Matching Colours for Digital Fabric Printing
We recently took on a digital fabric printing order for a “top end” customer who produces digitally printed wallpaper alongside digitally printed fabrics.
Initially, we were sent three samples of printed linen and asked which one would best suit our digital textile printing process.
On inspection, all three fabrics were suitable as a pigment print had been requested, and even though the linen was quite heavy in weight, we have the ability to adjust the distance between our print head and the substrate, allowing us to print many different and diverse fabrics.
The initial print test, which was printed from a digital file supplied from the customer was significantly different from the print sample supplied, so we knew that an element of colour tweaking would be necessary.
On this occasion individual colour separations had not been supplied, so we were forced to work from an RGB image, which is fine, but doesn’t offer the same flexibility when changing individual colours.
When working with a file with individual separations a Pantone reference or individual colour reference can be input into into the required separation, so colouration is quite a bit easier.
When working with an RGB file, it is more difficult to alter an individual colour, so we tend to adjust the whole design by increasing or decreasing colour saturation, injecting or reducing one particular colour or altering the tonal graph of the entire file. To be honest, there are many ways to adjust the file, but any adjustment will affect the whole file, so it’s more difficult to make a fine adjustment to one particular colour.
Having said that, we can adjust one particular colour by making a selection from within the design and keeping the tolerance of the selection quite low, sometimes a few selections are necessary to capture the area of the design that we may wish to change.
After the selection is made we can then adjust this one area as required. This method can be quite time consuming, but ultimately we can achieve good results.
Anyway, after around 10 adjustments and some fine tweaking, we managed to produce a digitally printed fabric sample which is a good match to the original printed fabric sample supplied by the customer.
Some further fine tweaking may be required before producing the bulk fabric order as each person may see colour slightly differently, but we are really pleased with the results.
Some designs are considerably easier as there may be no colour matching required. For example, when we produce digitally printed tea towels, fabric tote bags, cushions, oven gloves, aprons etc, we are normally requested to print from an image and our standard digital profile does give a good representation to what we see on the colour monitor.
Other designs for this type of product may only involve a few colours and are often colour separated so on these occasions we simply input a Pantone reference into each particular separation.
Unlike with Reactive printing, when we print using pigment inks we can see the exact colour on the fabric straight away, or as soon as the ink is dry, which may be a few minutes.
With digital reactive printing the sample has to be steamed, washed and dried before the chosen colour can be viewed accurately, therefore colour matching is a slower process and possibly not as accurate.
Digital pigment inks simply need curing for a short time to fix the colour to the fabric and no colour change is visible after this process.
We really believe that pigment digital printing is the way forward, so much easier to match colour than when digitally printing with reactive colours and it’s a dry process so quicker, cleaner and better for the environment.
We were recently told by one of the leading suppliers of digital fabric printing equipment, that approximately five years ago, if they sold forty digital textile printers, for example, only five or so would be running pigments, and the rest would be running reactive dyes – whereas in 2018 this has changed significantly, to the point that as many as thirty out of forty would usually be running pigments.
This is very telling regarding the shift towards pigment inks for digital fabric printing. We have outlined the reasons for this swing towards pigment printing in an earlier post, but the improvement in the reliability of digital printing machines and the improvements in pigment inks is a major factor.
If you have any further questions about pigment printing, or digital textile printing in general, please don’t hesitate to contact us via email or telephone on 01625 876 618.