Custom printed shirts are an excellent way to promote your brand, and you can source them from various shirt printing services. To create a unique design, you must consider the type of material you want. Ideally, shirts should be comfortable, durable, and made with fabric suitable for the chosen printing method. To help you make an informed decision, this article will guide you through several important factors and steps to consider when choosing the best fabric for custom shirt printing:
A. Understand Different Shirt Printing Methods:
Shirt printers like MeowPrint employ various techniques to design fabrics. You can identify which materials are most suitable for custom printing by understanding how these methods apply the design to a shirt. Certain fabrics may match specific methods better, resulting in greater design retention.
1. Screen Printing:
It is a popular method of printing shirts. It involves spreading ink across a nylon mesh screen using a squeegee. The inks used are thicker, producing more vibrant and long-lasting prints. It uses fewer colors and is ideal for large orders owing to its ease of setup.
2. Heat Press Printing:
Also known as heat transfer printing, thermal wax transfer, and thermal transfer printing, it uses a machine to transfer images made of wax onto fabric. It can also create images through wax dye layering.
3. Dye Sublimation:
The method uses dye-based ink that becomes gas during heating. Sometimes called digital sublimation, this method prints graphics onto garments using sublimation printers. The dyes penetrate the fabric’s fibers, binding them and resulting in long-lasting prints.
4. Direct To Garment (DTG):
DTG works like a standard printer, but with shirts loaded instead of paper. Designs are created on a computer, and the shirts are pre-treated with a pre-treatment liquid to ensure ink adhesion. It is best for highly detailed images because it can accurately capture fine details.
B. Consider Fabric Weight:
The weight of the fabric helps determine its compatibility with different printing methods. Measured in grams per square meter, fabric weights are categorized as lightweight, medium-weight, or heavyweight.
Choose a thick, heavy fabric that absorbs more ink if you want saturated colors. Dark patterns are also ideal for thick fabric. Lightweight ones are best with light patterns and less ink.
C. Choose Either Natural Or Synthetic Fabric:
The type of fabric is also essential because you want to know which one will absorb more ink. Natural materials, like wool, cotton, and silk, tend to absorb liquids faster. They are best for screen printing and DTG.
Synthetic fabrics, like nylon, polyester, and rayon, are artificially made and are good at repelling sweat and moisture. They can withstand extended use and are suitable for sublimation, heat transfer, DTG, and screen printing.
D. Explore Your Options:
You can choose from many types of fabric for printed shirts. Knowing your options and understanding which fabric works best for a specific printing method is crucial.
Cotton fabric is popular because it is affordable, absorbent, and comfortable as shirts. This fabric is also hypoallergenic, which is good for sensitive skin. It is a heavier material, and blending it with other fibers increases its durability. Heavier types of cotton, like Heavy Cotton (5.3 oz.) and Ultra Cotton (6.0 oz.), are available.
Cotton’s natural tendency to wrinkle limits its compatibility with certain printing methods. It’s only good for certain types of printing methods like screen printing, heat press printing, and DTG. Cotton is perfect for large orders or fairly priced shirts for a good cause.
Polyester is excellent for activewear and those constantly on the move. More durable and less likely to shrink than cotton, it is also lightweight. Polyester’s moisture-wicking properties make it resistant to staining and odors. However, polyester is pricier than cotton and may not be the best choice for those on a tight budget. This fabric is well-suited for sublimation printing, but when using blended fabrics, it must contain at least 70% polyester. Some polyester shirts also offer varying levels of protection against UV radiation.
Rayon is an affordable alternative to silk, known for its softness. It is a synthetic fabric made from cellulose fibers derived from wood pulp, including spruce, pine, bamboo, eucalyptus, or cotton. Rayon’s absorbent nature makes it ideal for sublimation printing. However, it is best dry-cleaned, as it can stretch after multiple washes. Rayon is also prone to wrinkling, requiring careful handling.
For hemp fabric, several printing methods work well, ensuring quality and longevity of the designs. Due to its absorbent nature and durability, screen printing is an excellent choice for hemp fabric, as it allows for vibrant and long-lasting prints. Direct to Garment (DTG) printing is also suitable for this fabric, as it can effectively pick up intricate details and maintain the design’s quality. While not as common, dye sublimation can be used for hemp fabric blends that contain a high percentage of synthetic fibers, such as polyester.
Tencel fabric, with its smooth texture and excellent draping properties, can be printed using a few different methods. DTG printing works well with this fabric, as it can accurately reproduce detailed designs and maintain the fabric’s softness. Heat press printing is another viable option, as it transfers images onto the fabric without compromising the material’s breathability and moisture-wicking properties. Dye sublimation may be used for Tencel blends that contain a significant amount of synthetic fibers, allowing for vibrant, long-lasting prints.
6. Blended Fabrics:
Blended fabrics combine multiple fiber types. Poly-cotton blends with a 50/50 ratio were among the first in the market and remain popular choices. Some fabrics even feature tri-blends, including rayon. Blended materials can be versatile and more expensive than cotton or polyester alone. These fabrics are best suited for digital printing with a 70% to 30% ratio. For instance, you can find blended materials with more cotton than polyester.
Choosing the appropriate fabric for the desired printing method is crucial for ensuring the quality of your custom-made shirt. It’s essential to provide care instructions for the shirt while ensuring that the design will remain intact during wear and cleaning.
Select the best fabric for your custom-printed shirt by learning the basics of popular shirt printing methods. This knowledge will help you identify which fabric type is best suited for each technique. Familiarize yourself with popular fabric options like cotton, polyester, and blended fabrics. Consider factors such as fabric weight and whether the material is natural or synthetic. Ultimately, the best fabric will depend on the shirt printing method available at the time.
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Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.