Know Your Substrates

We prefer 100% carded or combed cotton substrates for consistent premium super soft prints.

Carded Cotton
( most promotional apparel is carded)
Carded cotton is cotton which has been prepared for spinning into thread or yarn. Carding is an important step in the processing of many textiles, ensuring that debris is removed while aligning the fibers to make them easier to spin. Without carding, cotton thread would be coarse and extremely fragile.

Hand-carded cotton is prepared with the use of hand carders, which look sort of like the fine-toothed brushes used to smooth animal coats. Cotton is strung out across one brush, and then the other brush is gently run over the first, pulling the fibers into chunks which are aligned in the same direction, while also removing very short fibers, vegetable material, and other impurities which could have a negative impact on the thread or wool spun from the cotton.

When the carding process is finished, all of the cotton will have been transferred to the second brush, at which point it can be divided into clumps and spun.

Depending on how the fiber is treated before spinning, it may turn into a sliver, a simple chunk of material, or a roving, a sliver which has been twisted for extra tensile strength. For extra-fine cotton, people may use a cotton comb to pull out additional short fibers after carding, ensuring that the cotton fibers are all the same length. Combed cotton is extremely soft and silky to the touch, and it tends to be more expensive, because a higher volume of cotton is removed during processing.

Industrially carded cotton is prepared on large spinning drums which are capable of processing high volumes of cotton at once. For rapid processing, cotton spinning machines are usually located close to the carding area, ensuring that minimal time is wasted transferring cotton products around a factory.

Combed Cotton
Combed cotton is an extremely soft version of cotton made by specially treating the cotton fibers before they are spun into yarn. As a general rule, combed cotton is slightly more expensive than conventional cotton. The extremely soft, strong material is ideal for making bed linens and clothing which will be worn against the skin. If the textile used in a cotton product is combed cotton, it will usually be clearly identified.

To make conventional cotton wool or thread, the cotton is harvested, cleaned to remove dirt and seeds, and then carded. Carding separates the fibers and roughly lines them up, so that they all lie in the same direction. The cotton is divided into slivers, hanks of raw cotton which are spun into thread or wool. When cotton is combed, fine brushes are used to pull out any remaining impurities, along with short cotton fibers. Approximately 15% of the volume is removed, leaving behind only long, straight fibers which are even and aligned. The slivers of combed cotton are then spun into thread.

The texture of combed cotton is softer because it lacks short threads to stick out and prickle, and all dirt and impurities have been removed from the thread. Combed cotton is also stronger, because shorter and breakable fibers have been removed through combing. In addition, the straightened fibers lie together more tightly after combing, making combed cotton thread less likely to fray and unravel. Because the combing process removes volume and adds an extra step, the resulting textile will be slightly more costly.

Many companies prefer to use combed cotton for clothing and bed linens because of the softness and tensile strength. Cotton which has not undergone the combing step tends to be more rough, and it will be more subject to fraying, pilling, and tearing. Combed cotton will, of course, ultimately break down, just like regular cotton. It is an excellent choice for garments intended to be worn by babies and the elderly, since it is gentle against the skin.

Care directions for combed cotton are much like those for conventional cotton. As a general rule, it can be washed and dried at any temperature. However, dyed combed cotton may bleed if it is washed on high heat, and knits are subject to shrinkage. The use of lukewarm temperatures and mild detergents will prolong the life of the fabric. The specific care label on a product should always be followed, in case the cotton has been mixed with another type of fiber, or it has been specially treated.

Hemp & Canvas are nice and easy to print on and works exactly like cotton, I have also printed on leather with water based inks with great success.

Dry Fit / 100% Polyester and other Synthetics.
It is recommended that Plastisol is used for printing on 100% polyester and dry fit … I say EWWWW!! to that idea and prefer to print using super soft water based inks instead, since they do not crack or peel, is breathable and super soft.

I actually cover printing on 100% polyester dry fit in the course.



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