How to develop a digital print

Sarah Glyn-Woods

Sarah Glyn-Woods

2014_06_Bath Uni R6-228-Edit

Sublitex is probably the largest European supplier of digital sublimation paper permitting the rapid supply of customer exclusive designs. They also have high speed gravure printing available for larger volumes. Design and Colour Ltd represent Sublitex in the UK.


So you want your own design?

A digital print design has few restrictions in regards to the pattern repeat other than the width of the paper. Sublitex’s paper is 160cm wide. The vertical repeat can be as big or as small as you wish. Panel designs do not usually repeat but are laid out across and down the paper roll as economically as possible.

A panel print


All over repeating pattern

3 If you are planning to have an all over pattern then the design should be supplied in repeat. If the design is not in repeat you will normally be charged a studio fee to make one. When buying artwork you can request that the artist supplies the artwork in repeat. This may cost a little more, but in the long term this will be significantly less than having it done at a later date. What is great about digital printing is that you are not restricted by cylinder or screen circumference size. Sublitex ask that you provide the dimensions of the design at submission, incase the image on the file is not to the desired final scale.

5N778 001

5N778 001

This tattoo design can be made in different repeat sizes to suit different applications and visual results: 5

Image quality

DPI means “dots per inch”, high res means high resolution and you will also hear folk referring to pixels per inch. Which ever phrase you hear at Sublitex they recommend 250- 300 dpi or ppi which is high res. If you want a clean crisp image with great contrast insist on High Res.


Before you hand over a piece of artwork take the time to check that there are no faults. We suggest checking motif by motif as well as tiling out the design, if it is in repeat, to check for join lines or banding. Can you find the fault in one of these elephants? 6 7

Cleaning up

When designs are made up of super-imposed elements you must make sure that anything unwanted is cleaned out of the background. Very faint shadows may not be noticed until after printing if the design is not viewed at full scale.8 Sublimation printing will show every tiny pin prick and as the ink expands slightly these will be more visible.9 91

How to communicate colour

When you look at a design on a screen the colour is back lit and is not representative of solid colour. What you see may not be the same as your neighbour looking at the same file unless you have sophisticated callibration. We recommend that you supply a physical swatch or CAD printout, Pantone references or RGB values of the colours you desire. Different colour mediums have different colour ranges. A colour that exists in acrylic paint may not exist in disperse dyes for sublimation printing. The one thing I always tell clients is that the Sublitex will endeavour to match as closely as possible to the desired result and the sample they produce sets the colour standard that can be reproduced in digital production. Another consideration with fabric printing is that the base cloth on which the design is printed may not be optically white. The surface being matt or shiny, the fibre shape and yarn construction will all influence how the colour appears and is reflected. Be sure to digitally print on the final fabric that you wish to use to achieve the colour rendition that you desire. 92

Design ownership

Do beware of downloading images and designs then reproducing them as you may well be infringing on the intellectual property on another. When you buy a design from a studio they will sell you the design and the copyright. Sublitex own the designs they purchase and those that are generated by their in-house studio. Any design given to a third party will be taken under the proviso that the supplier of the design has the right to reproduce the image. In the case of an infringement the provider of the design is legally responsible.

Did you spot this?


Digital Printing Exposure


Sarah Glyn-Woods

What is a digital print?

A digital print is one that has been produced by a printer that uses digital information to print an image. In industry prints are produced on large format printers rather like an enormous colour printer, similar to those that we all use in the office. There are slow ones, which produce rotten blurred images, occasionally wrinkling and chewing the paper while others glide through the work seamlessly spitting out perfectly sharp renditions with beautiful colours.


When someone asks me for a digital print what do they want?

Usually they have not understood what we have just explained and mean a photographic image like these. Beautiful as they are and ideal for printing digitally any image can be printed using this type of printing method and it offers many other advantages.


Traditional Printing

Traditional methods of printing usually involve screens or cylinders, each corresponding to a different colour. Designs are separated into a range of colours that are then combined to form a multi-layered coloured design.
As you can imagine there is lots of preparation work done to achieve this plus the expense and time taken to make screens or cylinders. To set up a machine the cylinders must be collected, positioned and ink mixed and this may take hours. Often there are finishing processes after printing fabric directly. There is always an element of wastage as the machine is calibrated in order to start a print run and this is one reason is not cost effect to print short runs.

Stork Pegasus rotary screen printing machine

Stork Pegasus rotary screen printing machine

Digital Printing

Digital printing is applied direct to the material without the use of cylinders or screens as information is transferred directly from a design file. Typically the print is applied directly to fabric, paper, vinyl or films and widely used for textile applications, wall coverings and other decoration mediums.
The width of the substrate determines the maximum horizontal print area but since we are printing rolled goods the length of repeat is near unrestricted. Designers are no longer restricted by cylinder or screen sizes circumferences and widths when building repeats.
In traditional methods there are limits as to the number of colours that can be used dictated by the number of screens or cylinders. There are no such limits in digital printing. The design below from Sublitex could not be produced by any other way other than digital printing due to the extraordinary number of colours.


