The rapid adoption of digital printing technologies and the rise of Internet of Things are creating exciting opportunities for entrepreneurial designers.
The increased use of all forms of digital printing is creating a demand for short runs of custom-designed wallcoverings, textiles, ceramics, and glassware. Plus, the ability to “print” electronics and sensors on thin, flexible films has made it possible to design interactive fashion, sportswear, wallpaper, and window films.
Once you learn more about the technologies and huge range of materials used in “surface imaging,” you will quickly see that the possibilities for creative new products and designs are limited only by your imagination.
Investors in digital printing equipment are looking for well-trained and creative designers to help them get the most from their equipment.
The Surface Imaging program at Philadelphia University is a unique graduate program for designers and artists who want to bring their creativity to life through state-of-art digital printing technologies.
Working in the Center for Excellence in Surface Imaging, you will learn how to apply your painting, drawing, photography and printmaking skills to fabrication projects that involve state-of-the-art digital printing and additive material deposition and subtraction-printing technologies.
The curriculum includes courses in surface imaging design, printing technology, and material and polymer science. To find the best opportunities within the fast-growing digital-printing industry, you will also study entrepreneurship and develop a business plan that integrates design, applied engineering, and innovative business models.
The Center for Excellence of Surface Imaging has been supported by international imaging industries, including printer manufacturers, ink formulators, and software developers.
Upon graduation, you will be prepared for a leadership role in developing new products for the architecture, interior design, textile manufacturing, fashion apparel, and home industries.
To apply, act quickly. According to Hitoshi Ujiie of the Center for Excellence in Surface Imaging, “While we have a rolling enrollment system, our preferred deadline for applications is February 1, 2016.”
The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York promotes itself as “Where Creativity Gets Down to Business.” A college of the State University of New York, FIT has been providing career education in art, design, business, and technology for more than 70 years.
For the second consecutive year, Kornit Digital collaborated with FIT on a design challenge for fourth-year student in FIT’s Textile/Surface Design program. One goal was to give students insight into environmentally friendly textile production methods that don’t compromise on design concepts and use of color.
For the challenge, the students were asked to create original designs related to the concept of sustainable, local short-run textile production. Along with the sustainability-themed design, the students submitted an explanation of the concept and an image of how the design could be applied to a garment. For the judging process, Kornit used their Allegro production system to produce 10 yards of each design.
The three winners of this year’s FIT design challenge were Hyuna Kim, Konchok Bercholz and Elena Kanagy-Loux. In addition to receiving cash awards, the winners will have the textile designs printed on fabrics and replicated as fashion items.
The students’ work was judged on several factors including: the concept, the effectiveness and marketability of the design; and the conceptualized fashion application.
Judges included: Leslie Baker, associate designer for Bon-Ton Stores’ Relativity Brand; Vanessa DeSousa, development manager of Prints and Embellishments for Diane von Furstenberg; Tom Cody, principal of Tom Cody Designs; Melissa Niederman, art director of The Style Council; and Joe Castaldo, president of The Style Council.
Representatives of Kornit Digital included: Paul Borucki, managing director of Kornit Digital North America; Jim Manelski, North American wide format business development manager; and Erin Doty, who is the company’s North American Art Director and Project Manager.
With the Kornit Allegro single-step industrial print system, designers can immediately materialize their designs on any fabric at with no minimum yardage requirements and at the highest industrial print quality and standards. Unlike other textile-printing processes, the Kornit Allegro industrial print solution doesn’t require pre-treatment or post-treatment processes. As a one-step printing process, the Allegro is ideal for the trending on demand, close to market, short run local production and sampling.
“Our collaboration with FIT demonstrates an important example of how Kornit Digital can nurture the growth and developing expertise of tomorrow’s designers with the help of state-of-the-art technologies that are changing the way creativity is brought to life across all fabric types. The Kornit Allegro is the perfect system for this scenario with its truly sustainable production methods enabling designers and manufacturers to generate their concepts from start to finish in the shortest cycle time,” explains Merav Zimmerman, Kornit’s product marketing manager for the Allegro. “We are proud to continue this collaboration with FIT and we certainly plan to continue with it in future years as greater awareness increases both the need for versatility in high quality digital print and greener working practices.”
