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Beginner's handbook

Guide to Cotton, Polyester, and Blended Fabrics

By Reading Time: 5 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:

  • 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.

  • 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

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.

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 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.

When Giedre isn’t crafting content about all things marketing, you can find her re-reading H. Murakami novels or packing up a suitcase for another weekend getaway.

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  1. Chad

    Thank you! As a new store owner / designer I have had trouble clarifying the differences and best application. This helped immesnely!



    1. Jacquez

      Hey this was very helpful, do you think a tri blend mix of 70%. Nylon 15%polyester and 15% spandex would be a good mix for my leggings? I want the material to be soft and skin like while still being able to perform

  2. Hisoka

    Hi ya, this was very helpful but I was just wondering, there is an outfit I want to make which I want to resemble a super hero costume if that makes sense and I was thinking about doing a polyester and spandex blend, do you think that would be alright?

    1. Giedrė Kronberga Post author

      Hi Hisoka, I think it would. Polyester-spandex is a popular fabric blend often used to make costumes or full bodysuits 🙂

      1. Alise Zindiga

        Hi Susan! We don’t currently offer similar products in our catalog, but most probably you need some fabric that adds elastic qualities like spandex or elastane. I would research other brands that offer such products and look a the fabric features that they are using to get an idea.

  3. Cindy Davis

    Hey Printful people,
    This and other tutorials (video/ printed) by Printful have been very helpful as I consider what products to offer on my Etsy shop. I started out with the thought of digital downloads, and have now added the thought of offering t-shirts/ tanks with my designs on them, too.
    Thanks again for lots of useful info!!

  4. Linda

    Hi I want to put my own prints
    On t-shurts can you tell me witch t-shurts you would recommend 100%polyester or 65/35 polyester would be grateful for your help thank you Linda

  5. Michaela

    Thank you for the helpful info Giedre! It’s more on the purchaser/care-end for me instead of choosing material type for retail. Tired of dry clean and looking at sustainable cleaning options for blended fabrics made of cotton, polyamide and elastane. Any suggestions for more info/care on these blended fabrics? Thanks again!

    1. Giedre Kronberga Post author

      Hi Michaela, happy to hear you found the information helpful 🙂

      As a rule of thumb, when washing blended fabrics, follow the instructions for the fabric with the highest percentage in the blend.

  6. N8

    I want to create a tshirt that is durable, soft, doesnt strink easily. What blends would you recommend and what percentage?

  7. Steele Honda

    Thanks for pointing out that all cotton fabrics are soft and breathable, which makes them perfect for warm climates and hot weather, and for people with sensitive skin. I just moved to a lot warmer climate than I’m used to and I’m trying to figure out what kind of wardrobe changes I need to make. I think that I’m going to start getting more jersey-knit cotton clothing because I think that would help me be cool and comfortable while also looking good still.

  8. Steph

    Hi Giedre, are you familiar with modal? I was looking at a 65%modal / 35% polyester blend for a dress however struggling to source fabric.. is there something similar to this type of fabric I should look at? I want that slinky but heavier type of material.. thank you!

  9. Christi

    Hi Giedre! This article was very helpful! I have been on the hunt for a poly/spandex blend of 89/11 and have not had much luck in the way of prints. I was wondering if you would know which fabric “name” I should be searching for this. Thanks for any help!

    1. Sanjay Verma

      We are Uniform Manufacturers for Kindergarten (2 to 5 years) kids. Pls. guide which fabric is best suitable for kids in warm weather in India.

      1. Alise Zindiga

        Hi Sanjay! Of course, everyone has their own preferences and it is hard to find “one-size-fits-all” in such case, but for warm weather, I would highly recommend natural fabrics that are breathable and light (such as cotton) in a blend with synthetic fibre (like polyester) for durability. Percentage of natural fiber should be larger than the synthetic one. Hope this helps!

  10. Constance Mullins

    I was wondering what a poly/cotton blend shirt would look somewhat shiny or have a dull surface like cotton.

    1. Edward Zarins

      Hey Constance,
      Not 100% sure about it but I think there wouldn’t be any specific or extraordinary characteristics. It would be something like between a cotton and polyester shirt. 🙂

  11. Emma

    This is a great article thank you. I have a dress that has been made and it is polyester cotton mixed (apparently) But it feels poor quaity and shiney. It is quite a bold stripe print too. Do you think rayon would work instead?

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi Emma,
      Our dresses are 82% polyester/18% spandex. We haven’t tested printing on rayon so I can’t give a feedback on that, but perhaps other readers can chip in. 🙂

  12. Paul

    This has really been of great help to me. Please what blend can I use if want a soft cotton and elastic fabric and what print would be best for such fabric?

  13. Angela Butler

    i am trying to figure out what fabric in a tshirt i need.for a digital print.i usually like a heavier type tshirt and i do not like it to feel real soft becasue to me the real soft shirts cling to much.and i dont want the shirt to thin.what do i need

  14. Rahul

    Thank you for the helpful info Giedre, Your article helps to guide us which one is better fibre. I frequently read the fashion blogs but you share amazing info with us.

  15. wholesalethankar

    Thank you for the helpful info Giedre! It’s more on the purchaser/care-end for me instead of choosing material type for retail. Tired of dry clean and looking at sustainable cleaning options for blended fabrics made of cotton, poly amide and tannest. Any suggestions for more info/care on these blended fabrics? Thanks again!

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi there,
      Thanks for your kind feedback!
      We don’t specialize in these fabrics and materials but perhaps others can chip in. 🙂

  16. Jeremiah Agware

    Cotton is a natural fabric that is very versatile and comfortable. It is generally soft to touch, making it ideal for people with sensitive skin or skin allergies. It is also very breathable, which means it makes sweat wick off your skin. This keeps you cool and comfortable even during summer. Stephen Cardino, who has been the home fashion director at Macy’s for 7 years and is a 25-year veteran of the bedding industry, weighs in on what you need to know to be certain when you’re picking only the best cotton bed sheets.


    Hi, I want to manufacture Ceiling Fan Blade covers, can you please suggest me which type of fabric can be used.

    1. Alise Zindiga

      Hi! Currently, this is not our zone of competence and we don’t have such products available, therefore, we can’t share genuine advice. Maybe, our community members can help more?

  18. Brother Printer Not Printing Yellow

    Interesting topic for a blog. I have been searching the Internet for fun and came upon your website. Fabulous post. Thanks a ton for sharing your knowledge! It is great to see that some people still put in an effort into managing their websites. I’ll be sure to check back again real soon

    1. Edward Zarins

      Hey! Hmmm… that’s an interesting question but I’m afraid I won’t be able to give you an answer to it. 🙂

  19. Anna Dacosta

    An informative article – thank you.
    I have a question I hope you can help with. Why are some cotton stretchy whilst the majority do not appear so. I’m launching a fashion label for children and looking for slightly stretchy cotton but don’t know how to explain this to suppliers. The reason being is that stretchable cotton seem more flexible and seems to hold it’s shape better
    thank you

    1. Edward Zarins

      Hmm… Interesting question but I’ m afraid I won’t be able to help with this. Maybe someone else can chime in. 🙂

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