This year, we expect the market growth for the UK’s fabric printing to reach almost 4.5 billion pounds. Right now, about 5% of global manufacturers are using digital textile print methods. We expect digital fabric printing to increase to 80%!

What is eco friendly digital fabric printing in the UK?

Digitally printed fabric involves reproducing a metre of fabric or more on a large format inkjet printer. This method involves printing the design directly onto the fabric. This is the sustainable fabric print process we use at maake. 

In fact, we’ve already published a comprehensive blog on the subject, Digital printing on fabric: mastering digital fabric printing. It describes this type of environmentally friendly printing process in detail. It explains that “it’s similar to how you reproduce an image on paper… It’s just on a larger scale”. You’ll find it in the link above.

When you make an order for digitally printed organic cotton or jersey fabrics UK, for example, you use a number of colour inks. At maake, we use custom water-based inks on fabric, inks that don’t contain chemicals and are certified safe for children. Our fabric printing methods use virtually no water at all and 95% less energy than regular custom fabric print processes. The fabric printers in the UK reduce waste rather than consume it.

Different types of fabric printing

A fabric printer company usually is prepared to offer 2 different types of digital fabric print services. The first is the direct-to-textile printing digital fabric printing service, which we have described above. Then there's sublimation printing, which is used for synthetic fabric. 

In the dye sublimation method, the inks transform from a liquid to a gas. The gas then bonds with the fabric’s fibres and the image is embedded onto the fabric. The result is incredible photo-like quality.

We use similar machines for both methods – sometimes we use the same machines, just with modifications to print on fabric. And these methods are far more economical to use, as you can print on small fabric runs if need be. In fact, you can print on exactly the amount of fabric you need. At maake our policy is to print fabric on-demand.

The advantages of custom textile printing from digital printers

      • Quick printing.
      • Print only what fabric is needed – this makes the printing process sustainable and fabric prices per order are more economical.
      • Vibrant colour printed on fabric in quality high resolution.
      • Less ink, water and energy waste.
      • Uses child-friendly, sustainable inks that are Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1 and GOTS 6.0 certified.
      • The fabric is ethically sourced from local trusted mills that are REACH-accredited. Some fabric also has SEDEX accreditation.
      • Any excess fabric is given away for charities and other institutions to use for sewing instead of being sold or restocked. This is done through the maakelesswaste initiative.
      • Printed natural fabric like organic cotton, knit jersey or linen requires no water at all. This printing process also produces less than a thimbleful of ink waste per 100m of fabric.

Facts about sustainably printed fabric

  • The more sustainable the printing process used for printed fabric, the cleaner and greener the printing process.
  • Fabric that is printed in an eco-friendly manner can actually benefit the environment instead of harm it.
  • The more sustainable the custom fabric you order, the better. In fact, the fashion industry has started using sustainable fabric to improve its eco status.
  • Government regulators in the United Kingdom and environmentally conscious consumers are keen to start making sustainability in fashion a priority.
  • In March 2022, the European Commission adopted the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textilesa plan that offers proposals on how to improve the life cycle of fabric and custom fabric products.
  • More and more manufacturers are trying to make every aspect of their process sustainable, from the moment you order right through to delivery.

Trends to watch in fabric printing 

View the following trends which we predict will take over the fabric industry in Britain this year and going forward:

  1. Increasing demand for natural fabrics: As natural fabric (eg organic cotton) is easy to print on sustainably, people are choosing to print on them. These fabrics include cotton, silk, linen, wool, jersey, viscose and lyocell. 
  2. Growth in a move towards digital printed custom fabric: As we mentioned, this printing process is much more sustainable. It also uses less waste compared to regular printing processes. Because it has less impact on the environment, more and more manufacturing factories will choose this method.
  3. Use of eco-friendly inks for digitally printing fabric: There has been increased pressure for print companies to use these inks. As a result, manufacturers of adult, kids and baby clothes and fabric homeware accessories are choosing environmentally friendly sustainable inks for fabric. 

Fabric printing facts

Sure, all types of fabric print processes used in the UK do have an environmental impact. But you can choose the most sustainable methods available for printed woven fabrics, natural fabrics like cotton and silk and custom products to ensure your impact on the environment is as low as it possibly can be.

That’s what we do at maake. Sure, it may cost us more to choose quality over quantity when it comes to the fabrics we use, but we’re proud to be using custom local mills to source our fabric from, mills that use sustainable methods to produce those fabrics. And we pride ourselves on the exciting environmentally friendly printing processes we use on printed fabric, printing processes we continue to use because we believe in lessening our impact on the environment.

Sustainably printed fabrics are a personal choice…

As our CEO Artemis Doupa says in her best-selling book Design & Grow, “When you decide to digitally print on fabric there are many methods out there. Methods such as pigment, reactive dye printing, dye sublimation, acid, vat and direct disperse. 

"Yes, some of the methods might deliver a stronger colour in some cases. The question is, do your brand values align with printing a custom product in a less sustainable printing process? A printing process that is heavy on water and energy waste? It's surprising how many people call in or send samples to fabric printers complaining that the print does not match.

“Brands that are ignorant about the printing methods believe that print is just that. It is your responsibility to make an informed decision – as an entrepreneur, as a designer, as a human. There is an opportunity to take action.

"Make sure your supplier has given you all the details. Ask your supplier questions; you need to know how your custom product is made. What your product means to the world and to your customers. You might choose the less sustainable printing process and that is your decision to make but make it knowingly. 

Fabric print directory

At our North London factory, maake uses the digital print process for both natural and synthetic fabrics. When we print a design on our custom fabric options that are natural fabrics, we use special digital pigment ink. We also print man-made custom fabrics like polyester using sublimation inks.

Take advantage of the extensive services and fabric product sales that we offer. Explore our Design Library which features an exclusive selection of 15,000+ stunning patterns, each a design by an independent artist, or create your own custom design to print on fabric! Once you’ve submitted your order, we will print your design on fabric sustainably for you.

Before you print your own fabric, create your design 

Browse Our Library of Designs

Then buy a sample fabric swatch book (find these in our online shop) to see what your design will look like on different custom fabric bases.