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Custom Printed Fabric: You Design and They Print

If you've ever wondered about printed fabric, it all starts with a tightly woven flat base fabric made from any of a variety of yarns, including cotton, cotton blends, polyester, linen, silk, and other synthetics. The base fabric may or may not have woven designs. The printed design is applied to the fabric with pigment ink.

Printed fabric can be used in many applications: for clothing, upholstery, banners, umbrellas, tablecloths, ties, baby slings, handbags, and even surfboards. Some fabrics work better than others for certain applications.

Making printed fabric for upholstery or dressmaking is a traditional process. By applying modern technology to this age-old craft, printed fabric has risen to new heights of creativity. Digital printing, for example, has great promise as a custom printed fabric design technique because it is appropriate for small print jobs.

Direct printing is a type of digital printing in which pigment is applied directly to the fabric from a widebed printer. Digital fabric printing machines are available for printing on any type of fabric with most any type of dye. The advantage to digital printing is that there are no screen charges or minimums. For large runs, traditional printing is more cost effective but for short runs and one off patterns, digital printing is the answer for the up and coming designers and is a do-it-yourselfer's dream. Digital printing also eliminates much of the waste from the dying and production processes. As a result, digital printing is a more eco-friendly kind of printing.

Interior designers and clothing designers contract with fabric printing companies to print their professionally created designer fabrics. Professional designers usually create the fabric designs using computer-assisted device (CAD). These are often large orders that are used to make mass produced consumer items.

A recent increase in interest in crafts and do-it-yourself projects has led to a new industry of fabric printing for individual consumers. Designers don't need any experience to create their own unique designer fabric. Here's how custom fabric design works:

1. Find a vendor who does printing on fabric for small-scale projects.

2. If you are using your own design, provide the vendor with a scan or digital file of your image. You don't' need a design created by CAD to print your own fabric.

3. Choose the base fabric you want. Most online vendors will send swatches for free or for a small charge.

4. Decide how much fabric you need (one yard is usually the minimum) and find out from the vendor how much it will cost.

5. When the printing is complete, your custom fabric is ready for your project. That's all there is to it!

Several new custom printing websites have competitions in which customers submit their designs for judging by fellow customers. The companies may decide to use a winning design as a stock design, which is quite a tribute to the designer.

Custom printing opens new avenues of creativity. Online print companies make it easy to design personalized fabric and have it manufactured at reasonable cost.

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