The importance of sourcing and preparing cotton fabrics for digital textile printing - FESPA (2023)

Why does fabric sourcing and preparation play such an important role in digital textile printing? To the untrained eye, two fabric specifications can be identical, physically look and feel alike, but their manufacture and preparation are not identical.

Many may choose to use cost as a purchasing parameter, but it wouldn't be the wisest move if you can't rely on provenance and compatibility for digital textile printing. The supply chain for all substances, whether or not, needs to be carefully examined. Differences in origin, cultivation, even continent and the finishing processes they undergo, from fiber to fabric, can wreak havoc on digital textile production.

Cotton is currently mainly printed digitally using two different printing processes: pigment and reactive inks. Both processes have one important feature in common, namely pre-coating before digital printing.

However, before we get into lining, we need to move up the supply chain as the way the fabric is made is also crucial:

Mercerization is the process of exposing the fabric to a concentrated caustic soda (NaOH) solution after bleaching to improve properties such as fiber strength, shrink resistance, luster and dye affinity, and is commonly used. In this process, the caustic solution actually rearranges the cellulose molecules in the fiber to induce structural changes that improve dye absorption and tear resistance, reduce fabric shrinkage, and impart a soft sheen.

(Video) Colour correction for digital textile printing - a Fabric Hub session at FESPA Digital 2014

The importance of sourcing and preparing cotton fabrics for digital textile printing - FESPA (1)Photo credit: CIBITEX.

The result of the mercerization process is a fabric with a soft hand, uniform whiteness and shrink resistance. However, the process is expensive as manufacturers seek cheaper sources, and as pigment printing has gained traction, bleaching standards for digital cotton textile printing have been relaxed. Brightening is specified without important common standards, such as B. Consistency of whiteness and removal of overall size.

The result of this search for cheapness is that variations in fabric preparation have become a major concern for the digital textile printer. When savings in the use of expensive chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochlorite have been sought in the continuous bleaching process, the resulting fabrics often exhibit variations in brightness and hand that affect the repeatability and desirability of the final product.

In an attempt to square whiteness, fabric manufacturers are increasingly relying on optical brighteners (OBAs) to compensate for deficiencies in their bleaching processes. This introduces another undesirable variable, as OBAs have different color reflectance values ​​and shades, resulting in the digital textile printer not being able to guarantee the reproduction of fabrics from one fabric supplier to another, even though batches from the same supplier may vary.

This was further exacerbated as the volume of digital pigment printing began to increase due to the need for fabrics to be pre-coated to increase the color gamut and durability of the print.

(Video) Digital printing of textile: a look forward

Beyond the mystery of bleaching, the next step in fabric preparation is to provide a pre-coat. Precoat formulations prevent "wicking" which is defined as the randomization or migration of ink after printing. Pre-coating is essential to enable a sharp print mark or registration on the surface of the fabric. In the meantime, a large number of coating chemicals are available which, in addition to different application processes, from spray systems to foulards, create another problem area, in particular with regard to handling and variability of color reflectivity.

In the early days of digital textile printing, which mainly used reactive inks, many fabrics had to be extensively pre-treated in order to make the color gamut of the inks as wide as possible. However, the reactive process had significant disadvantages in terms of cost and sustainability. With a complicated process that has taken much longer, the intensive consumption of energy and water is wasteful, and gradually the industry has turned to pigment printing as an environmentally friendly solution.

The importance of sourcing and preparing cotton fabrics for digital textile printing - FESPA (2)
Pigment printing offers a simple process that involves printing and heat setting with a heat press or fabric baker. However, in pigment printing, pre-coating is also essential in terms of improving color gamut and fabric fastness.

Faced with the inevitability of pre-coating, digital textile printers are faced with two important decisions: first, the choice of chemicals and second, the choice of machines to pre-coat their fabrics. The print shop has a wide range of chemicals in stock. In many cases, ink manufacturers supply coating formulations that are tailored to the use of their inks.

