What's So Great About Digitally Printed Fabrics?


  Prints are typically screenprinted onto quilting cotton using a different screen for each color. This process requires careful registration and limits the number of colors that can be used to 16-20, depending on manufacturer. 

  Digital prints, on the other hand, can have as many colors as there are dyes. It’s potentially limitless. A design could easily be made with 30, 50 or 100 different colors and it would not affect the ability to print the design. Unlike screen printing, resolution is perfect every time and you’ll never get the halo that often occurs when two screen printed, complementary colors bump into each other. Digital printing also eliminates the need for cleaning screens and rinsing out inks giving an environmental.

  Without the need for screens, it also makes it possible to increase the length between repeats or even completely do away with them. You could actually print a 10-yard-long design that never repeated. This gives tremendous flexibility to the original artwork and allows for panoramic and/or photographic prints.

  The most common complaints about digitally printed fabric have been the cost and the color. Because of the nature of digital printing, including base cloth preparation, limited runs, dyes and machines, the cost per yard for the manufacturer is higher than traditional screen printing. This cost, naturally, gets passed on to the consumer and digital prints are typically a few dollars more per yard. The more limited the run, the higher the cost. 

  Talking with fellow sewists, the biggest complaint has been about color: lack of saturation and fading with both time and sun. This was a problem strictly with the quick turnaround fabrics. Many sewists I questioned complained that the blacks weren’t black enough and other colors were not as bright. Colors faded on fold lines. Each time the fabrics went through the wash cycle, they lost color. 

                                                                                                                              Eden Zhou
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