Choose The Perfect Fabric For Your Custom T-Shirt

Custom T-shirts are a great method for promoting your business and can be obtained from a variety of printing services. To develop a one-of-a-kind design, you need to decide on the material to use. Ideally, T-shirts should be comfortable, long-lasting, and made of fabric appropriate for the printing method chosen.

When it comes to designing a custom T-shirt, choosing the right fabric is just as important as the design itself. The material can make or break the comfort and durability of the garment, which is why how a design is applied to a T-shirt will help you determine which fabrics are best suited for custom printing. Certain fabrics are better suited to certain techniques, resulting in better protection of the design. Here are some of the techniques that will help you out:

Screen Printing

This is a popular T-shirt printing method where a squeegee is used to spread ink onto a nylon mesh screen. Because the inks used are heavier, the prints are more bright and long-lasting, and its simplicity makes it suitable for large orders because it employs fewer colors.

Thermal (Heat) Transfer Printing

Thermal transfer printing is a digital printing technology in which images formed from wax are transferred onto selected fabrics. In this method, printers apply a thermal print head to permanently print solid ink from a ribbon onto a label supply (often consisting of polyester, nylon, or vinyl).

Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation uses dye-based ink, which turns to gas when heated. This process, also known as digital sublimation, prints designs onto garments using sublimation printers.

Direct To Garment (DTG)

DTG functions similarly to a conventional printer; however, instead of paper, T-shirts are loaded. Computers are used to produce the designs, and the T-shirts are pre-treated with a pre-treatment solvent to assure ink adhesion. Because it can catch minute details, it is ideal for extremely detailed images.

Consider Fabric Weight and Type

The weight of the fabric influences its compatibility with various printing techniques. Fabric weights are classified as lightweight, medium-weight, or heavyweight based on grams per square meter. If you want bright colors, use thick fabrics that will absorb more ink. And for dark designs, it would be better to choose thick fabrics.

Natural vs. Synthetic Fabric

You need to know which fabric will absorb more ink, so the type is also very important. Wool, cotton, and silk are examples of natural materials that absorb liquids faster. They are ideal for screen printing and direct-to-garment printing. Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, are man-made and are effective at retaining sweat and moisture. They are durable and suitable for thermal printing, direct-to-garment, sublimation, and screen printing. You can choose from different types of fabrics for printed T-shirts.


Cotton fabric is widely used for T-shirts as it is reasonable, comfortable, and absorbent. This fabric is also ideal for those with skin that is prone to allergies. It is a heavier substance, and combining it with other fibers makes it more durable.

Several printing techniques cannot be used with cotton due to its tendency to wrinkle. It is only suitable for particular printing procedures such as screen printing, heat press printing, and DTG. Cotton works well for large orders or moderately priced shirts for charitable purposes. 

Discover 100% soft cotton custom T-Shirts at totemworld.com.


This fabric is ideal for activewear and those who are constantly on the go. It is stronger than cotton and usually does not shrink. Its moisture-absorbing feature makes it resistant to stains and odors. Moreover, polyester is more expensive than cotton. 

This fabric is ideal for sublimation printing but must include at least 70% polyester when using blended textiles. Some polyester T-shirts also provide variable degrees of UV protection.


Rayon is a synthetic and low-cost alternative to silk that is noted for its suppleness. Because of its absorbency, rayon is suitable for sublimation printing. However, it is best dry-cleaned because it can expand after several washes. Since rayon wrinkles easily, it should be handled very carefully.


Tencel fabric may be printed in different ways due to its smooth texture and outstanding draping characteristics. DTG printing works well with this fabric since it can recreate detailed designs while keeping the fabric soft. Another feasible alternative is heat press printing, which transfers pictures onto the cloth without damaging the material’s breathability and moisture-wicking characteristics. Tencel blends with a large number of synthetic fibers can benefit from dye sublimation, resulting in brilliant, long-lasting patterns.


Various printing techniques work well on hemp fabric, ensuring the durability of the designs. Screen printing is an ideal choice for hemp fabric because of its absorbent nature and resilience, allowing for bright, long-lasting prints. DTG printing is also suitable for hemp, as it can capture intricate details while maintaining design quality. 

Blended Fabrics

Blended fabrics consist of several types of fibers. Poly-cotton blends can be more versatile and cost more than cotton or polyester alone, and you can get blended fabrics that have more cotton than polyester. This type of fabric is more suitable for digital printing. Tri-blend fabrics consist of different proportions of polyester, rayon, and cotton. This blend offers a luxurious feel, excellent drape, and a vintage look. Tri-blend shirts are known for their comfort and durability.

Designing a Custom T-Shirt

When designing a custom T-shirt, it’s crucial to consider the fabric’s weight and texture, as they can impact how the design will look and feel on the garment. Now that you have an understanding of various fabric options, let’s discuss how to design a T-shirt that perfectly complements your chosen fabric.

Consider the Characteristics

Keep in mind the properties of the fabric you choose when designing your T-shirt. For instance, if you opt for a blend or tri-blend fabric, the colors may appear slightly muted compared to pure cotton.

Choose the Right Color Palette

Different fabric materials can affect how colors appear on the final product. Be mindful of the fabric’s dye absorption capabilities and select a color palette that complements the material. Test your design on a small swatch or use online mockup tools to visualize how the colors will appear on the chosen fabric.

Balance Design Complexity

The intricacy of your design should match the fabric’s texture and pattern. Consider the fabric’s weight, thickness, and stretch to determine if your design will translate well onto the T-shirt. Simple, bold designs often work best on textured or patterned fabrics, while intricate designs may be better suited for smoother fabrics.

Seek Professional Assistance

If you need more design expertise or assistance translating your ideas into a visually appealing T-shirt design, consider working with a professional graphic designer or using online design tools to work with the best fabric matching your designs.

Final Thoughts

Finding the proper fabric for a particular printing method is crucial to ensuring the quality of your customized T-shirt. A heavy-weight fabric, such as 100% cotton, is ideal for screen printing, while a lighter-weight fabric, such as a cotton-polyester blend, is better suited for digital printing. 

The fabric’s color also needs to be taken into account when customizing your T-shirt. Light-colored fabrics, such as white and pastels, are more suitable for digital printing, while darker colors, such as black and navy, are better for screen printing. Moreover, it is critical to include care recommendations for the T-shirt while also ensuring the design stays intact after wear and cleaning. 

Learn the Fundamentals

Learn the fundamentals of popular T-shirt printing technology before choosing a fabric to determine which is suitable for each method. Learn about popular fabric alternatives such as cotton, polyester, and mixed materials. Consider the weight and material of your fabric. Finally, the ideal fabric will be determined by the printing technology that is available at the time.

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