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How to Choose the Best T-Shirt Material

John C.


John C.


August 7, 2023

Oct 4, 2023

How to Choose the Best T-Shirt Material

The perfect t-shirt holds its shape, offers a flattering fit, retains vivid imagery, and feels cool and comfortable to wear. Choosing the right t-shirt material plays an important role in making sure a tee ticks all the boxes. 

If printing a tee with eye-catching graphics is important to you, the best fabric for your t-shirt is one that will hold color really well, or give you the option to display a more worn-in vintage look. If a soft-to-the-touch feel matters, you’ll want to pay close attention to fabric composition – exploring a range of textiles from all-natural 100% cotton to popular tri-blend fabrics that mingle synthetics with natural fibers. 

With so many t-shirt options available, it can be tough to choose. Not to worry! We’ll walk you through some of the top considerations and what t-shirts may be the best for your particular use cases. 

Factors to consider when choosing a t-shirt fabric 

From comfort to style to ease of care, there are a number of factors to weigh when choosing a t-shirt fabric.


Think about your favorite t-shirt and why it’s your favorite. Chances are, you love the way it feels. While some shirts require multiple washings to get that perfectly lived-in feel, others are soft and comfortable right out of the gate. 

All-cotton tees can offer a lighter, breezier feel. This makes them a great choice for warmer weather wear. Just be sure you’ve chosen a pre-shrunk cotton shirt, as cotton typically has less stretch than synthetic fibers and blends. A too-tight tee shirt can be uncomfortable! 

Tri-blend tees are another lightweight option and can work for warmer temperatures. These tees are made from a mix of cotton, polyester, and rayon, giving them a bit more stretch for a flattering fit. 

Synthetic, all-polyester shirts – while silky and stretchy – may be less breathable than cotton or tri-blend tees. This makes them a good fit for chillier temperatures. Additionally, some synthetic tees have moisture-wicking properties thanks to a blend of polyester and cotton. These tees can help keep you cool and dry during a sweaty session at the gym. 


Heavy cotton tees can hold up well with multiple washings. The only caveat is that all-cotton tees can wrinkle more easily. Poly-cotton blend tees or tri-blend tees can move and stretch with you, offering a more wrinkle-resistant option. When choosing the right t-shirt material,, don’t just look at the fabric itself, but also look at the technology behind the fabric and the properties it delivers!

Style & Appearance

Elements like color, cut, shape, and weight of the fabric play a role in how a shirt fits and drapes to give you the desired effect. Most t-shirts are strong and sturdy. However, thinner cotton tees with shorter fibers can be more prone to pilling, making them less comfortable and less attractive. Poly-cotton blends are known for their longevity, giving you stretch when you need it and retaining color and shape. 

Care & Maintenance

When choosing a t-shirt fabric, reading its care label can help you better determine if it will hold its shape and color well. Some cotton fabrics can bleed, making it important to wash in cool water instead of hot. Other fabrics, such as polyester-cotton blends or tri-blend tees aren’t quite as fussy. They’re also more wrinkle-resistant than all-cotton tees and can give you a neat, polished appearance whether your shirt is fresh out of the dryer or if it’s been sitting in your drawer for a few weeks. 

Use Case

Whether you enjoy personalizing your tee with fun DIY details (tie-dye, anyone?) or if you’re selling small-batch printed tees, different t-shirt materials work better for some projects than others. Consider your audience and anticipate their needs – as well as what t-shirt fabric will most appeal to them. 

For instance, all-cotton t-shirts are the best material for tie-dye projects. Natural fibers readily absorb bleach or dye, forming a one-of-a-kind pattern based on how you bind your shirt. Polyester, on the other hand, does not absorb color as well as cotton and might not give you the vibrant colors you crave. 

For screen-printing projects, you’ll want to first consider what type of ink you plan to use to create any graphics, quotes, or designs on your t-shirt. Knowing the type of ink you plan to use can help you find the right fabric for your screenprinting projects: 

  • Water-based inks work well on cotton tees, soaking into the natural fibers to create a lasting image. You can also use a poly-cotton or tri-blend tee with water-based inks, so long as they have a higher percentage of cotton compared to other synthetic fabrics in the mix.  
  • On the flipside, plastic- or PVC-based inks work well on any type of tee since these inks rest on top of the fabric and adhere to them. If you’re using PVC-based ink, you have options a-plenty and can choose either a cotton, polyester, poly-cotton, or tri-blend tee for your screen printing project. However, if you’re looking for a more weathered or distressed look, tri-blend tees can give you a cool, vintage vibe due to its blend of natural and synthetic fibers. 

