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15 Popular Types of Upholstery Fabric (Pros & Cons)

Choosing the right fabric type for upholstery is a task. Believe it or not, people would spend several bucks just to get the right advise.

15 Popular Types of Upholstery Fabric (Pros & Cons)

After all nice furniture can really add value to your room and maintain quaint living space.

But have you ever wondered what we mean by nice and reliable furniture? Well, it counts on many things, but one of those main things is the fabric used to upholster.

If you are thinking of upgrading your living space, be it your home or office, you should probably first check out the best upholstery fabrics essential to spruce up the look of your room.

In this article, we aim to highlight some of the most used natural and synthetic fibers, which we all need to understand before choosing the one for our living room sofa.

Different Types of Upholstery Fabric With Pictures

Many people who want to have a safe to use and soft fabric upholstery would go for natural fabrics. In this category, we have cotton, silk, leather, linen, wool, synthetic, velvet, etc.

Cotton

cotton upholstery fabric

Sometimes it is better to have soft and smooth sofas than to get the slippery feel. The cotton fabric is one such wonderful fabric, which would give you the soft silk fabric feels, especially when you choose to have the premium quality ones.

Premium cotton is made up of long cotton fibers, which gives it a luxurious feel.

You can have it as an alternative to silk as well.

Benefits of having cotton fabric upholstery

A single use of the cotton upholstered sofa will make you realize why it is one of the common fabrics. Let us start off with the breathability; those living in temperate regions should consider cotton fabric upholstered sofas to fight off the heat.

The high breathability potential makes relaxing even more comfortable.

Another reason to consider the cotton upholstery fabric is skin sensitivity. Fortunately, nature has been kind, giving us the hypoallergenic cotton fabric. Those who always complain to have rashes and other skin issues just by using a sofa or couch should consider the cotton fabric to cover up their furniture as it is safe for sensitive skin.

Lastly, the cotton fabric is quite durable. You do not have to worry about it getting ripped off. Keeping in view the durability of the cotton fabric, one can easily decide where to have the cotton fabric upholstery.

It is particularly for the most used sofas, such as the ones in your living room or for the kid’s room.

Shortcomings of cotton fabric upholstery

Even though cotton can be the best choice for furniture, there are still a few drawbacks. The first and foremost is the ability of the cotton fabric to absorb anything. With the cotton fabric, be ready to clean the tea and other stains.

It is all because the cotton fabric is quite porous, ready to absorb all kinds of dyes.

The Pros:

  • It is very durable.
  • It is hypoallergenic.
  • Safe for the kids.
  • Cool fabric.

The Cons:

  • Very absorptive.
  • Not suitable for nasty people.
  • Pretty expensive.

Leather

leather upholstery fabric

A leather sofa is indeed a sign of luxury, and I am sure most of you are searching for the best kind of leather sofa.

Leather covering is made up of animal hide, so it might be an issue for some of you, but overall, leather sofas and chairs are classics, and no one can deny their role in making every room a royalty.

You need to check the types of leather for your sofa and the grain quality of the cover to gauge if it is the one you want for your sofa.

Benefits of having a Leather Sofa In Your Home

Having kids and clean furniture at the same time can be a tough feat. However, not when you have leather upholstery.

The leather covering is silky enough to ward off any kind of stains. These are staining resistant, so let your kids enjoy their fun time in the living room without you fearing that they might destroy the sofas.

Even if you have some naughty kids or uncontrollable pets, the leather covering would be resistant to scratches, and you can make them up with leather polish whenever you want

Secondly, they are the most durable covers.

A leather sofa covered with pure leather can last four times longer than a faux leather or silk sofa.

So be ready to have the same sofa for over decades, unless you want to have it changed.

One more appealing feature is smell resistance. Unlike the cotton covers, the leather would not absorb any kind of stinky smell.

It would either stay odorless or will only smell like pure leather.

Shortcomings of leather covering for sofas

As far as we have researched, the most common deterred which will stop people from having leather upholstery is the price.

Leather sofas are quite expensive as compared to other natural fabric coverings available in the market.

If you live in a temperate region, buying leather upholstery for furniture, particularly when you do not have an air-conditioned living area, will not be wise. The leather coverings would not absorb any sweat and is not a breathable material.

The Pros:

  • Durable material.
  • ideal for public places.
  • Has that unique shine.
  • Resistant to water.
  • No absorption.

The Cons:

  • Not ideal for hot regions.
  • Very sticky.
  • Very expensive.
  • Not breathable.

Wool

wool upholstery fabric

This is going to be a bit new and strange for most of you. Woolen upholstery is not common, and you might only see it on chairs.

Woolen fabric prepared for upholstery is a blended one; pure wool might be a bit too sticky.

Benefits of woolen upholstery

If you want to have a fabric cover, but not the informal ones, then consider the wool upholstery. It is quite more sophisticated, ideal for drawing rooms and offices.

