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Branding – Textiles & Garments, Labels & Printed Ribbons/Elastics: What are the best print technologies to use for different applications?

Posted by David Lee on Jun 20, 2024 10:00:00 AM

Printing technology which has been used to create bright textiles for cushions placed on a sofa.

Printed fabrics are widely accepted in production of home textiles & the fashion & sports garment industry. Fashion & sports wear demand high impact decoration and graphics with a rapid turnaround for fast design, production and delivery to the high street. 


The range of textiles is vast, as are the methods of Printing to produce everyday product & garments. Equally the number of methods for Labelling & branding is vast.



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Branding gives your clients business a personality. And retailers know customers become loyal to a brand if they relate to the brand’s personality. Brands can be trustworthy, luxurious, passionate, tasty, fun, innovative, caring, professional, or safe. It all depends on the target audience and how you want to position your business in the market. 

In essence, branding is the practice of differentiating one business from another through name, logo, story or messaging to influence perception to customers.

The textile industry has embraced modern technology to improve productivity and offer new exciting sales & marketing opportunities for your clients.

Brand & Label Applications:


The underlying surface or layer – or substrate/ribbon – is an important consideration in printing. One of the reasons that flexographic printing remains in demand is that it is able to provide high-quality printing on almost any substrate. However, different technology, such as Silk Screen & Foil Printers are suited to different types of material. This is usually determined by the end-product (for instance, whether you are printing a label or a direct to garment) rather than the substrate itself. Our staff are always happy to answer queries regarding specifics, but here’s a quick guide to the basics.

Many different types of fabric are suitable for branding, Cotton, Nylon, Taffeta, Polyester, Polyester Satin etc. The printing needs usually depend upon the end-purpose such as care labels or image branding, other factors may be durability or lightness.


Garments can be made from a range of natural and synthetic fibres, and the various categories of substrates have different printing demands. For instance, labels are usually made of cotton, polyester, or satin, and are crucial for branding, sizing, and care instructions; but any of these fabrics might also be used to make a t-shirt and therefor direct printing may be desirable.

Types of Labels:


Branding Woven Labels :

It is not a printing application, but it is a traditional method of labelling garments. Labels are produced on wide weaving looms and then slit to width. Woven labels are regarded a high quality and used in general on outwear such as coats & suits. Production is slow and does not lend itself to low volume orders. Designer brands often prefer Woven labels as a mark of quality. Labels are individually cut and supplied direct to the Garment manufacturer for assembly.


Printed Basic Brand & Wash Care Labels :

Are found in all garment and furnishing applications and suited to low and high volume production. Methods of production include Silk Screen, Letterflex/Flexo, Hot Foil or digital printing technologies. Any Labels that require complex text are best suited to Printing. Labels are durable and often carry strict legal information such as wash instructions, batch codes and source of manufacture. Where high quality Woven Labels are used, a printed label is often added to include additional technical information. Printed Labels will often have a number of layers or pages (Booklet form) to include multiple languages for global markets. Labels are usually supplied to the apparel manufacturer pre-cut to be inserted & sewn into the garment at assembly stage.


Sportswear, Underwear, and Skin-Contact Heat Transfers :

Have been used in ‘T Shirt’ decoration for years, but is a recent development in labelling & branding across other garment applications. The label image is printed onto a carrier & transferred from the carrier through Heat & Pressure to become part of the garment itself. This is especially desirable of underwear, sportswear applications where weight saving is paramount, and there are skin contact considerations to eliminate skin irritation associated with Labels. Transfers can be produced by Silk Screen, Flexo, & digital production methods. Special machines that apply transfers may require labels on rolls for automatic operation or individually applied manually. In this case the Transfer is applied at the end of the manufacturing stage before packing and shipping through the retail chain.


Tickets/Tags/Self Adhesive Labels:

Although not part of the Textile product or garment they are often attached or part of the packaging to carry important information for the retailer & customer such as Size, price, Barcode, QR Code. They can also enhance the brand image & green credentials at the point of sale. Production methods include digital, offset, flexo, silk screen, foil stamping. Companies that specialise in garment labelling will often add these products to their services and provide a complete packaging service for a garment manufacturer or retailer.





