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Fabric Printing: How Does It Work?

Posted by baker miller

fabric printing

Everyone likes pretty prints in their wardrobe. However, fabric printing is no easy endeavor, especially for a small start-up brand like baker miller. We will go into some details about the designs, the dyes, and the techniques we used. The fabric must undergo several processes to get the design and colors perfect and precise.

We saw a lot of different prints at the fabric trade shows we attended, everything from abstract to florals to stripes. As we looked around, we realized we wanted to make some of our own unique prints. All the small and large brands are buying fabric from the same shows; what if a curvy brand made a similar style dress in the same material?! Yikes!

While we did purchase some prints from vendors and jobbers, we also worked with a textile designer to create our own one-of-a-kind prints. Designs are created digitally with graphic design software, such as Photoshop or Illustrator.

Now that we had our textile designs, what did we do next? We found an excellent viscose jersey at a local supplier making their fabric here in Los Angeles. The jersey we bought is specifically made to be dyed, called Prepared for Dyeing (PFD). PFD fabric has not been finished or processed with optical brighteners (agents added to make the fabric whiter or brighter) or softeners that can make the dyes not take well.

Next, we had to decide on the fabric printing technique. We wanted to use the method to produce the best final product with our fabric. Some fabrics will not take to specific printing techniques. Certain dyes and printing methods will only work on particular materials. We ensured the process used with our viscose jersey would take to any dyes and finish applications added.

Here are three of the most common printing methods in the fashion industry today:

Rotary printing – is the most common method of textile printing today. Once the design is finalized, a textile artist separates it into individual colors. The design for each color is then etched onto a separate metal roller. The color is applied through the engraved metal rollers onto the fabric as it is fed through the printing machine.

Sublimation – designs are printed on transfer paper and then pressed onto the fabric using heat. The heat, through sublimation, transforms the dye from a liquid state to a gas before disintegrating into the fabric. The dye’s gaseous state allows the ink to permeate the material completely.

It is used primarily for printing on synthetic fibers (polyester) and blends made mostly of polyester.

Inkjet/digital printing – applying designs directly onto a roll of fabric using an inkjet printer. The process is identical to the inkjet printer used on your home computer.

The material passes through the printer on rollers, and the ink is applied in the form of thousands of tiny droplets, then set by heat or steam.

While some of the prints we used for our collection were digitally printed, we used rotary printing for our own prints. Rotary printing is an involved process that we will discuss in the next blog post.

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