Digital textile printing: the most sustainable option for printed fabric
Sustainability is a worldwide trend. Different types and services in digital textile printing have followed this trend. Printers and manufacturers have focused on making sure that printing on fabrics is environmentally friendly and does not harm the planet.
The latest digital technology is extremely environmentally aware, offering eco-conscious consumers the opportunity to work towards a sustainable future. Read all about how maake focuses on creating less textile waste when we print on material
The material industry follows strict sustainability protocols. They make sure that the entire print system uses as little water and energy as possible. This industry also ensures that the inks used to reproduce on materials are chemical-free. Of course, print quality is of the utmost importance – and luckily, being sustainable doesn’t affect the quality at all.
Why choose digital fabric printing?
This type of printing on material is one of the most modern, environmentally friendly processes available. It works by applying ink directly onto the material using an inkjet or laser printer.
Screen printing offers the highest quality printing. However, the computerised system is far more affordable, which is why it’s become the choice for so many manufacturers.
Manufacturers use sustainable inks to reproduce on fabrics digitally. This includes vegetable-based inks instead of those full of chemicals like petroleum, which is harmful to humans and the environment.
The advantages of using a printing textile company
According to a research study done by American experts Smithers, computer-generated printing services are expected to cost almost £4.4 billion by the end of 2023. This gives us an idea of the impact computerised printing will have on the planet.
We recently put together a most informative blog on sustainable textile printing in the UK and the way forward for 2023. You can read all about it here.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of this type of system for printed fabric:
· It’s less expensive
· Fast, efficient production process
· Prints in a range of shades and colours
· Enables one to create custom orders for clients
· Excellent quality
· Environmentally friendly – uses less energy and water and no toxic chemicals
· Digitally printed fabrics are easier to recycle
· Material waste is dramatically reduced
· A fabulous choice of printed material for clothing, interior decorating and home decor industries is now available
· Can reproduce small quantities of printed fabrics
· More sustainable method of reproducing on material
· Easy to wash in a washing machine.
What are the best methods for textile design printing?
Computer-generated printing on fabrics is used by many companies involved in producing products from material. They use this type of system on clothing, interior design and soft furishings and lifestyle accessories like tableware, scatter cushions etc.
This system reproduces patterns, images (photographs and drawings) and other designs on fabric using various colours. The machines they use are computerised. These are basically bigger versions of those desktop inkjet printers we use in our studies or home offices.
This reproduction system involves reproducing an image, design or picture onto fabric. Computerised fabric printers tend to use more sustainable inks to print with, which is why this system is more environmentally friendly and thus becoming so popular.
The inks include the 4 process colours (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, or CMYK). They can also increase from 4 to between 8 and 12 colours. The more shades you use, the larger the amount of tones (the ‘gamut’) that is available.
How does a digital printer read colour?
A computer-generated printer specialises in reproducing patterns on fabric. It also enables fixing the colour at any scale and using as many tones as are available on the specific machine.
The more colours a printer can print, the more it will be able to reproduce a range of shades. Like a child playing and mixing colours in a paintbox, computer-generated fabric printers do this on a larger scale. In fact, they can even create fluorescent shades. Read our Colour Guide for your digital printing to find out more.
How to print digital fabrics
As fabric printers, maake uses 2 different reproduction systems for reproducing a pattern on material. We use a direct-to-textile printer and a sublimation printer. These systems use similar machinery or the same machine that has been modified slightly to handle different types of fabric.
1. Direct to textile printing
A direct to textile machine requires special pigment inks. We use this eco-friendly system to print on cotton, linen and other natural materials. Also, we use this type of printing for fibre blends such as polycotton. One major advantage of this type of printing is that you can reproduce many colours without affecting the cost or the quality.
2. Sublimation printing
This sustainable reproduction system is ideal for printing on polyester and other man-made materials including poly blends. It’s often used to create detailed patterns and colours on synthetics. The chemical system involves printing on fabric with water-based ink and special thermal transfer paper sheets, called ‘dye sublimation paper.
Learn more about Sublimation printing here
Sublimation printing involves transferring the design from paper onto the fabric. During this reactive process, we use heat and pressure to make the inks evaporate into gas and bind with the fabric. When the inks are transferred, they penetrate deeply into the material and leave a long-lasting print.
