With the launch of our cushions collection a few weeks ago and our continued theme of giving you a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at our manufacturing processes on this blog, we thought we would give you a little insight into digital fabric printing, which is our method of choice when it comes to producing the beautiful fabrics on our cushions.
Simply put, digital printing on fabric involves using a large fabric inkjet printer that works similarly to a paper inkjet printer. Despite being a relatively technique, as with digital wallpaper printing rapid advances in technology have caused digital fabric printing to recently gain widespread popularity. While the earliest digitally printed fabrics were not as as crisp and vibrant as screenprinted fabrics, digital printing has now evolved to such an extent that that on a flat, graphic design you can hardly tell the difference between a digitally printed fabric and a screenprinted one, except perhaps for the number of colours. It is possible to print digitally onto a wide range of fabrics, including cottons, silks, linens and jerseys, and all fabric must be treated with a coating to allow it to absorb the inks before it is printed on.
Digital fabric printing has many of the same advantages as digital wallpaper printing that we discussed in this post. There are great advantages for small producers as, although there are some small financial gains to be made in relation to set-up costs from printing large quantities of fabric at once, it is still much more feasible and cost effective to digitally print small runs of fabric than to screen print them. Digital fabric printing is also easier and less cumbersome – everything is printed from files that can be emailed and there is no need to transport and store screens, which leads to shorter lead times. Furthermore, as with digital wallpaper printing, there is no limit to the number of colours that can be included within a fabric design that is produced digitally. As we love rich and varied colour, this is great for us as it allows to use a wide range of our signature vibrant colours within our cushion designs.
In terms of environmental impact, digital fabric printing is a great choice. It uses water-based inks, as well as using much less ink overall than screenprinting does. Furthermore, as there is no need to wash screens to change colours, much less water is used as well. Finally, digital fabric printing also helps create less waste by allowing you to produce a print in the exact shape and size that is required for a product, rather than printing rolls of fabric by the metre and then cutting out the amount you actually need.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, digital fabric printing offers unparalleled design freedom and possibilities for fabric design. The digital method allows you to engineer prints to fit the shape of a particular product, which gives you much more control over where exactly on a product a pattern motif will appear. For our cushions for example, this means that we can print each cushion cover individually as a square in the size that we need rather than having to print a whole roll of a repeating pattern and then trying to crop out the ‘good’ bits to use, which would create inconsistencies among the products.
In addition, digital printing allows you to take a much more photographic or mixed media approach to designing, as it is easier to print things like 3D gradients and texture digitally. Using techniques such as layering photographic and illustrative styles thus creates a sense of depth and a level of complexity in fabric design that cannot be achieved through screen printing, and leads to some exciting results!
Best Digital Fabric Print Designs
See below some of our favourites from leading digital fabric print designers:
This is one of my favorite digital fabric print artists. Ana Romero makes designs with a photographic, detailed 3-dimensional quality that is only possible to create with digital printing.
Inspired by natural formations such as minerals and stones, Richard Weston makes digitally printed scarves also have a photographic, textured quality.
This beautiful silk scarf by Silken Flavours demonstrates the high level of detail and number of colours that is possible through digital fabric printing.