Pigment printing is the ‘affixing of colored designs’ using pigment colorants onto fabrics, through block printing. Comparatively it is much easier than the elaborate process of dye printing.
A pigment is a material or substance that tends to reflect or scatter some or most wavelengths of the light incident on it. The resulting reflected light is perceived by the human eye as a colour.
A fine example is ultramarine that absorbs most colours and reflects only the blue colour that we see.
Pigments generally exist as powders of the colorants meant to colour other materials. A binder or vehicle has to accompany it before applying. A vehicle is a colourless neutral substance in which the pigment is suspended. The essential difference between a dye and a pigment is that a dye dissolves in the vehicle while the pigment is insoluble and remains suspended in it.
Most available pigments are ochres and iron oxides that occur in nature. Insects, molluscs and other botanical substances are also used. After the Industrial Revolution, the market has been deluged with synthetic dyes and colours.
Today there is a list of over 27000 colorants with their generic colour index names provided by the world body Color Index International (CII) which prescribes and maintains the Standards for colorants.
The advantages of pigment printing are:
- the process is simple,
- colour combinations of the same design are easily , quickly applied through same or different blocks,
- it can be applied to a wide range of fabrics such as pure cotton, pure silk, chiffon, crepe, georgette and super net,
- the prints are fast (adhesion of colour) and sharp in detail.
- Exquisite floral designs, geometrical patterns and even miniature detailing otherwise not possible are block printed using pigment colorants.