Behind The Scenes – How Fabrics Are Printed
HAND BLOCK PRINTING
Galbraith & Paul’s very artsy looking printing studio in Philadelphia.
The paint is hand rolled over the relief pattern blocks.
Galbraith & Paul uses these clear acrylic plate version of a block at their Philadelphia studio.
HAND BLOCK PRINTING
Have you ever wondered at the price of fabrics? Or marveled at the beauty of a print? In this blog post I share with you a simple explanation of how plain fabrics are printed. I’m writing this post for everyone in general and in particular for clients embarking on a design project with me. As we consider design aesthetic and budget factors this will help you to understand and prioritize where we spend your design dollars.
The oldest method for printing fabrics is Block Printing which is still in use today. If your children have played with stamping you’re familiar with the concept of Block Printing. The photo featured at the top of this post is from Galbraith & Paul, a Philadelphia text tile producer who specializes in the millennia old art. Traditionally a pattern is carved out in relief on a block of wood and ink is applied to the raised area and then stamped onto the fabric.
Today small boutique fabric houses are still using this age old method. While the process is time consuming and therefore results in more expensive fabrics, the result is a beautiful crisp and clear design that has visual dimension.
This is the same print shown at the top of the post. Seville Medallion in Pewter by Galbraith & Paul.
And here it is made into curtains. To the right it’s applied to a sofa.
HAND SILKSCREEN PRINTING
Printing fabrics with a framed silk screen mesh made it possible to create larger and more complex patterns with more colors. One color aspect of the design is printed with an individual screen and the process is repeated for each color. Screens can become very large and are the width of the fabric. The images in this section tell the story quite well.
Fun quick video of a botanical print fabric being hand screen printed in Australia.
Enjoy this short video of the printing of an Hermes scarf. While this one is hand printed in order to take this demonstration to the public, in their factory they utilize a high precision mechanized flat bed screen. The scarfs are finished by hand painted touch ups.
HAND SILKSCREEN PRINTING
The photo above illustrates the concept. A screen is made with a silk like textile and a portion of it is covered to prevent paint from passing through. When the artist rolls the paint over the screen an image in the reverse pattern is printed onto the cloth below.
Hermes screen printed 36″ X 36″ L’Arbre du Vent silk twill scarf.
AUTOMATED FLAT BED SCREEN PRINTING
To the far left is a still photo and then a fun little 2 minute video of automated flatbed screen printing at the Marimekko factory in Helsinki, Finland. Obviously with automation you can produce more fabric in a shorter period of time although the equipment investment is costly.
Each successive cylinder is able to hold a different screen for each part of the overall pattern because the fabric moves under the rollers instead of the screen needing to be picked up and moved down the table of stationary fabric. Color is piped to the cylinder from paint containers placed next to them. Rotary prints are far less expensive than flat bed screen prints. Of course other factors such as the cost of the cloth contribute to the pricing as well.
ROTARY SCREEN PRINTING
The screens are wrapped around a cylinder and rotate the ink onto a fabric that moves below the rotary system. This method achieves high speed production and can make some nice fabrics although the print quality is less and the pattern repeat is limited by the size of the cylinders. They can typically hold screens up to 24″. For very large repeats the design will need to be executed on a flat bed screen. Many large floral patterns exceed this size and are therefore flat screen printed.
I’m ending this post with two beautiful images of beautiful large floral patterns that have been hand silk screened. The stunning Serendip in Nuit by Paris fabric house, Manuel Canovas.
This pattern has a whopping 55.75″ repeat due to the detail and variety within the design.
And above, the delightful Mathilde in Coral, also from Manuel Canovas. This pattern has a 37″ repeat.