If you are reading this, you’ll probably agree that an ideal world would be the one in which every type of ink works well with any kind of fabric or material. That would be just great. Sadly it isn’t, but at least we have several options in the market so that we can analyze, make a choice, and take the best advantage of all resources for our businesses.
As I mentioned, there are many options out there and sometimes it could be confusing, and that’s why we are here to help you find out the best option for you. We’re going to focus on 2 mainly types of ink: Pigment and reactive.
First, let’s start defining each of them so you can have a better understanding of what they actually are:
Remember when you take chemistry at school? Doing all the crazy experiments and waiting for awesome results? Well, as its name says, a reactive dye reacts when it combines with a binder and generally with a heat-activated printing additive. That’s when the color starts to appear as it is going to be. A reactive dye is a way of dying that has been used since 1956. Reactive printing has been used mostly for printing over cotton, but it is also used on silk, rayon, linen, lyocell, and hemp.
Some of its characteristics are:
• More solid and consistent color
• Less likely to fade or transfer color to another material
• Penetrates the fabric fibers
It works a little different than reactive. Pigment dye is when you apply the pigment directly to the fabric. Obviously in textile printing you can apply it directly but just in a specific area of the substrate. Unlike reactive printing, pigment only adheres to the surface of the fibers, while reactive stays on both sides of the fabric.
Its characteristics are:
• Results can be very vibrant colors
• Typically used on polyester and cotton, but its no fiber specific
• Rubbing fastness can be poor
• Colors may get faded after a while
• Creates a top coat on the fabric without penetrating it
Pigment inks in digital textile printing can be an easier and faster process. In the image above you can observe a comparison of the steps of both processes.
Due to chemical properties, reactive printing needs a few steps more in order to be bonded to the textile fiber. So it needs steaming, an after treatment and a finish. Pigment printing does not require the steaming and washing steps. So basically each process has its pros and cons, but what you need to focus is what kind of results are you looking for in order to make the best choice.