Textile printers are quickly becoming mainstream as they become more efficient and affordable. Today’s fashion designers have more options and opportunities than ever before, and textile printers make up one of the largest of those opportunities. As a relatively new technology, textile printers are quickly revolutionizing the industry, changing how and when designers create fabric prints and designs.

Textile printing is the process of using printers to apply digital imagery to fabrics, typically in small batch and directly from a digital file. The process is fast, more efficient than traditional dye methods, and scalable to nearly any level. These creative ways to use textile printing in fashion will get you started.

Mixed-Media Prints

Textile printing allows you to print on fabric in much the same way you would on paper using a standard inkjet. This means you can print any image onto fabric, including photographs, designs, patterns, and more. Mixed-media prints ranging from real-life photos to complex digital designs are all possible, with endless variations and options.

It also allows designers to take unique approaches with 3D designs and patterns, taking advantage of the full range of digital. Digital printing supports the full range of textures and brush strokes utilized by ink and traditional dye artists, but with much more precision and purpose. This leads to new opportunities to use dye textures and bleed as deliberate elements of pattern and design, to create more unique textiles for garments.

Truly Unique Prints

Digital textile printing reduces time-to-print for unique fabric designs from 8 weeks to just one. This makes it easy to create short custom print runs, where you reissue the same design in truly unique patterns only available for a limited time, or to limited customers. Digital textile printing means that the only fabric costs are associated with pattern design and actual fabric, rather than ordering a large print run for new fabric, because how much of any design you print is up to you.

Combined with factors including easier (digital) design, reduced water and electricity usage, and reduced ink waste, and digital printing is significantly cheaper than traditional printing. This can allow you to drop the cost of unique prints and even single runs without reducing quality.

Prototyping Designs

Textile printing gives designers the opportunity to quickly brainstorm and create nearly endless fabric sample variations, all at a minimum of cost and time investment. Designers with textile printers at their disposal can simply design and print their own fabrics for prototypes and projects, quickly showcasing the end look and feel of a concept with minimal investment.

This process also reduces the investment for fashion shows and catalog collections, because designers can print small runs, utilize fabric as needed, and then print more to fulfill actual demand. With fewer resources needed upfront, no long-term need to store fabrics, and no need to invest in fabrics for a potential future collection, designers can more quickly and easily share new ideas, scrap items that don’t work, and move designs forward much more rapidly.

Small-Scale Fashion Runs

Old rotary printing means printing thousands of yards of fabric in a single run. Digital printing reduces this significantly, with no real minimum print quantity to maintain cost-effectiveness. While you do need different inks for different types of fabrics, this is largely the only limitation and costs do not otherwise go up based on print-size except for base blank fabric costs.

Digital textile printing pioneers like Epson claim that their technology has allowed clients to reduce the size of fashion runs from thousands of items to as few as 500. This move towards true scalability means individual fashion designers have more opportunity and resources than ever before to create and sell their own designs. With a reduced total cost of investment, costs that are comparable per item to purchasing large print runs, and more freedom for design, digital printers give small-scale designers opportunities.

This also applies to students and new designers, who can start fashion lines with fewer resources, less seed funding, and less risk. As a result, fashion houses can invest in a significantly more diverse portfolio from even small and lesser-known artists, without risking huge losses.

Reducing Environmental Footprint

Reducing footprint is important for any brand in today’s eco-conscious world. Digital textile printing is environmentally friendly, with estimates by brands like Epson suggesting their textile printers use up to 90% less water and 30% less electric than traditional fabric printing.

While not precisely an element of creative design, utilizing fewer resources pays off for creative initiatives, especially those designing for a cause, with a budget, or who want to use sustainability as part of marketing.

Digital textile printing is a relatively new industry but one that is booming. Led by tech giants ranging from Epson to Canon, the industry is rapidly innovating, changing, and introducing new ideas and technologies. Introducing digital printing to your fashion design brings those opportunities to you, with short, affordable print runs capable of printing nearly anything on any surface.