If you’re looking for high-quality workout blanks, polyester and poly-cotton blend tees can be an outstanding choice. Look for fabrics with moisture-wicking qualities that lift sweat away from the body. These blanks can also be printed with graphics – such as a team or company logo – so long as you use plastic or PVC-based inks. 

Different T-Shirt Materials

Cotton tees are a wardrobe mainstay, but poly-cotton and tri-blend tees have made their way into the hearts – and wardrobes – of many t-shirt fans. That said, we’d be remiss not to mention some unsung heroes of the t-shirt world staking a claim on your closet. 

All-natural fabrics like hemp, bamboo and linen are lightweight and ideal for warmer weather wear. As an added bonus, hemp and bamboo are sustainable fabric choices that offer comfort and style on-par with cotton. Synthetic nylon is another popular lightweight t-shirt fabric that offers some stretch and durability along with a an appealing sheen.

Your t-shirt fabric options are endless. However, we’ll go into greater detail about some of the most common fabric types. Knowing more about the fabrics behind the apparel you love can help you find the right tee for your needs.

Cotton T-Shirts

Cotton t-shirts are beloved for their breathability and versatility. They’re comfortable, absorbent, and durable. Cotton tees also work really well for a variety of small-batch print projects, from tie-dye to screen printing. Additionally, they’re cost-effective and come in a variety of vivid colors. 

It’s important to remember that not all cotton tees are alike. There are actually several different types of cotton and methods of processing the fiber that can make it softer and smoother. For instance, ring-spun cotton and combed cotton are two of the softest types of cotton, as they’ve been combed and spun to rid the fabric of any flaws. 

There are also different weights of cotton – ranging from lightweight to heavyweight. For an example of a sturdy heavyweight all-cotton tee in a range of colors, check out the Gildan 5000 Heavy Cotton T-Shirt

While cotton is typically renowned for its durability, natural fibers can experience wear faster than synthetics. With age, your once-crisp cotton tee can show signs of wear with fraying on the neck band and/or sleeves. Additionally, cotton tees can shrink if not washed properly. Look for pre-shrunk cotton and always read care labels before laundering to help keep your cotton t-shirts looking their best for as long as possible. 

Heavy Cotton T-Shirt - Gildan 5000

Polyester T-Shirts

Very few t-shirts are made entirely out of polyester. Rather, you’ll find a number of poly-cotton blends that offer the breathability of cotton alongside the durability and silky feel of polyester. Poly-cotton tees come in a ratio of blends, including:

  • 90% cotton/10%polyester. This blend offers a little extra stretch, helping t-shirts hold their shape or offering a slightly weathered look – as is the case with heathered fabrics. The Bella + Canvas 6400CVC Relaxed Fit Heath CVC Tee combines the softness of airlume combed and ringspun cotton alongside polyester in a ratio for a laid-back fit with easy care.  
  • 50% cotton / 50% polyester: This ratio provides a more elevated look that’s suitable for a Casual Friday, giving you a more “formal tee” that holds its shape and color quite well. Check out the Gildan 8300 DryBlend Pocket T-Shirt for a great example of a stylish poly-cotton blend tee! 
  • Higher-ratios of polyester to cotton (such as 80% polyester / 20% cotton or higher). You’ll typically see this ratio in active wear. This blend creates a moisture-wicking effect, due to the absorbency of cotton and the quick-drying capabilities of polyester. Polyester also adds more stretch, making this a great choice for athletic wear that moves with you. The JERZEES 21MR Dri-Power Performance Short Sleeve T-Shirt is made from 100% polyester, but has a soft, cottony feel and moisture-management properties. 

One of the chief benefits of predominantly polyester tees is that the synthetic fibers give them more stretch and make these garments more wrinkle-resistant. 

Jersey Tee - BELLA + CANVAS 3001

Blended Material T-Shirts

Tri-blend tees have become increasingly more popular in recent years. This blend of natural cotton alongside synthetic polyester and semi-synthetic rayon is known for being ultra soft and producing a weathered look and feel of a well-loved vintage tee, even though it’s brand new. Need an example? Look no further than the Next level 6010 Unisex Tri-Blend T-Shirt, available in an array of colors. 

Typically, tri-blend tees are more expensive than all-cotton or poly-cotton blends. But you can’t beat their comfort and softness! They also tend not to shrink as much as cotton tees and hold their shape beautifully, even after multiple washes. They’re also less prone to wrinkling. 

Unisex Triblend T-Shirt - Next Level 6010

Find the right t-shirt fabric with Clothing Shop Online

Finding the right t-shirt fabric depends on what matters most to you. Whether it’s style, durability, softness, or the ability to tee up your t-shirt for a variety of small-batch print projects, Clothing Shop Online has you covered. Choose from our wide selection of tees from trusted brands for any and all of your blank apparel needs. 

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