Written October 16, 2019
There are a wide variety of ink chemistries used to print textile materials. The fiber content of the material will dictate which ink can be used. Some inks work on a variety of fiber types while others only work on specific fiber types.
In general terms, dyes are soluble and have an affinity to the substrate to which they are applied. Pigments on the other hand are non-soluble and have no affinity to material. A third category has some characteristics of each of the primary two and is called a dispersed dye.
The binding mechanism of the pigment to the textile and the reaction of the dyes with the fibers usually require a complementary pretreatment chemistry and/or post treatment to achieve the optimum binding result.
For digital printing textiles, the ink, textile and the printing system must be designed to control bleeding while accomplishing the hand (feel), correct color and color fastness required by the intended application. With inkjet printing, pre-heating the textile or the addition of a fabric pretreatment or coating can help control these effects.
All fibers are porous to some degree, comprised of molecules that are either positively or negatively charged. To address these variables, a variety of dyes and treatments have been developed to provide optimal penetration and dye retention based on the specific properties of each fiber. Using the right combination of dyes and ancillary treatments for each fiber will result in better color reproduction and better color fastness.