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T-Shirt Fabric Guide: What Is the Best Fabric for T-Shirts?

Updated: Jan 19

Although picking the right fabric for your t-shirts can be challenging, our t-shirt fabric guide will help you navigate through the sea of options.

There are a variety of fabrics, both natural and synthetic, like cotton, linen, polyester, nylon, spandex, and various blended fabrics. Each has its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.

It is helpful to know what material your t-shirt is made of. Some fabrics are perfect for warm weather, while others are better for colder conditions. Armed with this knowledge, you can choose t-shirts that align with your customers’ needs.

In this article, we’ll look at different types of t-shirt fabrics, their characteristics and functionality. After reading our t-shirt fabric guide, you’ll be able to choose t-shirts that are made from fabric that suits your business the best.

How to Pick a T-Shirt Fabric

When it comes to picking a t-shirt, the importance of fabric cannot be overstated. It plays a big part in the way the t-shirt feels, how long it will last, and whether it’s a good printing surface.

Everyone – big or small, young or old – enjoys wearing high-quality garments that provide long-lasting comfort and are fit for their purpose.

The vast majority of t-shirts are made out of cotton, polyester, or their blends. Each material is unique in its own right. All of them are very common and popular.

Whichever fabric you choose, you should always consider the following:

  • Weather. Always pick a climate-appropriate fabric. With the wrong fabric, you’ll melt in the summer and freeze in the winter.

  • Comfort. If a garment is uncomfortable, it won’t appeal to your customers. Would you wear a t-shirt that’s too tight, irritating, or unpleasant?

  • Durability. The garment should fit the purpose. Athletic and outdoor activities need a flexible and strong fabric.

  • Cost. You should always consider both the financial and environmental costs of the products you sell or wear.

Cotton is a natural, comfortable, soft, and durable fabric that stays cool in the summer. It is well suited for hot weather, but some products made from cotton wrinkle easily. see options

Polyester, on the other hand, holds its shape well and can withstand stretching, creasing, and repetitive movements. It is perfect for demanding outdoor activities.

T-Shirt Materials

Polyester and Its Characteristics

Polyester is a petroleum-based material. It’s the most popular synthetic fabric in the world. These are some of its characteristics:

  • Lightweight

  • Extremely durable

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Easy to care for

  • Wrinkle-resistant

  • Most athletic apparel companies use polyester in their t-shirts due to its high tenacity and versatility.

The Pros and Cons of Polyester T-Shirts

This synthetic material has many advantages. It is an affordable, durable, and wrinkle-resistant material that’s a good choice for custom t-shirts. Polyester fabric clothing dries quickly and holds printed designs well.

Polyester also has its downsides. Typically, polyesters are non-biodegradable, which means that your polyester fabric shirt might take from 20 to 200 years to break down. Additionally, its manufacture requires a lot of chemicals.

Another negative is that some types of polyester may feel coarse against your skin. It’s important to note that not all polyester is created equal. You can easily find 100% polyester shirts that feel like cotton.

Here are some of our customizable items that are made from polyester:

  • AOP Crop Tee

  • Unisex AOP Cut & Sew Tee

  • Women’s Polo Shirt

Cotton and Its Characteristics

Cotton fabric is the most widely used natural fabric in the world. No t-shirt fabric guide would be complete without it. It is often called the “king of all fabrics”. A fitting name for a fabric that’s so well suited for t-shirts and a variety of other products we use in our daily lives.

These are some of its characteristics:

  • Comfortable

  • Durable

  • Breathable

  • Biodegradable

  • Absorbent

In the printing world, cotton is a big deal. The ink sets into the fibers well, making cotton shirts a great canvas for your designs. Cotton is one of the best fabrics for printing on t-shirts.

The Different Types of Cotton

To help you choose what’s best for your business, let’s look at the different types of cotton that are commonly used in making t-shirts. You can often find this information in the product details.

  • Ring-Spun Cotton. Cotton that’s a bit softer, smoother, more durable, and lasts longer than regular cotton. It also tends to be more expensive than regular cotton.

