How to Choose the Best Fabric for Your Clothing Print-on-Demand Project
The production of clothes is one of the popular trends in the POD industry. According to statistics, the global custom T-shirt printing market was valued at over $3.5 billion in 2020. And that's not the end: it is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate up to $7.57 billion by 2028. If you are looking for an affordable way to earn money from scratch, we recommend starting your clothing brand following the POD model. The first step is choosing fabric for clothes because that will affect the quality of your clothing and, consequently, your reputation as a retailer. Do you want to know how to source fabric for a clothing line and why you should take this task seriously?
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Why is choosing the right fabric for your clothing important?
Fabric for a clothing manufacturer is like a canvas for an artist. If the canvas is faulty, it can spoil the whole picture. The same can be said about clothing for which a poor quality material has been chosen. And when it comes to print on demand, selecting the right fabrics becomes the priority. The thing is that not all materials, because of their pros and cons, are suitable for a particular printing technique.
Fabrics are divided into two types:
- Natural: Made from natural elements of animal and plant origin: cotton from cotton seeds, wool from sheep's wool, and linen from plants of the flax family.
- Synthetic: Made from polymers obtained by chemical reaction. Inferior to, for example, cotton, but good imitation of natural material (the rayon can be a silk substitute).
There are also blends, such as rayon, which does not let in air as its natural counterpart, often combined with cotton. When it comes to fabric for printing on demand, it’s better to choose a natural one. It absorbs the liquid better, which is the ink itself. You should remember that inks are used in such popular printing techniques as screen printing (via silkscreen) and DTG (direct printing). Synthetics, on the contrary, tends to repel water. The sublimation method suits here perfectly (as opposed to natural materials).
Moreover, you should consider the consistency of the textile. Thick and heavy materials absorb more ink, which gives saturated colors. Thin and shiny ones require less ink, and they are quickly washed out of the composition. Of course, you can turn to embroidery, but here you should be careful too and pay attention to the durability. If you want to find an appropriate cloth fabric, go online shopping to fashion stores to see what's on-trend with your target audience.
So, the importance of choosing fabric for clothing is primarily connected with the peculiarities of production. If the fabric is printed on the appropriate material properly, it will hold up perfectly and look good. And in general, such clothes last longer and feel nicer to the body. If you meet all the requirements, you'll have a satisfied customer. Let's find out which fabric to choose among popular choices.
How to choose fabric for clothing: a brief guide on the most common types
It is the absolute king among fabric for printing clothing. If you have trouble choosing, stick to this option. However, keep in mind that the use of 100% cotton will increase production costs for printing on demand (the same thing about organic fabric). The best choice is a combination with synthetics such as polyester or elastane (80%-20%, 50%-50%). Overall, it is one of the eco-friendly materials, perfect for sports and casual T-shirts with a stylish design.
Denim is among the materials used to make clothes for everyday clothing: trousers, jackets, dresses, or shirts. This rough material was used to create the first classic jeans. Genuine denim is made from cotton, which ensures softness, durability, and porosity. A popular method is printing with the help of a DTG printer in 3 steps: pre-processing, preparing and loading into the printer, setting adjustments (increasing the amount of white ink and super fine quality).
It can be cotton fabric, wool, or half-wool. It is made from thick fibers and has fleece on both sides. It makes it pleasant to touch: it’s soft, warm, and resistant to wear. The cloth can weigh up to 400 grams per meter. Flannel is hypoallergenic and, therefore, suitable for bedclothing, clothes for babies, and people with sensitive skin. It is an excellent option for sublimation prints, ensuring saturated colors.
This eco-material is indispensable in choosing fabric for dressmaking to create bright and light summer looks: dresses, skirts, trousers, shorts, and shirts. It holds its shape well, looks attractive thanks to its matte finish, lets the skin breathe, is hypoallergenic and tear-resistant. Most frequently, digital printing is used for linen, which does not require preparation. Heat treatment can reinforce the print and prevent shrinkage.
The fashion for eco-chic and naturalness has made hemp a valuable custom fabric, including in the print-on-demand industry. The hemp fibers are considered the roughest of all vegetable fibers (rougher than wool or cotton) and are durable and practical in use. The material tends to be hygroscopic, hypoallergenic, soft, and durable. What about printing? The fabric has been proved to dye better than cotton fabric or other fabrics. The prints are made with durable reactive inks.
When sourcing fabric for a clothing line, think of silk. The experts say that it is versatile: suitable for both summer and winter clothing. The secret is that silk retains a comfortable temperature in any weather. Silk products are hygienic, do not cause allergies, absorb unpleasant odors and look shiny. Either you sell evening gowns or home textiles — silk will do just fine. A cost-effective printing method is a silkscreen, which is suitable for larger print runs. Thermal transfer is also in demand: you won’t feel logos and inscriptions on your skin, and they are resistant to wear. You can minimize the cost of creating custom clothes by choosing polyester silk.
