Polyester Shirts vs. Cotton Shirts: Which Is Better For Sublimation Printing?

When delving into sublimation printing, one must not overlook the influence of fabric selection on the final product’s quality and longevity. With several options to choose from, cotton and polyester shirts for sublimation emerge as the most common selections. Nevertheless, it remains uncertain which fabric reigns superior for sublimation printing. In this piece, we’ll dissect the disparities between cotton and polyester shirts to assist you in determining which one caters to your sublimation printing requirements.

Key Takeaways:

  • When it comes to sublimation printing, the choice of fabric can make a significant difference in the quality and durability of the final product.
  • Polyester shirts are durable, moisture-wicking, and resistant to wrinkles and shrinkage, making them an excellent choice for athletic wear and other situations where durability is a priority.
  • Cotton shirts are breathable, comfortable, and resistant to pilling, making them an excellent choice for warm weather and outdoor activities.
  • Polyester shirts retain color vibrancy well, while cotton shirts are better at showcasing intricate designs.
  • When selecting a fabric for sublimation printing, consider the environment in which the shirt will be worn, the design you want to print, and your personal preferences.
  • Both polyester and cotton have their advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

The Benefits of Polyester Shirts for Sublimation Printing

The burgeoning popularity of polyester shirts is easily explained by the synthetic material’s manifold benefits. Polyester is an exceedingly durable substance, capable of withstanding everyday wear and tear. Not only that, but polyester fabric’s moisture-wicking properties ensure that it resists wrinkling and shrinkage, adding to its value as a sublimation printing choice. Because the ink can bond easily with the fabric, polyester shirts feature vivid designs that remain bright and colorful even after multiple washes. Additionally, polyester’s capacity to hold onto dye molecules restricts fading or washing out over time, ensuring that the designs stay vibrant. With its unique moisture-wicking properties, polyester shirts can absorb moisture from the skin and regulate body temperature, preventing sweat from accumulating. This makes polyester shirts the perfect choice for athletic wear or even everyday casual wear.

The Downsides of Polyester Shirts for Sublimation Printing

Although polyester shirts may offer several advantages for sublimation printing, they also possess a few disadvantages that you must take into account. The most notable drawback of polyester is its lack of breathability. Polyester cloth hinders air from flowing through quickly, causing it to feel uncomfortable to wear in warm and humid environments.

Another possible concern with polyester shirts is their vulnerability to pilling. Pilling is when tiny clumps of fabric emerge on the shirt’s surface, creating a worn-out and ragged appearance. Although this isn’t a significant problem for all polyester shirts, it’s crucial to consider when choosing a fabric for sublimation printing.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

The Benefits of Cotton Shirts for Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing, a technique widely used for designing intricate patterns, has always preferred cotton shirts for good reasons. Natural cotton fiber is soft, breathable, and comfortable to wear. The high absorbency rate of cotton makes it perfect for intricate designs. The most significant advantage of cotton shirts is their breathability as they allow air to pass through freely. This quality makes them an ideal option for outdoor activities and warm weather. Cotton shirts also have a higher resistance to pilling, thanks to the inherent strength of cotton fibers. This results in longer life and a new-like appearance of the shirt.

The Downsides of Cotton Shirts for Sublimation Printing

Although cotton shirts have a multitude of advantages for sublimation printing, they also possess some drawbacks that demand your attention. The most prominent inconvenience of cotton is its inclination to shrink. When the cotton fabric is exposed to heat, it has the potential to shrink significantly. This can cause designs to be distorted or faded and is a major concern.

Another possible drawback of cotton shirts is their vulnerability to staining. Cotton fibers are exceptionally absorbent, making them highly susceptible to liquids and stains. Removing stains from cotton shirts can be a difficult task, especially if they are not treated promptly. This issue can lead to long-lasting stains that can be challenging to get rid of.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

Which Fabric is Better for Sublimation Printing?

When it comes to the question of which fabric is superior for sublimation printing, there isn’t a straightforward answer. It all depends on what you require and prefer. Both cotton and polyester fabrics have their merits and demerits, and the optimal option for you relies on various factors like the pattern you desire to print, the surrounding conditions where the apparel will be used, and your personal choices. If you desire vibrant and bright designs that endure time, then polyester is an excellent option. It boasts moisture-wicking features, resists wrinkles and shrinking, and is a suitable fabric for athletics or any situation that demands durability. But, if your preference is comfort and breathability, then cotton is an ideal option. Its natural fibers allow air to flow easily, making it a comfortable alternative for hot weather and outdoor activities.


In the end, the decision to opt for polyester or cotton rests on your personal necessities and likings. Nonetheless, there exist some overall instructions that you should take into account when choosing a textile for sublimation printing. Primarily, you must ensure that the cloth is suitable for sublimation ink. Next, you should contemplate the surroundings in which the shirt will be donned and choose a fabric that will feel comfortable and fitting for that specific environment. Lastly, consider the blueprint you wish to imprint and select a textile that will display that design in the utmost admirable manner.

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