Digital Printing Techniques in Denim and Jeans


Nanjiba Nur

The denim and jeans industry has become one of the most fashion fusion industry globally due to the immense interest of customers from all sphere and spectrum of the society. From work wear to street fashion to the ramps, denim and jeans and jeans have travelled a lot along the fashion ladder. Printed denim perhaps, is the latest addition in the jeans fashion. Today’s article is all about the industrial printing techniques using digital printing technologies in denim and jeans. 

Digital Textile Printing (DTP)

Digital textile printing (DTP) has been constantly evolving since the early years of the past decade and is now reaching a level of maturity and dissemination that was not expected, even among those who enthusiastically proclaimed its specific advantages compared with the dominant analogue production processes of flatbed and rotary screen printing.

Digital textile printing is far beyond the proof of concept stage and has definitively brooked with the prototype market. This rapidly changing technology is currently being driven forward by several different factors such as supply chain requirements, the globalisation context and the buyer’s demands. The urge for short production cycles, reduced time to reach the market, diminished inventory, cost and waste mini­misation and better personalisation and customisation led printer manufacturers and related suppliers into developing new printers with enhanced capabilities, innovative inks with a broader range of fabric applications and software turnkey solutions for entire management of the process, from artistic creation to shop floor control. In addi­tion, new players (fashion houses, fabric designers, cloth companies and hardware and software vendors) are entering this market and expanding it with their product proposals and personnel business vision.

Taking into account several sources of information, it is common knowledge that the total global production volume of printed textiles currently ranges from 25 to 30 billion metres per year with a 97% analogue and 3% digital printing distribution. Observing the growing rate of the latter technology, it is expected that in the medium term, DTP will have an up to 15% share of the globally printed textiles market.

Application of DTP

The most important application fields in textile DTP so far, particularly ink­jet printing, have been preprinting (proofing and sampling) and small run printing, also referred to as ‘agile manufacturing model’. More recently, with technological advances in industrial printing machines, DTP began to reach production speed and reliabilities for robust bulk production with which some medium scale production prints are already being performed using this technology, with similar quality and a competitive price compared with the traditional analogue method of rotary screen printing. Digital textile printing is composed of a vast set of technologies that are used to transfer a digital image onto the surface of a textile substrate. This novel techno­logical solution emerged in the late 1980s from the search for a faster and cheaper alternative to classical analogue printing methods.

A futuristic inkjet printing machines for both textiles and electronics

In the case of denim, colouration is a possible use for inkjet printing. The con­ventional dyeing process of denim with blue indigo is considered one of the highest polluters. Because natural indigo is not soluble in water, the molecules have to be solubilised before dyeing by means of sodium hydrosulphite. Even with this process, the dyeing has to be repeated several times because adherence is poor, and the yarn has to be oxidised in the air every time, a process that requires a great amount of energy and water.

Application of DTP

It is estimated that 11,000 L of water is necessary to produce the raw mate­rial and the final denim With pad/ sizing-ox, a new method recently developed to reduce these figures, savings of 92% of water, 30% of energy and 87% of cotton waste can be achieved and no effluents are generated Yet, even with the more ecolog­ical dyeing processes, the amount of natural resources consumed is higher than that required by inkjet printing technology for colouration.

Digital Denim Techniques

‘Digital denim’ refers to a concept explored by Carly Spano (2012), of the Cotton Incorporated, USA, who proposed the creation of denim like fabric through digital printing of colour and/or finishing effects into a non-dyed twill fabric. In fact, it is tex­tile digital printers and ink’s technological evolution that renders the research of new forms of digital applications so attractive. These printers make it possible to create all types of images with a vast set of techniques and tools and creatively explore millions of colours in a single operation, which is not possible with analogue printing methods.

Digital denim development always depends on fashion trends, which means that depending on the type of denim desired, the CAD work will be more or less complex. Various types of image processing software can be used in colour and finishing effects management, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Graphics Suite and Kaledo by Lectra Systems, among others. Some of them are more suitable than others for a particular type of image or desired effect. For example Photoshop, Corel Photo Paint and Kaledo Print are more suitable to work with real photo images, whereas Illustrator, Corel Draw and Kaledo Collec­tion are a better option when working with vector graphic images.

KALEDO Print Interface, Lectra CAD Technology

Denim clothing is thought to be eternally young and fashionable and is undoubtedly the clothing of choice of today’s youth. A variety of denim products such as pants, shirts, skirts, jackets, belts and caps, in their many forms, shapes, colours, effects, combina­tions and so forth, are massively available in the market nowadays. Denim gradually made its way into the consumers’ everyday life. Currently, denim fabrics are a social statement and have gained increasing popularity because they provide comfort to the wearer in daily physical activities along with a certain aura of luxury and glamour.

In recent years, industrial companies worldwide have been consistently and increas­ingly taking heed of digitally printed textile goods, and among a large variety of textile products, denim caught their attention in particular, not only because of its market share but, above all, because of the public’s interest in small, perfectly customised collections targeted for a particular niche.

This state of affairs requires a versatile and quick response production system that can timely deliver a quality product at a good price to a rapidly changing market. Hence, the textile industry turned its eyes to digital printing as a solution for this mar­ket demand. Nowadays, many renowned brands such as Diesel, Pepe Jeans, Hudson Jeans and Salsa have denim fabrics products printed with DTP.

Taking into account that traditional blue denim is a warp faced cotton fabric of indigo dyed warp and slightly grey weft, the best suitable printers for denim fabrics are those using either reactive dyes or pigments. Several studies explore the complex­ity and interaction of different parameters that govern a successful digital printing job; all of those are cognizant of and agree on the importance and key role of ink pigments.


Digital textile printing has come a long way since the introduction of adjusted wide format graphics printers to the production of dedicated high productivity machines. New machinery developments such as better print head performance and innovative inks, together with significant progress in preprinting and RIP software, led to the acceptance and adoption of this technology by the textile/denim industry. The pos­sibility of a new aesthetic expression combined with the consumer’s awareness of customised and personalised products manufactured by means of a more ecological technology also contributed toward its consolidation


  • Digital printing techniques for denim jeans J.M. Lucas, N.J.R. Belino, R.A. Miguel, M.M. Pereira, L.S. Ribeiro University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, Portuga
  • Denim and Jeans, an Ovrview, R. Paul, 2015
  • Denim Fashions Frontier, L Beltran-Rubio – Fashion Theory, 2020 – Taylor & Francis
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