As mentioned above, rayon is an artificial silk substitute and can be combined with cotton to improve porosity. It combines the advantages of genuine and synthetic materials: durability (higher than wool), elasticity, lightness, and smoothness. It is suitable for making summer trousers, dresses, blouses, and linings for clothing. The fabric is easy to dye, and a decent printing effect can be achieved on a digital printer with reactive inks.
It is a synthetic material that was created as an alternative to genuine silk. The surface shines like silk threads, can be easily dyed in different shades, and retains them for a long time. It is resistant to mechanical damage and tensile strength. It is textiles for outerwear and everyday clothing, hosiery, hiking, and sports goods. It is used for printing labels and tags. It can be printed using a thermal transfer printer, sublimation (if nylon content is 50% or more), or silkscreen.
This artificial material is used in various clothing. It is rarely used in its 100% pure form, as people with sensitive skin can be allergic to it. Polyester is found in both clothing (T-shirts, shorts, trousers, cloaks, coats, jackets) and accessories (ties) and hats. The ability to memorize the product shape is valued by manufacturers of skirts and dresses with pleats. Printing techniques used include sublimation (with 50% of polyester in the composition and light/white fabric color) and silkscreen.
In fact, it is a cotton fabric with a special way of weaving threads, which provides softness and beautiful shining. However, there is a mixture of synthetics, viscose threads, silk (atlas-satin), and a combination of artificial and genuine silk (crepe-satin). Among the advantages of satin: quick moisture absorption, its ability to maintain a comfortable body temperature, its resistance to wear (up to 250 items of washing); it is hypoallergenic and light. It is a popular choice for making children's clothes and bedclothing. It can be self-colored without a pattern (bleached/plain dyed), printed with ornament (reactive, pigmented printing), and 3D (reactive printing).
Clothes and fabric manufacturers value leather for its unique properties: resistance to damage, elasticity and shape retention, good air circulation, and moisture absorption. Leather protects against sweating (thanks to its porous structure), prevents unpleasant odors, and retains its decent look for many years. All this is possible if the leather chosen is genuine, not a leather substitute. Leather is also used to make jackets, skirts, dresses, coats, and as a trim for clothing. A popular patterning method is UV printing: the ink is polymerized under UV light, which increases the durability of the image and the quality of the color reproduction.
Nowadays, it's hard to find a piece of clothes made of 100% wool and does not contain other fibers. However, that doesn't stop it from retaining heat. It is a high-quality clothing fabric: resistant to dirt, does not crease, and does not trap odors, but it absorbs water in the form of steam and does not absorb moisture, so it takes a long time for clothes to dry. Wool is perfect for making winter clothes (jumpers, jackets, trousers, dresses, coats) and hats. Acid dyes are used to print on wool fabric, which gives additional durability after processing and provides increased brightness.
The blending of fabrics allows you to create unique pieces and affects their price. For example, combining cotton with viscose gives it some sophistication, while adding cotton to cashmere makes the product more affordable. Blended fabrics are used for making sports and hiking outfits, jackets, uniforms, military suits, casual blouses, skirts, trousers, gowns, and other suits. Thermal transfer techniques are often used for printing photos, full-color prints, and inscriptions.
Suitability to specific garment
- T-shirts: single jersey (100% cotton), stretch jersey (95% cotton + 5% lycra), viscose, linen, polyester.
- Dresses: cotton, linen, crepe-satin, silk, polyester and its blends, sateen, staple, velvet, leather, chiffon.
- Pants: woolen crepe, linen, denim, viscose, tweed, gabardine.
- Skirts: linen, denim, velvet, leather, poplin, gabardine.
3 key points to choosing the right fabric for your POD brand
- Weight. Consider the weight of the fabric (measured in GSM) to create clothes according to the season and not to have problems with the print: light (organza, taffeta, knitted fabric), medium (velvet, satin), heavy (denim, wool). Heavy and thick materials absorb more ink but retain the saturation and brightness of colors longer.
- Drape. Pay attention to how the fabric drapes: a thin and well-draped material (silk) is suitable for a flowing skirt, and a thick and stiff material (brocade) is better for a voluminous skirt. Moderate draping: linen, rayon, polyester, wool.
- Stretch. Choose textile concerning its elasticity, that is, how it fits over the body. If it stretches a lot, it can distort the pattern and structure of the finished product. Elasticity is important for bathing suits, leggings, and lingerie, but even here, you should be careful and focus on the design.
Now you know the basics concerning how to choose the right fabric for clothes. But remember that a lot depends on the design itself: it has to lie perfectly on the texture of the material and match its shade. To guarantee high-quality clothing fabric, cooperate with the best companies on print-on-demand service.