The most important manufacturers in this area include Epson Genesta Inks Pre-Gen, Neo Coat by Swiss Performance Chemicals and P601 Pre-Coat by Pigmentinc. However, many chemical companies independently supply excellent precoat chemicals, including Lubrizol from the USA, Tanatex from the Netherlands, Rudolf Chemicals from Germany and Sarex from India.

(Video) Digital Textile Printing coming of Age - a Fabric Hub session at FESPA Digital 2014

In general, these precoat formulations, which often use thickeners and crosslinking agents, improve the marking and color intensity of the print, as well as the wash and rub fastness of the fabric.

Aside from fabric and chemical choices, volume digital printers have a variety of machines and process routes at their disposal to pre-coat their fabrics before printing. In simpler terms, the use of a foulard (mulched mangrove) followed by a stenter is widespread, the process being high speed continuous dipping or coating. Various accessories are now available to enhance this process which uses minimal or no contact chemical application compared to the simple 'dip' method of pre-coating to improve handling.

Leaders here are Magnorol by Zimmer from Austria, TexCoat™ by Baldwin Technologies from the USA and easyCOAT-DRY by Cibitex from Italy, all of which are effective additions to any digital textile precoating line.

As technology advances, we now have a range of hybrid solutions where in-line machines coupled with digital textile printing machines offer a one-step process.

In the one-pass sector, Kornit of Israel, Swiftjet of the UK, Mimaki of Japan and Setema of the Netherlands are leaders offering one-step digital textile printing solutions with an integrated pre-coating process. line with the printer, saving speed and labor costs.

(Video) Insights into the growth & creative development of digital textiles markets - Ron Gilboa

Although the pre-coating industry is a vast and technically competent field, a correct and informed choice of machine, process and chemicals will bring significant cost, time and labor savings to the digital textile printer.

So, beyond the machines and learning new skills as a textile technician, how does the digital textile printer deal with this minefield of fabrics?

The simple answer is to find a reputable fabric supplier and stick with their product to ensure consistent fabric quality. This needs to be backed up by sensible but simple internal color management and a fabric testing facility. Before printing, incoming batches of fabric should be checked for brightness and yarn density using simple instruments available from textile testing suppliers such as James Heal or SDL Atlas (UK).

There are several ways to apply color management technology to achieve consistent digital printing, saving the digital textile printer many hours of rehearsals and waste. Care must be taken to ensure color continuity between batches. After sample printing, the fabric should be compared with a color matching cabinet with approved standard samples, the fabric slack can also be checked with a wrinkle recovery device; All of these factors must be met in order to meet customer specifications.

The digital textile printer needs to create a robust internal proofing process and enforce production standards along with color management. These measures provide a crucial level of security and ensure that the printed fabric delivered meets all expectations.

(Video) Fabrics 101 - What You Need to Know About Digital Fabrics and Why

Discover the latest developments in digital textile printing at theGlobal Printing Exhibition 2021,Europe's leading exhibition for large format screen and digital printing, textile printing and signage. Discover the latest products, network with like-minded people and explore new business opportunities.Register your interest here.


What are the benefits of fabric printing? ›

The benefits of digital fabric printing services are noticeably obvious and quickly realized. To simplify a complex process, the benefits of on-demand fabric printing would be: more color; 100% accuracy; better feel; and full customization.

How is fabric prepared for printing? ›

The designs are transferred from pre-printed transfer paper onto fabric by contact heat – basically a big oven. The dyes are absorbed by fabric during this heat transfer. Heat Transfer, also known as sublimation printing, is great way to produce high clarity, well defined designs.

Is digital printing on fabric sustainable? ›

Digital printing is one of the most sustainable methods of printing fabrics. It uses less water and energy than traditional methods, and there is no need for harsh chemicals. Digital printed fabrics are also easier to recycle than traditional fabrics.

