Eco in Action: TS Designs

This is the second article of three about TS Designs.   

Over the last 35 years, a Burlington, NC  company, TS Designs, has created - with boldness, invention, and a bit of dramatic flair - a viable product line, an innovative printing process, and an enterprising approach to altruism that might - as word gets around - redefine the standard of corporate citizenship.
TS Designs' Vice President, Eric Henry, spoke with Redress Raleigh about the inspiration behind his  company's green screen printing process.


"We want to bring the most sustainable product possible," said Henry.   To do it, TS Designs reduced  their 30-year-old screen printing process to its essence - and rebuilt it,  revising traditional aspects of production to fit a custom-made, eco-friendly technology called Rehance.  

Traditional Process

The screen-printing process generally starts with dyed, blank T-shirts and ends with pictures printed in Plastisol ink. According to the company web site,  "Plastisol inks are opaque,  and sit on top of the fabric. This allows a bright, light design to be printed on a dark shirt."

Plastisol is made with PVC, which contains phthalates and emits dioxins. Both phthalates and dioxins are chemical compounds - phthalates are used to make platicizers and solvents, and certain products are federally regulated to keep  levels low. Once they hit the environment - sometimes by way of a washing machine's wastewater - dioxins climb the chain until they settle  into animal and human fat cells.  They can remain for years.

Integrity through Inventiveness:  Boutique Chemistry 

Like all sustainable, water-based colors, TSD's  signature ink - an original mix, by the way, which includes pigments containing only trace amounts of heavy metals and cellulose-based thickeners  - soaked into the fabric. Any design requiring ink lighter than the shirt itself was difficult to see.

TSD enlisted another local company - Burlington Chemical - to create a solution.

By definition, Rehance is "a water-based printing technology that alters the chemistry of a shirt so that it will not absorb garment-dye.  Its purpose is to allow the printing of water-based inks on a dyed shirt while maintaining color contrast and vibrancy," the site said.

 New Tradition

At TS Designs, the  screen printing process begins with a shirt that isn't dyed, and ends with a breathable, lightweight image on a preshrunk, sustainable T-shirt.

To obtain a white design on a dark piece of fabric, the Rehance process requires an undyed shirt, where a design is screened using Rehance. The shirt is then garment-dyed (dyed post-construction), and the design emerges out of the negative space. The "white print is not a surface coating," the web site said. "It is simply the lack of black dye."

To obtain a light design on a dark piece of fabric, the process again starts with an undyed shirt. This time, the design is printed first with TSD's water-based ink. It's printed a second time with Rehance, then garment-dyed. The ink-and- Rehance design resists the color, remaining bright.    

"It's interesting. Two groups of people like it. Environmentalists like it because eliminating Plastisol eliminates PVC, dioxins, and phthalates.

"Fashion people like it because a print becomes part of the shirt. It doesn't crack or peel, because it's part of the garment," said Henry.

"How can people support TSD?  Buy our t-shirts!  We are a custom printed wholesale t-shirt provider that offers the most sustainable t-shirts and the most sustainable t-shirt options.  People can submit a quote from our Web site."  - Eric Henry, president, TS Designs

To purchase individual T-shirts, visit

To learn more about Rehance, visit