T-Shirt Fabrics for your Custom T-Shirt Design

If you want to design your own shirt, you should know the basics of t-shirt fabrics. It’s important to know that not all fabrics are created equal. There are some fabrics that are suited for athletes, some for casual wear and some for a more formal setting. It is best to know which fabric works best for different types of printing.

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Fabrics can be categorized as synthetic, natural or a combination of the two. Natural fabrics are derived from animals, plants, and minerals. These include cotton, silk, wool, and linen. Polyester, spandex, and nylon are common synthetic fabrics. Synthetic fabrics are made from chemical processes and are not made from natural materials.

Choosing fabric for your custom t-shirt may be a little difficult and confusing. The below list describes different fabric types with their advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Cotton

This is a classic kind of fabric derived from the cotton plant. It is commonly used worldwide because it is hypoallergenic, and it is less likely to irritate sensitive skin. It is soft, lightweight, and best for everyday use. Cotton shirts have been used widely in the printing industry. A ring-spun cotton is a good choice for most printing shops. Compared to regular cotton, ring-spun cotton is strong, soft to touch, and smooth to print on.

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  • Cotton shirts are considered the best pick for your custom t-shirt design.
  • Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing works perfect on cotton fabric.
  • Cotton shirts work well with water-based ink, discharge inks, and standard plastisol ink.


  • Cotton shirts tend to wrinkle easily.
  • Their fabric is prone to shrinking after excessive washing.
  • Cotton is absorbent. Therefore, it is not optimal for people who sweat easily as it will hold the perspiration.
  • The natural fibers of the cotton shirts tend to wear down over time.
  1. Polyester

Polyester is made from synthetic fiber, and it is known to be less expensive for consumers. Polyester has a lightweight feel and is great for people who have an active lifestyle and is especially popular among athletes.

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  • Polyester is durable with strong fibers, and it holds up well after excessive washing.
  • It is quick drying.
  • Polyester is wrinkle resistant.
  • It works great for sublimation printing.


  • Polyester has low breathability, so it tends to stick to the skin with perspiration.
  • Polyester is sensitive to high temperatures.
  • It does not work well with water-based inks and DTG printing.


  1. Cotton/Polyester Blend (50% cotton, 50% polyester)

This is a crowd favorite and is a great everyday t-shirt blend. Typically, poly-cotton is a 50% polyester and 50% cotton blend.  It can also be produced in a 65% polyester and 35% cotton blend. This blend is soft and holds its shape better. The poly-cotton blend has some printing limitations. Water-based and discharge inks can be used on the poly-cotton fabric, but you should not expect the same quality you could get from a cotton shirt.

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  • Poly-cotton fibers are strong and long-lasting.
  • Poly-cotton is resistant to wrinkles.
  • It is less likely to shrink, even after several washes.
  • It is breathable and tear resistant.
  • Typically, it is less expensive than other fabrics.


  • It does not hold up in high temperatures.
  • The 50/50 blend is not optimal for athletes.
  • Oil-based stains are hard to remove on a 50/50 blend.

When choosing the right fabric, take into consideration its quality, softness, comfort, and durability. Also, how is it going to stand up for active lifestyle or athletic endeavors. Lastly, is it the right material for your custom t-shirt design.

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