  • Combed and Ring-Spun Cotton. This cotton is even softer than ring-spun cotton, because it has been combed to remove impurities. It is extremely soft, smooth, and less likely to unravel or fray. Fewer impurities mean a smoother surface to print on. However, it also tends to be a bit more expensive.

  • Organic Cotton. As the march towards sustainability continues, organic cotton that’s grown without hazardous chemicals is gaining popularity. It is softer than regular cotton but just as durable and weatherproof. Although it’s slightly more expensive, many customers identify with eco-friendly practices and are willing to pay a little more.

  • Slub Cotton. A light and airy fabric makes good cotton t-shirts that don’t cling to the body. It gets its name from those naturally textured highs and lows you see throughout the fabric. It feels good from the get-go, and doesn’t require much ironing. Slub cotton is slightly more expensive than regular cotton.

  • Pima Cotton. If you like soft cotton shirts, you should try Pima cotton. The highest-quality cotton, one of the finest in the world. It is smooth, soft, and durable. The material is resistant to tearing, wrinkling, and fading. Pima cotton is one of the most expensive types of cotton.

  • In addition, you might also have heard of pique cotton, sometimes called “polo fabric”. It is often used for polo shirts due to its durability and texture.

All in all, cotton is a versatile material that can be used to make a variety of fabrics and t-shirts.

The Pros and Cons of Cotton T-Shirts

A cotton t-shirt breathes well, absorbs moisture, and feels comfortable against the skin. Is cotton soft? You bet. Cotton is ideal for everyday wear. It’s biodegradable, so it will break down over time. Cotton is one of the best fabrics for t-shirts.

However, it has its negative side too. Although it’s a durable t-shirt fabric, the natural fibers tend to wear down faster than synthetic polyester fibers. Cotton shirts may also shrink unless the cotton is preshrunk. Preshrunk t-shirts shrink a lot less.

Some of our customizable t-shirts that are made from cotton:

  • Unisex Heavy Cotton Tee

  • Organic Creator T-shirt – Unisex

  • Unisex Organic Short Sleeve Tee

Linen and Its Characteristics

Linen is a natural fabric that’s best suited for summer. It is created from flax plant fibers and features a textured weave.

These are some of its characteristics:

  • Extremely durable

  • Breathable

  • Dries quickly

  • Long-lasting

  • Absorbent

When it comes to softness, linen gets softer with every wash. There’s no need for any fabric softeners – water alone will do.

The Pros and Cons of Linen T-Shirts

Linen is the perfect choice for warm weather. It is breathable, lightweight, and durable. Linen provides unlimited breathability. Linen will keep you cool in the summer.

Although linen has a lot of great properties, it’s not one of the most popular fabrics for t-shirts. Even a slight touch can cause wrinkles and folds, giving the garment an unpresentable appearance.

Additionally, linen is more expensive than cotton.

Lastly, linen is prone to shrinkage. If you ever happen to wash linen clothing, make sure to observe the recommendations on the fabric’s care label.

What Are the Best Fabric Blends for T-Shirts

Although poly-blend originally referred to combining two or more polyester materials, today it’s commonly used to refer to the blending of polyester with natural fibers.

By blending, the textile industry can produce fabrics that exhibit properties unachievable with either fiber alone. If you want your t-shirts to be durable, poly-blend is the way to go.

For example, t-shirts can be made out of different fabrics, thus complementing each other. Let’s look at the most common.

  • Cotton / Spandex Blend. More elastic and wrinkle-resistant than cotton alone.

  • Rayon / Polyester Blend. Softer and more comfortable than polyester alone.

  • Cotton / Polyester / Spandex Blend. Stretchy, comfortable, and doesn’t wrinkle easily.

  • Polyester / Viscose Blend. Strong and resistant to shrinking. Viscose adds softness.

  • Blending is a good way to improve the performance, texture, and feel of the fabric. What’s more, sometimes it also reduces the cost.

What Are the Most Common Blend Ratios?

Blend ratios vary from producer to producer. Let’s take a look at some of the most common.

  • 80% Polyester / 20% Cotton Blend

  • A popular blend for athletic wear. T-shirts made out of this blend are soft, versatile, and easy to take care of.

