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Blog Home Applications Rise of Reusable Bags: Different Methods for Decoration
ApplicationsSeptember 6, 2023

Rise of Reusable Bags: Different Methods for Decoration

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Reusable Drawstring Bag

Single-use plastic bags are rapidly phasing out more every single day. This shift has led to a rise in the demand for reusable bags. While nylon, canvas, cotton, and polyester are the most common materials used for totes, more and more other materials are also joining the selection.

According to Maccorr Research Solutions, only 2 out of 5 market research respondents in an online survey have made the switch to reusable polypropylene or fabric bags. Surprisingly, 53% of grocery shoppers in the US still rely on single-use plastic bags. These numbers highlight the significant consumer base that can be captured by promoting the use of reusable bags as single-use plastics are eliminated.

In addition to their environmental benefits, reusable bags offer an opportunity for branding. Various decoration processes are available to enhance their visual appeal. Some of the most common practices include screen printing, digital transfers, UV digital printing, sublimation, direct-to-garment printing, and embroidery. These techniques enable businesses to customize and elevate the aesthetics of reusable bags.

Screen Printing

Screen printing, also known as silk screening or silk printing, involves transferring an image onto a substrate using a squeegee on a nylon screen. It is an ideal choice for those seeking to print durable, high-volume runs of simple designs on reusable bags. There are three main types of screen printers: rotary screen printers, flat screen printers, and hand screen printing.

When it comes to decorating tote bags, a rotary screen printer is the recommended form of screen printer. It is capable of printing high-volume runs of single or two-color images, such as logos or bold patterns. Screen printing is cost-effective and delivers long-lasting prints that withstand regular use.

While screen printing allows for up to two colors, the registration process becomes increasingly challenging with each additional color. Substrates need to be dried between each layer, posing a risk of product shrinkage and poor image registration. Moreover, screen printers are relatively large machines that occupy valuable floor space and require additional auxiliary machines, like a dryer.

Digital Transfers (Heat Transfer)

Achieving full-color, photographic prints on reusable bags can be accomplished through the use of digital heat transfer. This method utilizes both heat and pressure to decorate vibrant prints on a wide range of substrates, including canvas, jute, and non-woven fabric bags.

Digital heat transfers are ideal for small-volume projects that require highly colorful prints on both light and dark colored bags. However, it’s important to note that this method has certain limitations with regards to the substrate. Bags must be able to withstand the heat applied during the transfer process. Synthetic bags, unfortunately, are not suitable as they can melt when exposed to the heat. Additionally, red bags made of certain materials may experience fading due to the heat application.

An additional drawback of digital heat transfers is the generation of paper waste from the backing of the transfer itself. This should be taken into consideration when evaluating the overall sustainability of the decoration process.


Sublimation is a process similar to digital heat transfers, but with a distinct end result. Unlike digital heat transfers, which add an additional layer to the material, sublimation allows the ink to become part of the fabric itself. This integration gives the bag a more natural feel and appearance.

Sublimation is particularly well-suited for decorating white or light-colored polyester bags, offering full-color, high-quality prints. However, it is important to note that sublimation is highly limited in terms of bag material and color compatibility. While it is possible to sublimate on polyester and cotton bags, the quality of the prints tends to be poor, resulting in faded and dull colors.

Therefore, it is crucial to consider the material and color of the bags when opting for sublimation as a decoration method. For white or light-colored polyester bags, sublimation can deliver vibrant and durable prints, providing an excellent application for this process.

Direct-To-Garment (DTG) Printing

When it comes to decorating natural fabrics, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is an excellent choice. This process leverages digital technology to achieve high-quality prints by directly spraying ink onto the garment’s surface. The water-based ink seamlessly integrates with the fabric during printing and necessitates an additional drying step. Notably, this approach is considered sustainable compared to other methods, while still delivering exceptional full-color printing.

However, it is important to note that DTG printing has limitations when it comes to reproducing transparencies in designs. The nature of the process makes it challenging to achieve transparent or semi-transparent effects in the printed artwork. Thus, designs requiring such elements may not be ideally suited for DTG printing.

Overall, DTG printing offers a sustainable and efficient solution for achieving high-quality, full-color prints on natural fabrics. It is important to consider the design requirements and limitations of the process to ensure optimal results.

Machine Embroidery

While embroidery may not fall strictly under the category of “printing” methods, it remains a highly sought-after technique for decorating totes. Embroidery can be accomplished through both manual and machine processes. In this blog post, we will focus on machine embroidery to align with the other explored methods.

Unlike printing methods that utilize ink or paint, embroidery involves sewing thread or yarn directly into the material to create intricate designs. Machine embroidery, in particular, offers efficiency compared to manual stitching and requires less labor-intensive effort. This method allows you to produce stunning works of art that resemble hand-embroidered craftsmanship in a fraction of the time and with reduced potential for human error.

UV Digital Printing

Achieve full-color, high-quality prints on various bag materials rapidly through the process of digital decoration and UV curing. This method offers superior print quality, time savings, and enhanced flexibility. In traditional bag decoration processes, an additional step is often required to dry the ink. However, with digital UV printing, the ink is instantly cured, enabling a streamlined process where operators or robotics can load, unload, and stack bags in a single step.

There are different types of UV printers available, including cylindrical, flatbed, roll-to-roll, and conveyorized printers. UV flatbed printers, take digital images and directly print them onto flat or slightly curved substrates, such as bags. These printers utilize specialized UV inks and UV lamps to reproduce stunning graphics onto a wide range of materials, providing exceptional print results for bag decoration.

UV Digital Printers as a Bag Printing Machine

Inkcups recently unveiled the XJET Switch, a cutting-edge UV flatbed printer designed for digital decoration of reusable bags, assorted totes, and hard goods. This innovative printer incorporates four rotating platens, allowing for efficient printing with two setups simultaneously (referred to as “two-up” printing). Moreover, the system is customizable to meet specific customer requirements, enabling the accommodation of three-up, four-up, or more within the printable area.

The XJET Switch is equipped with a range of advanced features, including automatic purging, wiping, and caping stations, as well as a servo control indexer. It boasts two adjustable lamps with a power of 16W each and has the capability to handle parts up to 10 inches in height. With its industrial-grade capabilities, this direct-to-bag printer is well-suited for both one-off prints and high-volume production running three shifts.

Overall, the XJET Switch offers impressive versatility and efficiency, making it an ideal solution for a variety of printing needs in the reusable bag industry.

UV Ink for Bags

Pass industry standard testing for adhesion on bags with the XFLEXX Series UV ink, such as crosshatch, tape, and crock testing. A crock meter is used for testing the fastness to dry or wet rubbing on textiles. For further information on adhesion testing such as crosshatch and tape please visit: Inkjet Ink Adhesion Testing Methods

Get Started today!

A reusable bag serves as an eco-friendly solution that not only benefits the planet but also offers opportunities to enhance brand recognition and foster brand loyalty. However, with a plethora of decoration methods available for totes, determining the most suitable process for your operations can be challenging. To begin, it is crucial to consider your desired end result expectations.

If your goal is to print single-color logos on bags, your requirements will differ from those aiming to print photorealistic images on drawstring totes. Therefore, it becomes essential to explore different decoration methods based on specific needs. However, in cases where both types of prints are needed, it is crucial to select a method that can accommodate a wide range of printing requirements, ensuring versatility and efficiency for your operations.

Contact us to get started digitally decorating bags and enjoy all the added benefits that come with instantly curing bags on a machine designed specifically for the application. The XJET Switch the best option when it comes to a bag printing machine.

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