Fabric and Printing

As an emerging designer, how do you know what to do to achieve the look and finish for your designs? And if you want prints or logos on the fabric, whether small or all over, which is the best way to go ahead with that? Is it easiest to purchase the type of fabric you’re after with the prints already on them? But what about your logo? How does that get printed? What if the print is a specific design in itself – which is the best way to have it printed?

So many questions! So many possibilities! It can be more than enough to discourage a start-up!

I am hoping that the information below will help guide you, at least with a few things to think about, although I am aware that it might confuse you more. When we work with a client, we can help guide them and answer all the questions that arise. It may be just a few key questions that narrow down the choices to the one that suits your design, brand and label.

Most often, we’ve found that the answer to these questions lies with the individual designer, you may have the vision but just don’t know what it is called and how to go about the process to get the result you are looking for. It really will be dependent on how much money is at your disposal.

If you are looking at adding prints to your designs, there are quite a few choices and different reasons for each choice.

The type of fabric, the final use of the garment, the finish you are looking to achieve and the quantity of garments you would like to make, all have an input into the final decision you will make.

For example, if the stretch of the fabric is important to the design such as sportswear then the print finish will have an effect on the stretch of the garment. Choose the wrong print and you will find the print will restrict the fit and pull, resulting in a poor finish.

However, there are some rules when it comes to printing. Let’s take a quick look at some of those options.

Yardage Printing
This type of printing is all over the fabric and is best suited if you are designing a garment that has an even all-over design. If you are looking to design your own print or have a surface print designer to design one for you then be mindful to choose a 2 way print (can have 2 panels cut in different directions that look the same) over a 1 way print as this will give you better fabric usage, reducing your garment costs. Often a yardage print is the right choice but depending on how you print it, you might be up with a large initial outlay depending on the number of colours, the detail of the design, the hand feel you require. These are all dependant on if you choose continuous rotary printing, screen printing or digital printing.

Placement Printing
This printing option is, as the name suggests, used when you want to specifically place or engineer where the print is in the fabric and therefore the garment. A placement print can be printed directly onto the bolt of fabric and then cut out, or you can placement print after the piece has been cut (depending on print process). The first option can be very expensive in terms of fabric wastage, as the fabric can not be laid into multiple layers but needs to be individually cut specifically to the print.

When using placement printing, always make sure you ask for a strike-off, to ensure that the look and feel is exactly what you are looking for and what you have designed. I have seen some garments with placement printing that should have used yardage printing for a similar and just as effective result.

Heat Transfer Print
— a form of placement printing

For this print process, you first print the design onto a piece of paper using a special technique and ink, then heat transfer onto the garment. This is widely used in sportswear and gives a fantastic result although can restrict the stretch of the garment so you need to be careful of the coverage of the design and where it is placed.

Screen Printing
— can be used for placement or yardage printing

Within screen printing, again there are three options: water-based, plastisol and semi-plastisol and each option are best used on particular fabric and colours. Most people would be familiar with this printing technique as it is the most commonly used on band T-shirts. The choice between plastisol, water based or semi plastisol is largely determined by the base colour of your garment and how bright you would like your print. For example, a light-coloured tee with a dark print can use a water base paint. If you have a dark tee and would like a bright clear colour then plastisol is used but this can, as the name suggests looks a bit like plastic. If you don’t like this look you can try for a semi-plastisol look.

Keep in mind a water-based paint on a dark tee will look washed out. You also need to take into consideration the fabric type. For example, a merino fabric can look furry with a plastisol print. The number one rule is to make sure you have approved a strike off before approving to move to bulk production to make sure you are happy with the result.

Digital Printing
— the new kid on the block

Digital printing falls into different categories that are determined by fabric choice and finished look. The price varies for each type so thei sis best to research at the beginning of the design process. It is best to discuss with the various digital printers which are the best for your design but it roughly falls into these categories:

Natural fabrics—muted tone colours
Natural fabrics—bright colours
Synthetic fabrics—bright colours

Sublimation Printing
—a form of digital printing

This printing option is fabulous (how very fashion design industry of me), especially for small production runs. It is a technique that uses heat-sensitive inks which form a gas under pressure and then combines with the fabric itself. Due to the ink combining with the fabric, the print or image doesn’t fade or crack. The downside is that it is only possible on polyester. One of my favourite sayings is that polyester is not a dirty word so please explore the wide variety of fabrics before making a judgement.

The thickness of the fabric you’ve chosen is also something to consider when it comes to care labels, logos and back neck label. If you’re choosing a light, thin fabric, then it’s worth remembering that these labels might show through.

I hope I have not overloaded you with too much info. All this information and assistance is what we help with in the development of a garment. I guess there is more to what we do than just pattern making.

If you would like to know more then please, as always, let us know.

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