  • 52% Cotton / 48% Polyester Blend

  • A good blend for casual wear. It is comfortable, durable, lightweight, dries quickly, and is less likely to shrink than pure cotton.

  • 90% Cotton / 10% Polyester Blend

  • A blend that’s commonly used for t-shirts. It is soft, comfortable, and breathable. With t-shirts made out of this blend, you should take care to avoid shrinkage.

  • These are not the only blends you’ll see on the market. There’s also 75% polyester / 25% cotton t-shirts, 65% polyester / 35% cotton, 65% cotton / 35% polyester, 50% cotton / 50% polyester, and so on.

These blends offer the best of both worlds and are popular due to their affordability and the healthy balance they strike between breathability, durability, and comfort.

What Is the Softest Fabric for T-Shirts?

Everyone has their favorite t-shirt. You’ve probably washed yours a thousand times and still continue to marvel at its softness. Today, you can buy a brand-new t-shirt that feels just as soft.

As we continue our t-shirt fabric guide, let’s look at one of the softest t-shirt materials out there

tri-blend fabric. As the name implies, this is a material that’s created by blending together three kinds of fibers: polyester, cotton, and rayon. The final result is a soft and light fabric that’s often used to make comfortable, affordable, and stylish t-shirts.

In addition to unparalleled softness, the added rayon gives the t-shirt a silky drape. You can easily tell it apart from other fabrics by the way it lays on the body.

How Important Is T-Shirt Weight?

Although we’ve covered a lot about fabrics, it doesn’t end there. Let us continue our t-shirt fabric guide with extra details. While the weight of a t-shirt might seem unimportant to some, it’s crucial for managing expectations and avoiding disappointment.

With this knowledge, you can better differentiate between options and pick the one best suited for your brand.

  • Lightweight T-Shirts. A good choice if you’re after softness and drape. Typically, it’s thinner, lighter, and more flexible. It may also be more transparent on rainy or humid days. These are lighter to pack, ship, and they take less space in luggage or dresser.

  • Medium Weight T-Shirts. Even though they’re not as thin, they can also be very soft, depending on the fabric. This weight offers better protection from the wind and keeps you warmer. However, it takes longer to dry. These are less compressible, so they will take more space in your suitcase or a drawer.

  • Heavyweight T-Shirts. These can be soft, but some might feel coarse – it depends on the fabric. They’re durable and perfect for workwear. They are best suited for cooler weather. These take the most space when packed away and take longer to dry.

The weight of a t-shirt is mostly determined by the weight of the fabric it’s sewn from. The lightweight t-shirts can be soft and luxurious, while heavyweights are more durable. Neither is better than the other. It all depends on the occasion.

What Is a Yarn Count?

In the textile industry, a yarn is a continuous length of interlocked fibers. It is used for the production of fabrics, which afterward are made into t-shirts and other clothes that we wear.

Yarn count, essentially, defines the fineness of the thread. You can usually find this information in the product details, where it may be displayed in several ways – 30/1, 30s, or 30 Singles. They all mean the same thing.

Simply put, the higher the number, the finer the yarn. The fabric is softer, smoother, and lighter. If the yarn count is low, the fabric is generally weightier and thicker.

For example, a t-shirt with a measurement of 30/1 indicates that it’s softer than a t-shirt with a measurement of 18/1. 30/1 and above is considered very good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a lower number is bad. It all depends on your requirements.

In Conclusion

The world of fabrics is vast, colorful, and full of options. It is forever changing, too. As technology evolves, so do t-shirt fabrics.

Although it may seem hard to keep up, we hope that this t-shirt fabric guide has provided you with some valuable information that’ll help you to stay ahead of the game.

T-shirts are the bread and butter for many sellers. If you do your research, you can impress your customers with merchandise that’s comfortable, durable, and looks amazing.

Choose the best t-shirts for your online store, create high-quality product images or search for relevant t-shirt mockups. Create the perfect listings and start selling!

What is your favorite t-shirt made out of? Which fabric do you prefer? Let us know!


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