What are the four most common methods of textile printing? ›

The four main methods of textile printing are block, roller, screen, and heat transfer printing. In each of these methods, the application of the colour, usually as a thickened paste, is followed by fixation, usually by steaming or heating, and then removal of excess colour by washing.

Why is fabric sourcing important? ›

Designer illustrates the sketches keeping the fabric texture, feel, color, weight etc in their mind. Hence, fabric sourcing plays a vital role in garment development. The process of fabric sourcing is very dynamic, it primarily depends on the fabric type, cost and lead time.

Is cotton good for digital printing? ›

With digital printing, we recommend using 100% cotton. It doesn't matter what colour your t-shirt is, cotton will retain the ink much better giving you a crystal-clear copy of your design.

How does digital printing work on fabric? ›

Digital Textile Printing is a process of printing on textiles and garments using inkjet technology to print colorants onto fabric. This process allows for single pieces, mid to small-run cycle production and even long-runs as an alternative option to screen printed fabric.

What is the environmental impact of digital printing? ›

DIGITAL PRINTING PRODUCES SIGNIFICANTLY LESS PAPER WASTE THAN OFFSET PRINTING. Offset printing methods consistently produce about 15% paper waste. This amount can be even higher for smaller print runs.

How does digital clothing impact the environment? ›

According to DressX, the production of digital clothing emits 97% less CO2 than the production of physical clothing. Digital clothing on average saves 3,300 liters of water per item.

How is digital printing more sustainable? ›

Prevent Waste Through Less Consumption

Digital printing needs no intricate set-up and uses an electric charge to place the ink onto the paper, so hardly any waste is produced. Plus, if you choose to print on recycled paper, it lowers the overall raw material required.

What are the 3 main printing processes? ›

There are three main printing processes: relief, intaglio, and planography, which includes lithography and screenprinting. Each process has a unique mark or characteristic because of the way the matrix is created. The matrix is the block, plate, or surface from which the print is taken.

What are the benefits of effective sourcing? ›

Four Key Strategic Sourcing Benefits
  • Reduce Direct and Indirect Costs.
  • Boost Long-term Supplier Relationships.
  • Gain Efficiency and a Systematic Approach.
  • Mitigate Supplier Risk.
22 Apr 2021

What is sourcing in textile industry? ›

'Sourcing is defined as the process of determining how and from where manufactured goods or components will be procured. ' The main motivational force to do sourcing of garments/fabrics is to give the highest level of satisfaction, at low production cost.

Is it important to have multiple sources for sourcing a fabric why and why not? ›

It depends on fabric quality and sometimes on the end buyer. Some buyers want better quality and are willing to bear extra costs for that. Some buyers especially who are doing big volume business, give very tight costing target and in that case, garment manufacturer has to find out the cheapest source.

What is the importance of digital printing? ›

Benefits of Digital Printing:

Timeliness: There are fewer steps in the printing process, and as a result, the final product can be delivered quicker. Cost Effective: Because printing plates are not required, there is less investment involved to set up a single job.

What is the purpose of digital printing? ›

Digital printing enables you to easily customize a large number of printing options. Through digital printing, you can print almost anywhere you want if your printer has mobile printing capabilities. Digital printing is cost-effective when you're printing a small volume of documents.

What is the importance of printing? ›

Marketing – Printing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to market the service, promotions or products that you offer. Distribution – Printed materials can be can be easily posted out, displayed around the local area or left in popular areas for people to pick up.

How do you prepare cotton for printing? ›

To make sure you are starting with the cleanest possible fibres you should scour your fabric. Most fabrics have some coatings, starches and buildup of oils. Scouring is a strong cleaning to get of these impurities. Cotton should be scoured with a 2 hour simmer in a washing soda (soda ash) solution.

Which printing is best for cotton fabric? ›

For natural fabrics such as cotton, screen printing, and DTG printing are the methods that will give you the best results.

