Garment Printing



I have a product that I need to print - but which printer is the right one for me?


1.  Direct to textile / fabric printer

This type of machine prints full colour images and logos using liquid ink directly onto the surface of the fabric. In some cases the ink is printed onto a transfer paper first and is then applied to the fabric surface with a heat press.

There are three main types:

*  Machines designed to print directly onto finished garments

*  Machines design to print directly onto fabric from a roll

Uses limited to fabrics only


2.  Vinyl printer & cutter

This machine prints full colour images and logos using liquid ink onto the surface of a white, flexible film which is nowadays made from polyurethane and not vinyl.  After printing the machine then cuts around the finished logos, which are then heat pressed onto the fabric.

Uses: Can be used with special films for garments / textiles and with different, self-adhesive films for general signage for shop windos, trade vehicles, banners and more.


3.  Laser printer

Laser printers allow full colour images and logos to be printed quickly onto a special transfer film after which it is then heat pressed onto the fabric

Uses: garments / textiles, paper, cardboard, wood and some other hard surface products.


4. UV (ultra violet) printer

UV printers have surged in poplarity because thay can be used on such a wide variety of hard surface and some soft surface products. The UV ink is dried / cured almost immediately on contact with the surface of the products and so printed products can be handles as soon as they are finished.

Uses: There are thousands of products that can be printed including:

Glass, Ceramics, Wood, Plastic, Control panel films, equipment panels, Component parts, Glass bottles, Metal bottles, Mobile phone covers and many, many more.


A unique benefit of UV printers

Because the ink dries so very quickly, a UV printer can print multiple layers thereby creating what is called a 2.5D print.   The print suface can have texture just like a braille sign.

There is one further advantage and that is full 3D printing in colour.  3D UV printers are now being used to print 3D objects in full colour.  Examples include: Models, Signs, Prototypes, Replicas of human body parts used in anatomy classes and many more.


 5.  Dye Sublimation printing?

An ink jet printer is used to print liquid dye onto a special transfer paper or in some instances directly onto a pre-treated, white polyester fabric.  When the water has evaporated and the print is dry it leaves behind a thin layer of dye.  

The printed sheet is then placed face-down onto white polyester fabric or onto any dye sublimation receptive surface and is heated to 190 to 200 degrees C for about 60 seconds or more.  The solid particles of dye turn directly from a solid into a gas and because they are being pressed firmly against the fabric, the dye is forced downwards into the fibres or polymer film, penetrating into it and changing the colour permanently.

Uses: Dye sublimation prints are used widely for polyester work wear, sports wear, cushion covers, coffee mugs, beer glasses and many, many more dye sublimation blank products.

Dye sublimation prints on fabric are especially popular because they are easy to do, the equipment is relatively inexpensive and because the prints have no detectible feel.  They don't seal the fabric and are extremely wash-fast.



When printers and graphic designers talk about 'Bleed' - what do they mean?

Bleed refers to the process of making an image slightly bigger than it really needs to be.  Why would you need to do that?

Imagine this:

You have to print a photograph onto a blank jig-saw puzzle that is exactly 19cm x 27cm.  If you make the print exactly 19 x 27 then you would have to align the printed image perfectly with the edges of the jig-saw?  You'd almost certainly get some misprints in which there would be a fine line of white, unprinted jig-saw on one or two edges.

So, the solution is to create a bleed and that means that you make the image slightly bigger than the object to be printed.   When you do this the alignment of the print and the jig-saw is not so critical.   It can be a little bit out and yet the print will still cover the whole area of the jig saw.



 If C = Cyan, M = Magenta, Y = Yellow . . .  Why does K = Black ?

This originates from the word Keylines, which are the fine outlines used around drawings and graphic images to give them definition.  They are almost always Black and so K became the letter used for Black ink.



What is a DTG printer?

DTG stands for Direct-To-Garment Printing.  DTG printers are used mostly for printing full colour logos onto cotton t shirts but can be used on some other types of fabric and products too.

CMYK DTG printers have only coloured ink and can be used to print full colour logos onto white fabric.  They can also be used to print onto some light coloured fabrics too but the colours that can be printed are limited because the colour of the fabric affects the printed colour.  

For example:  A pale blue print on a Yellow fabric would look Green.


CMYK+W DTG printers have white ink and colour ink.  They can be used to print full colour logos onto any colour of cotton fabric.  They are able to do this because they print a layer of white ink first, which allows the colours to show up brightly against the white background.




I heard that Laser printers are becoming more popular - Why is that?


Most types of garment printing are limted to one type of fabric or even to just white fabric. Others require some type of preparation or finishing process and that can slow down production, especially for complicated designs with lots of detail or a lot of internal areas that are not printed. 

Another consideration is maintenance of the printer.. Some require regular maintenance that takes time and usually results in some wastage of ink.

Laser logo printers offer the following benefits

  1.   Very fast printing
  2.   Very low maintenance
  3.   Can be applied to most types of fabric
  4.   Can be applied to all colours of fabric
  5.   Metallic effect images can be printed
  6.   Can be applied to hard surface products like wood
  7.   Can be applied to soft items such as soap or candles
  8.   Printer can be switched off for long periods of time
  9.   Local parts and service are feely available