digital printing on fabric

Digital Printing on Fabric | The Complete Guide

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With the refinement of digital printing technology, people’s visual appreciation has been improving.

We have advanced digital printing technology to help you create unique printed fabrics. For more information, please contact us!

What is Digital Printing on Fabric?

Digital printing on fabric is to reflect various patterns to the front of the fabric through small ink droplets on the nozzle of the printing machine. Any pattern can be easily and accurately reproduced on the fabric using this technology. Digital fabric printing can print vibrant and rich colors while keeping the soft texture of the fabric intact. Additionally, the colorfastness of the printed fabric is relatively high, making it an ideal option for fast, large-scale production and precise color management.

digital printing on fabric
Suitable fabrics

Suitable Fabrics for Digital Printing

In order to ensure production speed, the fabric will pass through the printer at high speed. However, close contact between the fabric with the nozzle may cause damage. The following are some of the fabrics suitable for digital printing.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Digital Printing on Fabric

The direct digital printing technology on fabric is constantly evolving as time progresses, and at present, it has the following advantages.

  • High-quality prints: Digital printing ink and color are controlled by machine, the printing effect is more accurate and the color is more even.
  • Quick turnaround: This technology adopts a high-speed printing process. The printing speed is fast, which greatly shortens the production time and can deliver the bulk to customers as early as possible, and the satisfaction rate is higher.
  • Economical and eco-friendly: No plate making is required, saving production costs and making it more economical. It is also more environmentally friendly as less waste is produced and fewer resources are consumed during the whole process.
  • Customization: It is easy and fast to produce and can meet the demand for wholesale.

The disadvantages of digital printing on fabric:

  • Slightly lower durability: Digital prints may fade more easily when exposed to sunlight or frequent washing.
  • Quality limitations: The quality of the prints can be influenced by variations in printer types, inks, nozzles, and environmental factors.
  • Slightly higher cost for bulk printing: Digital printing requires more expensive inks compared to traditional dyes. The cost of large-scale digital printing is influenced by ink consumption and production time, resulting in a relatively higher expense.
digital printing on fabric
digital printing process

The Process of Digital Printing on Fabric

Processing of design → printing inks match → fabric sizing → printing → steaming → washing → drying → styling → adjust pH value to improve color fastness → fabric inspection

Is Digital Printing on Fabric Eco-friendly?

Yes, it is. 

The traditional printing process requires a large amount of water, and the waste liquid and waste water cause significant environmental pollution. 

In contrast, digital printing on fabric eliminates the complicated plate-making process. During the entire printing process, there is no need to use water, and no staff is required to adjust the color paste. 

The printer is set up, the ink cartridge is installed, and the printing mode is started. The printer allocates dyes according to the needs and directly injects them onto the fabric. 

Digital textile printing often uses more environment-friendly water-based inks, which are again much less harmful to the environment.

The process of printing avoids the discharge of dyeing liquid color paste, and no pollutants appear. It is also less noisy, making the production environment relatively quiet.

prepare fabric for digital printing

How do You Prepare Fabric for Digital Printing?

To make the final printing effect of the fabric better, it is necessary to carry out some special treatment of the fabric. Before printing, we will sizing the fabric. In order to prevent the textile from fading during the washing process, an appropriate amount of anti-dyeing salt is added to the sizing. 

Additionally, alkali and urea are added to the treatment to ensure that the textile can better absorb inks, resulting in a more colorful effect.

Digital Printing on Fabric VS. Screen Printing on Fabric

digital printing
screen printing

Unlike the new digital printing, hand screen printing has been around for over 2000 years and has evolved through the dynasties. 

The difference between these two printing methods.

  • Requirements for design

Digital printing basically has no special requirements in terms of design, simple or complex can be printed, such as photos, paintings and artworks.

Screen printing simple design will not make mistakes, too complex design is not good plate making, while the more complex the design color, the higher the cost will be, so the complex design will not use screen printing.

  • Printing effects

Because the penetration effect of digital printing is poor, the color difference between the front and back of it will be relatively large, and the back usually has the problem of white color. 

The printing effect of screen printing has high color saturation and is also more accurate. At the same time, it can ensure the same color of printing on both sides, which looks more three-dimensional.

  • Cost and time

Screen printing requires plate making before printing, which is more time consuming and the cost is also higher, while digital printing is not needed at all.

Types of Digital Printing on Fabric

Digital sublimation printing
Digital Sublimation Printing

Digital sublimation printing technology uses pigments or dyes to first print a pattern on a carrier, usually on paper, and then transfer it to the fabric. This technology is currently used in polyester fabrics or fabrics with a polyester content of more than 80%.

Digital jet printing
Digital Jet Printing

As the name implies, this technology is a printing method that is sprayed directly by a printing machine. A clearer and more vibrant pattern can be achieved. Some natural fabrics such as cotton, cotton linen, silk, velvet and some synthetic fibers can be printed using digital jet printing technology.

UV printing
UV Printing

UV printing is through the reaction of the ultraviolet wave emitted by the LED lamp and the photoinitiator curing agent in the UV ink, so that the pigment molecules in the ink are solidified on the surface of the fabric to complete the printing.

It is mainly applicable to digital printing on leather, microfiber leather and PU leather.

What Type of Ink is Used in Digital Printing on Fabric?

Environmentally friendly water-based inks are typically the most commonly used in digital printing. In addition to this, there are also reactive inks and acid inks available. 

Reactive inks offer excellent adaptability, allowing for vibrant and long-lasting colors on various types of fabrics.

Acid inks can provide wash fastness and produce outstanding printing results on protein-based fibers such as silk.

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