Priding ourselves as experts in the field, here at ICON we cover all your printing needs from A to Z. Whilst screen printing is our most loved service, and unsurprisingly, is amongst the most popular fabric printing methods in the world, it is also widely scrutinised under the sustainability radar.
Why? Let’s break it down.
Requiring practitioners to use a brush to manually force ink through the screens, the origins of screen printing date back as early as the 1920s. With the invention of Vasilantone’s dual rotary printing press; which allowed for fabric to be placed through sets of rotating pallets and print heads, the traditional transfer method was made obsolete and altered the history of this holy-grail printing technique. Initially, limited to hand-made only, screen printing was slow and costly. However, after Vasilantone’s invention, printing happened much more quickly, cleanly and efficiently, becoming a designer favourite.
For a more in-depth article on the origins of screen printing, read this super cool piece by experts: The man who changed t-shirt printing forever.
With the use of screen printing now directed towards the production of mass produced personalised merchandise, due to the cost and time efficiency, its use is deemed unsustainable. However, with now being able to control the production for the same cost efficiencies, screen printing may be made more sustainable through limiting the overproduction of unsold merchandise. Yet, not all of it boils down to scale, but more so – resources.
Screen printing makes use of ink to print. Plastisol inks contain PVC; a micro-plastic named the most environmentally damaging of all plastics. Not only does this cause serious health risks throughout the production process but also contributes to the plastics damaging ecosystems on our planet.
Water-based inks on the other hand: pigments suspended in water, provide us with a more sustainable alternative. This no plastics option is as sustainable as can be from production to product, better for your skin; due to the fabric being left more breathable and the screens and equipment, after printed, are washed with plain water. At ICON, we aim to be as eco-conscious as possible and drive the change towards more sustainable printing by leading by example. As our raison d’etre, we take into consideration your order quantity, use and designs when deciding how we complete your order, and target to be the most planet friendly as possible.
For more insight on sustainable dyes, read: The Eco-friendly guide to screen printing
Picking your apparel:
When considering your medium for personalised merchandise, t-shirts are the first form of apparel that comes to mind – and we have to agree! Despite it being the most popular type, screen printing can be done on a variety of custom-made apparel such as baseball caps, reusable bottles and more. As part of our printing services at ICON now extended to include these options, we also advise on giving new, and more sustainable apparel, a go.
In comparison to a personalised, water ink dyed, screen printed sweatshirt, custom printed baseball caps are more durable due to the lack of washing involved, and as a result, last longer. Similarly, take into account when deciding on creating merchandise: are you able to set-up a pre order so the printing quantity can be optimised to only those items sold? Can you consider printing on sustainably sourced, organic fabrics? A lot of our sustainability concerns may also be addressed along the journey of your order.
To find out more about sustainable screen printing for your personalised merchandise, contact our sales team or click here to get an instant quote.
The history of the t-shirt can be traced back to the early 20th century, and was a method of unifying those serving in the US Navy. By having the same undershirts whilst at sea; in addition to their uniforms, not only was there a community and union ship formed, but the similarity in garments introduced a layer of implicit equality between peers, boosting a higher happiness level.
Shared community brought about increased morale as a result, and to no surprise, further brought a rise in productivity. This minor yet radical change has influenced the new generation of workplace attire and encouraged now employers to have set workplace uniforms or elements of personalised merchandise as part of their code of conduct, and has positively left these businesses experiencing a 12% higher productivity level of their happier workers. How? Here’s the science behind it.
According to Fashion Designer Sikhounmuong, the experience of personalisation; monogramming in particular, “is one tradition that’s both personal and universal at the same time,” and is a key example that is used in customising personalised t-shirts/uniforms. This is because, when studying the impact of community on workplace morale, it was found that in environments where employees share a uniform or a similar look, they are likely to experience an increase in morale as employees feel connected to a common goal, and belong as part of a team.
In addition, more than 75% of woman-identifying employees in the work force highlighted that they suffer from feeling uncomfortable, and largely anxious, in the workplace; as stated by Forbes-Bell, industry specialist in fashion and human psychology, and how a unified company clothing policy can make all the difference in reducing this problem.
