Digital printing vs Traditional methods
Commercial printing can be completed in a handful of different ways. There are several traditional printing methods which have been used by the fashion industry for ages, as well as the new and innovative method of digital printing. While both accomplish the same task, the ways in which they print vary tremendously, and both have their pros and cons. Read on for a brief synopsis of some of the differences of the most common kinds of textile printing and don't miss the link at the end to our handy google doc with our own research on some digital printing resources.
Traditional printing Although there are many methods of printing designs onto textiles, block, screen, and roller printing are the three most common methods of traditional printing for commercial textile production.
Block printing was the first method developed and is the simplest yet slowest way to print. Incised wooden blocks are used to transfer a design onto the fabric and each color is imprinted individually. This slow and tedious process delivers detailed and artistic prints.
Screen printing is the most common traditional printing technique used today. It involves squeezing ink or a printing paste through small openings on a flat or rotary screen, leaving a specific design. Each color is squeezed through a different screen.
Roller printing is a more efficient method and still very commonly used technique for printing long bolts of fabric. This technique uses an engraved metal roller to apply printing paste directly onto the fabric as it is fed through the machine. There is a roller used for each color in the design.
While traditional offset printing delivers the most quality, in the world of fast fashion where fads are constantly coming and going, innovation was a necessity. A new printing technique needed to be developed to accommodate the fast-shifting trends. Along with being significantly faster than traditional offset printing, digital printing comes at a lower cost if producing low volume print runs. Therefore, beyond the large fast fashion companies such as Forever 21 and H&M utilizing this new technology, small companies requiring low minimums on print orders benefit immensely from digit