“Which type of t-shirt should I choose for my design?”
We get this question all the time. Cotton, polyester, tri-blend, jersey, raglan – there are a lot of terms out there, and unless you’re already familiar with ordering custom shirts, you might feel a little overwhelmed.
The truth is, for the most part, there’s really no WRONG choice of t-shirt. Most types of t-shirts will work for whatever you might have in mind. However, there are certainly some types of shirts that may be better suited for your needs, so let’s learn a bit more about the different types of shirts and fabrics that are out there.
The first thing you want to decide is the type of material your shirt is made from. There are a number of common choices here, so let’s take a look.
Made from the cotton plant (obviously.) If you’ve ever wondered how cotton goes from a plant to a textile, check out this informative video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH_b3Heo48I
Cotton is the most common type of shirt material. It can be a standalone material, or combined with other types of fabric in a blend.
Cotton is a sturdy material, and is soft and breathable. However, it can wrinkle if not immediately folded after washing and drying. While basic cotton is the most common and usually the most affordable, other types of cotton fabrics are available.
Combed cotton is made using (you guessed it) special combs that get rid of shorter strands and extra fibers, making the fabric smoother and stronger. Organic cotton is made with strict growing methods that gives it an extremely soft feel. Pima/supima cotton fabric also exists, and is made from extra-long cotton fibers. Pima/supima cotton is extremely soft and durable, and maintains that soft feel even after multiple washings.
Many of the upgraded cotton fabrics may cost a little bit extra, but you get what you pay for with softer and more durable t-shirts.
Polyester is a weird-looking word for fabric made from polyethylene terephthalate fibers. Bet you weren’t expecting to see big science-y words when you clicked on this post, were you?
Different types of polyester materials are used in everything from plastic bottles to food packaging to thermal insulation. However, the most popular use is in the apparel industry.
Polyester fabric is strong, quick-drying, and resistant to wrinkles. It holds up well throughout the life of the garment, and maintains its shape without stretching or shrinking. Polyester is often used in sports and fitness apparel, especially polo shirts.
Many people say polyester has a “synthetic” feel to it, which isn’t really surprising, considering it’s made with synthetic materials!
Blends are two or more fabrics mixed together for different results. Some blends may have more of one type of fabric, whereas others may have an even 50/50 split of fabrics.
The most common blend is a dual blend of cotton and polyester. This blend takes the best traits of both fabrics and combines them: the light and cool feeling of cotton with the strength and wrinkle-resistance of polyester.
Tri-blends are a mix of three different types of fabrics; usually cotton, polyester, and rayon, a type of synthetic silk. Usually, the fabrics are separated by 50/25/25, but that all depends on the manufacturer. Some choose different combinations or even different fabrics.
Obviously, you’re familiar with this one. Incredibly popular and able to be customized with just about any type of logo or design imaginable, the standard t-shirt is everywhere. Available with a standard neck and sleeve, these shirts come in a wide range of colors and fabrics. Choose these shirts when you want something tried-and-true that will always look great, no matter what your design may be!
Popular with: Just about everything!
The same as standard t-shirts, except for a different neck cut. V-necks give a more fashionable and stylish look than standard tees, while still providing the same amount of surface area for printing. V-neck cuts are more common on women’s shirts, but are still a popular style for men’s shirts as well.
Scoop Neck/Deep V-Neck Tees
More common as a women’s style, but occasionally used on men’s tees as well. Scoop neck tees have a larger head cutout, and deep v-neck tees have a deeper “v” than standard v-neck shirts.
Popular with: Fashion lines, online retailers.
Sleeveless and light, these shirts are great for sports and fitness. At TJM, we see a lot of gyms or Crossfit companies choose tank tops for their designs. Just like tees, there are a wide range of colors and fabrics to choose from, so find the style that’s right for you. For women’s styles, there are different types of backs to choose from as well, so keep that in mind when browsing!
Popular with: Gyms, athletic organizations, sports teams.
Material on polo shirts can vary greatly. There are cotton polos which feel like a standard t-shirt, there are polyester polos that are hugely popular for sports like golf and football, and there are piqué knit polos for more formal occasions.
Popular with: Businesses, fashion lines, fitness companies.
Long Sleeve Tees
Don’t confuse long sleeve tees with sweaters or hoodies. These are still made of lighter materials like standard t-shirts. Long sleeve tees also come in plenty of colors, and have the extra option of printing on the sleeves, so remember that for your design. Most long sleeve tees have an elastic fabric band on the wrist, but not all do. Like all tees, long sleeve shirts come in a variety of fabrics.
Popular with: Sports teams, gyms, businesses.
Just like with t-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts come in a variety of fabrics and colors. They can both be made from a single fabric type or a blend, depending on the manufacturer. Usually, if the garment has a zipper, it’s called a hoodie, whereas if it doesn’t, it’s referred to as a sweatshirt, but this isn’t always the case. Like long sleeve tees, hoodies and sweatshirts can also feature prints on the sleeve, giving you more room for creativity in your design.
Popular with: Outdoor wear retailers, sports teams.
Raglan & ¾ Sleeve Shirts
¾ sleeve shirts feature sleeves that are longer than standard tees, but still not quite as long as long sleeve shirts. Raglan shirts are characterized by different colors on the sleeves and collars. While usually ¾ sleeve, raglan shirts are sometimes also long sleeve.
Popular with: Fashion lines, casual wear retailers.
There you have it! That about covers all of the common shirt materials and styles, all gathered together in one post for easy reference. Use this post to help you decide which t-shirt, hoodie, sweater, or tank top is right for you.
As always, if you have any questions or would like some clarification about your design, please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment here, call us at 1-800-423-0449, or send an email to [email protected]. We’re always happy to share our wealth of information!
Curious how we print our shirts? Take a look at our screen printing walkthrough with pictures and gifs!