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What We've Learned About Those Trendy Tri-blend Tees

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

Oh, you tri-blend tee shirt. You are so soft and comfy. You enswathe the wearer with confidence in your just-enough stretch and just-enough constraint. Just-enough drape and just-enough shape. You make us feel sophisticated. And trendy. Like we just threw you on without a thought and could care less what our silly tee shirt is made out of. But we do care. Yes, we do.

And yes, enswathe IS a word.

Tri-blend tee shirts have earned the status of "Favorite Tee Shirt" for many of us, and for good reason. They look great and are just so ridiculously comfortable. They are composed of a blend of about 50% polyester, 25% ring-spun cotton, and 25% rayon, each material lending its own special charm to the mix and satisfying so much of what we long for in a tee shirt.

Ring-spun cotton is well-known for its comfort and breathability and is the most trustworthy of all fabrics from a screen printer's point of view. Generally speaking, the more cotton in a garment, the more consistent the print quality of any design that you want on your shirt will be.

Polyester, of course, lends qualities like resiliency and durability to the mix, as well as it having great wicking ability, keeping the wearer cool and dry. A high polyester content allows tri-blend material to be light and airy while still surprisingly sturdy.

Doubling down on the light and airiness contribution would be rayon. Rayon has a very light, silky, and stretchy feel that adds an even more luxurious quality to the shirt and gives the tri-blend tee the flattering drape that feels like it's been custom fit for each person. Rayon is also extremely absorbant and moisture-wicking, pulling moisture away from the body for all-season comfort.

Now that we've given an overview of what makes tri-blend tees so comfortable, we want to share some things we've learned about tri-blends from a logo design and printing standpoint.

While tri-blend can be a great choice of material for any style of shirt, some considerations need to be made about what designs should be screen printed on it. Due to the composition of the fabric, normal printing techniques that are used to produce bright, bold images just don't work as consistently well as those that yield a soft, vintage look with muted colors.

2 moose prints side-by-side
Two printing techniques with the same ink on the same shirt. The first print is bright and opaque; the second print blends into the shirt a little, giving a muted and slightly textured look.
Joe's Millenium Falcon Tee
Here's Joe's favorite tee! This distressed, vintage design is the perfect choice for a tri-blend print.

Modifying your logo slightly to make it look great on a variety of fabrics is the ideal strategy. Distressed designs with muted colors look and feel terrific on tri-blend shirts and give a trendy, retro flair. One-color, dark inks look great on lighter-colored shirts, and tone-on-tone prints come out particularly well on tri-blends.

Jarato designs side-by-side
One great strategy is to use different variations of logo design depending upon what look you're going for. This bright, bold design really stands out on the 100% cotton shirt on the left. Alternatively, the 1-color, distressed, athletic design works great on the tri-blend baseball tee on the right.
Frosty Delite on Black Tee
This bright and colorful logo looks great on this 100% cotton shirt, but it would need some adaptations to really work well consistently on a tri-blend shirt. Distressing the design and printing it on a lighter-colored shirt would give it a trendy, vintage look that would really go well with that retro diner font!

Tone-on-tone print examples
This design is a great example of using a tone-on-tone design on a tri-blend shirt. Two shades of color coordinating with the shirt color, plus a black print, creates an eye-catching effect that works great on tri-blends as well as more standard fabrics.

If you desire super bright and bold prints, your best bet is to choose a fabric with a high cotton content and without the finicky rayon component of the tri-blend, like a 100% cotton or a 50/50, cotton/polyester blend. Choosing a shirt made with combed and ring-spun cotton will give you a shirt that is extra soft and comfortable, rivaling that coveted softness of the tri-blend tee.

Glow-in-the-dark specialty print on a 60/40 blend tee
This customer really wanted the soft, comfortable feel of a tri-blend tee, but needed a super-bright specialty print: they wanted glow-in-the-dark ink on top of bright ink that would have high visibillity in daylight as well. They opted for a 60% combed and ring-spun cotton/ 40% polyester blend shirt that gave them everything they were looking for.

In this age of seemingly infinite varieties of fabrics and styles, it's never been easier to demand more from your custom apparel. Work with an experienced decorator who is knowledgeable about current style trends, manufacturing advancements, and decorating techniques and your new "favorite shirt" can be customized just for you!

Looking for an experienced, professional screen printer who will take the time to help you choose and customize your new favorite shirt? Joe at Jarato Screen Printing and Design would love to work with you!

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