Material Selection for your Custom T-Shirt Printing Project

Every day we work on custom t-shirt printing orders for multiple groups and for multiple needs.  The decision of what material to use is a big decision that affects not only your design needs, but also cost, comfort and satisfaction of your own members/customers! 

Custom school t-shirts from Sew Much More
Custom school t-shirts from Sew Much More

See examples…

Check out our photo gallery of t-shirts we have printed to see what can be done

When you are looking for a screen-printed custom t-shirt, it’s important to know the advantages of the material types that are available.  This is important as a disadvantage to one material (shirt does not do well after a few years of washing) might be an advantage to your needs (need a low-cost shirt). 

So read on to understand the different types of materials to determine what is best for your needs.


Cotton is the most common material used for custom printed t-shirts.  The value it offers is a good mix of softness, affordability, and breath-ability for casual wear. Cotton also has different kinds, like combed cotton and organic cotton. One of the biggest downsides to cotton is that it shrinks after the first warm wash. More info about types of cotton here.


  • Comfort: Very comfortable
  • Performance: Less oriented to performance
  • Washability:  It does shrink after first warm wash


This is a man-made synthetic fiber that is the go-to choice for sports apparel. This material is quick-drying, breathable, doesn’t wrinkle easily, and holds it’s shape well when washed. Ideal for baseball, football or any athletic training needs. 

Custom T-Shirts and Hats from Sew Much More
This is great material for outdoor work!


  • Comfort: Comfortable, but not as comfortable as linen or cotton
  • Performance: Excellent for athletic and active wear as it’s light weight and you barely notice it
  • Washability:  keeps it shape when washed

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This is a man-made material that comes from a blend of cotton, trees and woody plants. This fabric was first made as a cheaper version of silk and has a very smooth feel to it. Like polyester, rayon is a good material for athletic and outdoor wear because of its lightweight feel.


  • Comfort: Very comfortable feeling
  • Performance:  Not normally ideal if looking for training purposes
  • Washability: One of the downsides to rayon is that it doesn’t tend to last well over time and can become wrinkled with repeated wears.


This is usually a 50/50 mix of polyester and cotton, but can vary at 65/35 ratio as well. This material combines the best qualities of polyester and cotton into a breathable yet soft shirt. This type of fabric is often very popular due to it’s super soft feel, but is cheaper than 100% cotton.


  • Comfort: Soft and comfortable
  • Performance: Very high, similar to polyester
  • Washability: Poly/Cotton blends also tend to hold their shape well compared to other fabrics.


This is a blended mix of three fabrics, most typically cotton, polyester and rayon.  The advantage of a hybrid is that it can adopt some of the best qualities of the other fabrics, like the lightweight feel of rayon but the softness of cotton. Tri-blends offer a good balance between style, comfort and durability in custom printed t-shirts.


  • Comfort: often very comfortable
  • Performance: good performance
  • Washability: Depends on the mix.  See above for properties of each individual material


When you are making a decision on what materials to use for your next custom t-shirt printing order, be sure to remember the end user that will be wearing this shirt.  Ask yourself:

  • What do they need for comfort?
  • Is washability a factor?
  • Is this for performance or more for style or for creating a single look for your volunteers?

When you take all of these questions together and review the materials above, you should be able to choose the right material to suite your project needs!

Contact us for more information about what material will work best for your needs.