Performance T-shirts feature unique weaving patterns and advanced polyester materials that do a better job of wicking away moisture and reducing friction than traditional cotton or other fibers. It makes sense to use these kinds of shirts for creating custom team apparel for a running group or soccer team, but only if the printed art will last through dozens of washes without interfering with the performance features.
For the softest and longest lasting printed design, try sublimation dye. As long as you're comfortable using a white or pastel colored shirt as the base of the artwork, dyeing provides some of the best results. There's no layer of paint or dye left on the surface of the shirt to interfere with either air flow or moisture evaporation too. However, not all dye products produce good results on all performance T-shirts. Make sure you choose a printing company that has already worked out the kinks of pairing the right dyes with the right fabrics.
Prefer a dark colored shirt with light lettering to stand out in a crowd of runners or bike riders? Turn to the toughest and brightest colored heat transfer films to accomplish your design goals. Low quality and homemade transfers are known for cracking and peeling, but the films applied by the professionals are much more durable. Non-stretching and non-compression T-shirts work best with this material, but there are vinyl transfer products that can take some stretching with minimal distortion. Heat transfers offer other benefits like
- Complex color options, allowing you to add full color artwork to your team's T-shirts
- Metallic and opalescent effects, which are much harder to create with sublimation dyes
- Fast application times thanks to the heat activated process
- Clean and crisp edges, even in designs with small lines, thanks to the CAD cutting tools.
Finally, don't rule out traditional screen printing services for adding artwork and text to your compression and performance garments. Stretchy inks allow you to add decoration to both stretch and non-stretch garments alike with minimal cracking and damage. While screen printing inks do coat the surface of the fabric and somewhat reduce the wicking and ventilation effects, this is usually negligible as long as your screen printed patterns don't cover the entire shirt.
You'll still notice plenty of wicking and airflow in the uncovered areas of the design. If you do want to cover most or all of the shirt with a very large design, skip screen printing and heat transfers and stick with dye sublimation. Visit Absolute Screen Printing if you need more advice.