Textile printing is the process of applying colour to fabric in definite patterns or designs. In properly printed fabrics the colour is bonded with the fibre; so as to resist washing and friction. Textile printing is related to dyeing but in dyeing properly the whole fabric is uniformly covered with one colour; whereas in printing one or more colours are applied to it in certain parts only; and in sharply defined patterns.
History of Textile Printing
Textile printing was known in Europe, via the Islamic world, from about the 12th century, and widely used. However, the European dyes tended to liquify, which restricted the use of printed patterns. Fairly large and ambitious designs were printed for decorative purposes such as wall-hangings and lectern-cloths, where this was less of a problem as they did not need washing. When paper became common, the technology was rapidly used on that for woodcut prints. Superior cloth was also imported from Islamic countries, but this was much more expensive.
Traditional textile printing techniques may be broadly categorized into four styles:
- Direct printing, in which colourants containing dyes, thickeners, and the mordants or substances necessary for fixing the colour on the cloth are printed in the desired pattern.
- The printing of a mordant in the desired pattern prior to dyeing cloth; the colour adheres only where the mordant was printed.
- Resist dyeing, in which a wax or other substance is printed onto fabric which is subsequently dyed. The waxed areas do not accept the dye, leaving uncoloured patterns against a coloured ground.
- Discharge printing, in which a bleaching agent is printed onto previously dyed fabrics to remove some or all of the colour.
Resist and discharge techniques were particularly fashionable in the 19th century, as were combination techniques in which indigo resist was used to create blue backgrounds prior to block-printing of other colours. Modern industrial printing mainly uses direct printing techniques.
The printing process does involve several stages in order to prepare the fabric and printing paste, and to fix the impression permanently on the fabric:
- pre-treatment of fabric,
- preparation of colours,
- preparation of printing paste,
- impression of paste on fabric using printing methods,
- drying of fabric,
- fixing the printing with steam or hot air (for pigments),
- after process treatments.
What is Digital textile printing
Digital textile printing is often referred to as direct-to-garment printing, DTG printing; or digital garment printing. It is a process of printing on textiles and garments using specialized or modified inkjet technology. Inkjet printing on fabric is also possible with an inkjet printer by using fabric sheets with a removable paper backing.
Today, major inkjet technology manufacturers can offer specialized products designed for direct printing on textiles; not only for sampling but also for bulk production. Since the early 1990s; inkjet technology and specially developed water-based ink (known as dye-sublimation or disperse direct ink) have made it possible to print directly onto polyester fabric.
This is mainly related to visual communication in retail and brand promotion (flags; banners and other point of sales applications). Printing onto nylon and silk can be done by using an acid ink. Reactive ink is used for cellulose based fibers such as cotton and linen. Inkjet technology in digital textile printing allows for single pieces, mid-run production and even long-run alternatives to screen printed fabric.
Textile printing involves the production of a predetermined coloured pattern on a fabric; usually with a definite repeat. It can be described as a localised form of dyeing; applying colorant to selected areas of the fabric to build up the design. Textile Printing; like Textile dyeing, is a process for applying color to a substrate.
However, instead of coloring the whole substrate (cloth, carpet or yarn) as in dyeing; print color is applied only to defined areas to obtain the desired pattern. This involves different techniques and different machinery with respect to dyeing; but the physical and chemical processes that take place between the dye and the fiber are analogous to dyeing.