Printing on Shirt Fabric: How to Choose the Best T-Shirt

Alex Galindo

7 mins read

Whether it’s for your print-on-demand business or your personal wardrobe, choosing the right t-shirt for printing can make all the difference in the final product. However, if you’re not quite familiar with the different types of shirt fabric, it can be difficult to know the best option for your project. To give you a better understanding of t-shirt fabrics, we’ve put together a simple guide on how to choose the best t-shirt for printing.

How To Pick a T-Shirt Fabric

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, there are a few factors you should consider when choosing a t-shirt fabric. These include:


The first thing to consider when picking a shirt fabric is the purpose of the garment. Are you looking for something stretchy and comfortable enough for your workouts, or something lightweight and breathable for summer? Determining the purpose of your shirt will help you narrow down your options.

Comfort and Weather

These two factors go hand in hand. Depending on the climate you live in, you want to choose a fabric that is comfortable for the season. For instance, you might want something heavier for the winter like a linen or cotton-wool blend, and something lightweight for the summer like a cotton-polyester blend.


Of course, if you’ll be choosing t-shirts for your online store, budget is an important factor. While there are more expensive options available, you don’t need to break the bank to get quality fabric. The key is to make sure that your target customer would afford the garment you are offering.

Different Types of T-Shirt Materials

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Now, onto the more technical aspects of t-shirt fabrics. Here are the most common types of materials used in the custom shirt printing industry:

100% Cotton

Known for being eco-friendly, breathable, and comfortable, 100% cotton is among the most popular choices for printing, especially for those who use the DTG, or direct-to-garment, approach.

Cotton/Polyester Blends

Cotton-polyester or poly-cotton blends are great for printing because they are durable, lightweight, and more wrinkle-resistant than 100% cotton. These fabrics also offer a softer feel but may be more prone to fading, depending on the printing method used and the blending ratio.


Often made for specific performance t-shirts, the tri-blend fabric is softer and more wrinkle-resistant due to the combination of cotton, polyester, and rayon. It offers breathability and comfort, making it a great choice for activewear.

100% Polyester

Known for its high resistance to fading and wrinkling, 100% polyester is a popular choice for athletic apparel. It’s also lightweight, breathable, and offers a range of color options. However, the fabric may be less comfortable than other materials, so it’s better suited for performance t-shirts. 100% polyester shirts are not suited for DTG, and are better for sublimation prints.

What Are the Most Common Blend Ratios?

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Striking the perfect balance between comfort and durability is easier said than done, which is why fabric blends are so common in the printing industry. Here are some of the most popular blend ratios and what they are best suited for:

80% Polyester / 20% Cotton Blend

This poly-cotton blend is perfect for activewear such as tracksuits and sports uniforms. It offers the perfect balance between breathability and durability, making it a great option for athletes. It also offers an extra soft feel that is hard to find with other blends.

52% Cotton / 48% Polyester Blend

If you want a more comfy, lightweight fabric, this blend is the way to go. It offers a great fit and is perfect for casual t-shirts as well as hoodies and pullovers. This blend is also more affordable than 100% cotton, making it a great choice for budget-conscious shoppers. Plus, it won’t shrink significantly over time with use.

90% Cotton / 10% Polyester Blend

If comfort and breathability are your top priorities, this is the blend for you. It’s perfect for summer T-shirts and offers a great fit without weighing you down. However, since it’s made with more cotton than polyester, it may be more prone to fading and shrinking.

Shirt Fabrics and Printing: What Works Best?

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Now, let’s take a look at the different types of printing methods and how they interact with various fabrics.

Screen Printing

Screen printing works best with 100% cotton as the ink sinks into the fabric more easily. While there are other fabrics that can be used with screen printing, such as poly-cotton and tri-blend fabrics, the results may not be as clear or vibrant.

Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing

DTG works well with polyester, cotton, and poly-cotton blends. However, most print providers would recommend sticking with 100% cotton or a poly-cotton blend for the best results.

Direct To Film (DTF) Printing

Because this method involves printing directly onto transfer film, it works with almost any fabric. However, polyester and tri-blend fabrics would work best as they are more wrinkle-resistant and will produce a sharper, more vibrant image.

How To Select the Material Depending on the Printing Technique?

Now, given the different printing methods and fabric types, how do you select the best material for your project? Apart from the type of fabric that best works with your chosen printing technique, there are a few things you might want to consider to make sure you pick the best shirt for your collection. Here’s what you can do:

Know Your Audience

Of course, the type of fabric you select should depend on who your audience is. Here are some factors that can influence the purchase decisions of your target market:


While all age groups would naturally be inclined towards comfort, younger audiences might be more likely to go for trendy and lightweight fabrics like tri-blend. Meanwhile, working professionals may prefer more traditional fabrics like cotton and poly-cotton blends.


