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 fabric print methods. We expect digital printing on fabrics 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 fabric printing 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 environmentally friendly printing process in detail we use on fabric. 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 order digitally printed organic cotton or jersey fabrics in the 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 and babies. Our fabric digital printing methods use virtually no water and 95% less energy than regular printed fabric processes. The fabric printers in the UK reduce waste rather than consume it.

Different types of printing on fabric for sewing

A fabric printer is usually prepared to offer 2 different types of digital fabric print edescribed above. Then there's sublimation printing on fabric, which is used for synthetic fabric. 

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

We use similar machines for both fabric printing methods – sometimes we use the same machines, just with modifications to print on different fabric. And these fabric printing 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 offer printed fabric on-demand. We only print exactly the amount of fabric you need.

The advantages of custom textile printing from digital printers

When you print only what fabric is needed, this makes the digital printing process sustainable. You’ll also find that fabric prices for each order are more economical.

        • Quick fabric printing.
        • 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 fabric requires no waterl. This digital 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 fabrics the cleaner and greener the printing process.
  • Fabric that is printed in an eco-friendly way can benefit the environment instead of harm it.
  • The more sustainable the fabric you order, the better. The fashion industry has started using sustainable fabric to print on to improve its eco status.
  • Government regulators in the UK and environmentally conscious consumers are keen to start making sustainability in fashion a priority. And we can start with the way we print on the fabric for fashion garments.
  • In March 2022, the European Commission adopted the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textilesa plan that can offer proposals on how to improve the life cycle of fabric and custom fabric products.
  • More and more clothing and fabric manufacturers are trying to make every aspect of their process sustainable, from the moment you order to when you print and right through to delivery.

Trends to watch in fabric printing 

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

  1. Increasing demand for natural fabrics:

    As natural fabric (eg organic cotton or jersey) is easy to print on sustainably, people are choosing this fabric type to print on them. These fabrics include cotton, silk, linen, wool, viscose, jersey and lyocell. 

  2. Growth in a move towards digital printed custom fabric:

    : As we mentioned, the digital fabric printing process is much more sustainable. It also uses less waste compared to regular fabric printing processes. Because it does not impact the environment, more and more manufacturing factories will choose this fabric printing method.

  3. Use of eco-friendly inks for digitally printing fabric:

    There has been increased pressure for print companies to use these inks when they print on fabric. 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

All fabric print processes used in the UK do have an environmental impact. But you can choose the most sustainable fabric printing methods available, whether it’s to print on printed woven fabrics, natural fabrics like cotton or jersey and silk and custom fabric products. This way you can 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 printing methods to produce those fabrics. And we pride ourselves on the exciting environmentally friendly digital printing processes we use on printed fabrics. We continue to use these fabric printing processes 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 printing methods out there. Printing methods such as pigment printing, reactive dye printing, dye sublimation printing, acid, vat and direct disperse printing. 

"Yes, some of the printing 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 print companies 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 natural fabric (like cotton and jersey) as well as synthetic fabrics. When we print a design on our custom fabric options that are natural fabrics, like cotton, we use special digital pigment ink. We also print on man-made fabrics like polyester using sublimation inks.

Take advantage of the extensive services and wholesale fabric products that we offer. Explore our Fabric Design Library which features an exclusive design selection. Each is a design created by an independent artist, or you can create your own custom design to print on fabrics instead. Once you’ve submitted your order, we will print your design on your choice of fabric sustainably for you.

Before you print your own fabric, create your fabric design 

Browse Our Fabric Design Library

 Sample Book - All Fabrics and Wallpapers - Design Tool | Cotton | fabric | Sustainable Custom Printed Fabric UK - maake

Then buy a sample fabric swatch book (find these in our online shop) to see how your design will be featured on several different fabric bases when we print these for you.