Textile Printing Terminology

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Textile printing is a vast industry requiring knowledge of specialized jargon. Whether you're studying textiles in school or just curious about the process, this lesson will teach you ten major terms from the textile printing industry.

A Brief Background on Textile Printing

Textile Printing Using Hand Carved Blocks
textile

Before we dive into the terminology used in textile printing, let's talk about what it is. Textile printing is the art of adding patterns and designs to fabric. Professional textile artists know how to embed dyes into the fabric so they permanently adhere to the fibers.

Textile printing can be done in a number of ways with many different tools, such as printing blocks, silkscreens, rollers, and more. Since the industry is so specific, it is important for students and amateur textile artists to be familiar with the vernacular. In this lesson, we will cover ten of the most important industry terms.

Textile Printing Substances

A mordant is a substance used in textile printing to bind the colorant to the fabric. Popular mordants include chromium, tannic acid, and sodium chloride. Metal ions are the most popular types of mordants in the industry because they help the color remain in the fabric much longer than other options. There are three methods for applying mordant: pre-mordanting, meta-mordanting, and post-mordanting.

Thickening agents are used to control the bleed of a dye when applying colors to a fabric. Thickening agents, such as gums, starch, and albumin are used in textile printing depending on the type of dye, fabric, and printing method. Starch is the most popular thickening agent and is made from wheat flour and water. Arabic and Senegal gums are commonly used with light colors, while albumin is typically reserved for brilliant colors, such as ultramarine and vermilion.

Textile Printing Methods

Hand block printing is the oldest and most traditional textile printing method. The artist carves out the designs onto wooden blocks, adds color to the block, and then presses it onto the fabric. The result is a beautiful and incredibly unique fabric that no digital or machine-based application can accomplish.

Digital textile printing is the most popular textile printing method in the fashion industry today because it is quick and accurate. Digital textile printing is much like traditional printing, only using specialized fabric instead of paper. Through this method, textile artists can print their patterns and designs onto the fabric without the messier steps involved in other techniques.

Stencil printing involves cutting patterns into a sturdy template, pressing it to the fabric, and then painting the color over the stencil. Anything that wasn't cut into the template does not transfer color onto the fabric. Stencil printing dates to the Japanese and is considered a highly artistic style of textile printing.

Textile Printing Styles

Direct printing refers to a printing style in which the colorant, mordant, and any other substances are applied to the fabric all at once.

Discharge printing is a style of textile printing in which discharge ink is applied to a fabric that already has been dyed. The discharge ink is added in the pattern or design desired by the artist, and the ink removes the color from the fabric. For example, if you take a black t-shirt and add a design to it with discharge ink, the pattern will lighten the fabric where it was applied. Some professionals call this extract printing because you are taking away color from the original fabric.

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