Printing Companies
  1. About Printing Industry
  2. Printing Services
  3. Print Buyers
  4. Printing Resources
  5. Classified Ads
  6. Printing Glossary
  7. Printing Newsletters
  8. Contact Print Industry
Who We Are

Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

Need a Printing Quote from multiple printers? click here.

Are you a Printing Company interested in joining our service? click here.

The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

We have kept the PIE system simple -- we get a monthly fee from the commercial printers who belong to our service. Once the bid request is submitted, all interactions are between the print buyers and the printers.

We are here to help, you can contact us by email at

Digital Custom Printing: The New World of Direct to Fabric Printing

For the last seven years I’ve had a client who prints small color swatch books for fashion use. Think of them as miniature PMS swatch books but for garment and make-up choices based on one’s complexion. (She also makes “chin cards” that can be held up to one’s face to confirm these color choices without actually putting on make-up or clothing.)

My client has a proprietary set of colors she includes for this print work.

Over the last few years, however, she has been preparing to print the very same colors on garments: scarves and dresses to start, but on other garments as well. Personally, I think this is a fabulous idea, because on an almost nightly basis, in the Google Aggregator feed I receive on digital and offset commercial printing, there’ a blast (like water from a fire hose) of articles about digital printing on fabric. This printing arena is hot. Smoking hot. Crazy hot. So I’m pleased to be a part of my client’s journey.

The Two Imaging Technologies

In my research (which I have already shared in this blog a few times), I have learned the following general rules.

If you print on fabrics like cotton, nylon, and silk, you need to use an inkjet press. You can print directly on the garment if the image is localized. You use a stabilizing bed to keep the t-shirt (for instance) in place. Or, you can print a pattern on a bolt of fabric using a large-format inkjet printer. Then you can cut the pattern out and create the garment.

Inkjet-printed images can fade with repeated washing.

There are a number of kinds of inks and dyes you may want to research, which pertain to different fabrics and different fabric colors.

The fabric can be chemically pre-treated and then steamed after printing to improve both the ink receptivity of the fabric and the durability of the image.

This is an exceptionally brief and generalized review of inkjet commercial printing for fabrics. In my client’s case, it will not be relevant for the scarves (because they will be polyester), but it may be relevant for the dresses (if they will be cotton).

The other option is dye sublimation. This is used for polyester-based synthetic fabrics. I personally think it is a wonderful option because of the brilliance of the coloration and the durability of the custom printing work.

In dye sublimation, the image is first printed on a transfer sheet (kind of like printing an inkjet product but using special dyes instead of pigment-based inks). This transfer sheet is then placed flat against the garment or uncut fabric, and then intense heat is applied. The heat turns the dye from a solid coating directly into a gas (skipping the liquid state; hence, “sublimation”). The colored dye particles enter the fibers of the fabric and bond with them. This makes the dyed fabric especially color fast (even through repeated washing), specifically because the dye has become a part of the polyester fibers. In some cases, people are even working with ways to chemically modify cotton so dye sublimation can be used. (I haven’t read much recently as to whether this has been successful.)

So these are essentially the two options: one technology for cotton and the other for polyester.

My Client’s Case: How I Have Proceeded

With this general overview, I started contacting vendors in order to help my client bring her fashion and make-up color scheme to digital fabric printing. And these are the issues that have arisen. Interestingly enough, a number of the smaller vendors have been families. Apparently the technology is inexpensive enough and easy enough to use that some families have given up their day jobs to work at home, custom printing fabric and making garments to sell.

How I Found the Vendors

I started by going directly to the print technology manufacturers. I called the sales departments, noted that I was a commercial printing broker, and asked for vendors who had purchased their specific equipment. In this case, since my client had been in touch with Kornit (a heavyweight in large-format inkjet), I started with them. They gave me Spoonflower and two small vendors close to my client’s home state. I’m currently vetting these vendors.

I also plan to check out Mutoh, Mimaki, and Epson because in my research I have learned that they specifically manufacture dye-sublimation printers. Since I know that my client’s scarves are a polyester blend, these vendors may have recently sold their dye sub equipment to local printers who would be interested in my client’s work.

Once I have specifications, I also plan to upload a request for quote to the PIE web server.

What I Looked for in the Vendors in Addition to Equipment

My client wants to start with between one and five units of two kinds of garments. Not all printers will be interested in such small (albeit growing) jobs. In contrast, the families who bought digital commercial printing equipment may be very interested in small clients.

My client does not want to print on pre-made garments. So she needs “cut-and-sew” capabilities at the printer I find for her. That is, they will need to take her pattern and then not only print the fabric but also cut and assemble the garments. Skill in this area will be especially important for the dresses, since size and manufacturing quality will be complex issues to address when compared to the simpler scarves.

My client will be providing the fabric and the digital patterns. Not every fabric (presumably) will work in every digital printing press, so my client and the new vendor will have to test the process. My assumption is that this will be a little harder than letting the vendor use their own fabric, which they will have chosen based on their own custom printing equipment. (I have no reason to believe this will be a deal-breaker, just an important area for testing.)

To return to the issue of digital patterns, I personally find this concept most interesting. I had assumed that the pattern would be printed on the entire bolt of fabric as it travels through either the inkjet printer or the dye-sublimation printer. But this is not necessarily true.

Instead, imagine bits of paper from Simplicity Patterns pinned to fabric to guide the tailor in cutting out the pieces for assembly into a dress, and then imagine this process transferred to a computer. My client’s designs can be specifically positioned within the boundaries of the digital pattern, such that once printed these pieces will be ready to be cut out and sewn together into a completed garment. There will be no waste. Nothing will be printed outside the boundaries of the digital outline of the dress pattern. Remarkable.

What Kinds of Art Files Are Appropriate?

My initial assumption, having come into print brokering via graphic design and art direction, was that the required art files would have been Illustrator vector files. I assumed they would be crisper and more consistent. So I went to school on the subject.

I found the opposite to be true. Spoonflower (one of the largest fabric printers) asks for raster (bitmapped) files, not vector files.

That said, an article I found online called “A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Textile Printing” by Kate McInnes encourages readers to first create the file in Illustrator and then color the images and copy and repeat them to make patterns. She also suggests using color groups and brushes (the Blob Brush, which you can control for size and smoothness) to simplify the illustration work, and to let the computer do the repetitions and adjustments for you, all within a square digital “canvas.” You can even go back and change the coloration of various elements as you wish.

Then McInnes encourages you to save the Illustrator file as a PDF, which you can import into Photoshop and save as an 8-bit uncompressed TIFF (no quality loss due to compression) in LAB color with a resolution (for Spoonflower, at least) of 150 pixels per inch. Other vendors prefer JPG or GIF formats, so always ask for specific file requirements.

In addition, in my client’s case, the first vendor I called requested two items to help her provide an estimate. She wanted the digital pattern and also the position of the printed elements on the garment. You also may want to offer this information when requesting bids.

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts


Read and subscribe to our newsletter!

Printing Services include all print categories listed below & more!
4-color Catalogs
Affordable Brochures: Pricing
Affordable Flyers
Book Binding Types and Printing Services
Book Print Services
Booklet, Catalog, Window Envelopes
Brochures: Promotional, Marketing
Bumper Stickers
Business Cards
Business Stationery and Envelopes
Catalog Printers
Cheap Brochures
Color, B&W Catalogs
Color Brochure Printers
Color Postcards
Commercial Book Printers
Commercial Catalog Printing
Custom Decals
Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
©2019 Printing Industry Exchange, LLC - All rights reserved