4 Types Of Silk Printing Techniques - Which One Is The Best in 2024?

Published in March 16th, 2024 by Bush

Silk printing techniques, including digital printing and screen printing, is a modern printing technology. This base involves the use of screens or digital printing printers to transfer ink to silk.

With the development of printing technology, double-sided digital printing is gradually replacing traditional printing as the new way of silk scarf printing.

Key Takeaways

There are 4 types of silk printing techniques, all of them has pros and cons:

  • Tradional Digital Print: Cheap but high MOQ&Limit design complexity
  • Single-sided Digital Print: No Minimum but Poor back penetration
  • Tradional Double-sided Print: Good back penetration but not accept thick fabrics
  • Lastest Double-sided Print: the most suitable synchronous printing method but not accept fabrics thinner than 10 momme

You need to choose the right printing method according to your design, budget and quantities.

Table of Contents

Traditional Screen Printing

Traditional screen printing is one of the oldest silk printing techniques, and its advantages and disadvantages are undeniable.

The Steps Of Screen Printing

  • Step 1: Selection of fabrics: screen printing for the fabric material is required. Usually, we choose silk or cotton as the printing fabric because these fibers have a smooth surface and good ink absorption.
  • Step 2: Design preparation: the design of screen printing is usually simple. A design is kept to less than five colors as much as possible. Too many colors will make the printing process more complicated. Gradient colors are unacceptable, and screen printing cannot show gradient colors.
  • Step 3: Screen Preparation: When the design is ready, the workers will make different screens according to the other colors. As mentioned above, the more colors there are, the more screens the workers need to prepare, and the process will be more complicated.
  • Step 4: Printing: Workers will place the prepared screens on the fabric and dip the ink to the top of the screen. Then, use the squeegee to spread the ink evenly on the screen from top to bottom. The ink adheres evenly to the fabric through the mesh. This process requires great precision to ensure the clarity and accuracy of the print.
  • Step 5: Drying: After the worker finishes the printing, the fabric will be washed, steamed, and dried thoroughly to ensure the ink is set on the fabric.

Pros And Cons of Screen Print

The advantages and disadvantages of traditional screen printing are apparent, most notably:

Advantages of Screen Printing

  • Vivid colors: traditional screen printing is made by skilled workers who can produce prints with full and clear colors, making the design more apparent and better color reproduction.
  • High output: traditional screen printing can be applied in mass production, and the more quantities produced in a single run, the greater the output advantage of screen printing.
  • Low ink costs: Because of the small variety of colors in a design, screen printing is generally 40% to 60% of the price of digital printing.

Because of its fast production speed and low price, traditional screen printing is now a preferred technology for printers with large production volumes.

Disadvantages of Screen Printing

  • Need to pay extra for screen: unlike digital printing, the screen needs to be made by experienced workers, so customers must pay an extra fee for screen making, usually $20-$40 a color. For example, if a design has three colors (red, green, and blue), you must pay an additional $100 or so for the screen.
  • Limit design complexity: Traditional screen printing does not accept complex designs or patterns. Especially for designs with multiple and gradient colors, they must be produced using other printing methods.
  • Lack of experienced workers: With the development of time, more and more young people are unwilling to enter factories, which gradually decreases the number of professional screen printing workers. At the same time, the environment in screen printing studios is usually hot and humid, and the wages of these workers are 1.2 to 1.5 times higher than those of other employees in printing factories.
  • High Minimum: Due to the need to make extra screens, the price of a small order (less than 300 pieces) of screen-printed silk scarves can be very high.
screen-print-production-line

Single-Sided Digital Print

Single-sided digital printing can print an image, design, or graphic directly onto one side of a type of fabric. One-sided digital printing can be used for many fabrics, such as silk, cotton, linen, or silk blends.

The Steps Of Single-sided Digital Printing

  • Step 1: Design Preparation: Creating or preparing designs or artwork using graphic design software (Photoshop or AI). This can include creating the original design directly on the software or scanning existing artwork into the software and exporting it. Typically, the format of the final prepared design should be PNG, JPG, JPEG, PSD, TIF, or PDF.
  • Step 2: Print Setup: The file is then copied to a printer with a digital printer. Experienced workers calibrate the printer to ensure that the printed silk has accurate colors and clear resolution.
  • Step 3: Fabric Preparation: The fabric to be printed is prepared. Typically, the fabric is subjected to a quality check and a sizing step, where the fabric is pretreated with a sizing agent to improve ink adhesion and color vibrancy. This step may vary depending on the type of fabric used and the printing method.
  • Step 4: Printing: The fabric is fed into a digital printer, and the design will be printed directly onto one side of the fabric surface using inkjet or dye. The printer applies the exact right amount of ink to the fabric to create the desired design with high resolution and accurate color.
  • Step 5: Steam, Washing And Dry: After printing is complete, as with screen printing, the fabric undergoes additional processing, such as steaming, washing, and drying, to ensure that the ink adheres properly to the fabric fibers and fixes the colors. This helps to improve the durability and washability of the printed design.

Pros and Cons of Single-Sided Digital Print

Single-sided digital printing is one of the more popular silk printing techniques in recent years. It breaks the barrier that printed fabrics can only accept simple designs. The emergence of digital single-sided printing makes the fabric more colorful. The advantages and disadvantages of single-sided digital printing are as follows:

Advantages of Single-Sided Digital Print

  • High-quality prints: Digital printing technology makes it possible to obtain prints with rich detail, high resolution, vibrant colors, and clear images.
  • Customizability: Designs can be easily customized and accepted as personalized to meet specific requirements for small quantities or custom orders.
  • Fast delivery: Digital printing has relatively fast lead times compared to traditional printing methods, making it ideal for projects with tight deadlines.
  • Cost-effective for small order: Digital printing is good for short runs and is cost-effective for small production batches as it eliminates expensive setup processes (e.g., the cost of making screens for screen printing) and allows on-demand printing.

