Fabric printing and textile printing have been around for a long time, and much of the technology that goes into these processes is well-known and accepted. Businesses that dedicate time and energy to textile printing usually have print finishing equipment and the other technology needed to get the job done right.
However, as the textile printing industry advances, new technologies, inks, and other materials are being introduced into the market. In order to stay competitive and at the forefront of this industry, it is important to understand the new options that are now available.
Below is a brief explanation of the differences between direct fabric printing and transfer textile printing, as well as advice about which of these technologies might be best for your particular business. The different types of dyes and inks that are making their way into the market today are also discussed. By educating yourself regarding the changes and new technologies that are now available, you can become prepared to take your textile printing business to the next level.
The Main Differences Between Direct Fabric Printing and Transfer Textile Printing
Until now, most textile printing has been done through dye-subs that transfer the image to be printed from a transfer paper to the fabric. These special transfer papers have a specific coating that holds the image before releasing it onto the fabric.
With the advance of new technologies, however, textile printing can now be done directly on certain types of fabrics, therefore bypassing the transfer process. This process eliminates the need for transfer paper, although it is still necessary to heat press the fabric in order to ensure quality adhesion of the inks to a fabric.
Pros and Cons of Direct Textile Printing
The first reaction of many people in the textile printing industry regarding the possibilities offered by direct printing is immediate acceptance of this technology. Why wouldn’t we choose to forego the transfer process and simply print directly upon fabric using printing finishing equipment?
While direct textile printing certainly can help to streamline the printing process and increase overall productivity and efficiency, there are trade-offs that need to be considered. First and foremost, direct printing generally uses larger amounts of ink and dyes than transfer printing. While this may boost volume, one can also expect to have higher cost margins due to the extra inks and dyes which this process requires.
Furthermore, since direct textile printing generally penetrates more deeply into the individual fibers of a fabric, the colors that result tend to be less vibrant. Consequently, many experts recommend using direct print technology on items that don’t necessarily need the most vibrant color schemes. Furthermore, you might choose to use direct textile printing on fabrics that will be displayed outside. Since this printing process will penetrate further into fabrics, it tends to be more durable and less susceptible to damage from the elements.
Which Ink to Choose?
No matter whether you choose direct textile printing or transfer fabric printing, you will need to know the different types of dyes that are available. Each type of ink offers unique advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you are printing and how the fabric will be used.
- Acid Dye Inks: These inks are best suited for textile printing on polyamides that can be either natural or synthetic. Wool, silk, and nylon are the best types of fabrics for this type of ink because they offer maximum adhesion and also offer outstanding color.
- Reactive Dye Inks: You should only use reactive dye inks when printing on natural fibers such as cotton. These inks have the special attribute of actually becoming a part of the fibers. Reactive dye inks work best on 100% natural cotton fabrics.
- Pigment inks: Pigment inks represent the most well-known and most well-used type of dye for textile printing. These types of inks work well with print finishing equipment and, therefore, have become a major part of industrial textile printing. Pigment inks have the unique attribute of being able to be printed on virtually any fabric, making them a great overall choice for virtually all printing needs. However, these inks do need to be combined with a bonding agent, which could add to overall production costs. In order to ensure the highest quality print jobs, learning the balance between the quantity of ink and the amount of bonding agent is a skill that must be acquired through practice and trial and error.
The Possibilities for Growth with Direct Fabric Printing
If you think that direct fabric printing might offer you and your business a unique edge in the textile printing industry, learning about how to best take advantage of this new technology is the first necessary step.