Applying color patterns and designs to fabrics dates back to 5000 BC documented in Egypt. It is one of the most complex textile operations because of the many variables and the need for precision; it continues to be popular today for textiles of all sorts.
The prominent difference between printing and dyeing is basic, dyeing is coloring the entire fabric in one color whereas printing is restricted to designs and patterns on the fabric.
Fabric is first treated with chemicals to prepare it for printing. Different motifs and designs are made on the fabric in different colors or pigments. The dye to not spread and overlap adjacent pattern, a strong bonding is formed between the dye and the fabric.
The dyes are commonly made of vat, reactive, naphthol and disperse colors, these have good fastness properties. The pigments are not really dyes but are used extensively, they are among the fastest known colors and are effective for light to medium shades, and however, they are not used for dark colors as they may crock or rub off. Improved resins can be used as a substitute here. In today’s market, cheap prints made of tartar emetic and tannic acids are highly discouraged. The printing process involves seven stages:
- Pretreatment of fabric,
- Preparation of colors,
- Preparation of printing paste,
- Impression of paste on fabric using printing methods,
- Drying of fabric,
- Fixing the printing with steam or hot air for pigments,
- After process treatments.
Methods of Printing
There are three techniques practiced i.e. Direct, Discharge and Resist
- Direct Printing
It is done a white or a colored fabric, when done on the latter, it is known as overprinting. The dye in a paste form is used to imprint the desired pattern. The print paste is developed by adding a thickening agent to a limited amount of water and the dye is dissolved in it. On the other hand, pigment excludes thickeners altogether as the mixing up of resins, solvents and water is a thick paste in itself.
- Discharge Printing
This approach is a dying practice, first the fabric is dyed in parts, then it is printed with a chemical that destroys the color in the designed areas. Alternatively, the base color is eliminated and another color is printed in its place. The printed fabric is then steamed and thoroughly washed.
- Resist Printing
In this technique two dyes are used, the first one is used to make the designs or motifs and the second one can be used as a fill or second pattern, what is unique about this is that the first dye is resistant in nature to the second dye, hence, the pattern is observed by the fill of the second dye coloring the spaces where the first dye isn't present.
Types of Printing
- Block Printing
- Roller Printing
- Duplex Printing
- Screen Printing
- Stencil Printing
- Transfer Printing
- Blotch Printing
- Airbrush Painting
- Electrostatic Printing
- Photo Printing
- Jet Spray Printing
- Digital printing
These are the basic printing and dyeing practices common around the world. The dyes and fabrics may vary worldwide. The advancement in technology has led to fewer old techniques. The new methods are an answer to large scale production in quality time whereas the old methods are in trend due to few who see it as an art. Small scale printing houses provide expertise in indigenous methods, right from organic dye to natural dyeing process. Printing is a term from this century, whereas dyeing is much ancient. Though there is revival through small boutiques dedicated to organic dyes, DIY printing and exclusive designs. Modern printing techniques are a result of art and science both, designing the technique and executing it a large level is commendable, it is safe to say that with businesses going around the world, modern printing techniques is the answer to this era’s demand for economies of scale.