What material is best for digital printing? ›

Cotton is one of the most widely used materials for digital printing because of its comfort, moisture resistance, and popularity within the consumer market. Some of the other typical materials that are good for digital printing are canvas, fabric, polyester, paper, and card stock.

What is the process of digital printing? ›

The digital printing process involves printing on different media like paper, fabric, acrylic, plastic, etc., directly from a digital image. It is professionally done print work and small jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources which are printed via inkjet printers of large format or high volume.

How many types of digital printing are there on fabric? ›

Fabric can be printed in three different styles: direct, discharge, & resist styles.

What are the 3 steps to prepare cotton fibers to be made into clothing? ›

From field to fabric, the process of making cotton transforms the raw fibers into threads, yarn and fabric in three steps: Preparation, Spinning, and Weaving.

What are the four processes involved in preparing the fabric? ›

Typical preparation treatments include desizing, scouring, and bleaching. Preparation steps can also include processes, such as singeing and mercerizing, designed to chemically or physically alter the fabric.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital printing? ›

Digital Printing Benefits and Limitations
  • Incredible Quality.
  • Low costs at low volumes compared to traditional printing.
  • Multiple Versions or Variable Data flexibility.
  • Short Lead Times.
  • Prototyping or Constantly Revising Artwork.
  • Large Volumes Cost More.
  • Color / Ink Limitations.

What are the challenges for the digital printing process? ›

in this article we will explore three challenges many modern-day label printers are facing and we offer some sound advice on how to overcome them.

Why is sustainable printing important? ›

Why sustainable printing is important. It's obvious why: printers consume paper, toner chemicals, and power. Reduce printing and you directly reduce the impact of all three on your environmental footprint. And yet here we are in 2022 and the paperless office stills seems far off.

How can digitization make fashion industry more sustainable? ›

Digitization allows fashion companies to develop sustainable and green solutions without sacrificing cultural relevance and consumer relationship. Using digital technology, making better products efficiently while reducing waste is now possible. So, the time is NOW to implement best practices.

Why is digital fashion more sustainable? ›

In the case of digital fashion, we can see how it's helping at materials level with the selection of materials. There are companies doing excellent renderings of materials, so you don't need to ship those samples anymore. Samples that end up in waste for every single brand or designer that wants to work with them.”

What is the environmental impact of clothing production? ›

The industry produces an estimated 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The production and distribution of the crops, fibers, and garments used in fashion all contribute to differing forms of environmental pollution, including water, air, and soil degradation.

What is the future of digital printing? ›

In 2032 digital print will account for almost a quarter of the global value of all print and printed packaging by value, worth $230.5 billion. Inkjet accounted for 61.4% of digital print value with 62.4% of volume in 2022. This will increase to 74.1% of value and 77.5% of volume in 2032.

Why is digital sustainability important? ›

Adding a sustainability lens to digital transformation can help us reimagine different outcomes, revitalise our planet, create transformational ecosystems, address inequality, and help us in our journey to a more sustainable and resilient future.

How has digital technology impacted the print industry? ›

Digital Inkjet Printing

High-speed and professional-grade inkjet printers are capable of producing up to 4,000 words per minute, and the speeds for graphics and images aren't far behind. Along with being much faster, the latest digital printing technology can render designs that are more intricate than other methods.

What's the difference between fabric and textiles? ›

In general, fabrics are materials that have been through additional processes. A textile refers to the base materials that are made from woven fibers, but as soon as other processes like stitching are applied in order to utilize those materials for making clothing, they are considered fabrics.

What are the three stages of making textiles? ›

Textiles: three stages in the production of woollen cloth, cutting the nap (top), washing [or sizeing ?] (centre), and pressing (bottom).

