Textile printing is the process of applying color
to fabric in definite patterns or designs. In properly printed fabrics
the color is bonded with the fiber, so as to resist against washing and
friction when being worn. Textile printing is related to dyeing but in
dyeing properly the whole fabric is uniformly covered with one color,
whereas in printing one or more colors are applied to it in certain
parts only, and in sharply defined patterns.
There are basically seven distinct methods
presently used to impress colored patterns onto cloth:
Hand block printing
Perrotine printing (block-printing machine
invented by Perrot of Rouen in 1834)
In printing, wooden blocks, stencils, engraved
plates, rollers, or silkscreens can be used to place colors on the
fabric. Colorants used in printing contain dyes thickened to prevent
the color from spreading by capillary attraction beyond the limits of
the pattern or design.
The typical printing process does involve several
stages in order to prepare the fabric and printing paste, and to fix the
impression permanently on the fabric. The various processes
include, pre-treatment of fabric, preparation of colors, 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.
Some textile printing machines are for printing on rolled fabric and
others are set to print onto cut pieces of fabric or directly onto
clothing. Direct to garment printing, also known as DTG
printing, digital direct to garment printing, digital apparel printing,
and inkjet to garment printing, is a process of printing on textiles and
garments using specialized or modified inkjet technology. DTG
Printing outputs a high resolution compared to silk-screen printing.
The two key requirements of a DTG printer are a transport mechanism for
the garment and specialty inks (inkjet textile inks) that are applied to
the textile directly and are absorbed by the fibers. With "Direct-to-Garment"
printing, a photo or graphic is printed on fabric with particular type
All direct to garment printers are descendants of
the desktop inkjet printer. The resolution and speed of
direct-to-garment inkjet printers have been increased greatly over the
last several years (the direct to garment era is generally recognized as
beginning in the last quarter of 2004 when Mimaki & U.S. Screen
introduced their printers at the SGIA show in Minneapolis
Direct to garment (DTG) printing is most commonly
implemented on garments that are made of cotton or cotton blends,
although recent developments in technology have allowed for superior
performance on light colored polyester and cotton/poly blends. DTG
printing on dark garments is now being accomplished by a number of
different manufacturers. The dark garments printing process has taken
longer to master. First a pre-treatment occurs on the fabric
location to be printed. Not exactly like and
underbase & flash that is done on screen
printing projects, but similar in some respects.
The majority of DTG printers are driven from a
computer by the use of software known as a RIP (Raster Image Processor).
The RIP software allows the printer to print with larger volumes of ink,
generate white ink underbases for dark shirts and also provides for more
precision color management through color profiles. More advanced RIP
software allows for driving multiple printers from one computer,
advanced job queuing, ink cost calculation as well as a real time
preview of the file prior to printing.
DTG was seen as a viable solution for low-quantity
orders previously not possible because of the expensive setup process of
screen printers. This opened a new market of quantity-one consumer
driven purchasing of digitally printed direct to garment goods and a
surge of large online fulfillment operations to meet this growing
demand. These large fulfillment centers dominated the market until
2007 when 'design your own' online designer solutions entered the market
and allowed smaller fulfillment centers to afford similar technology for
their own websites.
If you wish to learn more about printing and the
process you can contact machine & equipment manufacturers in the
industry. Another good resource is to attend one of the garment
printing trade shows. You can contact companies such as
ISS Show, and
A primary advantage of DTG printing is the lack of
set-up costs and instant turnaround time not associated with traditional
garment printing methods such as screen printing. The comparative
disadvantage of DTG is equipment maintenance and ink cost. Ink
technology developments have significantly improved ink performance and
lowered ink cost. Digital printing technologies are non-contact, meaning
that media is printed on without hand contact, allowing for a more
precise image. This prevents the image distortion that takes place in
What is the primary difference between screen
printing and direct to garment printing?
Simply put, digital printing is less expensive for
small production runs and screen printing is generally less expensive
larger volume production.
You may also have interest in learning about
e-ink & e-paper.
Electronic Ink and Electronic Paper are completely different than
digital printing, but certainly something that you may want to learn