Apparel Printing: Types & Advancements in Garment Decoration

Md Mahedi Hasan

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Explore the vibrant world of apparel printing! Discover various techniques like digital, flock, and flex printing, and dive into advanced methods such as foil, puff, and metallic printing. Learn about the differences between apparel and textile printing, and find out which is better for your garments.

Apparel Printing

Uncover the secrets of transfer and heat transfer printing and get insights into the latest trends in the ever-evolving world of garment decoration. Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast or in the garment industry, this blog has everything you need to know about creating customized, visually stunning clothing items. Start your journey into the art and science of apparel printing today!

What is Apparel Printing?

Apparel printing is the process of applying designs, patterns, or graphics onto various types of clothing and textiles. This can include T-shirts, hoodies, hats, pants, and other garments. The goal of apparel printing is to create customized and visually appealing clothing items.

Apparel Printing vs Textile Printing

AspectApparel PrintingTextile Printing
DefinitionApplication of designs onto finished clothing itemsIncludes various fabrics for different purposes beyond just finished garments
FocusCustomization and decoration of ready-made garmentsEncompasses a broader range, including household textiles, industrial fabrics, etc.
Stage of ProductionAfter garments are constructedCan occur at various stages, including before fabric is cut and sewn into garments
ScopeSpecialized in decorating and customizing clothing itemsSimilar techniques but applied to rolls or pieces of fabric before garment construction.
Application TechniquesScreen printing, digital printing, embroidery, etc., directly on the garmentSimilar techniques but applied to rolls or pieces of fabric before garment construction
Difference between apparel printing and textile printing

Types of apparel printing:

Apparel Printing: Types & Advancements in Garment Decoration
Types of apparel printing
  1. Block Printing: Block printing involves using carved wooden blocks to apply ink or dye to fabric. The block is pressed onto the fabric to create a repeated pattern.
  2. Roller Printing: Roller printing utilizes engraved rollers to apply colour or patterns onto fabric. As the fabric passes through the rollers, the design is transferred.
  3. Screen Printing: In screen printing, a stencil or screen is used to apply ink onto the fabric. Each colour in the design requires a separate screen, and the ink is pressed through the screen onto the fabric.
  4. Transfer Printing: Description: Transfer printing involves printing a design onto a special paper or film and then transferring it to the fabric using heat and pressure. This method is versatile and suitable for detailed designs.
  5. Stencil Printing: Stencil printing involves creating a stencil, which is a template with openings for the desired design. Ink or dye is then applied over the stencil onto the fabric to create the pattern.
  6. Digital Printing: Digital printing uses specialized inkjet printers to apply ink directly onto the fabric. It is suitable for complex and detailed designs, and each item can have a unique print.
  7. Batik: Batik is a traditional method where hot wax is applied to fabric in specific areas to resist dye. The fabric is then dyed, and the wax is removed, revealing a pattern.
  8. Tie and Dye: Tie and dye, also known as shibori, involves tying or binding sections of fabric before applying dye. The tied areas resist the dye, creating unique and often unpredictable patterns.

Classification of apparel printing machines

Apparel Printing
Different types of apparel printing machines
  1. Block Printing Machine:
    • Key Features: Enables precise and repeated application of carved wooden blocks onto fabric for traditional block printing. Facilitates controlled and efficient printing.
  2. Engraved Roller Printing Machine:
    • Key Features: Utilizes specially engraved rollers to transfer detailed patterns or colors onto fabric. Known for its ability to produce intricate and continuous designs efficiently.
  3. Screen Printing Machine – Flat Rotary:
    • Key Features: Flat rotary design allows for efficient and high-volume screen printing on both flat and cylindrical surfaces. Suitable for various printing applications.
  4. Transfer Printing Machine:
    • Key Features: Facilitates transfer printing by accurately transferring designs from paper or film to fabric using heat and pressure. Ideal for detailed and multicoloured designs.
  5. Inkjet Printing Machine:
    • Key Features: Equipped with inkjet technology for direct application of ink onto fabric. Enables digital printing with versatility, making it suitable for intricate and customizable designs. Allows for individualized printing on each item.

