Focus On: Printing Custom Fabric
By Valli Herman
Sometimes, a costume design needs fabric that exists only in the imagination of the designer. Or, say, an image of a computer’s innards just has to be printed to scale on a seven-foot-tall robot costume. In Los Angeles, your every fabric wish is the command of specialty fabric houses and supply shops that can turnaround fantastic creations in no time.
3800 S. Hill St., Los Angeles
When Katy Perry rode a giant golden mechanical lion onto the field during the 2015 Superbowl halftime show, Maya Roth recognized the yellow-to-red gradient print material she created days earlier. Roth and her crew at CadFab printed leather in the shades of fire that would become Perry’s flame-themed top and skirt. The digitally printed leather was cut and placed to make the singer’s dramatic costume, just one of several the company has made for the star, including leotards printed with realistic images of pizza and hamburgers.
As the largest digital printing house in Los Angeles, and likely, west of the Mississippi, CadFab has printed on leather, silk, wool, polyester, nylon and stretch fabrics. They’ve applied original designs to leggings, jeans, bedding and also created replicas of the 110-by-45-foot stage curtains at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
“We can do anything, from small quantities to large production,” Roth said, which means everything from a 2-yard sample to a 1,000-yard run. All work is done in house, often from early morning to late at night, allowing Roth to offer one- and two-day turnarounds.
Costume Designer Trish Summerville sought CadFab’s expertise when she created an elaborate feather-printed gown for a key scene in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Summerville created a pattern from real feathers, which were translated to fabric and individually placed on pattern pieces.
The company also offers fluorescent dyes, engineered designs, custom artwork and the repeats.
“We kind of make magic all the time,” said Roth. “We even print on cashmere. Our chemist said we shouldn’t do it. But we don’t take no for an answer. Now we’re selling printed cashmere to high-end stores.”
(Image: Katy Perry Superbowl Design Details Page; credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
(Images: Hunger Games Silk Dress, After Earth Silk Dresses, Miley Cyrus MTV Unplugged; credit: Maya Roth/CADFAB)
C Print, Inc.
1901 E. 7th Place, Los Angeles
If you’re working with nearly any polyester or nylon fabric, C Print, Inc., can use the process of dye sublimation to create custom-printed fabric with colors that don’t wash out, said owner Sean Saberi. The durable, digital printing provides an exact register of digital images.
The downtown Los Angeles company also uses direct printing with digital images, using long-lasting, but slightly less durable, dyes on a wider range of fabrics, including cotton and rayon. The fabric must be treated before and after printing, as well. Pretreated fabrics are in stock to offer minimum runs of custom prints. The fabrics can be up to 62-inches wide; 120 inches for home furnishings. Most dye sublimation projects can be completed in two to five days.
C Printing’s services will be available on the Internet when the new website, FabFad.com, launches in Beta this month. Saberi said that users can upload designs, create repeats, zoom in and out and choose fabrics. The site will offer 50 different fabrics, with custom runs available starting with a 5-yard minimum.
1840 E. 46th St., Los Angeles, and 229 N. Sherman Ave., Corona
The 109,00-square-foot facility offers offset sublimation print production and a library of 65,000 copyrighted artworks. Customers also can use their own designs. The company also offers immediate turnaround and certified placement engineers who can help achieve optimal results. The company also will test any fabric for its suitability.
This online resource makes custom-printed fabrics with a digital print process that uses water-based pigment inks and dyes.
Swatches are $5 with no minimum order. Clients can use their own artwork or the selection of artists on the site. The fabric library includes a wide selection of patterns, many whimsical. There may be no better place for Groundhogs Day-themed prints, including those named Art Nouveau Groundhogs, Know Your Famous Groundhogs and Giant Punxsutawney Phil.
Discounts of 10 to 20 percent can reduce the total price of custom fabric, which begins at $17.50 per yard for basic combed cotton and also includes, satin, quilting-weight cotton, pique, popline, faille, polyester knit, stretch jersey, cotton canvas, interlock knit, cotton sateen, cotton twill, faux suede and, for $38 a yard, silk crepe de Chine.
519 N. Larchmont Ave., Los Angeles
Antoinette Muto and Kim Little are like the general contractor of costume design and construction, a team ready to locate multiple resources for creating custom fabrics. Though they don’t print on site, the company can coordinate the process of screen printing, embossing, laser cutting, flocking and printing specific pattern pieces.
“We’ll take textiles and mold them to be whatever the designer needs,” said Little. The company also will customize fabric by aging, dyeing and hand painting, and contract with dye sublimation printers to craft the most outrageous designs (they’ve designed for Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Cher. The Muto-Little team worked with British designer Hugh Durrant on Cher’s Farewell tour, to create a costume extravaganza. The job included printing flat sequins and satin to match.
Fabric on Demand
This online resource for custom-printed fabrics requires no minimum order. The company can print continuous yards of fabric, even 10 yards or more, and offers discounts on large orders. The company uses American-made textiles and colorfast reactive dyes. A color calibration kit includes a yard of your selected fabric printed with color chips of a test file. About 20 types of cotton, linen, fleece, sateen and polyester fabrics in widths from 52 to 58 inches are available at $29.50 to $40 a yard.
Discounts of 5 to 15 percent or more are available.
For smaller projects
The Avery company sells sheets of printable cotton fabric that can be loaded into an ink-jet printer and ironed onto porous surfaces such as fabric and cardboard. A pack of five 8.5 by 11-inch sheets is about $20. Avery also offers iron-on T-shirt transfers for inkjet printers.