Are Designers Making the Most of Digital Textile Printing?

DESIGNERS. As I have watched digital-printing technology evolve to enable fabrics, wallcoverings, automobiles, and other surfaces to be custom-decorated, it always struck me that the printed examples shown in trade-show booths seemed a bit unimaginative.

It could have been due to time or budget limitations, but it’s more likely that the printing-equipment manufacturers first needed to demonstrate that the technology they were selling could replicate existing printing processes. So they simply used designs similar to what was currently being produced by designers experienced in textile or wallcovering design. Likewise, to show digitally printed T-shirts, the booth planners used designers whose work typically needed to conform with the limitations of screen-printing presses.

A recent post by Kristen Turner on the Ponoko blog indicates that I’m not the only person who feels that many designers haven’t yet caught up to everything that’s now possible in textile printing.

The post showcased some digitally printed silk and wool scarves from the spring/summer 2011 collection from Charlotte Linton and appeared under the headline:  “These Scarves Show What Digital Printing Is All About.”

Turner pointed out that “One of the greatest things about digital textile printing is that designs can have unlimited colors at the same cost as a single color. Yet designers using digital fabric printing still cling to flat designs with a few, flat colors.”

In her post, Kristen Turner highlighted Charlotte Linton designs that “have all of the life of hand-rendered illustrations and all the depth of photography,” including designs that looked like pages from a silk sketchbook. One Charlotte Linton scarf featured a polka-dot design of marsupial face photographs.

Image of colorfully printed scarf by Charlotte Linton
Digitally printed scarf designed by Charlotte Linton

The post attracted comments from Andy McDonald of the Centre for Advanced Textiles at the Glasgow School of Art who argued that “the greatest thing about digital textile printing lies in the ability to make an item only after it has been purchased, coupled with the potential for each item to be unique.”

McDonald also raised these questions: “What are the creative opportunities for designers once production shifts from just-in-time to on-demand? Why is digital textile printing not being explored in the same way as 3D printing?” Andy further commented, “The greatest thing about digital textile printing is that collections can have unlimited designs at the same cost as a single design. Yet designers using digital fabric printing still cling to fixed collections, with a few fixed designs.”

If you have come up with some fresh ideas for digitally printed textile designs, we would love to see them!

Note: Ponoko is an online service that enables creative people to turn their ideas into real things, and sell them to the world. More than 75,000 user-generated goods have been instantly priced online, made, and delivered from Ponoko’s digital factory network in Wellington, San Francisco, Berlin, Milan and London.  

LINKS

Ponoko

These Scarves Show What Digital Printing Is All About

1 thought on “Are Designers Making the Most of Digital Textile Printing?

  1. Hi Caroline!

    One company that makes a very extensive line of inkjet-printable fabrics is 3P Inkjet Texitles
    http://www.3p-inkjettextiles.com/

    Many of their fabrics for inkjet photo printers have been specifically designed to reproduce photographic images. They can help you find the right materials for your own printer, or refer you to companies that produce fabric prints for you. Thanks for your interest!

    Eileen

Leave a Comment