Similarly, traditional formal “office wear” such as blazer pant-suits have been found to load cognitive thinking and encourage a hierarchical, authoritarian environment – both of which are elements disrupting positive workplace morale. Whereas, in their studies in the relationships between clothing and examination performance; Bell, Cardello & Schutz (2005) found that comfortable garments, those which are more informal in nature and made of more natural fabrics; such as our trustworthy Organic Cotton Unisex T-shirts, are likely to boost cognitive performance, productivity and happiness levels.
Our client’s at N1 Garden Centre would agree, and came to ICON with the request to create custom-made, nature inspired, workplace attire. When asked about the importance of their personalised workplace t-shirts, Caroline Humphreys, the Office Manager said: “Our uniforms from Icon Printing fit our branding perfectly. They are stylish but most importantly practical. We have gone for lots of different types of items so that staff working outside can layer up and keep warm.” With respects to recognising the change to cooler weather, the N1 Garden centre took this initiative, resulting in happier – and warmer, employees.
Why you should execute this now:
Whether you’re a large corporation engaging thousands of employees, a more boutique home-based business or a freelance content creator with a team, personalised apparel may be the magic in further levelling-up your collective team morale. Through association, fostering community and leveraging a more creativity-first approach to work, the next generation of workplace attire is formulated of comfortable, casual and [insert] pieces to make the most integral part of any business; your employees feel happier. At ICON, we believe there is no better way to foster a positive community, and work tirelessly in the business of happy clients in creating their bespoke personalised t-shirts and outerwear.
Jump on the trend to personalised workwear from ICON by contacting our sales team or click here to get an instant quote.
In the print world, screen printing is one of the most common methods used in personalised merchandise production, and with good reason. At ICON, it’s often our main method of printing for time sensitive, high-quality and long-lasting personalised t-shirts, whilst allowing for expert levels of detail and a wide variety of customisation. However, this holy grail method of printing has been labelled unsustainable in the past and is largely a result of the dyes involved in the process. Let’s break it down.
Screen printing comprises of using the technique of creating a picture or pattern by forcing ink or metal on to a surface through a screen of fine material. The cost of using this printing technique is based off the artwork involved; the level of details, the range of colour, as each colour requires a separate screen, adding to the additional cost, and the volume of the order. Each of these factors combined then impacts the type of ink and dyeing process that can be used.
Want to dive deeper? Read our expert’s ultimate guide to screen printing here.
What inks are used to fulfil an order is ultimately based on the suitability of the dye for the merchandise order requested. Screen printing works ideally for larger orders that encompass artwork with spot colours, as opposed to photographs or full colour prints with gradients, and are most commonly made using plastisol ink. Although widely applied when screen printing and renown for it’s durability and cost-effective nature, the main component in plastisol ink is made with PVC and is essentially liquid plastic, making it difficult to recycle, break-down after the product lifecycle, and overall is harmful to the environment.
The more sustainable solution? Water-based inks.
Water-based inks use water as the main solvent in carrying pigment, which allows for the inks to be sharp and vibrant, making it much easier to extract, produce and better for the environment. With water-based screen printing, the inks used are thinner and more transparent than other types of printing dyes and, in comparison to plastisol ink, water-based dyes penetrate deeper into fabric, resulting a softer and more breathable print, not crumbling when the t-shirts are scrunched up. According to Bristow (2021) making use of water-based inks and organic cotton for your apparel allow for deeper absorption into the fabric, increasing wearability and product longevity, driving further within the eco-friendly nature of the dye.
While water-based inks are the more sustainable screen-printing option, it has its limitations.
Cottons only: The problem with water-based screen printing is that you cannot print on 100% polyester. This is because when water hits polyester, it creates a film on top of the fabric that keeps the ink from seeping in. Instead, here at ICON, we use 100% organically sourced cotton for your garments. For more options, check out our catalogue of apparel here.
Know your dyes: There are all sorts of water-based inks, from high solids water-based inks, which are excellent for stretchy fabrics, to discharge inks, which works through a bleaching process where the colour of the ink replaces the shirt’s colour. Look for dyes that are made from natural, sustainable materials and these dyes work just as effectively as synthetic dyes, but are much better for our planet.
At ICON, we pride ourselves as pioneers in sustainable screen-printing industry. Want to find out more? Click here to get an instant quote or email us at email@example.com and someone from our team will get in touch.