Printed garments… what’s the right material?

Embroidered Work Shirt

One side of our business that’s booming at the moment is printed garments. You know, work wear, branded tops (great for Zoom meetings!), that sort of thing. And we’ve noted that we’re often asked about the different materials available, so we thought we’d give you a heads-up on what’s often used for what… and why… so you can get planning.

The swings and roundabouts of man-made fibres

Waterproof Jackets

First off, it’s worth noting that the more man-made fibres there are in a material, the easier garments tend to be to care for and the longer they last. There is a trade-off, however.  For the more man-made fibres there are, the less natural the fabric feels, which can sometimes make it a little less comfortable. Of course, though, the ultimate influencer is what the garments are going to be used for, because they do tend to be more waterproof and tougher on wear and tear.

As an aside, by the way, we never use nylon. All our printing processes involve heat at some point, and nylon and heat don’t mix very well. It just produces a sticky mess!

So with that said, what do we use? Here you go…

Cotton & Cotton Blended Fabrics

We’ve started with these because the options are many and varied, from soft T-Shirts in polycotton, to knitted polo shirts, to ‘fluffier’ sweatshirts (that’s our technical term for them, by the way… it kinda says it how it is). This is what we’re talking about:

Ringspun cotton – This type of cotton has gone through a process that produces stronger but softer strands, and tends to be gentle to the touch whilst remaining very durable. It’s often used for T-Shirts.

Knitted cotton & cotton blends – This process produces a heavier finish, but is still very comfortable to wear and is also very durable. Polo shirts are a good example of the type of garment that benefits from this type of fabric.

Jersey – This is a much heavier finish which can be smooth one side, and furrier on the other side. We call it fluffy. Sweatshirts, hoodies, and joggers are great examples of garments using this type of fabric.


You’ll be familiar with the use of polyester for sportswear. It’s a thin, light fabric that works really well for active wear. From our perspective, it’s great because it can take dye sublimation prints, where the full colour image is transferred into the fabric, and isn’t simply just a stuck on transfer. That helps the image endure more cycles through the washing machine.


This material is great for keeping you warm when you also need the garment to be easy to care for. It’s made from man-made fibres, so note our comments above, but it is fluffy, can be appropriately weighty, and will be nicely insulating for those chillier days. The fluffy nature of the fabric, however, makes printing nearly impossible, so we recommend logos and other messages are embroidered instead.

Summary of fabrics and their decorate-ability

Polyester T-ShirtT-ShirtKnittedJerseyFleece
Screen PrintYesYesYesYesNo
Dye SublimationYesNoNoNoNo
Garment VinylYesYesYesYesNo
Printed Garment VinylYesYesYesYesNo

If that’s given you some food for thought but you still have questions, please do give us a ring on 01604 626265. We’ll be able to guide you on the best choices for your needs.