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Beginner's handbook

Guide to Cotton, Polyester, and Blended Fabrics

By Reading Time: 6 minutes

Starting an online clothing store is fun, but it’s not always easy. Among the many choices you have to make, deciding which types of fabric to use for your products is one of the most important ones.

If you’re just starting off, you might be tempted to use the cheapest canvas for your designs, but don’t rush with that decision. Think about your audience and how you’re presenting your brand. And don’t forget that the fabric of your garments has to go well not only with your chosen niche, but with your designs too.

Every apparel retailer should be familiar with three primary fabric types: cotton, polyester, and blended fabrics. In this blog post, we’ll be taking a closer look at each of them to help you decide which fabrics are the best for your store.


Cotton is the most widely produced natural fiber on the planet. As a fabric, it’s known for its comfort and durability, which makes it one of the most popular fabrics used in apparel.

  • Feel and wear

Cotton is a versatile fiber that can be woven or knitted into many different fabrics like denim, flannel, jersey, and more. Each of which, of course, has a slightly different feel and wear.

All cotton fabrics are soft and breathable, which makes them perfect for warm climates and hot weather, and for people with sensitive skin.

Lastly, cotton isn’t clingy. So if you don’t want to sell form-fitting clothes on your store and prefer a looser fit, choose cotton. But keep in mind 100% cotton dries slowly, so it’s probably not ideal for activewear.

  • Printing suitability

Cotton makes a great surface for DTG printing. So if you want your design to be opaque and crisp, pick a garment made from 100% cotton. Just keep in mind that DTG prints don’t come out as solidly on thick cotton clothing (e.g. sweatshirts) as they do on t-shirts.

Popular 100% cotton products available on Printful:

Disclaimer: The coupon is valid until June 30th, 2022. The coupon can be used on Printful store and can not be exchanged for money. The coupon does not apply to sample orders. The coupon is for one-time use only, it can not be copied or combined with any other coupon. The coupon excludes shipping fees and taxes.

  • Durability and care

High-quality cotton is super durable, which makes it less prone to accidental rips or tears. However, cotton isn’t as durable as polyester or cotton/polyester blends.

Just like most natural materials, it can shrink when subjected to high temperatures. So when washing a cotton shirt, use cold water and avoid adding too much detergent as doing so can affect the wear and tear of the material. Choose delicate cycle setting on your washing machine to prevent color fading.

Keep in mind that, because of different manufacturing techniques, products can feel different on your skin, even if they are all 100% cotton. You can see this in action in our People Test T-Shirts video:


Polyester is a man-made fiber that is synthesized from petroleum-based products. Polyester cloth was invented in 1941, so comparing to cotton, this fabric is a fairly new player in the game.

But despite that, polyester is becoming an increasingly popular option in the apparel industry. Polyester is especially valued by those who are looking for a fabric that withstands a lot of wearing and washing.

  • Feel and wear

Let’s look at what polyester is like when wearing it and more specifically—how polyester fits.

Polyester is lightweight and has a slightly silkier feel to it than cotton does. It’s also perfect for sports. Apparel made from polyester traps the sweat against the skin. This means that polyester shirts may feel slightly clammy in warm weather, but warm in cooler weather.

Polyester shirts are usually light and thin and they may cling to skin a little. For those with extremely sensitive skin, polyester may cause a small irritation, but it isn’t as common when polyester is blended with other fabrics.

Is polyester stretchy? Yes, polyester stretches naturally to ensure comfort for the wearer. Polyester doesn’t naturally shrink and 100% polyester won’t lose its shape even after a good deal of wear and tear and snap back into shape pretty quickly.

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  • Printing suitability

If you own a clothing store, you’re probably wondering what kind of material is polyester when it comes to printing.

For some time, printing on polyester was quite a challenge. But thanks to special dyes and advanced printing technologies, achieving high-quality prints on polyester fabrics is no longer a worry. Printed colors are vibrant and unlikely to fade with time.

However, since printing on polyester garments is more difficult than on cotton or fabric blends, polyester products are usually more expensive.

Popular 100% polyester products available on Printful:

  • Durability and care

Polyester is very durable, more so than cotton and most blended fabrics. It’s also difficult to stain permanently because polyester is less absorbent than most fabrics.

Polyester fabrics are also known for their resistance to wrinkling, shrinking and fading when properly taken care of. That said, it’s recommended to machine wash polyester garments in warm water with all-purpose detergent, then follow up with tumble-dry at a low-temperature setting.

Most Printful products have detailed care instruction on the product pages.

Cotton vs Polyester

Now that you’re familiar with both fabrics let’s go through cotton vs. polyester comparison checklist to see what are the characteristics that set them apart.

This comparison table may already give you an idea which fabric suits your needs better. But before you make a final decision, take a look at what fabric blends have to offer.

Disclaimer: The coupon is valid until June 30th, 2022. The coupon can be used on Printful store and can not be exchanged for money. The coupon does not apply to sample orders. The coupon is for one-time use only, it can not be copied or combined with any other coupon. The coupon excludes shipping fees and taxes.

Fabric blends

As you can probably guess, fabric blends are created when two or more different kinds of fibers are combined together to create a new type of textile with unique properties.

Throughout the years, blended fabrics have been developed to cater to specific needs, like improving the texture, durability, feel of the material, or even reducing the cost of apparel production.

Today there are hundreds of fabric blends available in the market, but the more popular blends for printed apparel are:

  • Cotton-polyester blends (65/35 and 50/50)

If you can’t decide between cotton or polyester, combine the best of both and go for a cotton-polyester blend.

