You’ve probably seen it: someone gets a new sewing machine and wants to try their hand at fabric printing. They buy a set of paints or dyes, and they get excited when they realize that they can make pretty designs on their clothes. Then, after a few hours or days of experimenting maybe even weeks or months they give up because the results don’t look as good as they wanted them to be. I’ve been there!
Fabric printing is a specialized art
The process of fabric printing is complex and there are many factors that determine the quality of your prints. The most important aspect to understand about fabric painting and dyeing is that it is an art in itself. Print custom fabric paints and dyes are quite different from their counterparts for paper, wood, etc. In some ways, it’s also unlike what we call “packaging printing” or even traditional graphic design work.
What makes this so complicated? First off, you have to know how to properly heat-set your paint or dye before you apply it to the garment (or whatever substrate you want). This step may seem simple enough but if done incorrectly then your design will either fade over time—or worse: bleed when washed!
The fabric matters
All of our printing experts agree that the fabric itself is the most important factor in determining whether your design will be great or terrible. This is because each type of fabric absorbs ink differently and requires different approaches to printing. For example, with cotton, you’ll need to use less ink because it absorbs more; whereas with polyester, you’ll want to use a lot more ink because it doesn’t absorb as much at all.
You have to know the difference between fabric paints and fabric dyes
Fabric paints and dyes are not created equal. Fabric paints are water-based, while fabric dyes are oil-based. In fact, the difference between these two is so stark that it’s important to know what you’re using before you begin printing.
Fabric paints can be removed from fabric print with soap and water after they dry; this means that you can make mistakes or change your mind later on down the line if needed (though once they have dried, it might be difficult to tell which parts of your design are painted in fabric paint). Fabric dye stains will not come out at all unless the whole garment is washed in hot water a process that could shrink or damage clothing!
So, the next time you see someone with a beautiful fabric print and think to yourself, “Wow, I could never do that!” just remember it’s not as hard as it looks. All you need is some knowledge of how fabric printing works (which we covered in this article), some good equipment and maybe even a friend or two who are willing to learn with you!