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Direct to Fabric & Digital Textile Printing Primer

Quite often, we are now getting requests on how to print digitally onto fabric and textile.  As an Epson Dye Sublimation specialist, we get requests from clients to teach them how to print on fabric directly.  A common question for us is being able to take an Epson T-Series printer or an Epson F-Series printer and to print directly on to textile.  Rather than doing that, there are better options that will handle the inks for direct to fabric printing on older and even the new Epson printers.

Basically, there are four types of ink sets that will print direct to textiles.

Acid Dye Ink is primarily for Silk, Nylon, Wool and some Poly Blends and requires steam set, wash & dry.

Reactive Dye Ink will work with Cottons, Silk and some Poly Blends and requires steam set, wash & dry.

Disperse Dye Ink (dye sub ) is  mainly for Polyester fabric using heat transfer or heat set.

Pigment Inks will work on all fabrics and are heat set.

Let’s talk about fixation and setting the image after it is printed..

Heat fixation is becoming easier to do with smaller fixation units attached to the end of the digital printers.

Steam / Heat fixation is a bit more complicated, requiring a special steam unit, and then after that process, the fabric will require washing and drying.  More about this in future articles.

On dye disperse you can print on a transfer paper ( dye sublimation ) after which the transfer paper is heat transferred onto the textile ( polyester based ) or you can print direct onto polyester fabric and set the image with a calendar press or heat transfer press.  We provide Heat Transfer presses ranging in size from 16” x 20” flat presses up to 3.5 meter (130” ) heated oil filled drum roller style transfer presses.  These will also “calendar” with heat the direct fabric disperse printed textiles.

With pigment based inks, the fabric is printed and then heat set.  The reason that the Epson piezo prints heads are preferred in all of these processes are that the Epson print heads lend themselves to fine resolution while being able to deliver a variety of dye & pigment ink sets reliably on to fabrics.  Both the DX-5 and the new Epson TFP heads will work with this process.  The reason that the new Epson F-Series Dye Sublimation printers are working so well is that Epson has “tweaked” the inside of the print head to handle the Dye Sublimation inks optimally, while Epson will warranty the complete system when using Epson Inks on the new F-Series.  No more finger pointing from 3rd party ink sources or Epson, they will completely service the new Epson Dye Sub F-Series for up to three years.

For assistance in textile and fabric printing, please contact us at 855-206-4688 for printer, ink and finishing equipment.  We are experts at color management for the dye sublimation industry and can offer a complete turn-key solutions process for digital textile printing, direct to fabric and the dye sublimation processes.

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