difference between textile dyeing and printing

Similarities: Textile dyeing and priting

In both the textile printing and dyeing process, the mechanism of dyeing fibers is the same, including three stages of adsorption, diffusion, and fixation, which are mutually distinctive yet interconnected and constraining. However, in printing, the dye of a certain color is applied to a specific part of the textile according to the design pattern. After a certain post-treatment, the dye is applied to the fiber, and a printed product with one or more colors is obtained on the textile. Hence, printing can also be termed as “local dyeing”.

When the same type of dye is chosen for dyeing and printing, the physical and chemical properties of the chemical auxiliaries used are similar or identical, so their dyeing and colorfastness principles are also similar or identical. For the same type of fiber product, if the same dye is used for dyeing and printing, it can have the same colorfastness in various aspects. For example, when the colorfastness is good during dyeing with reductive dyes, its colorfastness on printed products is also good.


The differences between printing and dyeing lie in the following aspects.

  • In the printing and dyeing operations, the dyeing process uses a dye solution, usually without adding thickening paste or only a small amount of paste; whereas printing uses color paste, which is a viscous paste made by adding more thickening paste to the dye solution or dispersion, to prevent pattern blur, distortion, and dye migration during drying after printing due to pattern diffusion.
  • In dyeing, the dye concentration is generally not high, and the problem of dye dissolution is not significant, usually no solvents are added. When printing, the concentration of dye and chemical auxiliaries in the color paste is much higher than that in the general dye bath, plus it contains a large amount of paste, making dye dissolution difficult. Therefore, solvents like urea, alcohol, and dissolution salt B need to be added to the printing paste.
  • During dyeing (especially dip dyeing), the fabric has a longer acting time in the dye bath, allowing the dye to diffuse and penetrate sufficiently into the fiber to complete the dyeing process. However, when printing, the dye in the paste is not easy to diffuse and penetrate, so after printing, post-treatment methods such as steaming or baking are required to increase the diffusion rate of the dye and help the dye to dye the fiber.
  • If color blending is required during dyeing, it is generally required to use the same type of dye for color blending, and it is rare to use two different types of dyes for color blending (except when dyeing blended textiles). However, printing can use several different types of dyes for joint printing on the same textile, such as printing with coatings and insoluble azo dyes, reactive dyes and insoluble azo dyes, reactive dyes and fast sulfone, insoluble azo dyes and condensation dyes, etc. Sometimes different types of dyes can also be used in the same color paste for simultaneous paste printing, such as coatings and insoluble azo dyes in the same paste, and disperse dyes and reactive dyes in the same paste. In addition, there are various processes such as resist dyeing, anti-dyeing, and anti-printing, so the design of the printing process is different from dyeing. Printers must have a deep understanding of the characteristics of various dyes and auxiliaries, use the contradictions and compatibilities between dyes and auxiliaries to serve the products, and print some printed products with special styles.
  • The dyes used in printing and dyeing are roughly the same, but there are also some dyes specifically used for printing, such as reactive dyes for printing (domestic P-type reactive dyes, etc.), stable insoluble azo dyes, soluble reduction dyes, etc.
  • Printed fabrics have white ground printing, or pull-white, anti-white printing products, so the requirement for the whiteness of the pre-treated semi-finished printed cloth is similar to that of bleached semi-finished cloth, and it usually needs to be bleached after printing. For dyed semi-finished products, the whiteness requirement is lower, especially when dyeing dark colors, pre-treatment can be done without bleaching.
  • The weft skew control requirement is not high during dyeing. When printing, there cannot be weft skew, especially for grid, horizontal stripe, square, or figure patterns, the weft skew requirements for semi-finished products are very strict, and there should also be certain requirements for the width of the fabric to avoid flower skew and pattern deformation on the fabric after pulling the width during printing.
  • Dyed semi-finished products are required to have a good capillary effect to facilitate the diffusion and penetration of dyes into the fiber during dyeing. During printing processing, printing and drying are continuous, the dye has a short acting time, and it is required that the printed pattern is uniform, the outline is clear, the lines are smooth, and there are no broken lines. Therefore, for semi-finished printed products, not only should the capillary effect be uniform and have a good “instant capillary effect”, but every step of pre-treatment processing is also very important. Only by achieving good semi-finished product quality can the quality of printing be guaranteed, so the pre-treatment requirements for semi-finished printed products are higher than those for dyed semi-finished products.
  • Printing has a better concealing effect on the defects of the grey cloth than dyeing, especially some chaotic patterns have a good concealing effect on some grey cloth weaving defects.
  • For colored textiles, dyed products require uniform and full color, bright and translucent, while printed products require clear and generous patterns, clear pattern outlines, fresh flowers and white grounds, full color, and artistic characteristics.

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