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How does fabric blend affect print quality?

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing process is best suited for garments that are 100% cotton. 100% cotton garments lead to better printing results because its natural fibers react better with the water-based ink used in DTG printers. The higher the cotton content, the more opaque the printing result will be. Most of our t-shirt offerings are 100% cotton, with the exception of heather and triblend colors. 

Heather Colors (Cotton/Polyester Blends)

Heather colors are cotton fabrics blended with polyester to create a textured look, and the amount of polyester used ranges between 10% and almost 50%. As a general rule of thumb, a color name with the word “heather” in it and sports grey are heather colors. 

The following is a comparison between sports grey versus charcoal, which is a comparable solid color. 


Because polyester is a synthetic material that repels water (often used in sportswear, for example), it naturally doesn’t interact with DTG’s water-based ink as well. Therefore, prints on cotton polyester blends tend not to have the same level of opacity as prints on 100% cotton garments. Most hoodies and sweatshirts are blended with some level polyester, even if they are solid colors, to achieve some sweat-wicking properties. Many customers who value the textured appearances of the heather colors more than print opacity would go for these cotton/polyester blends.


We also offer printing on triblends, which are blends between cotton, polyester, and rayon. Rayon is a synthetic fiber made from regenerated cellulose, which does not work with the water-based DTG ink as well as cotton; however, the rayon material is lightweight and improves the fit of a garment, and triblends also have a specific faded/vintage outcome with DTG printing.

It is important to note that not all blends are the same. Gelato only offers garment brands with superior blended cotton quality. With the right level of pre-treat and the right settings on the equipment, an ideal quality can be achieved with cotton/polyester and rayon blends. 

In summary, for most opaque printing results, we would recommend that you go with 100% cotton garments like solid color t-shirts. If some trade-offs between print opacity and a specific heather color look or a specific triblend fit are acceptable to you, cotton blends could be an attractive option to add to your portfolio. We would recommend that you always order samples to test out how the different fabrics and styles would work with your designs.


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