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All You Need To Know About Fabric Printing Methods

What's the best fabric printing method?

5 June 2018

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Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 21.02.15

Written by Flora Davidson, Co-Founder of Supplycompass. 

Supplycompass helps brands and manufacturers find each other and work better together. Through the Supplycompass platform, brands get matched with a manufacturer, receive cost estimates, create tech packs, request samples and manage production all from one dashboard. Supplycompass is harnessing the power of tech to bring greater trust, transparency and collaboration to global supply chains. 


When deciding which printing method to choose for your fabric, there isn't always an obvious answer. The best method for your product relies on a number of different factors: the fabric you are working with, the level of detail in your designs, the quantity of fabric you are printing and the finish you are looking to achieve.


Read on to learn more...




Creating designs files for printing

1. First thing you need to do is to create digital versions of your designs [in a vector format, ai. png]. If your aren't a trained print designer, we recommend working with a professional to save time and money. We have a network of professional designers who you can work with.

2. Download the SUPPLYCOMPASS PRINT TEMPLATE and input all the information to include

 - What type of 'tiling' you want [eg. brick / drop / repeat]

-  Print dimensions

- Print placement on your product

-  Correct Pantone colours


How to work out correct Pantone colours

For printing on cotton, you will need to convert the colours of your digital files from HEX into TCX, follow these two step. Finding the correct pantones can require a fair amount of trial and error, be patient with your manufacturer as they won't always be able to get it right first time around.

1. Hex to Pantone :

2. Pantone C to Pantone TCX :





Digitally printed fabric is more likely to accurately reflect your designs. The images tend to be more defined, brighter and more accurate because a computer and inkjet printer is used. Although problems can occur, they are less likely happen.


Direct To Garment

Direct to garment (DTG) is a digital printing technique where designs are printed directly onto the fabric or garment using an inkjet printer with special water based inks.  Before being printed, the fabric needs to go through a pre-treatment process which involves coating it with chemicals that enable better absorption of the ink. It is then passed through another machine that sets the ink using steam or heat, before being washed and dried to remove the chemicals.

What’s DTG good for?

  • Complex designs with intricate details,  a broad range of colours, or realistic photos.
  • Designs that need to be printed right to the edge of the fabric.
  • DTG printing works better on lighter fabrics, composed of 100% cotton, or a cotton blend.


The cost

  • Low set up fees, which means it's quicker and cheaper to sample than other types of printing such as screen.
  • You can print small quantities at relatively low cost.


Sublimation printing

Sublimation, like DTG, is a digital printing technique that uses an inkjet printer. But, instead of directly printing the fabric the design is printed in reverse onto paper and then transferred onto the fabric. 


What’s sublimation good for?

  • You can get more vibrant colours and vivid pictures than any other printing.
  • Sublimation works great on 100% polyester but isn't compatible with non-synthetic fabrics like cotton.


The cost

  • Sublimation is more expensive than DTG and the sampling cost is higher.




With hand screen, rotary, batik and block printing, because there is more human involvement, irregularities are more common. Dye is mixed by hand rather than by a computer and ink cartridges, which means exact shades are not always achievable. With strike offs, dye is mixed on a smaller scale. There cannot be a guarantee of exact colour match when mixing larger quantities of dye for bulk printing, allow for some variation in shades for bulk production. The same applies when re-ordering the same print in the future, there will be slightly differences in the colour between batches.


Screen printing

  • There are two main types of screen printing; flat bed and rotary.
  • Flat bed screen printing can be fully automated, semi-automated or manual. This method uses a squeegee to transfer the ink paste through an engraved screen.
  • With rotary or cylinder printing, pressure forces the paste through engraved roller screens.
  • For both types, each screen can only apply one colour at a time.


What’s screen printing good for?

  • Large order runs. Rotary printing gives you a more consistent finish compared to screen, and is great for print runs of 1000m or more.
  • It’s a great choice for simple designs with only a few colours though it's worth noting that it’s hard to achieve consistency of colour across batches of fabric.
  • Solid colours come out well but shading is hard to achieve.
  • Lines on the designs need to be well defined and slight bleeding of colours, marks and splats of colour are common.


The cost

  • It’s an affordable method of printing that gives a fantastic end result but the set up cost to develop the screens is high, as is making changes to your designs after the screens have been made.
  • The more colours, the more screens need to be engraved and therefore the more expensive it becomes.


Heat transfer

With this method, you print on paper and transfer the design to fabric by heat. The finish is vivid and clean and is ideal for logos and labels on products like sportswear, underwear and swimwear where you don't want a fabric label. It's most effective on polyester and is inexpensive, but slower compared to other types of printing.


Block Print

Block printing is the oldest printing technique with roots in India, Japan and China dating back to 5th century BC. Wooden blocks are hand carved with designs, then covered in ink before being hand pressed onto the fabric. The dyes for block printing are usually mixed by hand and eye to match the desired pantone – a job requiring incredible skill and experience.




Fabric wastage

  • There can be faults with the fabric itself, such as snagging or piling. Once the fabric has been printed, it will be checked by the manufacturer before going into to cutting, where faults will be highlighted and the fabric will be cut around.
  • Allow for up to 20% wastage on fabric when printing.


Washing, fading & shrinking

  • Some fabrics hold dye much better. Expect a degree of fading when finishing / washing.
  • It is your responsibility to check the shrinking and fading of a strike off.


Imperfections versus defects

There is a spectrum of problems from minor to severe. Minor marks and blurring are part and parcel of printing and add character. The more severe problems merit a different discussion with you manufacturer.

Imperfections [acceptable]

1. Blurring of print

2. Minor bleeding of colours

3. Spots and small ink splatters

4. Slight variance in pantone

5. Minor snags

6. Wastage of up to 20%

7. Shrinkage of up to 20%


Defects [unacceptable]

  1.  Significant tiling discrepancies

  2. Significant variance in pantone from designs.

  3. Significant inconsistency and irregularity of colour between bulk batches

  4. Large marks / stains that render more than 20% of the fabric unusable.

  5. Tears and significant snags that render more than 20% of the fabric unusable



Supplycompass helps brands and manufacturers find each other and work better together. Through our platform, brands are matched with the right manufacturer and suppliers for their business and can create tech packs, request and track samples and manage production all from one dashboard. Supplycompass is harnessing the power of tech to bring greater trust, transparency and collaboration to global fashion supply chains. 


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