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Welcome to Spoonflower: The Print-on-Demand Difference

There are a few key variables that customers take for granted when shopping for fabric in person. If this is your first time buying fabric, this small but mighty article explains how Spoonflower works, what to pay attention to before ordering, and what to do when your order arrives.


The Benefits of Print-on-Demand


The Principles of Printing Fabric


The Methods for Printing Wallpaper


Necessary Details for Ordering


Receiving your Spoonflower Order


Virtual Factory Field Trip


The Benefits of Print-on-Demand

Spoonflower's unique print-on-demand strategy opens up new possibilities for creating, sewing and designing that are not available at a store. Our process allows us to:


 The Principles of Printing Fabric 


Printing Methods

A lot of fabric is dyed, but dyeing creates waste that is bad for the environment. Spoonflower prints fabric, instead, and creates very little by-product. We employ these two methods:

  • Digital printing for natural fabrics and wallpapers
  • Sublimation for polyester fabrics 


Digital Printing on Natural Fabrics and Wallpaper

Spoonflower creates thousands of colors while printing directly onto natural fiber fabrics or wallpapers. Colors are:

  • determined and saved by the artist
  • converted to sRGB when uploaded to our site
  • printed by mixing various inks

While every printer has established settings, there may be slight color variation from one order to the next. We call each order a print-lot, and similar to dye-lots, it is best to order enough fabric in your initial order to be certain colors match.


Sublimation Method on Polyester Fabrics

For our sublimation process, your design is printed onto a special transfer paper that is then overlaid onto the polyester fabric. With the application of pressure and heat, the ink of the design sublimates into a gas that penetrates and bonds into the fabric. This often translates to longer color fastness and impressive color representation 

Due to this two-step process, polyester fabrics can print no longer than 8 yards/meters. As mentioned with the digital printing method, each order is an individual print-lot. Order enough fabric in your first order to ensure color consistency.


Print Resolution

Because we are printing on fabric rather than paper, the weave of fibers may influence the resolution of small-scale designs, as well as patterns with significant details or thin lines. 

The article Image Resolution and DPI goes into further detail about dots per inch and how Spoonflower determined that the sweet spot for resolution when printing your projects is 150 DPI.


Design Layout for Printing


Spoonflower prints all designs from the bottom left corner of the fabric or wallpaper.

 Keep in mind:

  • We do not resize the design to fit a certain width or height of fabric. This means wider fabrics will have more repeats across the width of the design. Review the basic characteristics of all our products in Fabric Specifications and Details.
  • We print each piece individually. This means if you order three one-yard pieces of the same design, they will print as three identical pieces. In other words, your fabric is NOT cut from a pre-printed roll, nor is it printed as three full yards and cut down.
  • As a pattern prints from left to right, the design repeat is based upon the settings saved by the artist.

If your personal design measures more than one yard (36") in height, you will need to increase the continuous yardage/meterage to receive the complete image.

When ordering a Marketplace design, what you see in the image preview window matches the scale and visual layout. Review Visualizing Size and Scale of Marketplace Designs for the basics.


Continuous Fabric Lengths

We do not print partial yards/meters of your fabric. If you need more than one yard/meter of a design, you will only be able to order in whole yare/meter increments.

HACK: If you only need partial-yard increments of a certain design, our Fill-A-Yard® product may be for you. You will still need to order either one or two yards of total fabric (not available in metric sizes), but you may select and lay out your designs however you wish. Review the Fill-A-Yard® Guide to learn exactly how to create this unique product.


Color Representation

The exact color settings of your monitor will likely not match the printer settings that produce your order and small color shifts are to be expected. This is why we always recommend ordering Test Swatches before placing any larger order.

Consider the following:

  • Our printing method works better with designs using variations of colors throughout
  • Darker, heavily saturated fields of color printing in larger blocks can sometimes arrive with a slightly muted tone, especially on natural fibers
  • While all base fabrics begin as white, the base color as well as the weave and texture of the fabric may mean there is a slight color shift from one fabric type to the next for any identical design. Review the image below to see a sampling of how colors show up differently on different fabrics.
  • Complex color tones, such as gray and tan, are a mix of many individual colors and are more likely to vary across multiple print jobs due to environmental factors
  • Larger areas of blue may sometimes present as slightly purple on natural fibers
  • Natural fabrics printed with darker color tones, and colors requiring a significant mix of pigments, may feel stiffer to the touch upon delivery. This is because more ink must be printed and heat set onto the fabric to capture the design effectively. Over time, after additional washings, your fabric will soften significantly as the fibers relax and the inks become more pliable.

Please review The Importance of Test Swatches for more information and learn a bit more about color and design in this blog post.




Additional Articles about Spoonflower Products and Printing


Environmental Sustainability and Health & Safety FAQ

Fabric Print Length and Limitations

The Best Fabric Choices for Your Projects


The Methods for Printing Wallpaper

Regardless of the length you order, each roll of wallpaper will begin printing the pattern from the bottom of the roll. This means that when you order the same length roll of the same design, from 3' to 27' (100 cm to 1000 cm), each roll will print and arrive identically. 

Therefore, we do not recommend ordering rolls of varying lengths when walls are different heights because it is likely that the design along the top edge of the varying rolls will not align. Instead, we recommend using the tallest height when ordering, as the rolls will need to be the same length to ensure seamless installation. 


Necessary Details for Ordering


Fabric Width and Selvage

When looking at a Marketplace design on your screen, the selvages run vertically, along the left and right edges of the image preview window. If the image of fabric continued, it would run down your monitor or phone.



The Importance of Test Swatches

Because every monitor has different display settings, knowing exactly how a color will print is impossible. While two Marketplace designs may seem to be in the same colorway, the two printed designs may be different because:

  • fabric weave influences how light reflects color
  • fabric content and thread thickness can effect how colors print
  • the white point of the base fabric impacts color representation
  • the printing process yields different color results

Since color is an important part of any project, we always recommend ordering and reviewing Test Swatches before any large purchase. This will allow you to color match, find matching treatments, and be certain the weight and finish of the fabric is right for your needs.

Review Finding Coordinating Designs and Fabrics for ways to search more creatively for matching designs in our Marketplace.


Print Lots (Dye Lots)

Because Spoonflower prints-on-demand, each individual order is its very own print-lot. Large color shifts should not be an issue, but two orders printed different times may have slight variations. Just like when buying commercial fabric or yarn or wallpapers with dye-lots, it is always ideal to order enough digitally printed paper to complete your project all at once.


Additional Articles about Ordering


Searching the Spoonflower Marketplace

Visualizing Size and Scale of Marketplace Designs

Customizing Marketplace Designs

Determining Prices When Purchasing from Spoonflower

How to Place an Order



Receiving your Spoonflower Order


Washing your fabric prior to use in important for two main reasons:

  • Help the fibers relax back into natural shape after being printed
  • Address any potential for shrinkage

Because we are printing your order and not cutting it from a bolt, your fabric may shrink during the printing process and on its first wash. Review Fabric Specifications and Details for fair shrinkage estimate and consult Caring for Your Spoonflower Products for more about washing fabrics.


Additional Articles About Care and Fabric Use


The Best Fabric Choices for Your Projects

Recommended Needles and Threads


Virtual Factory Field Trip


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