Inks Are Your Friend...And Fabrics Are Your Best Friend
The inks used in direct-to-garment printing are water-based inks and act like any liquid when it comes to application on fabric. Any garments that have a Teflon or stain resistant coating will repel the inks used for digital printing in the same way they are designed to repel coffee, cranberry juice, or any other liquid. Many aprons, tablecloths, and work uniforms, such as in the mechanic or food service industry, are not suited for direct-to-garment printing. Polyester and poly-blend fabrics, that are often used to make t-shirts, do not work well with digital printing. Polyester fibers are essentially plastic, and as you probably know, water is not absorbed by plastic. Even if the image is transferred to a polyester or polyester-blend garment, the ink does not set and will lose integrity when washed. 100% cotton is by far the best material to use when it comes to digital printing. 50/50 blends of cotton and polyester simply don't hold the ink as well over the long term.
Not All Fabrics are Created Equal
However, it is important to remember that all cotton tees are not created equal. The visual quality of the print is noticeably degraded when printing on the cheaper, rougher generic tees that are available. For the best looking print, you want to stick with the smoother, softer shirts. Apparel made from ringspun cotton is a good choice. There are other fabrics beyond cotton that can produce amazing results when printed direct-to-garment. Such fabrics include twill and canvas. Remember, this is printing with the textile equivalent of a laser printer like this one:
It is highly recommended to inquire about possible testing of garments and fabric other than cotton. If the decorator does not have experience with a particular garment, complications could arise, and it’s best to troubleshoot right off the bat.
Our Favorite Shirts for Direct to Garment Printing
We've found that the print always goes on smoothly and have never had any issues with printing on this shirt. If push comes to shove and a multi-material blend shirt is required, Bella+Canvas and District seem to have the best blends that produce the best possible results. As a general rule, the premium shirts made by these manufacturers seem to always produce superior results.