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Top 7 Different Types of Fabric and Material for Printing

Did you know that linen holds the accolade as the oldest known textile produced by humans? Created almost 34,000 years ago, since then, a multitude of other materials have been produced. But do you know which are best for your garment?

With an almost endless array of types, it can be tough to know what to print designs on. Read on as we discuss the different types of fabric.


Cotton is one of the most popular types of fabric for several reasons. Firstly, it is a natural fiber. This means it can easily grow and be woven into several different threads, thicknesses, and types of cotton fabric.

It is used in several clothing garments because of its moisture control properties and level of comfort. It is also easy to print using digital technology.

Most printers will use reactive inks when putting designs onto cotton. This is because of the high wash fastness it provides.


Wool is the product of shearing live animals, such as sheep. It is then treated and woven into fibers. It has a much coarser texture than other natural fabrics such as cotton due to the thick diameter of the fibers.

One of its main advantages over plant-based fabrics is that it has a lower breaking strength when wet. Combined with its ability to trap in warmth, it is often used for making garments to protect against harsh outdoor conditions. It also has the ability to retain its shape after stretching.

As wool comes in many different types, you need to choose it carefully when digital printing. The printer needs to allow the ability to position the printheads as you see fit. This is because some wool can be around five times as thick as the nozzle and damage the printer head.

For printing on wool with lots of loose threads, you need to move the printer head further away. This may require sourcing a specific machine type. Click here to discuss complex printing such as this with a reliable printing company.


Polyester is a synthetic, man-made polymer. It is created by mixing ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, then forming it into yarns. Being plastic, it has an unfair reputation as a synthetic-looking, shiny fabric for suits and garments used in the seventies.

This fabric does have several unique properties. It is durable, being resistant to many chemicals, and is stretch-proof. It dyes well, drys fast, and is easy to clean and maintain.

To blend the positive characteristics of the fabric, it is often found in a mix with other substances. One popular mix is cotton and polyester. The yarns are woven together, creating a hybrid that provides the best of both worlds.

However, the equipment for printing on polyester can be expensive. This is because a belt is required to hold the fabric in place.

In addition, it does not work well with high-speed printing. Disperse ink, a commonly used ingredient, will create a contaminating mist when done at high speed. Therefore, many people prefer to use sublimation ink at a slower pace.


Viscose is a fabric made from wood pulp. It has a long history and has been in use since the late 1800s. Although it is from trees, it is not as environmentally friendly as other products as it requires a high concentration of chemicals to turn it into a fabric.

However, this process is extremely cheap. Combined with the fact that viscose can be used in everything from jackets to upholstery, it remains popular. Like cotton printing, it can be printed on with digital printers, and it gets the best results when done with reactive ink.


Silk is a fiber made from the thread of the silkworm. These delicate yet strong fibers are woven together to create fabric. They have been known for luxury and elegance since the dawn of man.

Many types of silk fabric have a soft feel, are lightweight, lustrous, and strong. It is also an expensive process to create the fabric, adding to price and its high-end appeal.

Silk printing has two methods. The first is with reactive inks that you would use on cotton and other fabrics. The second is with acid inks, which need a heat process to set them into the fabric itself.


Like polyester, spandex is a type of material made from synthetic polymers. It is often more commonly known by one of its brand names, Lycra.

Due to its durability and ability to stretch, it is commonly used in sportswear. In fact, it can stretch up to 600% of its normal shape and still return to its previous shape. It is made from polyurethane, which is the reason for its elastic nature.

Polyamide lycra is used in swimwear, and it is this type of spandex that is most easily printed upon. This is done using acid inks. It ensures resistance to chlorine and saltwater for swimming, wash fastness, and bright colors.


Linen is another plant-based fabric. It is lightweight and is commonly associated with summer garments and upholstery fabrics. However, it does have a tendency to wrinkle easily and is not a great choice if you don’t want a rustic look.

Printing on linen involves high pressure steaming to bond the inks to the fabric. This makes a more labor-intensive method of printing than other materials.

Different Types of Fabric

These different types of fabric are just a few of the most popular. There are many others and variations, some of which may be better for your garment or project. Speak to the printers or do some testing before investing in large amounts.

If you enjoyed this article, then visit the rest of our blog. With everything from technical advice to marketing, we can help get your garment business off the ground this year.

Read Also: Top 3 Leadership Styles in Business

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