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What is Digital Printing on Fabric?

Updated: Mar 4

Digital printing on fabric is a great advancement in the textile printing industry that emerged as a response to the limitations of traditional printing methods. However, this innovation is not just a fleeting trend. Instead, it has become a cornerstone technology due to its efficiency and versatility. But what is digital printing on fabric?

As we discuss digital printing on fabric, we will examine its history and explain how it works. As we delve deeper, we will capture its benefits and highlight its purpose as well as achievements.

What Is Digital Printing on Fabric?

While traditional printing methods have benefits, digital textile fabric printing brings more to the table. To explain textile printing in fewer words, we can say that digital printing on fabric is using an inkjet-based printing machine to print digital designs onto fabric. Those interested in this printing method should know that inkjet printers may be used for large-format printing.

We can transfer any design, pattern, and image onto a desired piece of fabric with these machines. Simply put, digital files and images are sent from a computer to the inkjet printer, which uses digital printing to transfer them onto the fabric.

This process has one of the highest levels of printing accuracy and gives clients plenty of freedom and versatility. With this form of digital printing, clients may choose between printing on specific placements and printing all over the fabric.

What Is Digital Printing on Fabric
Source: / Photo Contributor: Matveev Aleksandr

What is digital printing on T-shirts?

As we explained, digital printing allows us to transfer any image or design onto any fabric, including T-shirts. This advanced technology allows us to create a custom-printed T-shirt within minutes. This highly precise method results in brilliant colors and a unique design.

Also, the process of creating custom-made T-shirts with an inkjet printer is a breeze. We at CityPress follow this procedure:

  • First, the T-shirt is prime dyed to be suitable for ink application.

  • Then, it is heat-pressed to flatten the fabric and create a smoother printing surface.

  • Next, the T-shirt is loaded, and the desired design is sent to the printer.

  • After the design is transferred onto the T-shirt, it is run through a high-temperature dryer for the ink to set in permanently.

The history of digital printing on fabric

Digital printing on fabric, also known as digital textile printing, emerged as a response to the limitations of traditional printing methods. It first appeared during the 80’s and revolutionized the way the textile and design world works.

Screen printing and rotary printing are two of the most notable printing methods that dominated the printing industry before the invention of digital printing. Compared to its predecessors, this textile printing process proved to be more efficient and significantly faster.

Screen printing is still used today. This process involves transferring ink through a screen onto a garment. Unlike digital printing, it has limitations such as a maximum printing area. Rotary printing is a more sophisticated method preferred by clients who order high-volume fabric. Still, compared to digital printing, rotary printing lacks in quality.

How Does Digital Textile Printing Work?

While understanding what digital printing entails is necessary, you need to know how to digital print on fabric to gain a better understanding. There are two textile printing methods: subliminal and direct digital printing.

Essentially, the technology behind these two methods is the same. They differ in two aspects: how the fabric is prepared for printing and how the ink is applied to the textile.

Subliminal digital printing

The subliminal printing method uses heat transfer, first transferring the print onto a piece of paper. Then, by utilizing heat and pressure, the ink is put onto the desired fabric. During this process, the ink is transformed from liquid to gas and transferred onto the textile.

We must note that this method is practiced on polyester fabrics only. Once the fabric is cooled, the transferred ink is locked within the textile and cannot be removed.

Direct digital printing

The direct printing method is more straightforward than the subliminal. In direct digital printing, a chemical coating is applied to the fabric to help the bonding between the ink and the fibers. The dye is then directly applied to the textile.

Once this process is finished, the fabric is steamed, washed, dried, and ironed. This is done to ensure that no excess ink remains on the fabric and is a regular quality control step.

Direct digital printing
Source: / Photo Contributor: Itsanan

What Sets Digital Printing Apart?

Each printing method has distinct advantages. Identifying the benefits is essential in determining whether a printing process meets specific needs. So, here are some of the most notable benefits that digital textile printing offers:

  • High printing accuracy that offers a professional look.

  • Colors are deeply embedded into the fabric and won’t fade out quickly.

  • No minimum order quantity. This gives designers and companies the freedom to experiment and print on demand.

  • It can be used for creating banners, merch advertising, and home or office decor.

  • Design changes can be made seamlessly.

  • Making a prototype is easy and cost-friendly.

  • Short production time with minimal preparation.

  • Less operational space compared to other types of printings.

  • Precise ink use and reduced water consumption increase sustainability.

The Future of Digital Printing on Fabric

The invention of digital printing allowed the print-on-demand framework to finally be introduced into the printing business. The introduction of software into printing and the increasing use of technology creates space for more cost-effective printing. We can say that the future and innovation we’ve long dreamed of are happening today.

While most companies were focused on paper printing material in the past, the options digital printing offers us today are more versatile. The fabric that digital printing allows us to decorate may vary from natural fibers to synthetic ones. To give you a better idea of what you may use for textile printing, we included a list of printing materials:

  • Clothing

  • Company uniforms

  • T-shirts

  • Sports jerseys

  • Flags

  • Banners

  • Upholstery

  • Chair covers

  • Car covers

  • Curtains

  • Table cloths

  • Tents


What is digital printing on fabric? To sum up, we may say that textile digital printing is an innovative approach offering possibilities to businesses, designers, and consumers. Simply put, digital printing offers high accuracy, cost-friendly prototypes, and excellent durability, as well as makes a time-efficient on-demand solution.

This printing method is also a sustainable technique that adds value and significance in this modern age. Its flexibility and versatility also underscore its position and make it a choice for many.

Steve Bates

Steve is the president of CityPress and brings a wealth of knowledge from the printing industry to readers, helping them make more informed decisions in an ever changing printing space.


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