Digital textiles printing services in 2023
With advanced technology, printing continues to move forward and become more sustainable and less harmful to the environment. These days, fabrics are also more sustainably manufactured, using less water and energy to produce. And manufacturers follow strict control regulations and certifications to ensure their materials are ‘clean and green’.
Sustainable material production starts with choosing natural, sustainable fibres wherever possible. Factories also prepare the fabrics in a more environmentally friendly manner and are environmentally conscious when they digitally print on these materials.
Technology has advanced to the extent that new processes are constantly being developed. This is done to streamline every single part of the manufacturing process.
As a result, eco-conscious consumers now have a wide choice of environmentally friendly materials to choose from and print on. Check out our fabric selection for some inspiration.
The impact fabric printing has on the British fashion industry
Computer-generated printing using inkjet technology is revolutionising the UK fashion industry. It's giving fashion designers and consumers incredible opportunities to expand.
1. Designers can custom-make small quantities of fabrics for clothing
With computer-generated printing, fashion brands can personalise their garments for their customers and only reproduce small amounts. Previously, other methods of print were used, but these processes involved using larger amounts of fabric. In short, printing on material digitally has transformed the industry. It has enabled designers to reproduce exactly the amount of material they need and customise their products.
2. More colours to choose from and more design options
Computer-generated printing offers a wide range of colours to print on. This allows fashion designers to be more creative in their designs. Because of this, they can offer their customers elaborate, detailed patterns and shades. At maake, we offer two specific services: you can choose from our extensive Design Library (link) full of magnificent, innovative creations from independent artists, or you can print your own design..
3. Production is faster and more efficient
This type of print system has made it easier for fashion and interior design brands to manufacture high-quality garments in less time. Creating patterns and styles digitally is far less time-consuming than it used to be. Designers can view their styles digitally on screen, experiment with colours, patterns and materials and see instant results.
4. Digital textile printing is far more sustainable
Most importantly, fashion and interior design brands get the ‘green’ light when it comes to using environmentally friendly computerised technology to print on fabric.
Versatility is also important. The wide choice of fabrics and inks, both natural and organic, makes computerised printing more sustainable. It also allows the fashion and interior design industries to reduce waste and stop garments and other material items from ending up in landfill.
Printed fabrics for interior décor
Remember: not only fashion has been transformed by digitally printed fabrics– interior design has had its own major transformation, too.
Currently, interior designers are celebrating the wide choices of sustainable, hard-wearing fabrics. They print on and customise this vast selection of fabric without harming the environment. The digitally printed material comes in a wide range of colours and pattern choices, enabling interior designers to be as creative as those in the fashion industry.
One can create the most beautiful liveable spaces using material and be sustainable, too. Homes are being modified and remodelled using customised, vibrant material choices such as curtains, carpets, cushions, lampshades, throws, blankets, and more.
Manufacturers and printers like maake use sustainable computer-generated systems for print orders and products made out of material. This method is greener and costs less, provides numerous choices, is fast and involves customised orders for clients.
Printing at maake
At maake, our focus on being eco-friendly in our printing processes is very thorough:
- We print on demand, which means we the exact amount you order. This is to minimise waste.
- For our printed cotton and linen material, we use less than a thimbleful of ink per 100m of printed fabrics.
- All our methods, including printing on synthetic fabrics and blends, use 95% less energy than traditional material printers.
- We only use 100% renewable energy resources in our North London factory.
- All our machines are fitted with energy-saving cut-off switches. This provides a constant, reduced energy consumption.
- The inks we use meet the Oeko Tex 100 Class 1 and GOTS 5.0 certifications.
- These inks are also certified safe for children.
- We recycle any leftover material that has not been printed on: we donate these materials to charity, schools and universities.
As a result, we offer upcycling bags to our customers free of charge. These comprise leftover materials and cut-offs from our various projects.
It’s a wrap!
Make sure that you use a sustainable type of printing on fabrics for your products. It doesn't matter whether you're a professional practice, or in your foundation year at college, or are creating a home project. You can use our sustainable services and support whether you are students, members of the public or people who own a business.
Check out our table of contents on our website, and our selection of excellent services here: