How fabrics types influence DTG printing results

Textured colored leaves on a string, outdoor.


1 – The 100% cotton only myth


It’s quite well know that DTG printers work best on 100% cotton fabrics.
But not only.
Here we give you a little explanation on the most common fabric types and compositions in the market.
Most of them are very good for the DTG printing method. Others will require a bit more of expertise (and time). And some will definitively won’t work at all.
Shall we?


2- Fabrics and Compositions

In the vast universe of fabrics and cloth we will work with the six more common ones:

  • Single jersey: Most of the t-shirts in the world are made out of this kind of fabric.
  • Canvas: Normally used for houseware.
  • Piquet: The fabric of choice for polo-shirts
  • Twill: Nice dress shirts are also made out of Twill.
  • Crepe: It has a crinkled surface. Ideal for blouses and dresses.
  • Denim: Your jeans trousers are made out of this fabric.

On the fabric composition types, we also will mention the most important ones:

  • 100% cotton fabrics: When the fabric absorbs the inks well, like on 100% cotton t-shirts, the printability is a piece of cake.
  • Poly-Blends and Tri-Blends: Cotton/Polyester, cotton/lycra, cotton/polyester/rayon and other mixed compositions where a high percentual of cotton is included in the mix also should not be an issue for the water-based inks used on DTG printing.  However, the more cotton in the composition, the better. Otherwise, the difficulty of printing on synthetics will increase.
  • 100% Polyester fabrics: Well, here’s a big issue. Polyester is quite challenging to print on:
      1. Polyester repels the (usually water-based) inks.
      2. Pretreatment must be applied in a higher concentration.
      3. Colors might migrate from the fabric into the print.
      4. Prints can crack during washing.


However, it’s also possible for DTG printing. Not with the quality of the bright color as on cotton fabrics, be aware of that. And the process is more time-consuming. Perhaps you have to apply the pretreatment several times. Or you have to print slow. There can be huge differences depending on the T-Shirt brands or inks you use. Alternatively, you can use ready pretreated t-shirts available in the market.

Important! Depending on the materials you use, the colors of the final print may come out differently. E.g. white looks different on cotton than on polyester.

Difference between Ring Spun and Regular Cotton

DTG Merch Tip: You probably have noticed on the label of your t-shirt: 100% Ring Spun Cotton. So, what’s the difference between ring-spun cotton and regular cotton?

Regular Cotton

The process of making regular cotton consists of twisting together soft vegetable fibers into yarn. The yarn is then woven together to create regular cotton material.

Ringspun Cotton

The yarn that is created for ringspun cotton is spun in a way that produces stronger, longer strands that are soft, extremely durable and free from the rough texture of standard raw cotton. Also, there may be fewer fibers sticking out which can help with fibrillation issues. The process of continuously spinning, twisting, and thinning the cotton strands is what yields long, soft strands.

3 – Printability Influencers

Most common processes and/or finishings that can influence the printability (even of cotton)

  • Silicone finishing
  • Optical brighteners
  • Structure of the fabric (too tight – water repellent vs. very loose or ribbed – different color shades can appear)

In short, just remember this: with waterbased-inks, which is the most common ink type with DTG printing, you are – basically – jetting COLORED WATER on the garment. Therefore, any fabrics with a water-repelling coating or material may not be printable by DTG. Try another printing technique or inks.