Printing Overview: Fiber, Yarn, & Fabric

Printing Overview

The desire to add color and design to textile materials is almost as old as mankind. Explore the development of printing from batik-like methods to block printing to screen printing and up to today’s modern methods.



The golden rule in the printing of textiles is that “a fabric well-prepared is a fabric half-printed.” This saying indicates the importance of good fabric preparation in producing high-quality printed products. Goals of preparation for printing are a clean, flat, smooth, and uniform fabric that is instantly absorbent. Preparation includes scouring, desizing, bleaching, and mercerization.


Fiber type and properties often determine the choice of dyestuff, because dyestuffs are fiber-type specific. For example, 100% cotton fabric can be printed with reactive, vat, and direct dyes, but not with dyes designed for nylon and polyester. Pigments can be used on any type of fiber because pigments have no natural affinity for any fiber and must be glued or bound to the surface of the fiber or fabric.


The type of yarn construction influences textile printing. The twist level, hairiness, luster, and evenness all affect color brightness, evenness, and depth. Also, high-twist yarns resist the penetration of the print paste, and fine and coarse yarns of the same fiber type will print differently.


Fabric construction properties affect both the process and the quality of printing. For example, woven fabrics are generally easier to print than knits because of the instability of knit fabrics. Fabrics with a flat surface (such as woven sheeting fabric) are easier to print than fabrics with a pile surface (such as woven bath towels).