“The liaison with the Fashion Institute of Technology demonstrates how our ground-breaking single-step digital printing system aligns with creative processes where sustainability plays an increasingly important role,” comments Paul Borucki. “We see a growing demand worldwide for greater education into the potential for using more eco-friendly printing methods and this collaboration endorses the importance of environmental awareness within fabric designs in the future.”
About the Kornit Allegro
Kornit Digital develops, manufactures and markets industrial and commercial printing solutions for the garment, apparel and textile industries, including designers, manufacturers, apparel decorators, and fashion brands.
Using Kornit’s Neo-Pigment inks, the Allegro offers a single-step printing solution that works with multiple types of fabric and with no additional finishing process. Its integrated fixation process removes the need for pre-treatment, steaming or washing, making it a truly environmentally friendly solution that meets the most rigorous environmental regulations, including OekoTex 100 standard and GOTS approval. The process reduces energy and water consumption and the creation of waste.
Kornit Digital is a global company with offices in the US, Asia Pacific and Europe, Founded in 2003, Kornit Digital now serves customers in more than 100 countries.
DESIGNERS. Could some of your brand clients benefit from the creative use of custom-designed textiles? If so, check out the new web2fabric app and website created by DPInnovations. They established the online community to link digital designers to print-service providers around the world who are using digital textile printing equipment to print hundreds of thousands of yards of fabric.
DPInnovations has been supplying software solutions to the digital textile industry for more than 10 years. One of their clients, Spoonflower, has proven that a digital textile printing business can be successful by focusing on providing small amounts of fabric to a high number of individuals, using the simplest form of dyes (pigments) for an acceptable color gamut and fastness. While contributing to the revival of U.S. textile manufacturing, Spoonflower has become the heart of a community. Their service brings joy to creative people around the world.
In recent years, digital textile printing equipment technology and inks have advanced to the point where it’s now feasible to reproduce deeper, brighter colors on longer runs of fabrics with better fastness. So, more textile companies now see the opportunity to sell custom-printed textiles directly to digital designers. These companies are experts in their fields, capable of printing different products than Spoonflower.
Web2Fabric doesn’t manufacture, print, or stock fabric. But their MESH technology allows you to set up your job online, and send the print-ready file directly to one of the digital fabric printing companies that uses software from DPInnovations.
When two enterprising designers wanted to raise $50,000 to bring their new Lumi Printing system to market, they turned to Kickstarter. Their idea proved to be so popular, the campaign has attracted more than $268,000 from 3,525 backers.
The Lumi Process is a photographic print process that you can use to turn smartphone pictures into beautiful designs on textiles, wood, and other natural materials used in art, fashion, and furniture design. In addition to printing on 100% cotton T-shirts, the process works on delicate materials such as silk, suede and wool that can’t go through heat-setting stages. You can also use the Lumi process to print images and design on rough materials such as burlap, jute and sewn garments. Once fixed, the color becomes permanent and can go through repeated machine washes without fading.
The contact-negative print process uses Inkodye mixable, water-based dyes that develop their color in sunlight. There is no need for electricity, silkscreens, or high-end equipment. Inkodye is currently available in three colors: red, orange and blue.
Kickstarter backers of the Lumi Printing System will receive different configurations of Inkodye Starter Kit, depending on their level of contributions. The basic Starter Kit includes 4-ounce bottles of each color, instructions, a vignette-shaped stencil, and a negative that you can cut out and start experimenting with. The Full System Kit includes a textile detergent and 11 x 17-inch sheets of film that have been specially coated to make negatives on laser printers or copiers. The coating on the Lumi transparency film is designed to absorb more toner than typical transparency. Each Lumi transparency sheet is backed with a carrier sheet of paper so that it will feed through typical copiers more effectively.
Make Negatives on Your Smartphone
The easiest way to convert images from your smartphone into negatives is to use the Lumityper App that Lumi has developed for the iPhone. (An Android version will be developed in the future.) Lumi’s instruction guide describes other ways to create negatives, such as using web apps such as Pxlr.com or Photoshop on your computer.
