Worth a Thousand Words!
Study the above photo carefully…do you believe this is printed on silk fabric? I originally found this exquisite silk print on a roll in the midst of hundreds of other tubes, but even in the crowd it stood out! Of course, the print design is bold and lifelike, but more than that the quality of the printing is very different than what we have grown accustomed to. So the bad news is we are nearly out of stock.You can check for cuts at Jurassic. The good news is we have more digital prints in-house on a variety of fabrications.
Firecracker: Rayon Twill
In a more abstract print, you can see the advantages of the digital process also. It allows for a full range of hues and saturation of color, much finer in the delineation between tones. The result is a print with depth and energy elevating the design to a new level of visual appeal.
If you have not seen a digital textile printer, this video gives a good idea of the process.
This is not a blog about the technical process of digital printing, although that is a fascinating read should you be interested. There are many places on the web to learn about it. I found the information on Oecotextiles particularly interesting.
One reason for the comparatively slow growth of digital printing on textiles may be related to the extreme demands of the textile applications. Although ink-jet printing onto fabric works in fundamentally the same way as any office type ink-jet prints onto paper, fabric has always been inherently more difficult to print due to its flexible nature. The level of flexibility varies from warp to weft and with each degree around the bias, so guiding the fabric under digital printer heads has proven to be very challenging.
There are many types of synthetic and natural fibers, each with its own ink compatibility characteristics;
in addition to dealing with a fabric that is stretchable and flexible, it is often a highly porous and textured surface;
use requirements include light fastness, water fastness (sweat, too) through finishing operations and often outdoor use, heavy wear, abrasion, and cleaning;
the fabric not only has to look good but to feel good too;
fabric has much greater absorbency, requiring many times the ink volume compared with printing on papers.
This is just one example of the information available. Feel free to share your sources and knowledge of digital printing for our readers to learn more.
For me, its the end product that counts. We have seen some wonderful examples of quality digital printing. Recently several of our viscose knits from France feature this process. You can see the difference at a glance. Tokyo is a great example of the depth and variation of color that can be achieved.
Tokyo Viscose Knit
One of our regular customers generously shared her photos with us recently. You’ll love what Laura did with this print and her remnants!
To look at two ends of the spectrum, one could look to artisanal methods of printing such as wax resist batiks or block printing alongside the streamlined digital printing of the future.
The top photo is Sedona, a hand-dyed rayon batik. The colors are rich and saturated…a sunny day when it was dyed. This is a long process that employs many members of a community from dying, stamping, bathing and drying to folding and packaging the finished goods. We typically wait a minimum of two months for most of the batiks we carry. Consistency is not part of the process when using artisanal fabrications. There will always be variations from yard to yard and often distinct dye lot differences from bolt to bolt. Lovers of batiks consider these qualities desirable, making each garment truly unique.
The second photo is Daphne, a rayon challis that was digitally printed in a mill in France. The subtle colorations can be replicated over and over since the dye is discharged by computer. Whether running 10 yards or 10,000 the cost is similar because there is one set up. The ink is expensive and the production time is slower than screen printing, but the results are dramatic and more in tune with today’s aesthetics. I personally don’t think one look should trump the other. There is room in our collections for both fabrications and all the other methods in between. High quality screen printing still delivers a very beautiful print. The more opportunities designers have to marshal their creativity, the better for all of us.