Digital Tea Towel Printing – Pigment Printing Vs Dye Sublimation, the Pros & Cons.

When it comes to digital tea towel printing, the two main processes we use for UK made tea towel printing are direct to textile pigment printing, and dye sublimation printing. 

Both print processes produce stunning results, but each comes with pros and cons, so which process is right for you will simply depend on what is most important to you.

For example, if you’re in a huge hurry for UK made digitally printed tea towels, and time is your number one priority, then dywe sublimation printed tea towels will be the obvious choice, whereas if cost is your number one priority, pigment printed tea towels will be the best choice.

We have written this guide to the pros and cons of both options, to help our customers understand which process may be the best choice for them.

The Pros of Direct to Textile Digitally Printed Tea Towels Vs Dye Sublimation Printed Tea Towels.

Cost.

One major benefit of producing tea towels from fabric which has been printed via direct to textile pigment printing, is that the cost of these finished tea towels is lower. 

Due to the increased cost of the fabric used for the pre-made cushions which are specially treated for sublimation printing, and the increased labour costs of producing tea towels in this way, the pre-made digitally printed tea towels printed via dye sublimation, cost quite a lot more. (Just email us for a price list). 

Wider choice of fabrics.

We have a wider choice of fabrics available for tea towels that we produce from fabric that we first print digitally via our direct to textile pigment printer.

Please see the info further down this page for details of the various different tea towel fabrics we can offer for digitally printed tea towels via pigment printing. 

As the sublimation tea towels are made in advance, using specially treated fabric, there is only one fabric available, which is a half Panama 100% cotton fabric. This fabric was chosen because it’s one of the most popular choices for digitally printed tea towels. 

Size flexibility.

While our standard printed tea towel panel size is approximately 72cm x 49cm, to produce a tea towel sized at approx. 68x72cm once hemmed – we can produce tea towels at any required size.  

For instance, an artist customer recently came to us with an image she had hand painted, and she wanted the entire painting as a tea towel.

Rather than add an additional background colour to the outside of the background of her artwork (which wouldn’t look great given the background of the artwork was not a solid colour, but a gradient), the obvious choice was to simply change the printed tea towel panel, and therefore the finished tea towel size, to the exact size of her artwork, which resulted in a tea towel slightly shorter than we would usually produce. 

Options. 

As we print the fabric first and then give the printed fabric to the CMT dept to make up into tea towels, this gives us more flexibility in terms of options, such as care labels, brand labels and hanging hoops. 

As standard, we add a care label and a hanging hoop, which are sewn into the back of the tea towel while sewing the hem.  The label will usually give the care instructions on one side, and the fabric content, along with “Made in the UK” on the other side.

With tea towels being made up from fabric we have printed digitally on the roll, we can offer flexibility – including sewing in your own care labels if preferred, and/or your own brand labels. 

As the dye sublimation tea towels are made up in advance, the hanging hoops and care labels are already sewn in, so we can’t offer this same flexibility.  

The Pros of Dye Sublimation Printed Tea Towels Vs Direct to Textile Digitally Printed Tea Towels 

Speed  – very quick lead times.

The benefit of printing tea towels with the dye sublimation process, is that we skip the CMT queue by keeping stock of ready-made tea towels that have been made in advance. This means much faster leadtimes. 

CMT (cut, make, trim) is the most labourious process when it comes to producing digitally printed fabric products.

When we’re producing products using digitally printed fabric, we print the fabric first, and then it has to go into the queue to be made into tea towels, aprons, oven gloves, aga covers, or whatever the customer requires. 

For this reason, the average leadtime is around 1-2 weeks during quieter periods, 2-3 weeks on average, and 3-4 weeks or more in the run up to particularly busy periods such as Christmas.

But the print is usually done within 2-3 days, and then the majority of the rest of the lead time is just waiting in the queue, and then been cut out, sewed, trimmed and inspected. 

So a few years back, we cottoned on to the fact (pun intended) that we could offer a much faster turnaround, by having tea towels made up in advance when the CMT dept are not as busy, so that when we do need to achieve a very fast lead time for tea towels, we can. 

No Minimum Quantity/MOQ

The minimum order for tea towels to be produced using digitally printed fabric via our pigment printer is 20.

The reason for this is that the time taken to get the fabric ready to print, and the fabric wasted when loading onto the printer.

We can’t print the first couple of metres when we load the roll on, due to the distance from the roll, through the various rollers, to the empty core on the take-up device on the other side of the printer.

OK, we can avoid this wastage by tagging a small print run onto the end of a larger print run, and we will do this where we can, but as we offer a wide range of different fabrics to be digitally printed, we don’t always know when taking an order for a particular fabric, at what point we will be running a larger print run with that particular fabric. 

So the easiest way for us to work is simply to have a minimum order for pigment printed fabric which means we don’t make losses from any print jobs. 

When it comes to ready-made tea towels to print via dye sublimation, though, we can print just one for you, if required. This is because the tea towel is already made up, and we simply print the image onto sublimation paper via our Epson sublimation printer and then heat press using one of our flatbed heat presses, so there’s no wastage or other losses incurred by just producing one or two tea towels.