Printing on fabric

Hi all,

I was thinking of doing a project that involved printing on fabric (I know this isn’t ideal for letterpress, but I don’t have a gocco or any screenprinting knowledge). I have access to both Vandercook and platen presses. What I was wondering was, are there some types of fabrics that work better than others? If I don’t use a stiff enough fabric, will it ‘catch’ on my type/plate?

Has anyone had experience with this and have any tips?


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I’ve actually put a folded up t shirt in my pilot press. LOL. I used wood type tho, so not really any chance of it snagging. If you are printing on fabric pieces, maybe pin/tape them down snug onto a stiff piece of card stock or something, then run it through the vandercook. Experiment with ink consistency on some scrap fabric first. My t shirts sucked up a lot of ink and got halos. Go a little stiffer than usual maybe?

Also be sure that you don’t over pack the cylinder and put holes in your fabric (or wreck your type).

Sounds like fun! Happy experimenting.

Printing on cloth will rapidly wear type. The normally sharp faces will quickly round and be of little use for fine printing.(similar to the wear from deep impression) Having said that, however, printing fabric is straight-forward. Set up as for paper, use an oil-based ink, and do ensure that adequate grippers are in place else you’ll have an instant rag cleaner wrapped around the rollers. I would forget about close registration work as the cloth will stretch and shift coming off impression.. A platen press works well,but do go slow. The cloth will absorb a lot of ink so it is suggested you double-roll for each imprint, and ink the table often. I’ve often printed shirt pockets, T-shirts, and my yearly calander was printed on a cotton bag. Type is not as ‘clean’ as silkscreen, but is legible nonetheless. Large faces and cuts work well. In my opinion.

Hi, This topic is just where I’m at! I just started printing fabric on my Vandercook. I am making prayer flags and am simply using squares of lightweight 100% cotton broadcloth. I am printing from a linocut so there is no damage to type. I did find that I had to cut deeper to get a clean print. I imagine that this is because the fabric is softer than paper and presses into the block more. I have no problems with the fabric get caught on anything. I washed the fabric first to remove whatever fillers there may have been. It works great except that it takes forever for the ink to dry. I am using Daniel Smith Traditional Relief Black. I found this site while looking for options for ink and will post my own question.

We offer screenprinting workshops for novice and advanced screenprinters each month in Austin, Texas, Manalapan, New Jersey, and in Mexico City, Mexico. You can get more information at the website: online.

The two day workshop, held on weekends is idea for anyone who wants to begin screenprinting on paper, t-shirts, textile products, or other substrates.