What are the 7 steps of printing? ›

The laser printer process is intricate.
The Seven Laser Printing Steps
  • Step 1: Sending. ...
  • Step 2: Cleaning. ...
  • Step 3: Conditioning. ...
  • Step 4: Exposing. ...
  • Step 5: Developing. ...
  • Step 6: Transferring. ...
  • Step 7: Fusing.
5 Apr 2021

What are the 4 types of printing? ›

The most widely used print processes are surface, flexographic (flexo), gravure and screen. It is important to recognize that each process is capable of yielding attractive, stylized and salable products.

What are the two methods of printing? ›

Different printing methods
  • Digital Printing.
  • Flexography.
  • Offset Printing.
  • Rotogravure.
  • Large Format.
  • 3D Printing.
  • Screen Printing.
4 Feb 2020

What are the 4 basic print making methods? ›

Traditional printmaking techniques include woodcut, etching, engraving, and lithography, while modern artists have expanded available techniques to include screenprinting. A matrix is essentially a template, and can be made of wood, metal, or glass.

What are the types of print sources? ›

Print sources include books, newspapers, magazines, journals, and any other hard-copy sources such as official records. Print sources generally include all tangible sources such as video or audio tapes. Print sources are still valuable for research.

What is the importance of fabric painting? ›

Fabric painting can be used to decorate everything from clothing to home furnishings like curtains and tablecloths. It opens all sorts of possibilities for creative expression, allows you to create unique one-of-a-kind works of art, and it isn't hard to do.

How fabric benefit the user? ›

Benefits of Fabric
  1. luxurious and upscale feel.
  2. rich and intense colour.
  3. variety of textures to choose from.
  4. light weight.
  5. flexible.
  6. tear proof.
  7. reusable.
  8. recyclable.
19 Jun 2019

What are the benefits of textile design? ›

As well as the practical and design thinking skills gained when studying Textile Design, you'll learn many vital transferable skills such as team work, project management, communication, marketing and commercial awareness.

Why is it important to know the characteristic of different fabrics and their uses? ›

Different types of fabrics have different properties that can strongly influence how you treat your clothing. For example, the fiber content in one fabric will influence how to clean the garment completely differently from another fabric's fiber content.

What is textile art and why is it important? ›

Textile art is art that uses varying materials and fibres to produce decorative, artistic objects. It's one of the oldest forms of art in history and has played a part in practical and decorative man-made objects for hundreds of thousands of years.

Why is digital printing important? ›

Benefits of Digital Printing:

Timeliness: There are fewer steps in the printing process, and as a result, the final product can be delivered quicker. Cost Effective: Because printing plates are not required, there is less investment involved to set up a single job.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cotton fabric? ›

Cotton is soft and comfortable. It is hypoallergenic and won't irritate sensitive skin or cause allergies. The fibers are spun tightly into yarn that won't irritate skin or cause static electricity.
  • Shrinks in hot water.
  • Wrinkles easily.
  • Weakened by perspiration and sun.
  • Burns easily.
  • Affected by mildew.
29 Nov 2017

What are the impact of textile design in our society? ›

The main environmental problems caused by the textile design industry include water pollution, air pollution and solid waste pollution. Water Pollution: The Textile industry uses millions of gallons of water everyday.

What is the most important factor in textile sector? ›

Apparel production: The 9 key factors to success
  1. Efficiency. Buyer's demand for higher value at lower price is driving the need for maintaining optimum efficiency levels. ...
  2. Factory layout.
  3. Technology. ...
  4. Training and HR. ...
  5. Information technology tools.
  6. Buyers' tie-ups.
  7. Customer service.
  8. Product development.


1. Growing your business with fabric printing - Berni Raeside
2. Fabric tech time - a Fabric Hub Panel Session hosted by Sophie Matthews-Paul
3. Digital Fabric Printing with Ken Gamache, President of QT Fabrics
(The Stitch TV Show)
4. Premier Textiles at FESPA Digital 2016
5. GoTx - Printing on Wide Format Natural Fibres FESPA FIT 2021
(GOTX Wide Format Textile)
6. Sublimation Apparel at FESPA Digital's Fabric Hub


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