Bellas Print Inspiration Pitch Perfect 2

Bellas Print Pitch Perfect 2

Tropical Engineered Print

Tropical Engineered Print Worn By Aasha Ramdeen

Inception Print Inspiration

Inception Print

Garment Example Inception

Design Details: Consider the Surface

By Aasha Ramdeen

I have been a costume illustrator with the CDG for the past three years, but I was a textile designer long before. After posting a photo of my most recent design on Instagram, I received a comment from a fellow costume illustrator who seemed surprised to learn that I also designed prints. “Is that your work?” he questioned, beneath the photo of the La Blanca coverup.

While Costume Designers manipulate their fabric through dyeing/ageing, this comment made me wonder whether they had ever considered the fabric itself from a print perspective the way I do. With printing even before the dyeing process, an original design can be added to fabric to give another dimension to the finished garment.

The idea of developing original textiles is by no means a novel one. What is new is the printing technology now available. Customizing prints means that anything can now serve as inspiration—a painting, a trip abroad, a piece of jewelry—and become interpreted into a two-dimensional printed fabric. Particular words, colors, and logos may be incorporated to create a design not available in stores and is unique to your character. Key elements from a film can be extracted and translated into motifs.

There are several printing methods from which to choose. The most notable are screen or wet printing, digital, and sublimation. Screen printing is achieved either with flat or cylindrical screens made of silk threads, nylon, polyester, vinyon, or metal. The printing paste or dye is poured onto the screen and forced through its unblocked areas onto the fabric. Based on the type of the screen used, it is referred to as either “flat screen printing” or “rotary screen printing.” The simple five-color conversational print seen here is the perfect candidate for such printing. As a singing group, this print has been tailored to the cast of Pitch Perfect; it is a reflection of them as a girl group (lipstick), their passion for singing (microphones), and personalized with their name, the “Bellas.”

With digital printing, micro-sized droplets of dye are placed onto the fabric through an inkjet print head, which utilizes an unlimited number of colors. A design can easily be made with 30, 50, or 100 different colors without affecting the ability to print the design. By eliminating screens, it also makes it possible to increase the length between repeats or even completely disregard them. This gives tremendous flexibility to the original artwork and allows for panoramic and/or photographic prints. 

Finally, there is sublimation printing, a technique that uses heat-sensitive inks. Since the ink becomes part of the structure of the material, the images on the fabric are fade-and-crack resistant—even after multiple washings. By developing your own print, small runs of fabric can now easily be printed for sampling purposes. No more extensive searching for the perfect print, only to find that it is no longer available when more is needed. Also, fabric inventory is unnecessary—with many of the printers discussed below, it is now possible to print fabric on the same day that it will be cut.

The latest printing process available is a technology known as kinetic colorization. JS Apparel in Carson, CA, is one of two companies in the United States that uses this machine, a replacement for both traditional wet printing and chemical dye processes. It is an environmentally friendly system, unlike those of their competitors, using less water and electricity than traditional dyeing methods. The dyes and inks used are nontoxic and the printed fabric is completely washable. Kinetic uses dispersed dye to colorize fabrics, including many of the newer high-tech fabrics. Most surprising is the ability to colorize nylons in both short runs and long runs, either single- or double-sided.

Through the kinetic colorization process, the dye is actually put inside the fiber so the abrading associated with silk screening and wet printing does not take place. Even with bleach, the color is locked into the fiber. In addition to all of these printing benefits, JS Apparel also stocks an extensive library of paper patterns to choose from and is equipped not only to print yardage but also sew finished samples.

It is important to note, however, that their foray into the film/television industry is new and not suited to the needs of everyone. While not for the Costume Designer needing a single blouse printed overnight, they are ideal for the big- event movies with lengthier prep time.

JS Apparel is only one of many companies that prints yardage. While it is the only company to employ kinetic colorization, there are several others to choose from which offer the more traditional methods such as E&G and Shencad (the latter being a division of Sung Woo Textile Inc.) that both do silk screening, and Print World, which specializes in sublimation printing. All three companies are easily accessible in downtown Los Angeles. When dealing with these printing services, expect to pay around $60 per yard of finished fabric. Most services have no minimums and allow you to purchase one yard at a time. Some have minimums and setup fees but the cost per yard may be lower. While the typical turnaround time is 3-4 weeks, it may be more if the base fabric is difficult to acquire.

The beauty of designing your own textile is that it can be absolutely anything you want, and with digital and sublimation printing, you are no longer confined by screen sizes or colors. Instead, your entire garment now functions as a large, blank canvas.

As mentioned above, digital printing can use millions of colors to produce photorealistic prints. In the tropical leaf print, a personal photograph served as a motif to create an engineered collage.

While engineering prints truly utilize the form of the garment, it is just one type of layout; the alternatives are allover and border patterns. Allover layouts are composed of motifs fairly close and evenly distributed. Conversely, border prints are exactly that—patterns designed to run lengthwise along (typically) the selvage of the fabric. This print above depicts the surreal, distorted urban landscape of Inception, complete with a border cleverly devised from the ubiquitous spinning top from the film.

Graphics and prints once only imagined can now be realized by digital printing. Customized design can transform fabric and define silhouettes. Whether on its own or combined with other processes such as dyeing or ageing, there is no better way to place a personal stamp on a garment or costume. The print can be a powerful part of a costume to convey story, mood or time period, and that power of the print is at a Costume Designer’s fingertips.


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