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The Filament: Kathryn Sanders

How Digital Printers Can Create Innovative Textiles

Today’s tech allows printers to create the hand-feel and look that clients desire.

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I’M A FIRM believer that imagination is the limitation of digital textile printing. Whether you’re a textile expert or industry newcomer, it doesn’t take long for the realization to set in that fabric is everywhere. We’re in constant interaction with it – from the clothes we wear to the furniture we sit and sleep on to the drapes framing our windows to the covers on our speakers. It’s a substrate we each truly have an intimate relationship with.

Why then is it the norm for most people to know so little about textiles? Over the last decade, there’s been an unwavering rise of consumer interest about what people put in or on their bodies. Still, the general interest in fabric specifications is low. That said, it’s not difficult to discover there are two major attributes that drive consumer insights on this topic. It boils down to hand-feel and look.

What does that mean to those of us in the digital textile printing industry? We have not one but two opportunities to innovate. I implore you to look beyond “either/or’’ projects and rather focus your R&D on both of these key attributes for their combined significance.

Let’s start with the canvas, so to speak (if you’ll forgive my pun), and get into the details of the grounds. It’s important to take textile construction, printability, and durability into consideration in the early stages of a project. Textile ground selection will influence each subsequent decision you make in executing a successful project. By doing so, you’re able to better tap into creative opportunities and make sharper aesthetic decisions with your client.

There’s a lot to factor in when engineering textile grounds for digital printing from the construction and finish to the look and hand-feel. With unending variable combinations ripe for experimentation, you’re positioned to create something brand new in any textile marketplace.

Feel is typically the first sense activated when coming into contact with textiles. After all, we’re more likely to wear an ugly shirt than an itchy one. A focus on texture is often the best place to start. Through partnership with your textile supplier, you can experiment with different fabric constructions, finishes, or fiber types to potentially apply them to unlikely products or unfamiliar places.

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If our modern surroundings tell us anything, it’s that fabric has a lot of applications and has been the solution to many problems. Take the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic for example. It was antimicrobial non-woven fabric that made the difference in decreasing the rate of viral transmission.

So, how do we bring digital printing into this equation? I often find it’s in the opportunity to visually communicate beyond sales touchstones like logos, taglines, and brand specific hex codes. That’s where look comes in. In this graphic-heavy business, the final look of your project is likely your top priority. In addition to your ability to hit Coca-Cola red or print sans banding or ghosting issues, you’re in an under-tapped creative textile design revolution that’s building momentum each day.

The new design toolkit that digital textile printing affords pushes us forward with a virtually unlimited color gamut, the ability to print photographs, and manipulate scale. With these groundbreaking, under-accessed tools at your fingertips, you have the opportunity to innovate the fabric’s look indefinitely.

By bringing your attention to the combination of these cardinal variables, you’ll increase your likelihood for product elevation and product innovation.

Kathryn Sanders is the founder & CEO of Western Sensibility, a digital textile printing studio on a mission to redefine interior spaces. She’s passionate about growing the digital printing community and launched Digital Bias Consulting to help newcomers get started. Connect with her at kathryn@digitalbiasconsulting.com

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Interior Décor and Textile Printing: What Equipment Do You Need?

The First Installment of the new Interior Décor and Textiles Webinar Series, Bridging the Gap Between Commercial Peel-and-Stick Wall Graphics & Professional Home Décor, focuses on the technology used for these applications. Our expert panel of speakers cover topics such as what equipment to purchase, what to look for when purchasing, and the various applications you can offer with the equipment you currently have. Watch the first episode, sponsored by TVF, above.

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