After you’ve printed your image or design onto the negative, you apply the dye to the surface of the substrate, then position and secure the negative on top of the substrate. Next, expose the art to sunlight to develop the colors on the substrate. According to the guide for printing a photo on cotton, it takes about 10 to 12 minutes for the image to develop. The process can work on overcast days, but it works best in direct sunlight.
To stop the developing process on textiles, you will need to wash off the unexposed dye in hot water with a strong detergent. Lumi offered its backers a 16 oz. bottle of a detergent specifically formulated to clear residual dye. Regular laundry detergent will work if the item is run through the washing machine twice.
The founders of Lumi, Jesse Genet and Stephan Angoulvant, met while studying product design at the Art Center College for Design in Pasadena, California. On the Lumi website, they state, “We believe photographs shouldn’t be limited to a page or a frame. They’re meant to be lived with, cared for, and last forever. That’s why we create photography you can touch.”
On Kickstarter they stressed that, “We believe in sticking with great ideas through thick and thin and are passionate about developing new creative tools.”
To see the range of products that designers have created with the Lumi Process, visit the lumi.com website. To Lumi’s progress as they bring this new process to market, follow them on Twitter or Facebook.
In one of the first posts on this blog, I wondered how long it would take before designers started taking full advantage of some of the creative possibilities of the most recent advances in digital textile printing. Here’s a great example of a photographer who is not only creating beautiful products, but also appears to be marketing them with a carefully planned strategy.
Photographic artist Bryony Shearmur, who has been creating fine art images of Los Angeles for over a decade, has brought some of those images to life as limited-edition silk scarves.
Entitled “Really Beautiful Things,” the Los Angeles-themed scarves are part of her new “Silk” series. The scarves are described as “living photographs” and “cascades of color.” Each piece is individually printed on 100% Habatai silk using the most advanced technology in digital fabric printing. Then, each scarf and pocket-square is hand-finished and signed by the artist.
“I have wanted to create ‘Silk’ for many years but the technology was not there,” says Shearmur. “Finally it is and I can realize my vision”
In addition to scarves and pocket squares, Bryony Shearmur is developing silk tops and skirts, and a collection of cashmere-lined blankets that feature her most popular snow and water landscapes. She says the “Silk” collection seamlessly blends her passions for photography, conceptual art, and design.
The press release she developed to promote the scarves is accompanied by top-quality high-resolution photographs designed for use if magazines that promote luxury goods.
DESIGNERS. In other posts on this blog, I observed that continuing advances in digital fabric printing might open up new opportunities for designers. This could be especially true as older fabric designers who relied on screen-printing retire and as customer expectations for fast turnaround continue to intensify.
Since then, I’ve been taking note of articles that show how and why fashion designers have started using digitally printed textiles. Here are just three examples:
An article by Christina Binkley in the Wall Street Journal called attention to dresses and tops in the Helmut Lang collection that use photographs shot by the brand’s designers, Nicole and Michael Colovos. Some of the images were shot with an iPhone. She says the designers uses make collages from photos they’ve shot of peeling paint, subways walls, and other sights. Thus, the resulting collages may look nothing like the individual photos.
She cites another example in which designer Albert Kriemler made a dress fabric from part of a painting by the late artist Ian Hamilton Finlay.
Binkley notes that some designers still prefer the deep, clear hues of screen prints because digital inks don’t soak into the fabric as thoroughly. Plus digitally creating and printing designs require technicians who understand software and “have a great hand with the computer.”
But she also gives an example of how digital technology enabled a designer to get a fast-turnaround job for an awards-show dress that he might otherwise have lost.
This article by Glynis Traill-Nash notes that digital fabric printing has become accessible to more designers. She says designers either use photographs manipulated to abstraction or create uniquely designed panels that can be sewn together to create an overall graphic effect.
In this article, Christina Binkley notes how precisely digital photos can be reproduced on textiles by showcasing a dress on which designer Albert Kriemler reproduced a photograph by Jurgen Schreiter of the Wedding Tower in Darmstadt, Germany. She calls the effect “mesmerizing,” but notes that one of the risks of wearing a photographic-print dress is that it may be too memorable to wear frequently.
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.
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.
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.