Forget the dull brown, black, tan or white leather shoes, purses, coats, and furniture. Digital printing leather goods, especially using UV inks, offers infinite possibilities for designers today.
Just as digital printing is transforming the high-end wallpaper and garment industries, it is also transforming products made with leather.
The renowned international leader of custom leather products, Bill Amberg of the Bill Amberg Studio of London, set out three years ago to explore and then produce digitally printed leather.
To showcase the results of that research and results, he invited acclaimed designers – Natasha Baradaran, Alexandra Champalimaud, Tom Dixon, Faye Toogood, and Timorous Beasties to create stunning work that the studio printed on fine leather for initial display at the 2018 London Design Festival.
Digital printing offers unique products that no other system can unless created entirely by hand. The wallcovering industry, like Calico Wallpaper, use digital printing for unique products.
Industrial inkjet inks leading the charge of leather printing include UV ink, polymer latex ink, and dye sublimation. For the best results, ink must become part of the fabric and texture. Flatbed printing systems are the go-to choice because they handle large pieces of leather.
Today leather apparel tops the products using digital direct to garment printing, but as international interior design firms apply the technology, more unique furniture will begin appearing.
Here’s a look at some interesting printed leather products.
Moda Operandi | Etro Floral Printed Leather Jacket
Source: Moda Operandi
Get your motor running to head out on the highway with the unique flower design that contrasts the rugged styling of the black leather jacket from Moda Operandi. The direct to garment printing market today is valued at over $2.5 billion. Most of that is direct to textile, but digital printing of leather apparel continues expanding as consumers seek unique or personalized products.
Morgan Furniture | Havana Collection
Source: Morgan Furniture
The work of three great artisans combined to produce the classic chair for the Havana Collection from Morgan Furniture. Andrew Muirhead & Son, a premier UK-based leather manufacturer, began using digital printing in their production. Collaboration then began with surface designer Michael Angove to create floral patterns for printing of the fine leather.
The idea was taken to Morgan Furniture to consider using designs. The designer created unique designs so uniquely fit the chair panels and color of the leather.
Yotta manufactures industrial inkjet printers suitable for printing a range of leather products from belts to bags and sofas to phone cases. Their PIJ flatbed for UV printing uses the Ricoh GEN5 technology. Their site features samples of a variety of leather products.
Cangma | Men’s Casual British Flag Sneaker
Source: Cangma Store
The brand, founded in 1985, embraces a retro spirit. The company’s products, with inspiration from the 1940s to ‘80s, maintains an urban street vibe.
Versace | Barocco Femme Print Icon Handbag
Versace is among fashion design houses delivering bold designs on leather that offer alternatives to the established classic styles.
Valentino | Garavani Undercover Ankle Boot
This is one of the latest offerings from Italian Valentino that features printed leather upper and leather-covered heel that matches. Going back to 2015, the company featured colorful digitally printed shoes in their MIME Collection.
While industrial inkjet printing erodes traditional printing methods like offset, flexo, and gravure, there are more and more innovative uses for digital printing. As each new use for digital printing arrives, inkjet inks evolve for use on other substrates.
Kao Collins creates inks for customers wanting breakthrough products that solve problems. Explore the selection of inks for various technologies in an interactive ink portfolio.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What inks are best for printing leather?
Ultraviolet inks (UV curable) and latex inks deliver exceptional results on leather. Dye sublimation (dye-sub) is also used for leather printing.
What is UV curable ink?
It is an ink solution that uses a photoinitiator catalyst that when exposed to ultraviolet light causes oligomers and monomers begin to polymerize and cure. UV inks don’t require heat or air for curing (drying) like water-based inks.