There are small digital printing machines for smaller runs and sampling. More recently a new monster machine the MS LaRio, which runs at high speeds now competes with traditional printing methods but without the time consuming preparation and engraving costs.

Design and Colour Ltd is proud to represent Sublitex Miroglio who have the first MS LaRio machine for printing Sublimation paper plus a wide range of other digital equipment.

See this amazing monster printing on


When should you consider Digital Printing?

Digital printing is ideal for those needing a rapid response to the market demands or a unique product printed that was previously too costly to engrave.

The advantages are:

  • Faster sampling and production times
  • Shorter minimums
  • Less expensive upfront costs
  • Minimum wastage of materials
  • Customer exclusive designs
  • Few restrictions on design size and repeats
  • Ability to re-order swiftly

Critical Digital

The sister company of Design and Colour is Critical Digital who offer digital printing of wall coverings and other materials aimed at interior designers. For more information visit

BBC Salford Media City

BBC Salford Media City

Bath University

Bath University

Sarah on Home Furnishing Trends


Annie O

Many of you will know Annie Deloffre from her days as the Home Furnishing stylist at Sublistatic and more recently at Miroglio. I have been asked by our Furnishing clients for trend direction so contacted my old friend who reveals that she has a Pinterest account. Whether you be a print enthusiast in Decoration or Fashion I implore you to feast your eyes on this remarkably beautiful and eclectic site. Fashion and Home Furnishing print design feed off each other and the images that Annie has posted from both the natural and man made world are spectacular.

Click here to check out Annie O’s gorgeous Pinterest page. We look forward to hearing more from Annie in the future.



elledecor stripes final



Copying Print Design by Sarah


This is an abhorrent practice that some parties think is acceptable but we do not. We will mention no names but a young designer told me the other day that she had worked for a major multinational high street brand who would openly copy designs. The company would weigh up how much they would be likely to pay if sued against how much the company would make on the garment.

It is not always easy to spot a copy but here are some pointers. The design is usually generated by scanning fabric. This means that the surface of the scanned fabric may well have distorted the original design and this distortion is captured on the scan. Few copiers bother to pay someone to make new high quality artwork.

The original print may have been produced by a digital printer direct onto fabric or heat transfer paper, screens or rotogravure printing. Original artwork will have been designed in high resolution in order to achieve the greatest possible detail and definition that the technology allows.

A copier will be looking to produce as swiftly as possible and will often create just one colourway in a design and use the scanned image of the original. The copied image might be CMYK, like a photographic print or separated but produced by a different print technology to the original. The copier is concerned by two things; speed and costs. If the cost of the original was not a factor then there would be less reason to copy.

Like a counterfeit Rolex watch which weighs a ton and rapidly tarnishes, a copied print is usually of inferior quality.

The following are tell tale signs;

1) Lack of definition and flatness in what might be a complex design.

2) Cooking cutter edges between ground and motifs.

3) Missing colour where the scan has not captured all the lighter tones of the original image.

4) Slightly different scale as screen and cylinder sizes vary which may distort the symmetry of the design.

5) Disappearance of fine line details such as leaf stalks.

6) The garment has been manufactured in a far off place who wrongly believe that they do not have to follow copyright or intellectual property laws.

Let us play Spot the difference, find the copy!

The original dress from Zara

The original dress from Zara







In a few weeks time I am going to go in to what you can do when you have a design copied and ask advise from people who specialize in this field.

Answers to Spot the Difference, the copies are: 1) B 2) A 3) B 4) A 5) A 6) B 7) B

The fabric may be confusing so take a good look at the print quality irrespective of the surface texture as these are one different base cloths.

So, what is Sublimation printing?

What we’re all about is sublimation printing, and here Sarah explains what it entails.

Sublimation printing accounts for around 6% of textile printing in the world. It is mainly applied to Polyester fabrics and uses disperse inks. These inks have the ability to move from a solid to a gas directly. The inks are printed on lightweight paper which acts as a carrier.


Polyester fibres are chains of molecules. Imagine that a single fibre is a made up of lots of strands of beads. At everyday ambient temperatures the beads are very tightly packed together yet pliable.

Polyester softens as it is heated and imagine that the tight strands of beads begin to move apart at temperatures between 175 – 220 C.

The Disperse inks, printed on the sublimation paper, at these temperatures move from a solid to a gas. They will happily move into the spaces in the open molecular chain.

Colour is trapped inside when the fibres cool down.


Sublimation Print Paper and Fabric

Sublimation Print Paper and Fabric

The fabric and paper are put in a machine at temperatures around 205C for 25 seconds. When the paper is peeled back from the fabric, exiting the machine, the design has been transferred onto the fabric.

The print moves from the paper to the fabric without water but by the regulated application of heat and dwell time.

designandcolourlogoAgents for Sublimation transfer paper from Sublitex Miroglio Textile.

To learn more about sublimation printing visit and watch the films which are very informative for both digital and rotagravure printing.