Different Types of Printing Techniques on Fabric

Last Updated on 15/10/2021

Textile Printing:
The word “printing” is derived from the Latin word meaning “pressing” and implies the application of “pressure”. Textile printing is the process of applying color to the fabric in definite patterns or designs. It is a part of wet processing, which is carried out after pretreatment of fabric or after dyeing. It is done for producing attractive designs on the fabric. Usually printing is performed on one side of the textile. Different printing methods can be applied to transfer the dyestuff and chemicals to the surface of the fabric.

printing methods

Textile printing is related to dyeing, whereas in dyeing, the whole fabric is uniformly covered with one color. In printing, one or more colors are applied to the fabric in certain parts only, and in sharply defined patterns. Printing is therefore called as localized dyeing. The dyes and pigments are applied locally or discontinuously. In this article I will concentrate of the types of printing methods in terms of the machinery used to deliver the print paste and the mode by which paste is delivered to the substrate, be it flat screen, rotary screen, copper roller, ink jet printing or another mechanism.

Different Types of Textile Printing Methods:

There are five main methods of printing a fabric, these being the block, roller, screen, heat transfer and ink-jet methods. The heat transfer method differs from the others in that it involves the transfer of color from the design printed on paper through the vapor phase into the fibers of the fabric. With the other methods the dye or pigment is applied to the fabric surface through a print paste medium. The ink jet printing process however is a comparatively recent innovation and is referred to as a ‘non-impact’ method, because the print paste is fired on to the textile from a jet which is not actually in contact with the fabric.

Printing is carried out with different instruments. Different methods are used to produce an impression on fabrics. Method of printing depends on the demand of the user and the quantity to be printed. It also depends on the type of material and the end use of the printed product.

Following methods can be used for printing of a fabric:

  1. Block Printing
  2. Roller Printing
  3. Screen Printing
  4. Flat Screen Printing
  5. Rotary Screen Printing
  6. Transfer Printing
  7. Ink-Jet Printing
  8. Carpet Printing
  9. Jet spray printing
  10. Warp Printing
  11. Resist Printing
  12. Electrostatic Printing
  13. Photographic Printing
  14. Photo Printing
  15. Pigment Printing
  16. Blotch Printing
  17. Non-fabric printing
  18. Burn-Out Printing
  19. Flock printing
  20. Direct Printing
  21. Discharge Printing
  22. Duplex Printing
  23. Stencil printing
  24. Two-phase printing
  25. All over printing
  26. Special printing methods:
    • Space dyeing
    • Kalamkari
    • Batik printing
    • Tie dyeing and so on.

Above printing methods are described briefly:

1. Block Printing:
Block printing is a method where the pattern was cut into wooden blocks, or was built through an assembly of metal stripes, nails and so on. The print paste is applied to the design surface on the block and the block then pressed against the fabric. The process is repeated with different designs and colors until the pattern is complete. The block printing is used from time immemorial and is still being practiced in all Asian countries as it can be done even at homes by the people in their free time. Block printing is a slow and laborious process and is not suitable for high volume commercial use. This printing method is used only at small scale or in cottage industry and is not used at industrial scale because of less flexibility and productivity.

block printing
Fig: Block printing

2. Roller Printing:
In this method, engraved copper cylinders or rollers are used in place of handcarved blocks. When the rollers move, a repeat of the design is printed on the fabric. Roller printing has traditionally been preferred for long production runs because of the very high speeds possible. It is also a versatile technique since up to a dozen different colors can be printed simultaneously. The basic roller printing equipment consists of a number of copper faced rollers in which the design is etched. There is a separate printing roller for each color being printed. Each of the rollers rotates over the fabric under pressure against an iron pressure roller. A blanket and backing cloth rotate over the pressure roller under the fabric and provide a flexible support for the fabric being printed. A color doctor blade removes paste or fibers adhering to the roller after contact with the fabric. After the impression stage the fabric passes to the drying and steaming stages.

3. Screen Printing:
This type of printing has increased enormously in its use in recent years because of its versatility and the development of rotary screen printing machines which are capable of very high rates of production. An additional significant advantage is that heavy depths of shade can be produced by screen printing, a feature which has always been a limitation of roller printing because of the restriction to the amount of print paste which can be held in the shallow depth of the engraving on the print roller.

Screen Printing
Fig: Screen Printing

There are two basic types of screen printing process, the flat screen and the rotary screen methods.

