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Creator Resources

What is the best digital fabric printing method for me?

December 6
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The concept of Digital Printing may not be news to you, but the ever-evolving  technology and  imagination in its application has brought many new possibilities to reshape the landscape of fashion. So let’s go over our digital printing 101 so you can make the best design decisions for your needs.

Digital Textile Printing is a process of printing on fabrics and garments using inkjet technology. This technology was first accessible to consumers in the 90’s as transfer-paper printing, which then gets transferred onto fabrics. This has since evolved to today’s most advanced capabilities of printing directly on to fully constructed garments and full-width fabrics. This process is an alternative option to screen printed fabric, allowing small-run productions and even single garment printing.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is the most commercially used method of printing today. It prints well on most surfaces, from paper, textiles, to wood, plastic, metal, even glass. The technique uses custom mesh screens, like a stencil if you will, and ink is applied one colour at a time. For example, if a design has 3 colours, it will require 3 stencils. The more colours a design has, the more expensive the production will be. As you can imagine, the set-up labour and cost quickly adds up, and is therefore most viable in mass production. Screen printing generally uses chemical inks and releases extensive amounts of toxic waste into the environment as well as water. Because of the obstinate nature of its expansive set up, change has proven slow and seemingly difficult.

What is Digital Printing?

Some 80 years after the invention of screen printing, digital printing came along. Digital printing requires proficiency in computerised design programs, but other than that, the set up is next to none in comparison to screen printing, which makes it perfect for small scale production. It uses water-based inks to dye the fibres, which although is less toxic, also makes it less opaque compared to traditional Plastisol inks. To put it in context, digital printing does not perform on dark fabrics; the work-around would be to print dark ink onto a light fabric.

What is Dye Sub Printing?

Also a form of digital printing - Dye Sub, or Dye Sublimation, is an engineered process where heat together with pressure transfers and fuses the ink dyes into the fibres of the fabric. This makes the print much more durable than applied ink as it is not an additional sit-on-top layer - it moves with the fibres of the fabric. This is most popular in the sportswear industry, especially as the technology performs most effectively with synthetic fibres like polyester.

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Screen Printing

Digital Printing

Dye Sub Printing

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Mass Production

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Small Production

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Reaction Time

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Print Durability

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Print Opacity 

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Photo Quality

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Colour range

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Natural Fibres

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Water-based Inks

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Collateral Waste

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How does digital printing help reduce fashion pollution?

  • Print-on-Demand: Instead of producing clothing in bulk and hoping it sells, designers can print garments or fabrics only when there's demand. This minimises overproduction, reduces inventory waste, and cuts back radically on textile waste.
  • One of a kind: Computerised designing means custom and individualised prints that reflect you and your customers’ unique style are easily achievable. This, in turn, discourages mass-produced, generic fashion, which contributes to waste.
  • Eco-Friendly Inks: Most digital fabric printers use non-toxic, water-based inks that are significantly less harmful to the environment and do not produce hazardous waste.
  • Efficient Use of Resources: Traditional fabric printing methods often result in leftover dye and waste due to colour mixing and screen preparation. Digital fabric printing eliminates these issues, as it prints directly onto the fabric without the need for screens or extensive setup. Digital fabric printing can also be more precise in its application of ink, which means less waste and less need for additional resources like water and energy.

How does digital printing impact my creativity?

Digital printing means HD photo-realistic image quality with vast colour flexibility, depth and accuracy. Adjustments can be made almost immediately which cuts sampling lead times down to a fraction of what traditional printing methods can achieve. Ultimately with print-on-demand there is next to no set-up cost involved; so a designer can afford to enjoy a lot more creative freedom without worrying as much about the burden of waste and inventory. All these factors open up many possibilities for independent creatives and small businesses.

In understanding the pros and cons of different digital printing technologies, you are able to make the best decisions for your design needs. To read more about printing DTF (Direct-to-Fabric)  vs DTG (Direct-to-Garment), click here.


Are garment and fabric digital printing services available at Banana?

Yes it is! In fact this technology fits our preorder model like a glove. We already have producer partners in place to offer our creators direct-to-garment and fabric digital printing, meaning you can print as little as one piece or one yard. Perfect not only for sampling but to only make what has genuinely sold. Too good to be true? We don’t think so! 

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