Digital textile printing is a modern printing method that uses inkjet printing technology to print on fabrics. It is a big industry that mostly caters to businesses and companies who want to print ads on billboards and signage. It is a more cost-effective and viable printing technique that produces more vibrant prints than other printing methods.
According to a survey by Statistsa, the market size of digital textile printing is going to reach $31 billion by 2020. In a separate survey by SGIA, the total volume of digitally printed fabrics has reached 2.5 billion square yards and it is going to increase further in future.
Before we delve deeper into digital textile printing, let me give you an overview of this printing method.
What Is Digital Textile Printing?
Digital textile printing is a printing method that transfers an artwork onto a fabric using inkjet printing technology. It is a common printing method for decorating large canvas, billboards, upholstery and home interior items. When used on clothing materials, it can print patterns, designs, emblems and custom patches on a fabric.
Digital textile printing can print various patterns and colors on a fabric. Digital textile printing is a better printing method for decorating fabrics since it can transfer prints in full color and produce really eye-popping designs on a cloth.
Now let’s take a look at the history of digital textile printing and how it became an industrial printing method:
History and Evolution
The development in digital textile printing came as a result of inkjet printing technology which was invented in 1968. But it was not until 1990s that inkjet printing became a widespread printing method to print on papers. The evolution in inkjet printing technology led to the production of digital textile printers which made it possible to print on fabrics. By early 2000s, digital textile printing became a popular printing method for printers all over the world.
Today, you will find plenty of digital textile printers in the market that can print on all different types of mediums and substrates including canvas, paper, vinyl and clothes.
Now that you have an overview of the digital textile printing and its history, we will explain the technique involved in digital textile printing and how it works on different fabrics.
In non-technical language, digital textile printing technique is about printing any artwork onto a fabric using inkjet printing technology. But that is a narrow definition of a broad printing method that has various facets. Basically, digital textile printing falls under two printing techniques: (1) Sublimation digital printing and (2) Direct digital printing. Let’s discuss each of them one-by-one.
Sublimation Digital Printing
Sublimation digital printing is a common textile printing method that makes use of heat to transfer dye onto the fibers of a fabric. It is an endothermic process that absorbs heat energy to convert a solid dye into a gas that later fuses into the fibers of a fabric. This method can be divided into three steps. Here they are:
(1) Create an Artwork
The first step is obviously the artwork creation process. At this step, you prepare a design that you want to print on a fabric. The design is based on a RIP format and is sent to the printing stage in the second step.
(2) Get the Print
In the second step, you get a mirrored print of the artwork using a sublimation printing paper that has one coated side. Once you press the print button on the printer, the artwork will be transferred onto the coated side of the sublimation printing paper.
(3) Transfer the Print onto the Fabric
Finally, you put the sublimation printing paper onto the fabric and get the print on it with help of a heat transfer machine. There you are! You got the print.
Direct Digital Printing
Direct digital printing works similar to paper printing that you do in the office. The only difference is the medium since you using a fabric instead of a paper. A direct digital printing is divided into four steps. Here they are:
(1) Perform Pretreatment
Pretreatment is essential to create durable print that firmly sticks to a fabric. Pretreatment is done with a liquid solution that you apply on the fabric. It helps keep the ink onto the fabric and increase its coverage on the fabric.
(2) Prepare the Artwork
In the second step, you need to create an artwork and then RIP it to make it printable on a fabric.
(3) Print the Artwork
In the last step, you will put the fabric onto a printer. The coated side of the fabric will be inserted into the printer belt which will then print the design onto the fabric.
(4) Cure the Ink
The printed fabric has wet ink which needs to be dried using a dryer. A dryer is attached with a digital printer and also comes as a separate unit. Cure the ink using the dryer so that it doesn’t smudge or come into contact with the fabric. Finally, you got the print!
Now, we will look at some of the advantages that digital textile printing has over other printing methods.
Advantages of Digital Textile Printing
Apart from being a simple and hassle-free form of printing, digital textile printing has many other advantages over other printing methods. Here they are:
It Is Cost-Effective
Unlike screen printing, digital textile printing doesn’t require a big space or printing facility for production of prints. You can start a digital textile printing shop from your personal space. Besides, it consumes less resources as compared to other printing methods.
In comparison with other printing methods, it uses less ink and power to create a print and there is no use of water in the entire process. In other words, you bear less production cost for a single print which makes it a more cost-effective printing method.
You Can Print Multiple Colors
Digital textile printing can produce complex and intricate designs. Unlike screen printing which is cost-effective only for 1-2 colors, digital textile printing can produce range of colors in little budget. With digital textile printing, you can add various tones of colors in your prints without increasing the cost of a print. You can print any color and patterns whether you are making a motifs or custom embroidered patches on a fabric.
It Is Safe for the Environment
Best of all. digital textile printing is a perfect printing solution to keep the environment from getting affected by toxic effects of chemicals used in other printing methods. With digital textile printing, the environment is protected from water spills and chemical infiltration into the air since it doesn’t use any of these harmful practices and substances.
This article serves as a guide for newbie Digital textile printers who want to know the fundamentals of this effective printing method. Hope this enriches your knowledge and provides you insights into the different aspects of digital textile printing method.