Disadvantages of Single-Sided Digital Print

Theoretically, almost all printing patterns can be realized by traditional digital printing, but practice has proved that digital single-sided printing is defective:

  • Poor back penetration: digital single-sided printing ink droplets are only attached to the surface of the silk; it is difficult to penetrate into the interior and back of the silk. Therefore, single-sided digital printing is not suitable for the requirements of excellent penetration printing effect of silk products; large areas of color saturation are not as good as screen printing.

Please note: When the thickness of the fabric is less than 12 momme, single-sided digital printing can be used to achieve the requirements of front and back penetration printing. The premise is that the pattern printing file resolution needs to be higher pixels, preferably higher than 300DPI. Otherwise, it is easy to make the line pattern edge jagged, reducing the clarity of the outline of the printing pattern.

  • Color inconsistency: Achieving consistent color when printing silk scarves using digital single-sided printing can be challenging, especially when producing different batches or using different printers. Variations in ink formulations, silk fabric types, and printing conditions may result in slight color variations between prints. If color requirements are high, it is recommended that Pantone color numbers be provided and proofed prior to each large shipment to avoid color variations as much as possible.
  • Silk Hand Feel Changes: Single-sided digital printing may change the feel of a fabric, especially on a natural fiber like silk. Depending on the ink used and the sizing applied a light-colored silk scarf will feel different from a dark-colored silk scarf, affecting the overall quality and value of the final silk product.

Double-Sided Digital Print

When the weight of the silk is thicker than 14 momme, it is not possible to make the color of the back side similar to that of the front side using single-sided digital printing. Double-sided digital silk printing techniques come to solve this problem.

Digital double-sided silk printing techniques have two kinds of programs and equipment to choose from. One is to print twice on both sides of the silk fabric (traditional double-sided digital printing), and the other is to synchronize the printing in the same position (advanced double-sided digital printing).

Traditional Double-Sided Digital Printing

Traditional double-sided digital printing refers to the silk after pretreatment and sizing. On one side of the printing, the silk will be inverted, with a laser scanner on the unprinted side of the fabric pattern scanning, precise positioning, and then according to the precise positioning of the fabric on the other side of the printing. The core of the technology is laser scanning and positioning technology to control the position of the nozzle to match the pattern on the front side.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Double-Sided Digital Printing

Advantages of Traditional Double-Sided Digital Printing

  • Vivid colors: Traditional Double-sided print, compared to single-sided digital printing, is popular because of its better printing quality and more saturated colors on both sides.
  • Accepting different designs on both sides: Since the printing machine prints the design two times, it is possible to print the same pattern with different colors on both sides or even completely different patterns on both sides.
  • Small Orders Accepted: Since double-sided digital printing doesn't need to have the extra process of making a screen, all small orders are accepted, and UR Silk's custom double-sided printed silk scarves don't have any MOQ, allowing you to have beautiful silk scarves without going

Disadvantages of Traditional Double-Sided Digital Printing

  • Do not accept too thick fabrics: when the thickness of silk is greater than 19 momme, due to the thickness of the fabric, the pattern on the reverse side of the fabric is not clear, and it can't meet the requirements of the laser scanning well, which leads to inaccurate or difficult positioning during the second printing, and the designs on both sides of the silk fabric can't be overlapped.
  • Higher cost: Digital printing on both sides of silk can be more costly compared to one-sided printing or traditional screen printing methods. This is due to the additional complexity involved in printing on both sides of the fabric and the use of specialized equipment and inks.

Lastest Double-Sided Digital Printing

Latest Double-sided digital printing is the first pretreatment of silk and sizing, setting up two groups of nozzles on both sides of the vertical running direction of the silk inkjet system, while the front and back of the fabric for printing to achieve the same synchronization printing.

Due to the simultaneous movement of two groups of nozzles, the printing position is the same and accurate, and the patterns on both sides of the fabric overlap completely. The printing quality is high, and the printing efficiency has improved. From the point of view of the precise overlap of the pattern on the front and back of the fabric, it is the most suitable synchronous printing method for double-sided printing on silk.

However, when the weight of the silk fabric is less than 10MM, there may be problems with the printing quality due to excessive ink. Moreover, the printing speed of this method is low, about 12 meters per hour, which is not economically efficient.

Conclusion

Overall, advances in printing technology have revolutionized the silk scarf printing industry, offering a variety of methods.

Traditional screen printing can present silk scarves with vibrant colors at high production rates but is limited by the complexity of design and reliance on experienced workers.

Single-sided digital printing offers high-quality printed patterns but can suffer from poor back penetration and inconsistent colors on the front and back.

Traditional double-sided digital printing, on the other hand, is suitable for silk scarves that are more than 14 mm thick, offering vibrant colors and diverse designs.

The latest double-sided digital printing methods address these issues but may be limited by printing speed and cost.

As technology evolves, the choice of printing method will depend on factors such as fabric thickness, design complexity, and budgetary constraints. You can choose your favorite printing method by using your own budget and design.

 

Resources:

  1. Textile Printing: Design and Process, Richard Malachowski, https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=textiles_seminar

 

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