4. Flat Screen Printing:
As the name suggests, the screens for this printing method are flat as opposed to circular as in rotary screen printing. The screen is a woven mesh, made from either polyester or polyamide. The mesh is stretched over a rectangular frame, originally made from wood, but now made from metal alloy to reduce weight and increase durability. Worldwide, about 23% of all printed textile fabric is produced by by flat screen printing.

5. Rotary Screen Printing:
Rotary screen printing uses cylindrical screens as opposed to flat screens. Again, a separate screen is required for each color of the design being printed. More complex designs require the application of many different colors, and typical rotary screen printing machines have the capacity for up to 20 screens. The screens rotate in contact with the substrate and the print paste is fed from inside the screens. The paste is forced from out of the inside of the screen by means of a metal squeegee blade. Worldwide, about 61% of all printed textile fabric is produced by the rotary screen method.

5. Heat Transfer Printing:
Transfer printing techniques involve the transfer of a design from one medium to another. The most common form used is heat transfer printing in which the design is printed initially on to a special paper, using conventional printing machinery. The paper is then placed in close contact with the fabric and heated, when the dyes sublime and transfer to the fabric through the vapor phase.

6. Ink-Jet Printing :
Digital ink-jet printing is one of the most modern ways of printing textile fabrics. This method can be used for most of the commercially available fabrics. There has been considerable interest in the technology surrounding non-impact printing, mainly for the graphic market, but the potential benefits of reductions in the time scale from original design to final production has led to much activity in developing this technology for textile and carpet printing processes. The types of machines developed fall into two classes, drop-on-demand (DOD) and continuous stream (CS).

7. Carpet Printing:
The printing of carpets only really achieved importance after the introduction of tufted carpets in the late 1950s. Until then the market was dominated by the woven Wilton carpets and Axminster designs were well established, but by the 1980s tufted carpet production accounted for some 80% (by area) of UK production. Much of this carpet production was printed because the range of patterns possible to produce using tufting machines was limited and there was a desire to produce a greater flexibility of design for these types of carpet.

8. Jet Spray Printing:
Jet printing is a non-contact application system originally developed for printing carpets, but now increasingly used in the textile sector. Designs are imparted to fabrics by spraying colors in a controlled manner through nozzles.

9. Warp Printing:
The printing of a design on the sheet of warp yarns before weaving. The filling is either white or a neutral color, and a grayed effect is produced in the areas of the design.

10. Resist Printing:
A printing method in which the design can be produced: (1) by applying a resist agent in the desired design, then dyeing the fabric, in which case, the design remains white although the rest of the fabric is dyed; or (2) by including a resist agent and a dye in the paste which is applied for the design, in which case, the color of the design is not affected by subsequent dyeing of the fabric background.

11. Electrostatic Printing:
In electrostatic printing, a plate with electrostatic charge (to attract powdered dyes or ink into the fabric) is positioned behind the fabric and a stencil of the design to be printed is positioned between the fabric and the powder supply so the design is applied in the correct area. A dye–resin mixture is spread on a screen bearing the design and the fabric is passed into an electrostatic field under the screen. The dye–resin mixture is pulled by the electrostatic field through the pattern area onto the fabric.

12. Photographic Printing:
A method of printing from photoengraved rollers. The resultant design looks like a photograph. The designs may also be photographed on a silk screen which is used in screen printing.

13. Photo Printing:
In the photo printing, the fabric is coated with a chemical that is sensitive to light and then any photograph may be printed on it. The controlled light passes to the fabric through negative or a photo film, which allows the light to fall on the fabric as per the details in the photo.

14. Pigment Printing:
Printing by the use of pigments instead of dyes. The pigments do not penetrate the fiber but are affixed to the surface of the fabric by means of synthetic resins which are cured after application to make them insoluble. The pigments are insoluble, and application is in the form of water-in-oil or oil-in-water emulsions of pigment pastes and resins. The colors produced are bright and generally fat except to crocking.

15. Blotch Printing:
Blotch printing is a process wherein the background color of a design is printed rather than dyed. The result is that the reverse side of the fabric is typically white. This is a direct printing technique where both the background color and the design are printed onto a white fabric, usually in one operation. Any methods such as block, roller or screen may be used. The ground color is transferred from the cylinder and the motif retains the original hue of the cloth.

16. Non-fabric Printing:
Printing techniques can be applied also on pre-stages in textile production, e.g. sliver yarn, warp beams, thus leading to special irregular patterns.

