How To/Keywords: Know your print no.1

Our first ‘how to’ on the language of print! Laura takes it from the top, introducing you to some of the most commonly used but versatile print techniques.


The term ‘textile print’ covers the process of applying colour to fabric in patterns or designs. In accurately printed fabrics, the colour is bonded with the fibres in the material so that it doesn’t wash out when you clean it.

So what’s the difference between textile printing and dyeing a fabric? Well, dyeing when done correctly means that the whole fabric is consistently covered with one colour. However, with textile printing, one or more colours are applied to it in certain parts only and in sharply defined patterns.

Wooden blocks, stencils, engraved plates, rollers, or silkscreens can be used to place colours on fabric. Colourants used in printing contain dyes that are thickened to prevent the colour from spreading beyond the limits of the pattern or design.


Block printing

All the materials you need to get block printing. Can’t get your hands on a traditional wooden block? Then grab a potato and carve out a design. It will work just as well!

Block printing is a method for printing image, patterns and text. It’s popular in East Asia and originated in China centuries ago as a technique for printing on textiles and later on paper. Ukiyo-e is the most well known type of Japanese woodblock art print. In Europe, most of the processes for ‘printing images on paper’ are know as ‘woodcut’. Today other materials such as lino, foam, rubber, polystyrene and even potatoes can be used for very basic motifs.


Stencil printing

It’s even easier to get started with stencil printing- all you need is paper, paint and some design ideas to get to work.

The art of stencilling on textile fabrics has been practiced for centuries by the Japanese. In Europe it became popular in the late 19th century for certain types of decorative work on woven products.

A pattern is cut out from a sheet of stiff paper or thin metal with a sharp blade. The uncut portions represent the parts that will be left uncoloured. The sheet is then laid on the fabric and colour is brushed through the holes (apertures).



© Sally Cheung. Sally’s designs show that you you can take lots of different approaches from painterly to graphic edge when you screenprint.

Screen-printing is one of the most common printing techniques used today. Two types exist: rotary screen-printing and flatbed screen-printing. A blade or squeegee squeezes the printing paste through openings in the screen onto the fabric.

Screen print is variety of stencil printing, using a screen made from fabric [silk or synthetic] stretched tightly over a frame.

The canvas with the drawing to be printed can be prepared in different ways. For simple motifs or designs, a motif cut out from paper or film is applied and then fixed to the screen.


Inspired? Check out our ‘Know Your Print’ pinboard for more examples of different print techniques.

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