Digital Textile Printing

a 3D3 research project



Exhibition – Breathing Colour, Hella Jongerius, 28th June to 24th September 2017, Design Museum, Kensington London

IMG_0149Hella Jongerius is a Dutch designer whose meticulous research into colour and materials is documented in the exhibition ‘Breathing Colour’ at London’s Design Museum.  I was recommended this exhibition by my supervisor so on a very hot sunny Sunday I dragged my husband and two year old down to the newly vamped Design Museum, moved from riverside Bermondsey to Holland Park’s offshoot in the old Commonwealth building.

The new Design Museum is a really nice building to look at and two year old (and husband) LOVED the water fountains outside which he could wander through as they jetted up to the sky.

The permanent collections are free with displays on 3D printing, a walk through timeline of design classics and some nice displays on industrial design such as Jacquard weaving produced using punched cards, the computer generated textile. It was also good to see some work by Natalie Du Pasquier and Memphis, the Milan design collective she founded.

‘Breathing Colour’ as a collection of colour research is astounding. It was like looking at the contents of my head but beautifully displayed, much more coherently laid out and far more intelligent. I had to keep reminding myself that this series of work must have been made over many years and builds upon years of experience and knowledge. But it was truly splendid.


Jonegerius has used her knowledge of colour and how our perception of colours adjusts as light changes to produce a number of weavings depicting the same scene / object at different times of the day. This simple idea has been fantastically constructed from hazy misty sheer hangings that barely have any form in them at all to a dark, textured, almost demonic weaving with spikey tassles protruding out of it for the scene in the dark.

A separate room deals with evening light, displaying shades of blacks in an installation of objects and layers across the floor. More weavings, beautifully constructed, show off dark tones subtly composed together. A colour wheel of painted paper curls, like flowers with central stamens showing the two pigments used to create each hue, is vaguely lit.

In the central space a circle of pots, each glazed in bright arrays of colours makes some wonderful instagram snaps. On the wall are paintings with rectangular chops in them, the missing pieces of canvas laid next to them in a colour palette. This is Jongerius’ exploration of traditional methods of colour making.

A metamerism booth delights my two year old who moves the blocks from one light to another, now its orange, now its grey, now its blue.

The materials that Jongerius uses are varied. The transulcent, jelly like blocks that capture morning light hang and glisten. Metal juxtaposes against fabric. I really like the whole combination.

The colour catchers that dominate the space almost appear a bit like standing stones. They are there to demonstrate how colour perception changes depending on the space an object is in, the shape it is and the light cast on it. The shadows, folds and hollows within these geometric pots made from paper visualise the ways that changes to reflected light alters the our perception of an objects colour.


Trade Show – FESPA 2017 Photomontage

Practice As Research – Coatings

IMG_8827From 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 presented the results on instagram. Click here for cotton, and linen and wool and silk.

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.

Do follow me on Instagram to see more work in progress images

Trade Show – FESPA 2017, 8th May 17, Hamburg, Germany


IMG_9474On 8th May I got up at the crack of dawn, headed to Heathrow and jetted out to Hamburg to attend FESPA, a print trade show for the wide format printing industry. FESPA has a special area dedicated to textile printing as well as printeriors, an interior showcase, so I was keen to see what the latest trends and developments were in the digital textile printing world.



The exhibitors were from a range of manufacturers and suppliers. All the big printer makers were there; Epson, Mimaki, Kornit, Roland, HP, Canon, Durst, JHF, Brother, Luscher-Tschudi, as well as ink and dye producers and suppliers of coated fabrics.

Inks and Dyes

The trends seemed to be for new colours in sublimation printing, particularly bright neons as well as ranges of  pigment inks. Suppliers from across the globe, including China, offered bright colour palettes and some really great pre-printed fabric samples to take away.



Dye-sublimation seemed to dominate as well as direct to garment printers but there were several inkjet printers as well. Kornit offered the Allegro which was able to coat the fabric through one of the print heads as well as print it.


Premier Textiles featuring Durabrite inks had a great stand which included a display of upholstered chairs in a patchwork of the fabrics that they offered. They had a large range of coated fabrics ready for Latex printing as well as dye sublimation and reactive dyes.

Software and RIPS

Caldera seemed to power every machine on display and they were there promoting their Textile RIP which seemed popular. I managed to pick up a copy of their press magazine ‘Gamut’ which had some excellent articles on colour management and how printers and designers need to co-operate to achieve great quality prints. I hadn’t heard of Caldera before, they’re a paper RIP primarily, but their website is a great resource and has an interesting blog, including lots on colour management.


Oki demonstrated a laser toner digital textile printer and a 3D printer which printed images that could be seen as 3D if you wore special glasses. They also had a printer which printed glow in the dark ink. All great novelties for the t-shirt market


It was noticeable that many of the bigger companies had been busy buying up smaller specialists companies. Epson featured Robustelli on their stand who developed the Monna Lisa which is a high end digital textile printer.

HP provided an entirely printed room filled with various substrates all digitally printed using various methods including Latex printing.


Dimense had a really beautiful 2.5D printer which they showcased as 3D but really is a textured print. Very interesting.


