Flag Printing Processes Today & What It Means To You
Also referred to as Screen Dyed, or Dye Dispersol Printing. This is the long-established flag printing process of screen printing using a dye instead of an ink. With ink, the image is perfect on one side but the ink does not penetrate to the other side, such as with a printed garment, a T-shirt for example. With dye, the image penetrates to the other side of the cloth producing a perfect image on both sides, the reverse side being a mirror image of the obverse, as it is with a screen printed flag.
The printer sets a screen for each colour, mixes his colour shades to reach each specified colour, and the cost of this preliminary process is amortised over the print run. Thus the cost of screen printed flags depends on the number of colours and the number of flags to be printed. The process suits the printing of high demand flags such as the Australian flag where long print runs finish up on the printer’s stock shelves, but screen printing can be expensive for flags with many colours and short print runs such as custom made flags. It is for this reason that screen printers are becoming fewer in number as digital printing replaces it.
Screen printing is suitable for all types of flag cloth.
This process gained popularity this century and has overtaken and largely replaced screen printing. Digital Printing can be likened to your computer’s printer, in that the image is printed direct onto the fabric. This means that the required image is printed by four-colour process the same as colour pictures on paper, and this in turn means that there is virtually no limit on the complexity of design possible on digitally printed flags.
However, there is one very serious limitation with the process: the printed image does not penetrate to the reverse side of the cloth. The flag industry overcomes this problem by using thin material which allows the obverse image to be visible through the cloth on the other side. The strength of the image seen on the reverse side, of course, depends on the transparency of the fabric, and this in turn influences the life of the flag, because thin fabrics don’t have long lives as flags! Statements of claims made by vendors vary considerably.
Dye Sublimation Printing
This process produces a similar result to Digital Printing in that the image does not penetrate to the reverse side, depends on the transparency of the cloth to be visible on the reverse, and therefore has a similar life according to the weight of the cloth. Dye Sublimation Printing means that the image is first printed with a dye onto paper, and the dye then heat transferred to the cloth. Printing onto the paper can be done by conventional Screen Printing or by Digital Printing before being transferred to the fabric. Machines are available today which combine the printing and transfer in the one process. Dye Sublimation is generally regarded as better quality than Digital.