T-Shirt Fabrics for Printing

Tips with T-Shirt Fabric for Printing.

Okay, you’ve got a great design and are gearing up to press the go button on that print run. But, hold for one moment. Because the best t-shirt printing projects take in a lot more factors than the artwork. One of which is the blank garment that’s going to carry your logo or graphic. To that end, we’ve put together some info on fabrics for printing with a particular eye on t-shirt fabric. Truth is, the material makes a big difference when it comes to superior quality screen printed shirts. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the favourite fabrics for custom ink.

The Best Fabrics for Printing Tees.

There are a number of angles to consider when it comes to wholesale custom t-shirts in bulk. And the material being printed is fundamental. So, the shirt chosen by customers for decoration is always going to determine what we can do – the best fabric for your printed tees depends on how they’re going to used. We can tell you what we think prints best and lasts longest. But, your market and purpose, business plan and budget should ultimately inform your decision about ordering customised merchandise. Right, let’s look at fabrics.

Cotton, a favourite in fabrics for printing - t-shirt fabric tips from Fifth Column.

Cotton, a favourite in fabrics for printing

Organic cotton, an increasingly popular t-shirt fabric - fabrics for printing tips from Fifth Column.

And organic cotton the t-shirt fabric rising within it

Printing Cotton Fabrics.

T-shirts made from cotton are far and away the most popular for printing. Little wonder, it’s a textile that’s been around since year dot and is still the most commonly produced. And it has a wealth of attractive properties. Not least those listed here:

  • Soft on the skin.
  • Eco-friendly in that it’s biodegradable.
  • Breathable.
  • Absorbent for ink.
  • Long lasting, especially with higher quality cottons.

Plus, cotton is affordable. Which can be decisive with some print runs. Beyond that, because of the popularity, there is huge choice. That’s to say, lots of plain clothing brands manufacture with cotton and there is a massive range of styles and colours available. So, in basic terms, you could say that cotton is the best fabric for printing t-shirts. Particularly with screen printing which is the most effective method of creating custom tees in bulk.

One great strength of cotton is that it’s a natural fabric. That said, there are also a number of other natural fibres which can be printed. For example, linen and silk. However, there are a very few blank garments available in these materials. Needless to say, cotton is the basis for numerous other customisable clothes such as hoodies, sweatshirts, polos, joggers and more besides.

Organic Cotton.

Something we have to mention is organic cotton. After all, decorating apparel made from this material is one of our specialities. And we like it for several reasons. Certainly, foremost in our thinking is the fact that it’s the most environmentally sustainable form of the material. But, organic growing also makes for a fabric which feels nicer to wear and is good when you get it on the screen printing carousel. In short, if you can’t beat cotton with fabrics for printing, then organic is the best form of it.

Polyester and polycotton, a common t-shirt fabric - fabrics for printing tips from Fifth Column.

Polyester and polycotton, a common t-shirt fabric

With recycled polyester content getting into the mix - fabrics for printing tips from Fifth Column.

With recycled polyester content getting into the mix

Polyester Fabrics for Printing.

Now, polyester has been around since the middle of the last century. And it’s become another popular t-shirt fabric in the intervening period. Especially with clothing which is manufactured for sport and activity. Purely as a textile, polyester has some clearly positive characteristics:

  • Moisture wicking (performance polyester).
  • Lightweight.
  • Durable.
  • Easy wash and wear.
  • Resistant to creasing.

Having said that, it does have limitations for print and is nowhere near as versatile as cotton. By which we mean that it’s unsuitable for some inks and printing methods. And screen printing it is far from straightforward. That aside, some people aren’t keen on synthetic fabrics for shirts. It can simply be the feel of them. Or eco concerns in that they’re not generally biodegradable. Plus, manufacture is very chemical dependent.


It’s not surprising to find a blend given that these are two of the most often used t-shirt fabrics for printing. Obviously, the proportions of the blend will vary from one manufacturer to another. The properties of polyester-cotton mean that it’s more like pure cotton to wear. And, on the whole, it’s cheaper to produce. From a screen printing perspective, it still presents problems with colours and types of ink.

Recycled Polyester.

These days, there’s a trend toward recycling polyester and using it in clothes. It’s another eco fabric innovation which is to be welcomed. Surely, making apparel from plastic bottles is preferable to the alternatives.

More on blended fabrics for printing - t-shirt fabric tips from Fifth Column.

More on blended fabrics for printing

And other fibres in t-shirt fabric - tips with fabrics for printing from Fifth Column.

And other fibres in t-shirt fabric

Other Blended T-Shirt Fabric, Fibres and Finishes.

It’s fair to say that cotton dominates what’s available in the blank tee market with polyester coming after that. However, there are other materials out there. Often, they crop up in blended fabrics. For example, Viscose, Tencel, Ecovero and Modal which are botanic in origin, derived from wood pulp. Beyond that, there are different finishes and ways in which textiles are woven. For instance, tri-blends. As the name suggests, crafted from three different fibres. Another example, heathered fabrics are created by mixing different coloured yarn in the weave. And slub weaves, sometimes mistaken for heathers, have a textured, slightly irregular look to them.

In truth, there is a multitude of variations. And just how they can be customised will vary from one garment to the next. It’s one of the reasons why test prints are essential in some cases. Because we may not know how any given material performs until it’s been tried out.


Having read the above you may already be in a better place when choosing fabric to print. As said, it ultimately depends on your purpose. There’s no doubt that advances in technology mean that a greater variety of textiles can now be customised. And there is bound to be further innovation. However, high grade cotton is still the most reliable t-shirt fabric when it comes to screen printing. It offers the most predictable results and maximum flexibility with colours, inks and printing techniques. But, whatever your thinking, talk to your printers. They’ll be able to give expert advice, whether you fancy tried and tested or something more unusual.

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