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Trendy, Customized Apparel

Color Management Provides High-End Fabric

By Amber E. Watson

The fashion industry understands the power of digital printing. Specialized inkjet technology offers customized garments and textiles. Despite the advances there are still challenges. One of which is successfully achieving desired color. Varying print runs must match and remain consistent.

 

Relying on RIPs, as well as tools such as spectrophotometers, are two ways to ensure reliable quality. The task of producing garments through digital is not simple, but a combination of equipment, experience, and the patience to make adjustments when needed assists in the process.

 

Fabrics for All

Arthur Gauthier, co-owner, Fabric4You.com, celebrates a blossoming 20 year career in the fashion and clothing business. His latest endeavor—Fabric4You.com—is an online shop offering quilters, clothing designers, interior designers, and everyday sewers the ability to order customized fabrics.

 

Fabric4you.com produces short runs on quality material using pigment dye ink and any natural fiber including cotton, linen, silk, and viscose. Customers choose fabric according to intended end use. Each media requires a different and specific technique. “Certain variables such as how the fabric accepts the ink, curing temperatures, washing instructions, and the fabric supplier themselves play major roles in our choice of fabric,” explains Gauthier. Pacific Coast Fabrics supplies the majority of the company’s material.

 

Running several operations out of an 8,000 square foot facility in Millersville, MD, Gauthier prints on a 64-inch Mutoh America, Inc. ValueJet 1628TD, and cures the fabric with a Graphics One, LLC (GO) Kala Calendar DS67 roll press.

 

Using pressure, temperature, and time, the GO Kala cures natural fabrics and sublimates material for various uses such as t-shirts, shorts, and jerseys. Though more expansive than a heat box, which only has the ability to cure direct to fabric fixation, it offers added versatility.

 

Challenge of Achieving Color

Colors are changed or replaced by simply setting the printer, but matching hues is the real test. “The biggest challenge of digital textile printing is getting the color right and duplicating that color again months later,” shares Gauthier.

 

“We create profiles for all fabrics we use so that colors are consistent across the board,” says Gauthier. Through profiling he keeps specific color values to a high standard between different media types. “CMYK, RGB, or LAB values offer different shades. When similar artwork is inconsistent with color values, it becomes difficult to determine the color,” he continues.

 

Fabric4You.com uses ErgoSoft AG TexPrint 14 RIP software to achieve necessary coloration. “We also have an i1 X-Rite, Incorporated spectrophotometer that allows us to try to match a color exactly by placing it directly on an item—say, a blue shirt,” explains Gauthier

 

Many times, change in coloration is done on the image file manually, and it is not always easy to get the printer and ink to read the file exactly as one wants. “There is a big learning curve and it involves a lot of trial and error,” cautions Gauthier.

 

Uniforms to High-End Dresses

In 2009, Gauthier was approached by the father of a young artist—Kaeli Smith, a student at the University of Delaware—to print her artwork on t-shirts, which he intended sell to local boutiques and gift shops. Gauthier saw great potential in the young girl’s artwork and wanted to try printing high-end dresses through exclusive licensing. Gauthier and Smith’s father are now partners of Kaeli Smith Designs—a new line of colorful and popular resort wear designed from the work of the 19 year old artist.

 

After researching, Gauthier decided to bring printing in house so he could offer as many patterns as he liked with varying color schemes. Investing in a fabric printer capable of printing on quality fabrics gives him control over the quantity and number of patterns he can produce. “The Mutoh ValueJet 1628TD allows me to print fabric on demand from 50 to 500 yards. It also uses pigment ink in eight colors, as opposed to CMYK, so it’s easier to achieve a range of bold and vibrant hues, which is the trademark of the Kaeli Smith line,” he adds.

 

Having control is also an advantage when it comes to coloration. “The nice thing about the Kaeli Smith dresses is that we decide which colors and shades to produce. The trick is matching those colors again later,” notes Gauthier.

 

Trendy

Smart investments in equipment and discovery through trial and error help Gauthier’s business work through challenges such as color profiling. In the end, the bold and trendy apparel speaks for itself.

 

Mar2012, Digital Output

 
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