Difference between dyeing and Printing

Dyeing in batch-wise continuous/discontinuousNo difference in color between the face and back of fabric
Dyeing in batch-wise continuous/discontinuousDifference of color between face and back of fabric
Aqueous dyeing medium of low viscosity is maintained High viscous medium of print paste is maintained
Printing is done in continuous open fabric surface rather than garment form.Printing is done in continuous open fabric surface rather than garment form
Dyeing Vs. Printing

Print paste forming chemicals:

  1. Colorants.
  2. Thickeners.
  3. Sequestering agent.
  4. Dispersing / suspension agent.
  5. Water retaining agent.
  6. Defamers.
  7. Catalyst.
  8. Modifiers etc.

Transfer printing machine

Transfer printing is the term used to describe textile-related printing processes in which the design is first printed on to a flexible nontextile substrate and later transferred by a separate process to a textile.

Apparel Printing machine
Figure: Transfer printing machine

Basic steps:

  • Paper selection
  • Dye/ink selection
  • Paper printing with selected dye
  • Fabric preparation
  • printing fabric from paper to fabric

The main parts of the printing machine:

  1. Transfer paper
  2. Dyes/inks
  3. Fabric
  4. Heating element (drum/flatbed)
  5. Blanket
  6. Guide r/r

Digital printing machine:

The machine that produces digital images or physical surfaces is called a digital printer, and this process is known as digital printing. The physical surfaces can be in any form like a common paper, cloth, plastic, photographic paper, film, etc. Digital printers directly transfer print onto the fabric by ink. This is the latest development in textile orienting and is expanding very fast. 

Apparel Printing
Figure: Digital printing machine

More recently, high-definition ink-jet printers, used in conjunction with computer-aided design (CAD) software, have become established for preparing pre-production sample prints on textiles. However, a number of wide-format, ink-jet printing m/c together with suitable inks are now being marketed, and these can yield prints of acceptable quality and fastness properties on most textile materials. 

The main parts of digital printing machine are as follows:

  1. Print head
  2. Inkjet printer
  3. Ink
  4. Software
  5. Media
  6. Control Panel
  7. Auto feeding
  8. Alloy gear
  9. Lead shine motor
  10. Drying system

General diagram of digital printer:

  • Adhesion roller
  • Head nozzles
  • Belt cleaning device

Advantages of digital printing:

i)  Very quick customer response for both strikes off and bulk prints.

ii) Wastage on re-production sampling is minimized.

iii) No capital tied up in the screens, with major savings on storage space.

iv) No. Of colour and sizes of patterns are virtually unlimited.

v) Instant pattern fitting at start-up, minimizing fabric and paste wastage. 

vi) Minimal downtime

vii) Only the ink required for design is laid down

viii) The amount of ink pupped to the substrate is far less than that used in a screen printing process

Advantages of transfer printing:

1. Designs may be printed and stored on a relatively cheap and non-bulky substrate like paper

2. Production of short-run repeat orders is much easier

3. Design car can be applied to textiles with relatively low skill and low reject rates

4. Stock volume and storage costs are lower

5. Certain designs and effects can be produced only by use of transfer paper.

6. Enables inexpensive textile equipment with modest space requirements.

* Printing cotton with direct dye (Direct style)

Which is better? Transfer Printing or Digital Printing

Here’s a comparative analysis table between transfer printing and digital printing, considering their suitability for the garments industry:

AspectTransfer PrintingDigital Printing
ProcessInvolves printing a design onto transfer paper and then transferring it onto fabric using heat and pressure.It offers customization but may have limitations in color gradients and intricate details.
Detail and ColorSuitable for detailed and multicolored designs.Excellent for intricate designs and full-color prints with high detail.
CustomizationStraightforward process, reducing setup time and increasing efficiency.Highly customizable, allowing for individualized prints with detailed designs and color variations.
Setup TimeIt can be cost-effective for both small and large quantities, depending on the chosen digital printing technology.Requires a transfer step, adding step to the process.
Production SpeedGenerally suitable for small to medium production runs.Efficient for both small and large production runs, making it versatile.
Fabric CompatibilitySuitable for a variety of fabrics, but performance may vary.Compatible with a wide range of fabrics, including natural and synthetic fibers.
DurabilityThe durability of the print depends on the transfer method and fabric compatibility.Offers good durability, especially with advancements in ink formulations.
CostCost-effective for small to medium quantities.It can be more environmentally friendly, especially with the advent of eco-friendly inks and processes.
Environmental ImpactMay involve the use of transfer papers and additional consumables.It may involve the use of transfer papers and additional consumables.
VersatilityVersatile for a range of designs but may have limitations in certain applications.Highly versatile, accommodating various design complexities and fabric types.
Ease of HandlingRequires careful handling during the transfer process to ensure proper adhesion.Generally easy to handle, with minimal manual intervention, reducing the risk of errors.
Difference between Transfer Printing and Digital Printing

  1. Transfer Printing: Well-suited for smaller quantities, detailed designs, and customization, but may involve an additional step in the process.
  2. Digital Printing: Versatile, efficient for both small and large runs, highly customizable, and often considered more environmentally friendly.

