Flag Printing Processes Today & What It Means To You

There are three main flag printing processes, and we’ve provided a short description of each one below.  If you would like further information on any of these processes, please contact us.

The First of the Flag Printing Processes: Screen Printing

Also referred to as Screen Dyed, or Dye Dispersal Printing. This is the long-established flag printing process of screen printing using a dye instead of an ink. With ink, the image is perfect on one side but the ink does not penetrate to the other side, such as with a printed garment, a T-shirt for example. With dye, the image penetrates to the other side of the cloth producing a perfect image on both sides, the reverse side being a mirror image of the obverse, as it is with a screen printed flag.

The printer sets a screen for each colour, mixes his colour shades to reach each specified colour, and the cost of this preliminary process is amortised over the print run. Thus the cost of screen printed flags depends on the number of colours and the number of flags to be printed. The process suits the printing of high demand flags such as the Australian flag where long print runs finish up on the printer’s stock shelves, but screen printing can be expensive for flags with many colours and short print runs such as custom made flags. It is for this reason that screen printers are becoming fewer in number as digital printing replaces it.

Screen printing is suitable for all types of flag cloth.

Flag Printing Processes with screen printing

Typical screen printing shop in which each colour is allocated a silk screen, printed in turn, until the full colour montage is built up.

Note the amount of space required for these flag printing processes.

More Flag Printing Processes: Digital Printing

This process gained popularity this century and has overtaken and largely replaced screen printing. Digital Printing can be likened to your computer’s printer, in that the image is printed direct onto the fabric. This means that the required image is printed by four-colour process the same as colour pictures on paper, and this in turn means that there is virtually no limit on the complexity of design possible on digitally printed flags.

However, there is one very serious limitation with the process: the printed image does not penetrate to the reverse side of the cloth. The flag industry overcomes this problem by using thin material which allows the obverse image to be visible through the cloth on the other side. The strength of the image seen on the reverse side, of course, depends on the transparency of the fabric, and this in turn influences the life of the flag, because thin fabrics don’t have long lives as flags! Statements of claims made by vendors vary considerably.

Digital printing machine

New digital printing machines can print directly on the fabric, but don't penetrate the fabric as well as screen printing processes.

Digital printing machines are more compact for less factory floor space.

Flag Printing Processes from Paper to Cloth: Dye Sublimation Printing

This process produces a similar result to Digital Printing in that the image does not penetrate to the reverse side, depends on the transparency of the cloth to be visible on the reverse, and therefore has a similar life according to the weight of the cloth. Dye Sublimation Printing means that the image is first printed with a dye onto paper, and the dye then heat transferred to the cloth. Printing onto the paper can be done by conventional Screen Printing or by Digital Printing before being transferred to the fabric. Machines are available today which combine the printing and transfer in the one process. Dye Sublimation is generally regarded as better quality than Digital.

Dye Sublimation printing machine

Typical dye sublimation printing machine in which the complete image is first printed onto paper and then heat transferred to the cloth. The paper in this procedure can be printed by any process prior to the heat transfer.

Dye sublimination final steps

Towards the end of the dye sublimation process. Note the comparative space requirements for the various printing methods. Note also the comparative capital investment requirements.