What is textile printing- A complete guide

With the rapid growth of the overall fashion industry and e-commerce platforms, the textile market’s growth is going much faster than expected. Textile printing is small yet a significant segment of the billion-dollar textile industry.

Innovation and Technology
 Min read
July 2, 2022

One of the world’s largest industries, Textile Industries, has undoubtedly come a long way. In 2021, the global textile market was valued at $993.6 billion and was anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.0% from 2022 to 2030.

With the rapid growth of the overall fashion industry and e-commerce platforms, the textile market’s growth is going much faster than expected. Textile printing is small yet a significant segment of the billion-dollar textile industry. The first evidence of textile printing was found in China and the Inca, Peru, during the 1st century. It was not until the development of a durable dye that enabled the first printing of patterns on textiles. Eventually, the textile printing industry introduced new methods from hand and block printing to more mechanized forms using cylinders and digital techniques.

The digital printing technique is currently entering a boom phase as the demand for bespoke printed designs on apparel and textiles, including silk and polyester. The global digital textile printing market is valued at around$ 2.7 Billion in terms of numbers. It is anticipated to progress at a phenomenal CAGR of 16.3% to reach $8 Billion by the end of 2029.

The inkjet technology and specially developed water-based ink known as dye-sublimation or disperse direct ink have made it possible to print directly onto polyester fabric. The process marked its inception in the early 1990s. This is mainly related to visual communication in retail and brand promotion- flags, banners and other points of sales applications.

But what is textile printing?

Textile printing is applying colour to fabric in patterns or designs. Once a textile is printed, the colour is bonded with the fibre to resist washing and friction. Textile printing is related to the dyeing process. Still, the entire fabric is uniformly covered with one colour during dyeing, whereas in printing, one or more colours are applied to it in specific patterns and designs. In the printing process, the colourants contain thickened dyes to prevent the colour from spreading by capillary attraction beyond the limits of the pattern.

What are different types of textile printing?

There are five significant types of textile printing- block, roller, screen, heat transfer and inkjet methods. In all the ways except the heat transfer method, the dye or pigment is applied to the fabric surface through a print paste medium. The heat transfer method transfers the colour from the design printed on paper using the vapour phase into the fibres. However, the ink jet printing process is a comparatively recent innovation and is referred to as a ‘non-impact’ method. The printing technique also depends on the factors like quantity to be printed, type of textile, type of impression and the end use of the printed product.
Following are the methods that can be used for printing fabric:

Block printing, roller printing, screen printing, flat screen printing, rotary screen printing, transfer printing, inkjet printing, carpet printing, jet spray printing, warp printing, resist printing, electrostatic printing, photographic printing, photo printing, pigment printing, blotch printing, non-fabric printing, burn-out printing, flock printing, direct printing, discharge printing, duplex printing, stencil printing, two-phase printing, all-over printing and special printing methods which includes- Kalamkari, batik printing and space dyeing.

Comparing printing techniques

Modern textile printing techniques incorporate various colourants and technologies that produce a diverse array of printed textile products of the best quality. These techniques are used at different stages in the product development process. In the 21st century, rotary screen printing techniques are used the most popular and account for most cotton-printed clothing.

However, digital printing and cool transfer printing techniques attract attention to fulfil the demand and need for sustainable methods to print textiles. These techniques are comparatively environment-friendly than traditional printing techniques and consume little water, energy and chemicals. Modern styles attract more customers as they also offer seemingly limitless colour and design capabilities.

Textile printing and environment

As the demand for sustainable materials grows, the textile printing industry rapidly evolves to cater to these needs. Several printing techniques have used less water, less electricity, and environment-safe materials in the past few years. One such technology is latex which has dramatically advanced in the last few years. Latex ink works well with any fabric, both synthetic and natural. Dye sublimation is another method which promotes lesser consumption and output of water, energy and chemicals. The technology can reproduce photo-like quality to a wide range of fabrics where the ink is printed onto screen paper before being pressed into the fabric or textile to transfer the image.

Apart from this, cool transfer printing is also an environment-friendly alternative to other cotton print methods. A critical difference between traditional transfer printing and cool transfer printing is eliminating heat in the process. The technique promotes less water and energy usage, and unlike other printing methods, up to 90% dye transfer is achievable with cool transfer printing. With greater dye utilization, less dye is lost in the printing process and, therefore no need for extensive removal of unfixed dye.

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