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How to Choose the Best Fabric for Your Printing Job


Fabrics are to garment manufacturers what canvases are to artists. A bad canvas can ruin a beautiful painting and the same can be said about a t-shirt made out of a poor material. This is why it is important to pay attention to fabrics.

natural-vs-synthetic-fabricsTypes of Fabrics

Fabrics fall into two or three types depending on whom you ask: natural, synthetic or a blend of the two. Let’s take a look at some of the properties of the two primary ones.

Natural Fabrics

Among them are cotton, wool, silk and linen. As the name suggests these are made out of natural elements such as plants and animals. Wool comes from sheep coats, while silk is extracted out of fibres of the silk-worm and cotton is made out of the cotton-plant seed pods. Thanks to their natural properties, these types of fabrics tend to outshine their synthetic counterparts in the most basic of functions. For example, wool does a better job at keeping you warm and there’s no fabric that transpires better than cotton.

Synthetic Fabrics

Nylon, spandex and polyester are some of the most common. Nowadays synthetic fabrics have become really good at imitating natural fabrics, sometimes the only way to tell the difference is by touching them. Such is the case with rayon which is a man-made substitute of silk. This type of fabrics doesn’t breathe as well as their natural counterparts, which is why they tend to be blended with cotton. But they do bend well, which is why they are often found on sports clothes.

banner-fabricsThe relationship between printing and fabrics

When it comes to printing, natural fabrics seem to do better than synthetic ones. The first absorb water better and since ink is a liquid, it behaves in a similar way. The second group is usually made out of plastic and oil, which have a tendency to repel water. Since they are very small particles, you’d still be able to print somewhat onto them, but the result won’t be as spectacular as it could be.

If you don’t know what kind of fabric to pick, stick to cotton. It is the absolute king. Understandably, you won’t always be able to use 100% cotton since they’re the most expensive of garments. It is expected that you may want, from time to time, keep costs down. Then your second best choice would be a blend between cotton and something like polyester. 80% – 20%, 70% – 30%, 50% – 50% — the more cotton it has, the better the end result will be.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

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