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Prints Glossary – Maria Manzini

Together with textile designer Maria Manzini, we have compiled a glossary of the most current terminology in the print world. You will soon find yourself speaking “contemporary print design”.

Print techniques

Hand prints _ This is an artisanal, manual printing technique that is back in fashion and represents an important counterpoint to digital printing. Hand printing techniques, for example with stamps and templates, are labour-intensive and display irregularities that give the textiles such charm.

Screen printing _ Is a well-known technique whereby the dye is pressed through a screen on to the fabric using a squeegee. The screen is made partially impermeable through exposure to light. There are two types: Flat Bed Screen Printing, where the print is made flat on a table using several screens and Rotary Screen Printing, where the fabric is printed through several rotary screens.

Print by roll _ Is a printing machine – patented in 1785 by the Bell company and refined by Adam Parkinson from Manchester – which can print up to six colours at the same time. This printing machine is highly productive and can print anything with the utmost precision, from rough block prints to fine copperplate designs on fabric.

Inkjet printing _ Also called “digital printing” is, as the term implies, a printing method with an almost photographic resolution, comparable with the better inkjet printers for photographic paper. It can print direct to garment, on a T-shirt, for example, or on the roll. The printer is controlled by a computer and the design is realised or edited using digital technology. The designer Mary Katrantzou has become famous through her use of this technique.

Flock print _ Is a printing process in which tiny fibres of synthetic or natural fabric are printed in a pattern on to a glue-like substance. The result is a velvety embossed motif. It sounds modern but it was used in China in 1000 BC and became popular in Europe in the Middle Ages. Flock print is often added as an extra layer to a 2D print.

Devorée _ Also known as “burnout” and “ausbrenner”, is usually applied to velvet or other fabrics with a mixed fibre composition. A chemical process dissolves the cellulose fibres to create areas of thinning and semi-transparency. The technique dates back to nineteenth-century France and was seen as a cheap alternative to lace. During the roaring twenties, the process was rediscovered and in the ‘90s, it enjoyed a second revival thanks to costume designer Jasper Conran’s designs for Simon Callow’s version of My Fair Lady.

Types of print

Mille fleurs _ Is French for a thousand flowers and originates from medieval French tapestries and oriental carpets with their backgrounds of countless tiny, realistic flowers and plant motifs. Laura Ashley chose a bright mille fleurs as the signature style for her brand but the originals had a far darker ground.

Black and white _ The graphic quality of monochrome makes it hugely popular. Black on white or the reverse, tribal, op-art, abstract, flowers or stripes, chunky or fine, handmade or digital, giant or miniature – it all goes together, whether in a patchwork print or simply a mix of separates.

Ethnic _ A collective term for patterns inspired by traditional textiles from particular cultures, tribes, traditional costumes and folk art. A good example is the wax print from the Dutch manufacturer Vlisco: a fusion of old Indonesian batik printing techniques and ethnic motifs. These “Dutch Wax Prints” are very popular in Africa, partly due to the unrivalled colour intensity. Bold ethnic prints have been a major trend for several seasons.

Herbarium _ A big trend in prints. Herbarium references the way that flowers and plants used to be collected and dried or recorded with meticulous illustrations (until the nineteenth century) for reference works. A romantic classic.

Tridimensional _ The most avant-garde trend in prints comes from 3D technology. The Dutch designer Iris van Herpen wowed the Parisian couture scene in 2011 with her futuristic 3D printed designs. Since then, we have seen a rapid acceleration in the application of this innovative technique. 3D printed fabrics are not yet available to the general public but that is undoubtedly just a question of time. Many print specialists, such as Maria Manzini, are busy experimenting with this new fashion dimension.

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