These Scarves Show off What Digital Printing is All About

the Spring/Summer 2011 collection from Charlotte Linton

Traditional fabric printing involves a limited color palette. Whether it’s block printing or screen printing, more colors always means more cost.

The greatest thing about digital textile printing is that designs can have unlimited colors at the same cost as a single color. Yet designers using digital fabric printing still cling to flat designs with a few, flat colors.

Let Charlotte Linton show you how it’s done.

above: Mineralogy

Linton’s latest collection features several digitally printed silk and wool scarves inspired by Madagascar. These designs have all the life of hand rendered illustrations and all the depth of photography.

Enlightenment (below left) and Antropology (below right) capture every gesture from pen scratch to marker stroke. They’re like pages from a silk sketchbook.

Maki (below top) is a polka-dot of marsupial face photographs while Thomie (not shown) is a simulated exotic fur printed on to 100% wool.

CLICK HERE for more on Charlotte Linton and the RCA Class of 2009.


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Hi Kristen,

I disagree with your assertion that the “greatest thing about digital textile printing is that designs can have unlimited colors at the same cost as a single colour”. Furthermore, I would say it is this superficial attitude towards digital textile printing that is holding back innovation as industry perpetuates the analog model of design-make-sell.

The desktop publishing revolution was not about printing in colour, it was about making print more accessible (through the combination of software and hardware).

In my view, the greatest thing about digital textile printing (as with laser-cutting) lies in the ability to make an item only once it has been purchased, coupled with the potential for each item to be unique – the equipment does not care whether it is printing 100m of the same design or 100 different designs. Aside from the environmental and economic benefits, what are the creative opportunities for design(ers) once production shifts from just-in-time to on-demand? If you look at how practitioners such as Nervous System, Fluid Forms, Autonomatic, 1234Lab are developing interfaces that allow customers to co-create products using interactive / generative techniques – why is digital textile printing not being explored in the same way as 3D printing?

Whilst her scarves are undoubtedly very attractive, I doubt even Charlotte would claim that her prints are “what digital printing is all about” as your title suggests.


Andy McDonald
Centre for Advanced Textiles
Glasgow School of Art

Disclaimer: I should mention that these scarves were actually printed at the Centre for Advanced Textiles where I am a PhD candidate (these views are my own).

I tried substituting a few words from the offending paragraph and I feel this is more appropriate:

“The greatest thing about digital textile printing is that collections can have unlimited designs at the same cost as a single design. Yet designers using digital fabric printing still cling to fixed collections with a few, fixed designs.”

design = collection
color = design
flat = fixed


Andy McDonald
Centre for Advanced Textiles
Glasgow School of Art

Hello Andy, thanks for your comments. I agree that limited run production is one of the primary advantages to digitally fabricated designs. I will amend my assertion to read “One of the greatest things…” The real drive of my post was to demonstrate that Linton is using digital textile printing to create designs that traditional printing could never do e.g. the use of unlimited colors and simulated textures. Many textile designers are still clinging to the aesthetic that resulted from the limitations of traditional block, silkscreen, and rotary printing.

And as far as the title “what digital textile printing is all about,” I’ll admit, it’s mostly for hype. I agree that it would be wonderful to see digital textile printing be explored in more interactive ways like those of the companies you named. But I write for a blog where 3D Printing is all the rage, and it has been a personal goal of mine since I started writing here to draw attention to the field of textile design. With the barrage of blog headlines, it’s not easy to get people to pay attention to a post about digital textile printing. If my best shot is to give it a bit of an inflated title, I’m going to do it. It may seem shallow, but marketing is what makes and breaks things. And ultimately, talking about digital textile printing –whether it’s taking an academic and thoughtful approach or simply promoting a new line of accessories — supports the field.

Also Andy, given that you are clearly dedicated to textiles and technology, I would more than welcome a guest post from you sharing any thoughts/projects you have on digital textile printing. Please email if you are interested, kristen dot turner at ponoko dotcom.

Hey Kristen!

I understand your wish to promote digital textile printing on an equal basis to 3D printing, laser-cutting, CNC milling, etc however, I think it’s important we recognise that textiles / fashion designers have simply failed to grasp the potential of the technology.

To give this some context, the Centre for Advanced Textiles (CAT) operates a digital printing bureau with clients ranging from students to international designers and large retailers. In the 4 years I have been based here, I have witnessed almost no evidence of digital print being used on-demand as a result of a collaborative / generative / interactive design process. Although the design methods may have changed, the overall design methodology remains the same.

Regular readers will agree that digital fabrication has the potential to provide a more sustainable alternative to mass production. Given the social, economic, environmental and cultural damage caused by the fashion industry, it is incredibly frustrating to see these opportunities being ignored. I feel it is important to be candid about these issues.

My intention of my original was to initiate some dialog / debate. I’d be really keen to hear what other people think.

Cheers for now,

Andy McDonald
Centre for Advanced Textiles
Glasgow School of Art

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