Methods of Printing

The technical term for a method of printing is a style.

There are four main styles, these are:

  • Discharge
  • Direct
  • Resist
  • Dyed

Discharge Style

This involves the fabric initially being dyed all one colour. A paste (called a discharge paste) is then applied which will destroy the colour, either by itself, or when submerged into a vat of another chemical. The areas where the colour disappears are called discharged. These can be over printed with other colours or a colour can sometimes be added to the discharge paste, which will simultaneously bleach one colour and add another.

Direct Style

In this process, the colour is printed onto the fabric. The print paste contains the dye together with any other chemical that is necessary to fix the colour to the fabric fibres. The style was used very little until the development of synthetic dyes. It is the most important style in use today, when many fabrics are now printed with pigments rather than dyes. The process is cheap but not easy and the results are sometimes not of the highest quality.

Resist Style

This involves masking areas of fabric to prevent the dye being absorbed. In batik, the areas are covered with wax which is removed after dyeing, a method very common in Java and West Africa. Tie and dye is another method of the resist style in which the fabric is tied around with a small cord. This method is still used in Africa, especially Nigeria, and was extremely popular in Europe for much of the nineteenth century when a thick paste of gum or pipeclay was used to make a pattern.

Dyed Style

This method was used in ancient Egypt and was still of great importance in the nineteenth century. It is based on the use of dyes that need a mordant to fix them onto the fabric. By using the same dye but in different strengths and different mordants a wide variety of colours could be produced. This method involves printing the fabric with a mordant followed by immersion in a dye and then washing. This style was mainly used with the dye madder and Turkey Red is a good example of the use of this style.


The labels used by the Vale of Leven Companies were themselves great pieces of art. The labels told the buyers in India, China, Japan and the West Indies whose cloth it was, who had printed it and the length and weight of it. Each print works had its own set of labels, and even after the amalgamation of firms the labels remained.

The designing of the labels was the only part of the process not carried out by the United Turkey Red Company.