After a long day I trekked back to Hamburg airport, boarded a plane back to London, and was home in time to put my two year old to bed at 9pm. Zzzzz

Colour Theory – Johann Heinrich Lambert (1728-1777)

Johann Heinrich Lambert was a Swiss polymath presented the first three dimensional colour system in the form of a pyramid. He layered the darker tones at the centre flowing out to three primary hues, labelled as ‘cinnibar, King’s yellow and azurite’. The layers increase in brightness, eventually fading to white at the top. Lambert designed his system to aid textile dyers and printers select colours and as a representation to textile merchants of the colours that they might stock. His system is subtrative because the primary colours are red, yellow and blue and cover pigment mixing.

Cinnibar is scarlet red

King’s yellow is golden yellow

Azurite is a royal blue



Colour Theory – Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1717)

Isaac Newton Primary Colours mixture

Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments with daylight refracted to prisms identified seven, spectral  colours which Newton associated with notes in an octave. His experiments were developed from those conducted by Robert Boyle.  His publication Optiks documents his investigations and his thoughts on the nature of light. He visualised his seven colours as a circle, linking violet to red, of unequal proportions.

Newton identified that colour was a ‘perpetual property’ of light, not a ‘physical attribute’ and that it’s chromaticity, which is defined as a combination of hue and saturation, controls additive colour mixing. Both ColorSystem and HandPrint write in detail about Newton’s findings and how they influenced colour theory, colour measurement developments and our understanding of colour today.

Issacc Newton Colour optics from his book OpticksHues: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet

Colour Theory – Robert Boyle (1627-1691)

NPG 3930; Robert Boyle after Johann Kerseboom

Robert Boyle was an Irish alchemist who experimented with many metals (gold, lead, and mecury) as well as gases (Boyle’s Law states that as the pressure of a gas will increase as its volume decreases).

His work on colour, pre-dates Isaac Newton’s and he seems to be one of the first colour theorists to differentiate between additive colour (light) and subtractive colour (pigments). This is of interest to me because the issue I am investigating in Digital Textile Printing is conversion of an image in an additive colour space (the CAD file represented by light mixing on the computer screen) into a subtractive colour space (the printed image comprised of a matrix created from CMYK dyes / inks by the inkjet printer).

Robert Boyle light experiment.jpg

In his publication Experiments and Considerations Touching Colours published in 1664, Boyle sets out his findings on the phenomena of colour including the differences he finds between the colours of objects (reflected light) and spectral colour. Like many theorists he writes about the colours in nature and the changes of colour in shadows and bright light.

His prism experiment, detailed above, was developed upon by Newton. Boyle establishes five colours from the refracted light; purple, blue (blew), green, yellow and red. Boyle also identified that all hues together created white.

Colour Theory – Mary Gartside (pre 1765 – died after 1808)

Mary Gartside was a  water colourist and colour theorist whose essay on light and shade provides guidance for female artists on colour mixing and colour theory.

I particularly like the ‘diagrams’ she produced for showing all the colours that a particular hue can produce (shown above). Because she was using water colour paints the tonality and wash across the colours makes beautiful blobs of abstract colour with a dominating prevalence of green. They are so different from any of the other colour diagrams I’ve come across but there is a definite sense of order with the darker tones to the right, a concentration of the hue colour in the centre and lighter shades to the left. She classified her colours in terms of temperature (warm and cold) and value (light and dark).

As a botanical artist she also referenced colour changes in nature. She was working at a tie when new ranges of pigments were available to artists dues to changes in pigment production. She is the only colour theorist I have come across.

Gartside referenced the work of Moses Harris and Isaac Newton and ‘predated ideas which Goethe elaborated on in much greater detail, such as the effect of colour combinations, the significance of light and shade in relation to tints, and the eye of the beholder as the centre and origin of colour perception.’ (Alexandra Loske- Sussex University)

You can read her essay here and published research by Alexandra Loske here.

Primary Colours identified: Red, yellow, violet and blue

Colour Diagrams: Washes of colour hues and a Colour Ball

Mary Gartside yellow color composition from her book an essay on light and shadeMary Gartside white colour composition from her book an essay on light and shadeMary Gartside Violet colour composition from her book an essay on light and shadeMary Gartside Scarlet composition from her essay on light and shadeMary Gartside Orange Composition from her book An essay on light and shadeMary Gartside Green composition from her book An Essay on Light and ShadeMary Gartside Crimson composition from her book an Essay on Light and ShadeMary Gartside Blue compostiion from her book An Essay on Light and Shade




Exhibition – Patterns, Furniture, Paintings, Josef Frank, 28th January to 7th May, Fashion and Textiles Museum, London


Josef Frank was an Austrian designer who moved to Sweden in the 1930s to escape the rise of fascism and anti-semitic feeling. He began working for Svenskt Tenn who still produce his designs today.

This exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum provided an insight into his design process, exhibiting his painted designs alongside large hanging repeats.

A few of the designs had been upholstered on to furniture you could actually sit on! It was a really well displayed exhibition, in a space that often struggles with its curation.

His colours are bright and bold, with many of his designs featuring 6+ colours, which would have each needed a separate screen for printing. His motifs are frequently floral, but are contemporary, perhaps because of saturated hues he uses. Strong greens, yellows, blues and purples with block backgrounds. The geometric and abstract designs have an appearance of more modern designs from the 1970s and 80s despite being much older.

The show continued upstairs with examples of Frank’s paintings which had a similar style to his designs but really weren’t as interesting. This exhibition represented a very iconic and much replicated designer’s inspiring portfolio.



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