17. Burn-Out Printing:
A method of printing to obtain a raised design on a sheer ground. The design is applied with a special chemical onto a fabric woven of pairs of threads of different fibers. One of the fibers is then destroyed locally by chemical action. Burn-out printing is often used on velvet. The product of this operation is known as a burn out print.

18. Flock Printing:
Flocking is the technique of depositing many small fiber particles, called ‘flock’, onto a surface of a fabric to produce the design. Flock printing is a representative for techniques where an adhesive is printed in the first stage. In the second step, an effect material is fixed to the adhesive.

In case of flock print, short staple fibers (flocks, 0.3–3 mm) are fixed on the adhesive layer by means of an electrostatic field (20–60 kV) which also orients the fibers in direction perpendicular to the fabric surface, thereby a velvet-like surface structure is obtained.

Many other effect materials can be fixed on the adhesive layer:

  • Finely chopped thin plastic particles lead to a glitter effect
  • Metal film can be fixed as conductive surface layer or to achieve a metal effect

19. Direct Printing:
A process wherein the colors for the desired designs are applied directly to the white or dyed cloth, as distinguished from discharge printing and resist printing.

20. Discharge Printing:
In “white” discharge printing, the fabric is piece dyed, then printed with a paste containing a chemical that reduces the dye and hence removes the color where the white designs are desired. In “colored” discharge printing, a color is added to the discharge paste in order to replace the discharged color with another shade.

21. Duplex Printing:
Duplex printing is a method of printing a pattern on the face and the back of a fabric with equal clarity. Printing is done on both sides of the fabric either through roller printing machine in two operations or a duplex printing machine in a single operation.

22. Stencil Printing:
In stencil printing, the design is first cut in cardboard, wood or metal. The stencils may have fine delicate designs or large spaces through which color is applied on the fabric. The pattern is cut out of a sheet of stout paper or thin metal with a sharp-pointed knife, the uncut portions representing the part that is to be reserved or left uncolored. The sheet is now laid on the material to be decorated and the color is brushed through its interstices.

23. Two-phase Printing:
In two-phase printing, the pattern printing and dyestuff fixation processes are separated into two stages. As an example after printing of a reactive dye and intermediate drying, the print is fixed in a continuous process through padding in rather concentrated alkali solution. Similarly, vat dyes can be printed and fixed in the reducing agent.

24. All Over Printing:
All over printing is a special type of printing technology that allows a particular design to be repeated continuously throughout the fabric. As a result, the fabric becomes more attractive. Fabrics made with AOP technology are also being used in denim products including woven shirts, T-shirts, Ladies gowns, Tops, Punjabi, Woven pants, Home textiles etc.

25. Space Dyeing:
Space dyeing is a method of printing yarns using jet spray of colors. In space dyeing machines, 64 jet sprays are provided and 8 colors can be accommodated. There cannot be any uniformity or repetition of designs when these yarns are woven or knitted. It gives a special effect that is unique.

26. Kalamkari:
Fabric is painted using a pen with dyes and mordants. Printing the outline of the design and filling inside with a pen (kalam) combine the printing and art with pen, that is, kalamkari. Kalamkari is an exquisite ancient craft of painted and printed fabrics practiced in Indian temples.

27. Batik Printing:
In the classical processes, a wax was printed on the fabric to form a resist. After dyeing with usual dyeing procedures, the resist was removed. In a special case indigo was used for dyeing. During dyeing of the fabric the waxy layer cracks and the cracks become marked with dye, which leads to the characteristic appearance of this article.

28. Tie Dyeing:
In tie dyeing, firm knots are tied in the cloth before it is immersed in a dye. The outside portion of the immersed fabric is dyed but the color does not penetrate the inside portions of the tied knots. There are various forms of tie dyeing such as ikat dyeing where bundles of warp and/or weft yarns are tie dyed prior to their weaving. In plangi dyeing, the gathered, folded or rolled fabric is usually held with stitching to form specific patterns.

References:

  1. Handbook of Value Addition Processes for Fabrics By B. Purushothama
  2. An Introduction to Textile Coloration: Principles and Practice By Roger H. Wardman
  3. Textile Engineering – An Introduction Edited by Yasir Nawab
  4. Textile Chemistry By Thomas Bechtold and Tung Pham
  5. Textile Printing (Revised Second Edition) Edited by Leslie W C Miles

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  4. Digital Textile Printing Technology: Evolution, Progression and Techniques
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