From the beginning of this research project I’ve been really keen to printed on coloured fabrics. The colour of the fabric is a key factor in the appearance of the printed colour. Fabrics intended to be printed upon digitally are usually bleached white before being coated in a padding liquor to aid dye take up and control the way the dye is received when jetted. Some fabrics, such as wool, may be left natural, which give them a yellowish appearance which in turn affects the printed colours.
In more traditional techniques the cloth may be dyed so that when layers of printing ink are applied the fabric serves as an additional colour in the printed design. I wanted to see what might happen if you used coloured cloth to digitally print on. But I had a problem in that I couldn’t source any pre-coated fabric that was already coloured and I couldn’t find a supplier who’d be happy to coat a fabric I supplied to them.
I researched coating recipes, of which it turns out there are many, and also approached a big coated fabric supplier to ask if they had a recipe they’d recommend. Then using a mish mash of the recipes I’d resourced, the recommended recipe and what was available to us in the print rooms UWE’s print technician (Becky Hill) and I mixed up a batch of coating and applied it to four different fabric types (linen, cotton, silk and wool).
It was a smelly process involving ingredients from traditional textile dyeing processes including cow wee (urea) and seaweed (manutex). The coating was applied through a silk screen on part of the fabrics, which were then left to dry. Once dry they were put through the Mimaki TX2-1600, printed with reactive dyes before the normal post treatments were applied (steaming and washing). The results were interesting! Both colour and image quality were affected and more so on the cotton and linen (cellulose / plant fibres) than the silk and wool (protein fibres).
I then coated coloured fabrics and printed these as well so that I finally was able to answer my niggling query, What happens when you print on coloured fabrics? The colour changes that’s what! So now to reflect on what that tells me and how I can use it.