread commercial use. The most suitable dye types for inkjet printing on textiles are fiber, vat, sulfur, and naphthol reactive dyes.

9. Heat transfer printing

In this technique the pattern is first printed on a special paper substrate, then placed against the fabric and subjected to heat and pressure. The dyes are transferred to the fabric by sublimation.

Other options of textile printing that you should know

Other textile printing techniques are described below.

Handmade textile printing

This is a traditional printing technique in which a block constructed of wood, rubber, sponge, or metal is formed into an embossed pattern that is dyed and printed or hand-stamped onto fabric. The stamping can be repeated several times to obtain a pattern.

Digital textile printing

This technique starts from a design made on a computer and can then be transferred to paper (sublimation paper), and later to fabric using heat, or it can be printed directly on the fabric using a textile printer and then steam heated to organize design. In this technique, almost always the fabric has to be thickened with a special chemical, which allows it to be washed, and then allows it to pass through the printer.

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