What would be the best way to express your creativity and display your artistic talent while making awesome, colorful pieces of clothing, bedsheets, or some other piece of textile?
Fabric printing comes to mind as the best answer.
Whether you have a black T-shirt at home that you would like to dedicate to your favorite metal band using imprinting their logo on it, or you have a piece of fabric that you fancy turning into a beautiful, multi-colored bedsheet, having the ability to print your favorite patterns or motifs on fabric is a great way to personalize a lot of clothes and other materials.
In the past, the only way to add color to an otherwise single-color piece of clothing or a rug, for example, would be to use different colors of wool, cotton, or some other material you’d use for making the thing. Alternatively, you could try to paint the finished product and hope the paint doesn’t fall off afterward.
While these old methods weren’t bad per se, they weren’t that simple to pull off as they require some skill for you to do them well enough. Nowadays, there are many different ways to make your fabric of choice, whatever color or colors you imagine!
In this article, we’ll talk about types of fabric printing.
As you will see, if you’d like to get involved in this way of personalizing your clothes or some other textile material, you’ll have plenty of different methods to make that happen. In the passages below, we’ll describe five methods for printing fabric in more detail, so you can have a clearer idea of how they work.
Without further ado, here’s the deal.
Types Of Fabric Printing
1. Transfer Printing
Representing one of the simplest and possibly the least expensive type of fabric printing, transfer printing is a procedure that requires nothing more than a standard paper printer, some specialized transfer paper, and a regular clothes iron.
The way it works is so simple that even a complete rookie can pull it off fairly easily. All you need to do is print whatever color scheme, picture, or pattern you had in mind onto a sheet of transfer paper (the procedure is the same as in printing with regular paper), and then positioning the transfer paper onto whatever fabric or piece of clothing you want to make an imprint on.
After you’ve placed it carefully, avoiding wrinkles along the way, simply pass over the transfer paper with a hot iron, and the color from the transfer paper will stick to the clothing underneath. Here are some of the most important features of this type of printing:
- No special equipment is needed – … other than a regular printer for paper, some transfer paper, and some sort of heating elements such as a common household clothes iron. The fact that you don’t need much to make imprints on your clothes and other textile makes this method perfect for beginners.
- Simple printing process – As long as you know how to operate a common printer, you’ll have no trouble learning how to print out an image or a color pattern onto a sheet of transfer paper. After you’ve done that, as long as you’re careful not to make any wrinkles in your clothing, you can rest assured that your printing process will be a success.
- Peels & Cracks – While this way of fabric printing is fairly simple and low-cost, this does come with its flipside. The thing is, prints made on clothes in this way, for example, are likely to start fading after a couple of washes. Also, the color can start to peel after a while because of the cracks that will pop up after drying clothes or other temperature changes.
2. Stamp Printing
Although we said that the transfer printing method from above is the simplest one of them all (and it probably is), there is an even simpler method out there, but the results you can get from it are fairly limited.
If you’ve ever had to use a makeshift stamp made out of wood or even a potato in your art class as a kid, you already know the basics of stamp printing. This ancient way of decorating clothes and other types of textiles is all about creating a stamp in the shape of the imprint you want, dipping it in paint, and then simply stamping it on the fabric of your choice. (Of course, you still need to be careful that this piece of fabric is flat and without any folds.)
Here are some of the features of this types of fabric printing:
- Inexpensive and easy to do – If you’re looking for a simple way to leave an imprint on your T-shirt, but you don’t want to spend money on printers and other equipment, using this method can be a great way to do it. All you need to do is create a stamp out of wood or some other material, get some paint, and that’s it!
- Reusable stamps – While transfer printing is a one-time use method where every transfer paper can only make one print, if you can make a good enough stamp, you can use it as many times as you want. All you need to do is clean it after every use and you’re good to go.
- Only one design – … for every stamp you create. The downside of this way of fabric printing is that, once you’ve created the stamp, you can only make an imprint in the shape of this stamp. If you want more shapes and new designs, you need to make more stamps.
3. Pigment Printing
Representing one of the more popular fabric printing techniques nowadays, pigment printing is a special way of printing where color is added in ‘waves’ to the specific spot on the fabric you want to make an imprint on.
This works because pigments (or colors) are added to a special mold with the fabric underneath it. Next, you spread the pigment on the fabric, which leaves the imprint you want. This type of fabric printing requires you to make molds, but other than that doesn’t require any special machinery. (Although large-scale factories and facilities do have specialized machines to make this process quicker.) Here are some of the features of this way of fabric printing:
- Bright, permanent colors – Once you’ve printed a picture or a pattern on a piece of fabric in this way, you’ll see that the colors are bright, of high quality, and that they won’t fade that easily over time.
- Quick results – … in the sense that you won’t need to spend hours to do this type of printing. As long as you have your pigments, molds, and fabric ready, you can immediately move on to making your prints.
- The color is not embedded in the fabric – … meaning that the paint is fully applied to the fabric. Rather, it will sit on top of it.
4. Reactive Printing
In reactive printing, the idea is to place the color on top of the fabric with a special mold over it and then apply heat to stick to it.
This type of printing is called ‘reactive printing’ because the color underneath it has a special additive that will help get it stuck to the fabric when the element of heat is added, so to speak.
Here are some of the features of this type of fabric printing:
- Excellent color quality – With this type of printing, you won’t have to worry about the color washing off that quickly.
- The color sticks to fibers – Unlike the majority of other types of fabric printing, reactive printing binds the color particles with the fibers of the fabric, which creates a strong bond.
- Complicated printing process – As effective as this way of printing is, it does be fairly tricky as it requires both a special pre-treatment of the color and fabric, as well as a post-treatment.
5. Dye Sublimation
Representing one of the most complex printing methods, dye-sublimation requires some specialized machinery to work well.
The process itself is somewhat of a blend of transfer printing and reactive printing, as it requires you to make a printed transfer sheet and then apply both pressure and heat to make a permanent imprint. Here are some of the features of the dye-sublimation printing technique:
- Works for all print sizes – … whether it’s a T-shirt, a pair of knickers, or a large bedsheet. As long as you have enough paint, you can rest assured that you can cover whatever size of fabric you want using this method.
- Eco-friendly – This technique uses water-based colors, so you won’t have to worry about any dangerous chemicals during the printing process.
- Doesn’t work on natural materials – Unfortunately, as effective as this printing method is, it doesn’t work well on natural materials such as cotton or wool. On the other hand, if you’re working with polyester or similar artificial material, you can easily achieve great results.
All in all, whether you like to play around with stamps to make your favorite imprint, or you prefer a more complex but also lasting way of imprinting your fabrics of choice, we’re sure you’ll be able to find the optimal printing methods that would answer to your needs. We hope you found types of fabric printing in this article helpful, and we wish you plenty of success with your fabric printing ventures.