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The Filament: Kathryn Sanders

Textile Printing Fabric – How to Help Your Client Pick the Right One

It’s not as simple as choosing the “fabric that prints the best.”




I’M SURE YOU’VE heard this before: “I don’t care what fabric you use, just choose what prints best.” It seems like a simple and straightforward answer until you realize that everyone’s definition of “best” is different – especially when it comes to printing on textured surfaces.

When you’re working in a print shop day in and day out, I think it’s easy to forget what it was like the first time you saw something printed on textiles. I’m not talking about the awesome moment you realized the technology worked – that you hit the right hues and didn’t have any ghosting issues. I’m talking about that tactile moment when you first analyzed an image you’d previously only seen on a screen or printed on paper.

Once I realized the depth, richness, and complexity I could add to a project by designing artwork to complement fabric constructions, it was a game changer for my process. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I fell in love with digital textile printing technology.

In the Big Picture November/December 2021 edition, I wrote a piece about the importance of selecting the right fabric for your project ( In this column, I’m going to take things a step further.

When your client says they want the “fabric that prints the best,” I recommend doing a deep dive right then and there. Don’t wait until you’re further along and have already exhausted your resources. Help them define what print quality is “best” for their project. That can be done through thoughtful conversation and testing. I know my clients love nothing more than a good strike-off and they value options, too.

In a world where we’re stuck in analysis paralysis daily, I suggest giving your clients two to three fabric options and starting the strike-off process early. The job of the PSP is not only about color matching and achieving print clarity, we also have to provide textile grounds that elevate or complement the project.


It doesn’t seem to be much of an issue when working with seasoned apparel or interior designers, but when you’re working with artists or brands who have never experienced their work, products, or logos on textiles, you have to walk them through it. Sometimes it can take clients time to adjust to seeing their artwork on a new surface. If they’re struggling seeing their work in this new medium, I think it’s our responsibility to keep the conversation going and discuss the elements that make textile printing different from printing on paper.

Just last week I worked with a new client on a photography project for an upcoming installation. They sent us elaborate images with complex compositions that delicately balanced soft haziness, sharp edges, and negative space. Through conversation, we were able to determine the client’s primary print objective: achieve acute clarity and sharpness.

We moved into the strike-off process and selected tightly constructed warp-knit fabrics designed for long-term soft signage. After the first round of strike-offs, the client felt stuck. He had never seen his work printed on fabric and he didn’t even know how to give feedback. (That’s another thing to keep in mind when it comes to textile printing: Even the lingo is a bit different. Watch Episode 2 of the Interior Décor and Textiles webinar series to learn more about vocabulary at

Centering our focus to our primary goal of clarity, we sharpened the images a bit more and went into our second round of strike-offs. After further analysis, the “issue” became obvious to the client, and it wasn’t the image sharpness. See, these images were stunning, wintertime photos that investigated the texture of snow. But when you print snow, you’re just printing edges and shadows and the negative space (fabric texture and construction) effectively becomes the snow.

Ultimately, the question wasn’t “What fabric prints best?” but rather “What fabric looks best like snow?” It’s a simple recalibration in thinking, but even that subtle shift can make all the difference in meeting your clients’ goals. Better yet, it helps us grow the industry and get more people invigorated and inspired by the digital textile printing process – and all the fabrics that come with it!




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