How To/Keywords: Know your print no.3

Laura’s back with the third in a trio of guides that introduce you to the language of textile print.

In this article Laura focuses on dyes as well as techniques that remove or block out colour to make prints.

Discharge printing

Credit: Ashley Williams Autumn/Winter 18 collection. Photograph, Helle Moos.

Discharge printing is when a bleaching agent is printed onto previously dyed fabrics to remove some or all of the colour. Tie-dye printing is an example of this. Ashley Williams’ recent collection influenced by the 80’s and features tie-dye garments like the hoodie above.

Cyanotype printing

Credit: Textile sample, Sean Tye.

Sean’s design started life as a sun print. He’s embellished this image of a rose by stitching into the design. Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan blue print. The process was originally used by engineers well into the 20th century as an easy and low-cost technique to produce copies of drawings known as blueprints. A similar looking process can be used for textiles.

You can use the Japanese Shibori technique or a resist technique using objects and heat transfer paper and press as well as using the sun to expose the image onto the textiles/paper.

An alternative technique is the rayogram or rayograph. The surrealist artist Man Ray made his rayographs without a camera by placing items such as drawing pins, coils of wire, and other objects directly on a sheet of photosensitised paper and then exposing it to light. These prints can also be called sun prints.

Dyes: Overview

A range of different dyes are used for individual materials and digital printing processes. Acid and reactive (and sometimes pigment) dyes are printed onto pre-coated materials. Apart from materials treated with pigment dyes, all materials need to be steamed and washed before they are properly finished and heat set. All dyed materials need to be heat set in a heat press or baking cabinet.

Disperse dyes

Credit: A page from Sally’s portfolio, demonstrating illustrative work (left) and final prints using disperse dyes (far right).

Sally applied the dye by heat transfer. Disperse dyes can be used with various techniques and will colour synthetics such as polyester, nylon, cellulose acetate, vilene, viscose, synthetic velvets and PVC. They can also be used to colour plastic buttons and fastenings. You can achieve full colour when you heat transfer print with disperse dyes.

Acid Dyes

Credit: Textile sample, Sally Cheung.

Acid dyes are generally soluble in water and work well for printing on natural materials- for example animal hair fibres like wool, alpaca and mohair and also silk. They are not so effective for synthetic materials with the exception being synthetic fibre nylon.

Reactive dyes

Credit: Textile sample, Piero D’Angelo.

Reactive dyes have good fastness properties (this means that the colour doesn’t run when you wash it or when it comes in contact with water). This is due to the bonding that occurs during the dyeing process. Because of this, it’s the most commonly used dye for dyeing cotton.

Interested in Textile print?

BA (Hons) Textile Design (CSM)
BA (Hons) Textile Design (Chelsea)
BA (Hons) Fashion Textiles: Print (London College of Fashion)
BA (Hons) Fashion: Fashion Print (Central Saint Martins)

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