There are many reasons why printed t-shirts are so popular. They can be used to make a statement, advertise a brand, or start a fashion trend. When having your own t-shirts printed, a common mistake is to overlook the importance of fabric.

There are countless different types of fabric options for your printed t-shirts, each of which will play a major role in the final product. There are certain fabrics that are much better suited to certain styles, while all fabrics have different looks and feel that you will need to consider before paying for your quality t-shirts.

Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right shirt fabric for printing.

Different Types of Shirt Fabric

The first thing you need to know is that there are two distinct categories of fabric: natural fabric and synthetic fabric. Natural fabrics are made entirely out of either plant or animal fibers and are often more expensive to purchase and produce than synthetic ones.

Natural fabrics come in various forms. The most common plant natural fabrics are made of bamboo, hemp, coconut, cotton, linen, and sisal. These are best if you want high-quality blank t-shirts, as they look and feel more expensive.

Animal fabrics are usually made out of camel, cashmere, goat, silk, sheep, or mohair. They make the best super-soft t-shirts and your customer will enjoy the feel on their skin. However, these are often the most expensive types of t-shirts.

Synthetic t-shirts are much more commonly used as printed shirt fabric. This is partly because they’re much cheaper, but also because they’re easier to print on and the quality has improved a lot over the past few years. Popular synthetics include nylon, polyester, Spandex, and acrylic.

When people wonder “what is polyester material like?”, they tend to think of it as cheap and plastic-looking. However, polyester these days is of a higher quality and is difficult to distinguish from natural fabrics.

Shirt Fabrics and Printing: What Works Best?

Your choice of fabric should also depend on the printing method you use. These are the most commonly accepted pairings in the industry:

  • Embroidery + Fleece, Heavy Cotton & Nylon Fabrics: If you’re opting for embroidery, then you need very strong and stable fabric. If the fabric is too thin, like performance fabrics, the embroidery will pucker or tear the fabric creating a mess.
  • Screen Printing + Cotton: Screening printing is, of course, the most commonly-used and affordable printing method. Plastisol or water-based inks used here will bind best with cotton, allowing for the most comfortable t-shirt for the lowest manufacturing price.
  • Heat Transfers + Nylon: For those who don’t know the lingo, transfer printing is essentially binding a plastic image to a garment. Therefore, Heat Transfers would be your best bet, as it will merge nicely to the image and stay put for years.
  • Silicone Ink + Polyester: Polyester fabrics or “performance wear” cause regular inks to discolor after they’re set with heat. This is called dye migration and it’s very undesirable. Silicone inks eliminate the problem and has a great feel.
  • Direct to Garment Printing + Cotton: DTG shirt printing is best used for those wanting high-quality, detailed images on their t-shirts. In order for the image to render in full detail, you’ll want to use 100% pure cotton fabric.