Being a designer you may have multiple options to decide which printing techniques is most suitable for a specific design on the garment. Experienced designers choose printing method primarily on the basis final outcome as design sharpness, durability, brightness, texture and hand feel. Similar outcome can be obtained by multiple ways. In the sampling stage, printing cost might not be considered and designers get done sample printing with most convenient option. But as a designer you must consider which option will be most suitable for bulk production in terms cost of printing and production time.
As when a design comes for production, we need to consider many things to choose a particular printing method. Each printing method has advantages as well as disadvantages. So it is up to you which one to finalize as you are handling bulk printing. But important thing is final print outcome. When a contract is signed with buyer for a particular looks you can’t alter it to save money. Still you can save if proper printing method is being chosen. Final outcomes mean hand feel, texture, brightness etc.
Most used printing methods are screen printing, heat transfer printing, direct print, cut out print, block print, boutique print. Each printing method has multiple ways of application. Like – pigment print, discharge print, transfer print, khadi print etc. For example, if you are going to print light color on dark base then discharge print is always advisable. Discharge print also gives soft hand feel. If you want bright white print on dark base (black) color then you have to choose khadi print instead of other options but hand feel is harsh in khadi print.
According to technology level screen printing it can be done in rotary printing, flat bed printing (manual or semi-automatic machine). Printing cost per garment will vary a lot comparing to each others. Other variables are production time and minimum production volume. Though your customer will specify the printing option before final order, you can advice them better option if you have clear knowledge about different printing methods and pros and cons of each one. In the following I have explained reasons why and when to go for any particular printing option.
Block Printing (Manual):
For mass production block printing must be avoided. In case you need crafted look, demographic print and quantity is small then you can go for it. Only if specified by customer, hand block printing is taken as an option. Cost is high compared to screen printing.
Rotary screen print:
Rotary print is suitable for allover prints, multiple color design, high volume and quicker production. Lot variation is less in rotary screen print comparing to flat bed. The cost of printing is calculated on the basis of fabric length print coverage. Here you can save money if you buy wider fabric. Printing can be done only fabric form. Printing on garment panels or on complete garment is not possible. Limitation is in design repeat.
Flat bed screen print:
All over printing can be done in flat bed but only in manual as well as automated process where long table bed is used. Advantage is no limitation in design repeat. Chance of occurring lot variation, repeat over lapping when smaller screen is used, shade variation in the same pieces is high. Production is slow. For smaller quantity of fabric printing it is oaky. For garment panel printing flat bed screen printing is widely used.
Heat transfer print:
Generally for small motif, brand logo, label print and swaraski print heat transfer printing method is used. This is very slow process. In this case printer need only heat transfer machine and paper printed with motif. Foil printing, also done in heat transfer method. For foil print you have no other option than heat transfer. It is very easy method. So, many garment manufacturer who need print logo or small motifs or stones, keeps heat transfer machine in-house. In this case, logos of patterns first printed on paper then transferred design to the garment using heat transfer machine.
A direct garment print is similar to inkjet desktop printer. This is not a good option for bulk printing. It has benefits in terms of design flexibility, quick print. It does not stiffen the fabric.
When it comes for consideration of hand feel, stiffness, print texture and aesthetic look then you have to choose out of the following options.
For soft hand feel, lighter print color on dark base discharge print is a good option. Disadvantage- getting exact color is quite difficult especially when colored discharge printing. It is very difficult to develop final color. Printer has to take extra care in this printing. Printing cost is similar to khadi and pigment print.
Widely used print for garment print and most economic. It is easy to develop color. Dye fixation is poor compared to other printing. If there is no specification then pigment print is advisable.
Khadi print used for hand block printing. When one needs to print light colors on dark base khadi print is a good option. In khadi print fabric printed pattern stiffen the fabric. For finer and sharp lines khadi print should be avoided. When printing done on screen, screen get chocked and need screen cleaning. It terms of application easy to print.
Foil print, flock print or Burnt out print:
Foil print, flock print and burnt out print give special look on garments. So, when buyer specify for these types of printing then you have go for it.