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Blog / Style & trends / What is a Tri-Blend T-Shirt

Style & trends

Unveiling the Mystery: What is a Tri-Blend T-Shirt

Unveiling the Mystery: What is a Tri-Blend T-Shirt
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

7 min read

Generally, t-shirts fall into three primary material categories. 

100% cotton, cotton/polyester blend, and tri-blend.

In the vast landscape of apparel options, the tri-blend t-shirt emerges as a standout choice for its exceptional comfort and durability. But what is a tri-blend t-shirt, and what sets it apart from its counterparts? In this article, we’ll unravel the mystery behind the composition of tri-blend t-shirts and highlight what makes them an exceptional choice for custom t-shirts.

As a print-on-demand dropshipping store owner or someone just starting a clothing brand, you need to know how tri-blend t-shirts differ from their counterparts, especially since the printing results on these fabrics are notably distinct.

What’s a tri-blend t-shirt?

A tri-blend tee is a super soft, durable, and flexible piece of clothing made from three different materials: cotton, polyester, and rayon. This particular fabric mix gives you the best of each material. Rayon, the least known of the trio, brings a unique touch.

a man and woman posing for a pictureSource: Printful 

It was first made as a cheaper alternative to silk, and just like silk, rayon feels incredibly soft to the touch. It’s made from cellulose fibers, which can pull moisture away from your body, making it an excellent option for workout clothes or everyday comfy wear.

But rayon isn’t the star of the show on its own. It’s a bit too light and flowy for a t-shirt. That’s where cotton and polyester come in. Cotton adds that familiar, breathable comfort we all love, while polyester brings in the strength and durability to keep your tee looking great over time. Put them all together, and you get a tri-blend t-shirt: the ultimate fabric blend that feels great on the skin and is suitable for just about any weather and activity. 

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How does a tri-blend shirt feel?

A tri-blend shirt feels exceptionally soft and smooth against the skin, providing noticeable and subtle comfort. The blend of cotton, polyester, and rayon creates a fabric that combines the best of each material: the natural softness of cotton, the durability and flexibility of polyester, and the silky feel of rayon.

a woman in a white shirtSource: Printful 

The cotton component ensures the shirt feels familiar and breathable against the skin.

The polyester in the blend introduces resilience and slight stretchiness, allowing the shirt to retain its shape and durability, wear after wear. This elasticity also means the shirt moves with you, easily accommodating every reach, twist, and turn.

But the rayon truly sets the tri-blend apart, lending the fabric a silky smoothness that elevates the shirt’s feel. Rayon’s contribution is a sleek touch that feels almost liquid against the skin. Its moisture-wicking properties ensure the shirt remains pleasantly cool and dry.

Together, cotton, polyester, and rayon create a shirt that simply feels great to wear. Its blend of softness and durability ensures it fits seamlessly into any lifestyle, elevating it from a simple piece of clothing to an essential wardrobe staple.

Note that tri-blend t-shirts can absorb moisture due to their cotton component but are not primarily designed for high moisture absorption. They balance comfort, durability, and a modest level of sweat management. So, if you’re looking for an activewear t-shirt, look for t-shirts mostly made of polyester.  

What does a tri-blend t-shirt look like?

Tri-blend t-shirts are heathered primarily due to the unique combination of different fibers used in their construction, which includes cotton, polyester, and rayon. The natural heathering effect arises from the blending process, where these distinct fibers of varying colors and textures are interwoven. This process creates a fabric with a visually textured appearance characterized by its subtle, mottled look.

Printing on tri-blend t-shirts 

The heathered texture of tri-blend t-shirts creates unique canvas for direct-to-garment (DTG) prints. This texture acts as a backdrop that enriches the visual complexity of designs, allowing for a more nuanced presentation of colors and details. 

Tri-blends are the best t-shirts for printing vintage-style designs. The shirt’s texture adds depth and dimension to prints, allowing for a more authentic, aged appearance that’s harder to accomplish on solid, single-fiber materials. The slightly faded look of heathered tri-blends complements the distressed and softened styles typical of vintage graphics, making the print seem to have naturally aged with the shirt.

a black and white drawing of a skullSource: Printful

Tri-blend shirts allow designers to create pieces that truly resonate with the nostalgia and charm of vintage styles, making these shirts a favorite among shoppers looking for authenticity and quality. 

