Planning to get your designs out in print? We can help with that! Here’s a guide for all you need to know when it comes to picking fabric.
Fabrics are just like canvases when it comes to printing. Even the best painting will be ruined on a bad base, just like a great design on a t shirt made out of poorly chosen material.
In this post we’ll outline your fabric choices for you so you can make the best choice for your print job.
Types of Fabric
Fabrics tend to fall into three categories, natural, synthetic, or a blend of the two.
Some of the most common synthetic fabrics you may have heard of are spandex, nylon, and polyester. These days, synthetic fabrics have become more advanced and are much better at mimicking their natural counterparts. Sometimes, they do it so well, you can only tell they’re a synthetic imitation by touching them yourself. This is often the case with a synthetic fabric called rayon which is an almost perfect man made imitation of natural silk. However, this type of fabric doesn’t tend to breathe well, so they’re commonly blended with cotton to help with this. Blending is something they are very good at, which means they are regularly used in sports apparel.
Some examples of natural fabrics are silk, linen, and wool. As you can probably deduce from the name, they are made out of natural elements such as animals or plants. Wool is taken from sheep, and cotton is made from the seed pods of cotton plants, while silk is extracted from the silk worm. Because of their natural origins, their properties tend to outdo synthetic fabrics when it comes to basic fundamentals like keeping in body heat. There is also no fabric, synthetic or otherwise, that transpires better than cotton does.
Printing Techniques to Consider
Direct to Garment (DTG)
Similar to the office printer, direct to garment injects ink direct, but unlike your office printer, it does so onto fabric. It’s best to use this method if your design is complex with lots of detail, or will require higher levels of shading.
Screen Printing is achieved by applying ink through a silk screen, onto fabric. The idea is that the ink only goes through the permeable areas of the template, to achieve the desired effect.
Transfer Printing, (or Heat Transfer Printing), involves the combination of high temperatures and applied pressure in order to transfer the desired design from a particular kind of paper to the final finished piece.
Cad Cut Vinyl
Despite not featuring printing per say, Cad cut vinyl is another option to consider when choosing fabric. This method involves using a computer to cut out a desired shape from a piece of self-adhesive plastic, before pasting the design onto material.
A bit faster paced than grandma, this kind of embroidery is done with a machine that uses many needles at the same time.
Printing and Fabrics – What Works?
If we’re talking about printing, natural fabrics tend to come out on top. Natural absorbs liquids better, meaning they work well with ink, whilst synthetic are typically made from plastic or oil which tend to repel liquid. As synthetic fabrics are made from very small particles, you will be able to print onto them, but the result won’t compare.
If in doubt, go with cotton. Of course, 100% is understandably quite expensive, so you may want to try a blend of cotton and another material like polyester. However, keep in mind that the more cotton in the ratio, the better the end result is bound to be.
Properties of Fabrics
Despite using 100% cotton, you’ve still got to take into account the consistency of the fabric you are using. Thicker materials tend to absorb more ink as they are heavier, this results in lovely rich colours that outlast their thinner counterparts. Shinier, finer fabrics take in less ink which results in a “washed out” look.