How Fabric is Printed

Fabric printing is a process that is used to change the color of the fabric. This article will cover some basics about this exciting process and tips for you, the fabric printer.

How Fabric Printing Works

While there are many different methods available for fabric printing, they all work similarly: first by designing artwork or photos and then by transferring that design to the fabric with various techniques.

Those techniques include traditional screen-printing, thermal printing (which can be done on both digital and analog screens), inkjet printmaking on paper transfers onto fabrics, or dye-sublimation where dyes are transferred onto garments instead of ink.

No matter what technique is used, the result is that the colors are essentially embedded into the entire fiber of the fabric. It will be durable, but it also means that there should be no fading even after multiple washes.

This process makes fabric printing versatile because you can use it for casual and even more formal occasions, which call for a more professional look.

Fabric Printing Basics

There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when working with printed fabric, especially if you’re designing your own. They include:

The size of the design
Occasionally you may notice that printed fabric has a “bleed” to it, which means the ink will spread out and cover roughly an inch of the material on all sides. This is because that’s how much fabric typically passes through the printer, so the design must be smaller than that 1″ perimeter.

The colors you are printing.
If your colors are too light, they may not print correctly, so it’s best to use paler color separations or Pantone Color Separations. The colors will need to be separated, and if you’re using a color laser printer, they will need to be separated using the four-way color model.

The fabric ink density
When it comes to fabric printing, less is more. You can always print more ink on top of what has already been printed, but you can’t take it off. If you’ve over-inked your design and need to remove some of the images, most printers have software designed for that purpose.

The finishing touches
There are some excellent methods for finishing off your prints. The first is washing the fabric in warm water with laundry detergent. You can also iron on synthetic materials more prone to retaining shape using your printer settings for high heat and low steam options. Another option is to apply an additional coat of fabric ink, which will make it look like the print has been painted on.

Tips for Working With Fabric Printing

When you’re working with fabric printing, it’s essential to keep in mind that even though the color may already be in the fibers of the fabric itself, a piece of clothing will still absorb a lot of moisture if it’s left unwashed. It can be a problem for printed apparel. You’ll want to avoid leaving your garments in the washer for more than two hours.

It’s also important to note that you should never dry clean ink-printed clothes because the chemicals will remove the color and ruin your design. Instead, wash according to the instructions and then hang it out so that it can dry naturally.

Some fabrics will retain their shape better if you iron them, but be sure to iron on the flat side to prevent wrinkling. You can also use an ironing board or a gentle steamer. If you still have trouble with your design after several washes, you can cut apart your garment and sew on some extra spacers or try altering the structure so that it’s smaller than the size of the fabric.

Design with Style

Fabric printing can add a modern and sophisticated look to your wardrobe. In this regard, it’s essential to know the tricks of the trade when it comes to crafting a print from your computer or photos from an album or scrapbook. For example, you’ll want to make sure the colors in your design are solid and saturated.

With that said, remember that just because something looks great on a screen doesn’t necessarily mean that it will look great on a piece of fabric. Your design needs to translate well into the world of fabric printing. If it doesn’t, your printed garment may end up looking washed out or bland.

That’s why it’s crucial to work with designers who are experienced in fabric printing. They can help you create an image that will look great on fabric and bring out the best of your design.

9 Tips for Using Your Fabric Printer

  1. When you’re using your printer for fabric printing, make sure to set it on a firm and steady surface. If you don’t, there may be some warping when it comes time to remove the garment from the screen.
  2. When it’s time to remove the fabric from the screen, use a dry brush and work it in two ways: horizontally and vertically. This will help loosen any stuck pieces of cloth so that you can use the whole design without being cut up or damaged.
  3. When it’s time to wash the fabric, make sure you do not use bleach or a chlorine-based detergent. Instead, opt for a mild detergent and warm water. This will help preserve the colors in the design and remove any loose threads or residue from the ink.
  4. When ironing, make sure the iron is set on a warm setting and that your garment is completely dry beforehand. Also, be cautious not to apply too much pressure. This can cause the colors to bleed out of your design and into surrounding areas of fabric.
  5. There are a number of other fabric printing tips you should know about as well including:
  6. If your garment is cotton or a cotton blend, skip the ironing and choose to process the items in the washing machine instead. This will help keep it from shrinking or straining out of shape as that can happen when ironing.
  7. Your printer may have settings that allow you to alter the size of the print, including ways to alter or scale down your design for a more intimate fit. This can be useful if you’re making dress shirts or other items where fit is important.
  8. When it’s time to select colors, make sure there’s color contrast between your white garment and the background fabric. This will help it look like the print was professionally made rather than sewn on by hand.

3 Fabric Printing Techniques

  1. There are three basic fabric printing techniques that are used to create printed garments. The first is dye-sublimation. This is when the ink actually soaks into the fabric fibers, which means there’s more of a solid color with no transparency to the design.
  2. A second technique is paint-sublimation, which is similar to dye-sublimation except that it uses ink that will not soak into the garment but rather sit on top of it. This means the design will still look like a solid color when it’s dry, but when you wash it, the design will be revealed underneath.
  3. Digital printing is the best way to create fabric prints because it uses digital ink that uses LCD technology. This means that instead of using dots of ink, this print uses pixels. This provides a crisper print that is more cost-effective and quicker than dye-sublimation or paint-sublimation methods.

6 Tips for Designing With Fabric Printing

  1. When designing, don’t limit yourself to just the fabric printing options. If you have the skills to create a design with computer software or Photoshop, use that instead of trying to design clothes with print-on-fabric.
  2. Determine whether you want your design to be stand-alone or if you want it to be part of an assortment that will come in one box. If you want to use your design in several different garments it’s best to think through the final product and start with a base garment such as a dress shirt.
  3. Work with an experienced designer or go into a fabric store and ask questions about printing labels. If you don’t speak the language, try taking photos of the desired design and ask the employee if they can show it to someone who can translate and show you what exactly is going on in the picture.
  4. Be sure to test out your design before you start printing large amounts of the same garment. A test size garment using the same type of fabric will help you determine whether or not that material or design is right for you.
  5. If your design includes red, be sure to have it set on an orange-red base color rather than a true red base color. This will make it stand out better on white or pale fabrics, which is what most people prefer anyway.
  6. When your design includes a lot of colors, be sure to create a test garment to determine whether or not the colors will properly print. This way you will know if you have the right amount of ink and whether or not it will appear as spot-on as you’d like.