Ultimately, the choice between transfer printing and digital printing in the garments industry depends on specific production requirements, design complexity, and the desired level of customization. Advances in digital printing technologies have made it increasingly popular for its efficiency and versatility in meeting diverse industry needs.


Direct dye= 5 – 20 g
Tarnish red oil = 50 – 60 g
Glycerin 50g
Trisodium  phosphate  = 10 – 20 g
Starch tragacanth = 500 g
Water = 300 g
Washing fastness improvement
Cationic dye = 1 – 3 g/l
Temp. = 700 C
Time = 15 min
Dye Recipe

* Printing cotton with reactive dye (direct styles)


  • Reactive dye = 50 gm
  • Urea = 100 gm
  • Boiling water = 100 gm
  • Resist salt L = 10 gm
  • Sodium alginate= 400 gm
  • Soda ash = 60 gm
  • Water = 180 gm

Finally cloth may be dried and steamed on the basis of reactive dye classes.

Advanced garment printing:

Apparel Printing
  1. Digital Printing: Utilizes digital technology for direct application of ink onto fabric, enabling high-detail, full-color prints. Ideal for intricate designs, customization, and smaller to medium quantities.
  2. Flock Printing: Involves applying short fibers (flock) with adhesive to create a velvety, textured finish. Adds a tactile dimension to designs, enhancing visual appeal.
  3. Flex Printing: Utilizes a flexible vinyl-like material cut and heat-pressed onto fabric. Results in smooth, durable, and vibrant prints. Suitable for intricate and multicolored designs.
  4. High-Density Printing: This applies a thick layer of ink for a raised or textured effect, adding dimension and tactile quality. Ideal for standout logos or text, providing a unique look.
  5. Foil Printing: Applies metallic foil using heat and pressure for a shiny, reflective finish. Adds a touch of luxury and sophistication to designs.
  6. Puff Printing: Uses ink that expands when heated, creating a raised, puffy effect. Adds a 3D texture to the print, making designs eye-catching.
  7. Caviar Printing: Involves applying tiny, bead-like particles to create a textured, caviar-like surface. Adds a unique and visually exciting element to the design.
  8. Glitter Printing: Incorporates glitter particles into the ink for a sparkling effect. Ideal for creating glamorous and attention-grabbing designs with a festive touch.
  9. Metallic Printing: Uses metallic inks to achieve a shiny finish, creating a reflective and stylish appearance. Commonly used for fashion-forward designs.
  10. Burnout Printing: Chemically removes one fiber from a blended fabric. Use H2SO4, resulting in a semi-transparent pattern. Creates a unique, distressed look with a sheer effect.
  11. Reflective Printing: Utilizes reflective materials or inks to enhance visibility in low-light conditions. Ideal for safety and activewear, providing functionality and style.
  12. Plastisol Printing: Uses PVC-based ink for durable and opaque prints. Suitable for vibrant and long-lasting designs on various fabrics.
  13. Rubber Printing: This involves using a rubber-based ink that creates a thick, flexible, and durable print. Adds a rubbery texture, suitable for sportswear and casual apparel.
  14. Crock Printing:
    • Features: Assesses resistance to rubbing or abrasion, ensuring the durability of the print under friction for long-lasting quality.
  15. Spray Printing: This involves spraying or misting ink onto fabric for a unique, artistic effect. Offers creative applications and gradients.
  16. Transfer Printing: A design is printed onto transfer paper and transferred to fabric using heat and pressure. Versatile and suitable for intricate and detailed prints.
  17. Heat Transfer Printing: Uses heat to transfer a design from carrier paper to fabric. Offers flexibility for reproducing complex and vibrant designs on various materials.
  18. Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing: Utilizes heat transfer vinyl, which is cut and applied to fabric using heat. Ideal for creating durable and customizable designs, especially for lettering and simple graphics.
  19. Floral Printing: Incorporates floral patterns into garment designs. Provides a fresh and fashionable aesthetic, suitable for various apparel styles.



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