Letterfex & Flexo 

In general used for printed labels & narrow ribbons. The process is suitable for Polyester, Nylon, taffeta, Polyester Satin & Cotton Ribbons. Multi Colour labels & Prints can be produced in a single pass, so production speeds are very fast compared to other methods and quality is also excellent. For most labelling and transfer needs, the B4 and LX Letterflex are the ideal flexographic solutions. The B4 is designed specifically to produce labels and ribbon trims. A no-nonsense entry-level machine, it is a rapid, professional solution to fabric labelling needs. The LX Letterflex has a broader scope for wider applications. With additional options the Lx range can print on elastic substrates, and can also produce heat transfers and dye sublimation for fabrics.

Digital :


In general used for Printed labels where volumes are small or variable data is required. Text can be very small which is good for multiple languages. Printing on light coloured ribbons only, suitable for Polyester, Nylon, taffeta, Polyester Satin. Methods for directly printing label Ribbons are usually Thermal transfer or Ink jet. Some ribbons require pre-coating to improve printability or wash resistance. In 2025 Focus will launch its new digital Ink jet system (dTex). The technology of choice is single pass Ink jet for production of branding wash care labels. At 1800 DPI the systems will handle small text & variable data, meaning in theory every label printed could be different incorporating unique data for tracking, production control and market data.

Foil Printing/Stamping :

Hot foil or Foil stamping is often used to embellish a label or to provide some embossed surface texture. Foils can be reflective and even carry unique holographic images for security or decorative purposes. Foil printing can be seen to add value. Typical applications include Logo labels for Denim/Jeans where a strong durable branding label is required.


Silk Screen:

Because of the opacity of Inks in this process, screen print is generally used for printed labels on dark colour ribbons (black/red). Flat Screen & Rotary screen technology systems are used in the textile industry. Other applications include direct printing of Elastics & lanyards. This process is also commonly used for production of Heat Transfers.

Images are built up over a number of passes on the machine, a 3-colour image requires 3 passes, drying between each colour. Wide Web Silk screen equipment is used for household furnishing and garment fabrics. 


Heat Transfer:

Some types of apparel applications demand specialist solutions. For instance, sportswear is increasingly made from hypertrophic polyester, and the boundaries continue to be pushed to reduced weight & print direct to the garment. Heat Transfer is a two-stage process where label Images are printed onto a coated substrate known as the carrier. The printing process can be carried out on Silk Screen, Flexo, offset, or Digital equipment. The process also integrates a special adhesive which is bonded into the ink before drying. In the second part of the process the Image is transferred from the base carrier into the garment by localised heat and pressure. The Image is now a permanent part of the garment and the integrated adhesive ensures a good bond and improves wash resistance. Images can contain dense colours & fine text. Heat Transfers are one such solution & this is where the Tagrans series comes into its own. The LX Tagrans is a flexo based system Silk, the Tagrans 150 and Tagrans 225 Proscreen, are both silk-screen based models for handling specially coated papers & Film substrates. These machines are ideal for tagless labels, heat transfers, decorative branding, and ordinary transfers.


Sublimation printing :

Similar to Heat Transfer this is a two stage printing process but only suitable for printing on Polyester Ribbons or elastics. Images are printed by Flexographic or Digital process onto a sacrificial paper using specialised solvent inks. Images are then transferred from the paper under high heat & pressure to the Polyester substrate or ribbon on a special press called a Calendar. Vivid colours can be achieved but it is not suitable for fine text and the transfer process of around 2mts/min is slow. The most popular applications are Printed Elastics, lanyards and decorative ribbons.



Equipped For The Job

There is no printing job, nor any substrate, that is too challenging for one of these machines. Designed with versatility in mind, they have been manufactured in recognition that companies have dynamic and evolving printing needs, and that machines need to be capable and adaptable.

If you’re interested in adding a new service to your range and would like to learn more, please visit our web site at: www.focuslabel.com or you can book a visit to our Nottingham showroom to see the range in action.

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Topics: textile printing, Textile Printing Machinery, Textile Printing Machinery Efficiency, Textile Label Printing

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