The cotton-polyester blend is versatile and is used to make everything from bedding to shirts. Because polyester doesn’t shrink or change shape like cotton does, this blend is easier to wash and dry. And thanks to the cotton component in the blend, garments made from cotton-polyester are more breathable compared to pure polyester products.

Best part, this blend makes a great canvas for bright and colorful designs.

tshirt print vs hoodie print

Popular cotton-polyester products available on Printful:

  • Polyester-cotton-rayon blend (50/25/25)

Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber that combines just the right amount of polyester, cotton, and rayon. Apparel made from this fabric is soft and stretchy, yet durable. This famous tri-blend makes perfect fabric for loose fit apparel, and are loved for their snuggly feel.

Due to the looser weave and combination of fabrics, DTG prints on tri-blends will have a so-called vintage feel. It’s because the fabric of the garment slightly shows through the ink.


Popular tri-blend products available on Printful:

  • Polyester-spandex blends (85/15)

Spandex, also known as elastane or lycra, is a synthetic fiber best known for its elasticity. When combined with cotton, spandex makes a perfect fabric for clothing that is soft to touch and durable. Most commonly, polyester-spandex blends are used in activewear as spandex is stretchy and can retain its original shape, and polyester – durable.

Popular polyester-spandex products available on Printful:

What’s your fabric of choice?

All three fabric types have their advantages and disadvantages, so it truly comes down to a personal preference. But as a store owner, you need to think about the fabric and products you choose, because it reflects on your brand. You should also let your customers know the fit, feel, and care instructions of each fabric garment so they last longer.

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Read next:

During her time as blog manager at Printful, Giedre learned the importance of content localization. Now she uses this knowledge as International Content Marketing Manager to overlook Printful’s communications in all languages but English.


  1. Mohit

    Very informative article. Solved most of my questions.
    Do you have fabric with 70-75% Polyester, 20% Rayon and 7-10% Spandex?
    How would print come out on that fabric?

    1. Alise Zindiga

      Hey, Mohit, happy to hear that this article was helpful for you! Currently, we don’t have any fabrics with rayon in the fabric content. Our all-over print hoodies, sweatshirts, and sweatpants have 70% polyester, 27% cotton, and 3% elastane in the fabric content. Perhaps this suits your needs as well.

      1. Natalie

        Hi Alise. Thanks for interesting topic.
        I crossed with unusual blend that I ‘ve never seen before 60% algo and 40% polyester. What is algo? Thanks!

        1. Esther Everson

          Hey, Natalie! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to comment about algo fabric as we haven’t used it in our production.

  2. Steven Smith

    I am starting a range of golf apparel. My initial market will be South Africa, which is very warm /hot. What you think of polyester/cotton/ spandex
    Blend, if it exists. Polyester because I wish to do sublimation printing. This is for men’s and ladies shirts.

    1. Alise Zindiga

      Hey, Steven, natural materials like cotton are more breathable and serve well in a hot climate. However, sports apparel is usually made from synthetic materials due to qualities like moist-wicking, durability, and stretch. We’re not experts in golf apparel and suggest consulting a professional from this niche for extra feedback.

  3. Gia S. Surima

    This article is very informative I would like to ask in the cotton-polyester is it possible to lower the polyester ratio? lower than 35%? what could be the result of this? will the fabric be more breathable?

    Thank you so much, and God bless!

    1. Alise Zindiga

      Hey, Gia, if you’re asking about the ratio for Printful products, I can say that we’re not planning to change the fabric content in the nearest future. Our DTG products are printed on product blanks that we buy pre-made from various suppliers, so we can’t affect the fabric content for existing products. For cut & sew products we can’t lower the polyester content, as it wouldn’t be suitable for sublimation anymore.
      However, if that was a general question, the ratio can be very different. The more cotton, the more suitable for DTG printing this fabric is. Cotton also makes the fabric more breathable. Polyester, on the other hand, is suitable for sublimation (all-over prints) and adds durability to the fabric.

  4. Terry Hugill

    I have a question about the staining of different fabric blends. I am looking into getting shirts that would be resistant to stains from cooking oils and grease from foods. I have tried treating stains with various laundry products but grease stains remain.

    1. Katherine Karklina

      Hey, Terry! We don’t really have any clothing that would be resistant to grease or oil stains. I’m afraid that all fabrics would more or less absorb grease or liquids. By the way, I’ve heard that dish soap or baking soda helps to clean those out 🙂

    1. Katherine Karklina

      Hey! I’m not sure if this combination would be good for formal shirts as we don’t really offer those, so perhaps other members of the Printful community will chip in 😊

    2. Melanie

      I would love an extremely heavy duty 80 cotton, 10 polyester and 10 spandex! I want to make bike shorts with serious support while being somewhat absorbent and breathable. I’d love to put prints on this fabric as well.

  5. Tree Service Loveland

    I agree Polyester cotton blends tend to be stronger than pure cotton fabrics, while also offering a wider variety of textures.

  6. Jessica

    Hello, I I am interested in purchasing a pair of jeans that are made with 50% polyester 40% Lyocel and 3% elastane, is this a product that will stretch out and slightly use its shape throughout the day? I’m just wondering if I should get a pair that are a little bit snug?
    Thank you for anybody’s help!

    1. Katherine Karklina

      Hey, Jessica! Right now, we don’t offer any jeans, but we do have cool leggings, joggers, and shorts available. 😊 Perhaps one of those spark your interest.

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