Gender can also be a factor when selecting the best fabric for your garments. For example, women might prefer lightweight fabrics like rayon blends while men may opt for heavier and more durable materials like polyester.


Of course, your target audience’s lifestyle would determine their purpose for the shirt and what type of fabric best suits that purpose. For example, if your target market is athletes, poly-cotton or tri-blend fabric would be best as they offer both breathability and durability. Meanwhile, if your target market is entrepreneurs, then more traditional fabrics with sleek silhouettes would work best.

Consider the Cost

As mentioned earlier, price should be among the factors you consider when selecting the material for your shirts. Cotton and poly-cotton blends are usually more affordable than tri-blend or rayon because natural fibers are sourced more cost-effectively. However, the prices of these fabrics may still vary depending on their weight and quality.

Tips for Choosing the Best T-Shirt Material for Your Design

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Still can’t pick the best t-shirt for your designs? Here are some tips to help you make the right decision:

Do Some Research

Apart from the info we’ve provided above, scouring the internet for first-hand accounts from customers and experts can help you get a better understanding of what material best suits your purpose. Try checking out your competitors’ or other clothing brands’ reviews and feedback to get some ideas.

Order Samples

Before settling on a specific material, it’s always best to order some fabric swatches or sample shirts so you can get an idea of how they feel and look. Print-on-demand service providers like Awkward Styles won’t require order minimums so you can easily order a few samples without breaking the bank.

Pay Attention to the Details

When ordering fabric for your shirts, make sure to check the labels and tags for washing instructions. Some materials may require special care like hand-washing or dry-cleaning, and this could affect your customers’ buying decisions.

Furthermore, other specifications like the seams, stitching, and overall fit can influence your consumers’ experience with your product. Be sure to pay attention to these details as well so you can offer only the best pieces to your shoppers.

Keep It Simple

Choosing a shirt for your collection doesn’t have to be complicated. When in doubt, you can always ask your POD partner or put yourself in your target shoppers’ shoes and ask yourself what type of fabric would best suit their needs. You can also conduct an interest check survey to gauge the opinions of your target market.

Know When To Splurge

Before deciding to go with more expensive material, be sure to weigh the pros and cons. While it may cost you more upfront, investing in higher-quality fabrics could mean fewer returns, more positive reviews, and a better overall customer experience. Plus, it could boost your brand’s overall reputation and perceived value in the long run!

FAQs About T-Shirt Fabrics

Got some more queries on t-shirt fabrics? We’ve compiled some of the most commonly asked questions and the answers below to help you make an informed decision:

What Is the Softest Fabric for T-Shirts?

Cotton is generally considered the softest fabric for t-shirts, especially organic cotton and ring-spun cotton. 100% cotton tees are also lightweight and breathable, making them ideal for all-day comfort.

How Important Is T-Shirt Weight?

The weight of the t-shirt fabric plays a crucial role in its overall comfort. Heavier fabrics like tri-blend and polyester will provide more warmth and durability, while lighter fabrics like rayon and cotton will be more breathable and comfortable.

The shirt’s weight can also influence the overall cost of production and shipping which can then affect your customers’ purchase decisions. Thus, it’s important to weigh your options and go with the fabric that offers the perfect balance between cost and quality.

What Is the Most Durable T-Shirt Material?

Synthetic fibers such as polyester and spandex blends tend to be the most durable fabrics for t-shirts. These materials are strong, flexible, and able to withstand wear and tear better than natural fibers like cotton and linen. They also barely shrink when washed.

What Is the Best T-Shirt Material for Summer?

Natural fibers like linen and cotton are popular choices for summer shirts as they are lightweight and breathable. Plus, they can absorb moisture easily and keep you cool even when the temperature rises.

What Is the Highest Quality T-Shirt Material?

The answer to this question will depend on your preference. Generally, Supima cotton is considered one of the highest-quality fabrics as it is incredibly soft and durable. However, poly-cotton blends are known for giving the best of both worlds with their breathability and strength.

That’s a Wrap!

Choosing a shirt fabric for your online store’s collection can be quite tricky but we hope this guide has helped you make the right decision for your designs. Now, all that’s left is to find the perfect POD partner and start selling! With a great fabric and an amazing POD partner by your side, you’ll be sure to make your mark in the eCommerce world.

And if you want a print-on-demand service provider who understands the importance of quality materials, look no further than Awkward Styles! We offer a wide selection of fabrics and styles to suit any brand’s needs. Check out our product catalog and find the best canvas for your awesome designs today!

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