By Digital Output Staff
Textile printing can be a complex process. Often, graphics are repeated to create an intended pattern while maximizing fabric usage. This is even truer today as customized patterns become a popular option for consumers and business professionals. Many vendors are debuting dedicated RIP solutions with features catering to the nuances of digital textile printing.
The rise in popularity of digital textile printing presents the question of what new hardware and software—if any—need to be added to an existing business. Working with a RIP that provides tools specific to fabric printing can be beneficial compared to a more universal software solution.
Dean Derhak, product director, SA International (SAi), cautions that for those print providers just focusing on soft signage, an application-focused RIP isn’t necessary.
“General RIPs work in most textile applications except when you get into pattern printing. In that case, you need additional tools to create the various pattern effects and handle the textile color separations,” he adds.
According to Sebastien Hanssens, VP marketing and communication, Caldera, RIPs focused on textile printing offer advanced technical aspects that address pattern repetition and color challenges.
In regards to pattern repetition, building repeating graphics with automated tools saves time and minimizes error. Textile printing software should nest designs seamlessly, allowing for the creation of a single repeatable image from edge to edge of the fabric.
Color control is required across an entire pattern. Robert Nute, VP – Americas, ErgoSoft, shares the key points that must be addressed regarding color, including linearization, dithering patterns and dot placement, profiling, color matching, and colorway design.
“The importance of color in the printing industry means that there is a lot of overlap between color functions and production efficiency,” he adds.
“Textile printing has some unique color challenges. Without the proper ink controls, color can appear dull and less saturated,” agrees Karen Fitt, public relations representative, ONYX Graphics, Inc.
Customers request specialty textile colors beyond standard CMYK. A printer needs to be able to manage anywhere from four to 12 colors of ink, explains Hanssens.
These specific colors can sometimes be difficult to match, adds Ashley Wanlass, senior marketing specialist, Wasatch Computer Technology. “To stay competitive, it is important to be able to reproduce desired colors easily,” she continues. That way, customers get exactly what they asked for.
Based in Como, Italy, Canepa Tessitura Serica integrated digital textile printing into its business model in 2001. It was attracted to digital due to the quality it offered, especially when it came to the diverse number of designs they were producing.
“Many designs cannot be done so nicely in the traditional way—the precision and the cost involved effected the decision to make digital part of our production facilities,” explains Paolo Cattaneo, a representative from Canepa.
The manufacturer produces fabrics for apparel, accessories, and furniture. Every customer requires high output quality, something Canepa looks to its RIP to handle and ensure across every job.
To manage the production element of its workflow, it relies on Wasatch’s SoftRIP TX. The company chose the dedicated fabric printing RIP due to its overall quality and the ability to control ink drop size for lower ink consumption. Features such as re-sampling and half-toning to eliminate seams between repeats are of specific interest to Canepa, which strives to create fine fabrics with new materials, special designs, new colors, and refined collections. As such, it maintains a presence as one of the strongest silk companies in Italy.
RIPs for Textiles
Many of the vendors profiled below offer RIPs specific to digital textile printing. Taking the functionality of their original software products, added features specifically address the challenges of printing to fabric, including pattern repetition and color, in addition to other important facets that help each individual product standout from the competition.
Caldera offers textile-based iterations of its popular Visual and Grand RIP products, referred to as VisualTEX+ and GrandTEX+. These RIPs are optimized for textile applications and include a number of features with textile printing in mind including an intuitive GUI, a specific pattern repetition module, and custom ink set management.
Of note, is the Colorations Photoshop plug-in. It gives users the ability to create multiple colorways for one image, which enable many color possibilities for one pattern. Printers use this option to easily create swatch books or printed color samples. The software supports major color libraries, including Pantone, in response to the needs of color-specific markets such as the fashion industry.
Caldera’s VisualTEX+ and GrandTEX+ RIPs drive all major printers used in textile printing. Hanssens cites the RIP solutions’ speed, reliability, and color consistency as major factors that encourage textile printer manufacturers to run the software on their machines.
