What is the difference between 100% Cotton, 50/50, Triblend, 100% Polyester

100% Cotton fabric has several benefits in the custom apparel industry.  T-Shirts made with 100% Cotton are typically less expensive, and have a greater selection of styles, sizes, and colors available.  Most of the typical screen printing inks are best suited for cotton fabrics.  However, over the last several years, trends have definitely been dominated by Poly-Cotton (50/50), Triblend, and 100% Polyester.  Why?

Poly-Cotton, or 50/50 as it is also known, is made up of 50% Cotton and 50% Polyester.  You really do get the best of both worlds between the two fabrics.  You get the cotton feel in the fabric while adding in some of the beneficial performance properties of the polyester such as being a more light-weight, flexible but strong fabric, resistant to shrinking and stretching, and wrinkling compared to 100% Cotton.  50/50 t-shirt also tend to hold their color better compared to 100% Cotton.  There are 50/50 shirts in basic styles like Gildan or Hanes that feel very similar to a Cotton t-shirt, and there are more fashion forward styles like American Apparel and Bella+Canvas that have a super soft feel and are really lightweight.  They are very comfortable to wear.  There is a potential risk when printing on a 50/50 t-shirt for a phenomenon called dye migration.  This happens when you print a light print color, such as white, over a dark shirt color.  The dyes in the shirt can slowly leech into the print and tint it.  We use special inks that block that process, to keep prints as bright as possible, and there are several new styles of t-shirt available that have special bleed-resistant fabrics such as Sport-Tek’s Posicharge® technology.  This is not an issue with lighter shirt colors that get a darker color print.

Triblends have been one of our fastest growing areas in the last few years.  The fabric makeup does vary depending on the brand, but brands like American Apparel and Bella+Canvas have a 50% Polyester/25% Cotton/25% Rayon blend.  Some have a slightly higher Cotton ratio compared to the Rayon.  Either way, it is a truly unique fabric.  Most Triblends will naturally have a heathered color look, though they are making some solid colors now.  This has made them very popular for the vintage look trend.  The material is very soft with some stretch, and is great for performance wear.  These t-shirts also benefit from the special dye migration blocking inks when printing lighter print colors on darker shirt colors.  I think, however, these fabrics are best with a darker ink color as they are typically a lighter layer of ink and you maintain the best features of the fabric itself.

100% Polyester t-shirts are made for performance.  They are lightweight, quick drying, resistant to shrinking and wrinkling, flexible, and hold up well after washing.  You’ll know 100% by it’s feel.  It typically has a shiny, silky texture.  100% polyester is commonly used for sports jerseys, warm-up shorts, and fitness apparel, but is definitely making it’s way into mainstream apparel.  Special care needs to be taken as these 100% polyester materials are the most at risk for dye migration.

So what is the best fabric for you and your project?  It depends.  We work with each of our customers to make sure that the t-shirt style, artwork and shirt/print colors are all compatible so that the end product is as good as it can be.  Sometimes even a simple change can make all the difference.  We think the details are important, and we’ll work with you to make sure every detail of the job is perfect!

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2018 T-Shirt Design Trends

I’ve been reading a lot about t-shirt design trends for 2018.  If you aren’t sure what you want for a design, maybe some of the ideas here will help jumpstart your creativity.  Here are some of my favorite upcoming trends including ways that you can incorporate them into your own designs.


The floral trend has been talked about all over and I do think it’s a great feature to add to a t-shirt design. So, how do you do it? With Digital DTG printing, we can print full color photographic images in high resolution detail. Here’s an example of a photograph of flowers that has been clipped into a text shape to add visual detail.



Everything 80’s is really popular right now, from the ultra bright colors, to the totally rad shapes, patterns and fonts. It’s a great way to make a statement. Or make you feel really old! Anytime you want to harken back to the good old 80’s, this style is a must!



Digital DTG printing has really improved over the last few years. With the new Brother GTX we can print 1200x1200dpi resolution for really great detailed prints. DTG printing is getting faster too and so it’s more affordable than ever! Photos are a great way to commemorate a person or place. Here’s an example of the ever so popular “embarrass someone on their birthday” shirt. (Yes, that’s me on the t-shirt, from about 20 years ago.)



Text Based Designs
No T-shirt trends post would be complete without a text based design. Have they ever gone out of style? Will they ever? Probably not. There is no better way to get a point across than to emblazon a phrase on a t-shirt. You can do so much with fonts to make a certain stylistic point, what else do you need? Here are a few examples to show the range of what you can do with a text based design.



Just remember: It’s always on-trend to be YOU! Whatever design you like will always be in style. We are here to help you make it happen, so give us a call, or send us an email.

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What’s better: Screen Print or Digital?

We get this question a lot and it’s a totally valid question. Since digital direct-to-garment has been rising in popularity over the last several years, you’re starting to see it more and more along with the screen print option and it is useful to know the differences between the two.

Screen Print

Screen printing is what many would consider the traditional way of customizing t-shirts. Ink is applied to a shirt, through a screen and then heat cured. With an automatic screen press you can print hundreds per hour making it a very efficient process for larger quantities. There is quite a bit of what we call “set up” involved in the process before you can actually print the t-shirts, that is why you will see a better price for a larger quantity.

Screen prints are very durable and often outlive the life of the garment if properly cared for. You get very solid, and vibrant colors from screen print, so it’s really great for designs that contain solid areas of color.

Digital Print

Digital direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a somewhat new process. Similar to how an inkjet printer prints on paper, the DTG printer applies a mix of CMYK inks specially formulated for cotton apparel onto the t-shirt making it possible to print in full color. There are many different types of DTG printers out there and as many different levels of quality and speed, but for the most part, you are still printing one t-shirt at a time, so it’s slower compared to traditional screen printing. Because of this, and some additional factors like the higher cost of the inks, you will see that digitally printed t-shirts are typically more expensive compared to screen printed t-shirts. However without the initial setup required, you can get fewer at a time.

Digital prints may be considered slightly less durable compared to a screen print in terms of the vibrancy of the print, and its tendency to fade with multiple washings. However, we have found that with proper care, you won’t get serious degradation of the print by any means.


Screen printing and Digital DTG printing are very different. More often than not, what you need at the time will dictate which process is better. If you need a lot of t-shirts with a 1-color print, you will almost always go with a screen print. If you only need a few t-shirts, or if you need a photographic or very colorful image printed, DTG would be the way to go. If you’re still unsure, you can always email or call and ask us which is the best way to go and we’re more than happy to help!