Printing is the localised dyeing of patterns on certain parts on the material. This process combines mechanical actions with chemical reactions between the material and the pigments, dyes and fixatives (mordants). The best-known printing processes are pigment printing and heat-transfer printing using colourants. Pigment printing uses as paste, which is applied to the surface of the fabric. The colours impregnate into the fibres. Different mechanical printing techniques can be used : block, screen, roller or inkjet.
Applying patterns to cloths is a very ancient art. Since the traditional methods of blocks or stencils, techniques have become more complex, such as batik, which has been used since the 16th century and uses wax to preserve the original colour of the dyed fabric. The evolution of ancient methods brought about 16th century wood-block printing : dye was applied to a wooden board which was then pressed onto the fabric. Flat frame printing (or Lyon technique printing) evolves from this technique and was perfected during the 1850s. A rotating frame with metal rollers means that the printing is continuous, it is the fabric which moves. Roller printing means that several colours can be printed at the same time. Patterns can also be added using materials, as for flocking (whereby fibre particles are glued to the fabric) or by removing material. Devoré (or burnout) removes fibres in certain parts with a chemical reaction using a paste.