DigiFab Systems, Inc.
DigiFab offers the Evolution Textile RIP. While designed for both textile and graphic production, the textile components of the RIP focus on coloring options, quick image manipulations, color profiles, and step-and-repeat functions.
The RIP is programmed to build repeats on the fly, no matter how complicated the directive. In addition, it rotates, flips, and scales files quickly. Basic image manipulation is an option prior to printing, including change drop, change resolution, scale, rotate, flip, multiply, mirror, cut, and measure.
While Evolution Textile RIP is equipped with all of the aforementioned components, Evolution Textile RIP Plus offers enhanced color management capabilities. This includes the ability to create a color library; re-color in RGB, CMYK, Lab, HSL, six color, or eight color modes; edit palettes; color swap and gradient; and add and delete colors and palettes.
TexPrint 14 from ErgoSoft integrates robust image processing technology with textile-specific features. Users can create and produce professional colorways, create unique repeats, and improve color accuracy with TexPrint’s preview-based Custom Spot Color Replacement Tools.
To address specialty ink sets commonly found in digital textile printing, the RIP includes ink assignment controls to set up customized ink sets. Also, precise ink-limit controls minimize ink usage while maximizing quality and color gamut. A ColorGPS profiling application allows users to achieve high color fidelity.
Shrinkage Correction is another useful tool found in the solution. As Nute explains, many times the post processing of a job can result in shrinkage of media, which alters the dimensions and results in production error. With the Shrinkage Correction tool, a value is set based on the post-processing policies for a given job.
In 2014, ONYX introduced its ONYX Textile Edition software. It is available as an edition of ONYX RIPCenter, ONYX PosterShop, and ONYX ProductionHouse and as a module for ONYX Thrive. The RIP includes all the functionality of ONYX 11 software with the addition of textile-specific features. Step-and-repeat functionality simplifies pattern creation. Tools include vertical and horizontal repeat, rotation, mirroring, and the ability to add image offsets.
Addressing textile printing’s unique color challenges, ONYX Color—the company’s proprietary color engine—is enhanced in this edition. It delivers an expanded color gamut to match corporate colors, achieve deeper darks, and print a wider range of colors. Exclusively from ONYX, ChromaBoost allows users to achieve brighter, more saturated colors by increasing the intensity of color by as much as 40 percent.
Flexi subscription-based RIP software is available at a low monthly cost of $49.95 a month. It includes a complete step-and-repeat toolset for optimized pattern printing and ICC media color profiling.
Sawgrass Technologies, Inc.
The SGRip from Sawgrass includes integrated layout, RIP, printing, and production control features. An eight-color ICC profiling control allows for the use of profiles specifically tailored for multi-channel ink printing systems.
Specifically for textile printing, integrated control tools such as ColorCombine generates and prints professional separated color files with color variations. Also, the RIP produces professional step and repeats with variable drop counts.
Wasatch SoftRIP TX reproduces desired colors while minimizing large file sizes. It interprets textile repeats with half-toning and re-sampling algorithms to create a smaller file, freeing up computer memory while simultaneously saving processing time. This seamless repeat feature eliminates seams between repeats.
A Color Atlas Generator makes it easy to match colors accurately and the Color Database allows for the creation of a user’s own color kitchen of named entries. Colors can be routed through ICC management or directly to the printheads, depending on a user’s workflow.
Supporting all major textile printers, Wasatch SoftRIP TX is available for $3,495 for the large format edition. This includes technical support and free software updates for six months.
Relying on Specifics
Textile printing is an intricate business. When operating with the correct RIP, production processes are streamlined. This ensures accurate color, minimizes wasted time, and assures customers that they will receive the most sophisticated textile print possible. Dedicated RIPs are ideal for print providers considering implementing a textile-focused production in the near future.
Jul2014, Digital Output