The durability and resilience of the tri-blend fabric also ensure that the printed designs remain vibrant and intact through multiple washes, aging gracefully over time. This is particularly important for vintage designs, valued by those who love the timeless appeal and worn-in look. 

Here’s what t-shirt printing looks like on different materials. 

Do tri-blend shirts shrink?

Tri-blend fabrics are designed to retain their shape and size better than their 100% cotton counterparts.

The polyester component, in particular, is known for its low shrinkage rates, which helps stabilize the fabric and reduce the likelihood of the garment losing its form after washing. Rayon, while more prone to shrinkage when exposed to heat, is balanced out by the stability of polyester and the natural breathability of cotton, creating a well-rounded fabric that stands up to regular wear and laundering.

However, like any garment, proper care is the key to minimizing shrinkage. Following the recommended wash instructions is crucial: cold water wash and low-heat drying or air drying can significantly extend the life of your tri-blend t-shirt, maintaining its original fit and feel. Avoiding high temperatures during washing and drying is also recommended, as heat can cause the fibers to contract.

Tri-blend t-shirts exhibit minimal shrinkage, making them reliable for those seeking low-maintenance, high-quality apparel options. Their resilience to shrinking and their inherent comfort and style solidify their status as a staple in any wardrobe. For print-on-demand businesses, this means providing customers with a product that remains true to size and comfort, wash after wash, enhancing overall satisfaction and trust in your brand.

Tip. When selling custom DTG products, including care instructions is always a good idea. It will increase the chance of your customers caring for your products correctly, making them last longer. 

a white text on a white background Source: Printful

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Printful tri-blend t-shirts

At Printful, we recognize the importance of providing high-quality materials that meet the needs of our customers. Our Unisex Tri-Blend T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 3413 is a testament to this commitment, offering a lightweight, stretchy fabric great for custom vintage designs. With its blend of polyester, cotton, and rayon, this shirt embodies all the sought-after qualities of tri-blend fabric, available in 23 t-shirt colors to suit any style.

a man in a red shirtUnisex Tri-Blend T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 3413

Our customers praise its lightweight quality and the way the t-shirt material has a bit of stretch that bounces back to normal without distorting the t-shirt design.

Here are its properties: 

  • 50% polyester, 25% combed ring-spun cotton, 25% rayon

  • Fabric weight: 3.4 oz/yd² (115.3 g/m²)

  • Pre-shrunk for extra durability

  • Regular fit

  • Side-seamed construction

You can customize it with DTG prints or embroidery designs. 

Learn more: Creating the perfect DTG file

a blue shirt with a yellow smiley face on itSource: Printful’s Design Maker

Go to the Design Maker and see how the final product would look with the tri-blend shirt’s heathered texture. The fabric of the garment will often show through the ink. Give it a go and add your design to see how it would look.

Simply go to the Unisex Tri-Blend T-Shirt’s page and click start designing

You can play around with hundreds of t-shirt fonts, Quick Designs, images, and clipart, or you can upload your own design.

There are 4 options for your design or your t-shirt logo placement. On the front, back, left, or right sleeve. You can also add your brand logo on the shirt’s inside or outside label.

Find ideas: 15 Print-on-Demand Niches to Watch in 2024

Get inspired: 56 T-Shirt Design Ideas That Are Seriously Next-Level

Wrapping it up

Tri-blend t-shirts are more than just trending products; they’re a staple in the evolving world of fashion and print-on-demand apparel. Their popularity underscores a collective move toward garments that don’t compromise comfort, style, or sustainability. As we continue to explore and expand our product offerings, tri-blend t-shirts remain an essential piece in the puzzle, seamlessly integrating quality and creativity. Whether you’re a business owner looking to boost your product line or a customer searching for that nice blend of comfort and style, tri-blend t-shirts are a choice that promises satisfaction on every front. 

Read next: 23 Bestselling Print-on-Demand Products


By Lilija Karpjaka on Feb. 20, 2024

Lilija Karpjaka

SEO Content Writer

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.