Those living in the northern areas need to have a woolen upholstered couch, as it is quite comfy and warm, making your sofas an ideal furniture article for winters.

It is moisture repellent, making it an ideal choice for people who do not want to feel dampened just by sitting on the sofa.

This moisture-repellent property also makes it a durable choice, as no moisture guarantees fungus-free furniture.

Shortcomings of having Wool upholstery

Woolen covers are not a good choice for spaces where you want prints and colors. Wool would come with limited color choices.

Moreover, unlike cotton and polyester, wool is slightly expensive. You need to pay some extra bucks to have this formal and sophisticated furniture upholstery.

Lastly, cleaning the woolen covers is a feat.

The only way to clean the wool upholstery is dry cleaning, making it an ideal choice for offices and hotels, but for home furniture, it can be an expensive and difficult procedure.

The Pros:

  • Very soft.
  • ideal for babies and kids.
  • Moisture-repellent.
  • Heat absorbent.
  • Ideal for cold places.

The Cons:

  • Limited colors.
  • It is not cheap.
  • Cleaning is very hard.

Linen

linen upholstery fabric

As silk might be an expensive choice, you can have linen as its alternative.

It is one of the most lustrous natural fabrics, giving that smooth and silky feeling.

On top of that, it is breathable, making it a perfect choice for the summer home décor. However, you should not count it as a formal upholstery fabric, but as a casual one, ideal for your living and bedroom.    

Benefits of having Linen upholstery fabric

It is for all comfort lovers; the soft cover would not feel like an over-heated surface, making your summer times enjoyable.

Just like cotton, it is also easy to clean and maintain fabric; all you need is a vacuum cleaner to clean this fabric.

Another amazing feature is its fungus-resistant quality.

You do not have to worry about the micro-organisms at all; it is quite a safe choice for your kids, parents, and family if any of you have a weaker immune system.

Shortcomings of having the linen upholstery

If smelly sofas annoy you, do not go for them.

The high absorption quality of linen will make it absorb the small particles of stinky things, be it food or sweat.

Furthermore, you cannot have a wrinkle-free look with linen; to keep your furniture as presentable as possible, you will have to steam iron it every now and then.

Lastly, it is not quite durable, even though it is designed for casual use, but it would not stay if the polyester or cotton fabric will.

It is for not regular use; it is not a good choice for the toddler’s room.

The Pros:

  • Easiest to clean.
  • Fungus resistant.
  • Safe for kids

The Cons:

  • Thinner fabric.
  • Can entangle bacteria and dirt.

Silk

silk upholstery fabric

If you want to keep it formal, nothing can beat the silk covers.

Silk sofas and couches are becoming rare now, but they are still trending in luxury hotels. You cannot have silk covers for heavy use; it is not designed for that.

The most common reason to have silk covers is the aesthetic appeal; it would turn the place into a peaceful, quaint, luxurious site, a certain delight for the house owner.

Benefits of Silk upholstery

There are people who always believe that a thing costing them too much should have some incredible benefits. They are not always right, but it seems to be the exact cause of the silk upholstery covers.

Are you a clumsy person who would not care much for the upholstered fabric but still low-key wants it to be the perfect cover?

Then go for the silk covers, as they are quite durable and will not rip off easily.

We all know that when it comes to regal home decoration, colors, shades, and miniature prints matter a lot.

With silk covers, you can easily get a wide variety of options.

Another amazing feature is the material’s elasticity; it would not lose its shape any time soon, which means that you can have it for a longer period without worrying about reupholstering unless you need to change the color or print.

Shortcomings of the Silk upholstery fabric

Even though we all love the regal feel of silk coverings, but there are still a few annoying shortcomings that might make you reconsider your choice.

First, silk is an expensive choice; secondly, you cannot have it if some sharp sunlight peeps into your room, as sunlight will damage the silk fabrics quite rapidly.

Lastly, there is no way you can spill some liquids on silk and think of getting the new silk covers again. The spots are not going anywhere; they can create quite an unsightly stain.

In a nutshell, it would be a great upholstery cover for those living without kids.

The Pros:

  • Royal and luxurious look.
  • Very elastic fabric.
  • Delicate look.
  • Available in great colors.
  • Ideal for drawing rooms.

The Cons:

  • Impossible to clean.
  • Very delicate.
  • Prone to damage.
  • Not suitable for kids.

Synthetic Fiber

synthetic upholstery fabric

The natural fiber is not enough to fulfill the ever-increasing demand for amazingly upholstered furniture, so the only option left is synthetic fiber.

Synthetic fiber is a blend of different chemicals, which is then added to a small amount of natural fabric to improve its quality and quantity.

There are several synthetic fabrics and covers in upholstery, but we will restrict ourselves to only the common ones, as the others are only sub-mixtures and types of the ones discussed here.

Polyester

polyester upholstery fabric

If you want to have cotton or linen but at a very affordable price, then go for the polyester fabric. Moreover, you might not find the linen fabric a fit for the heavily used living area sofa, which is 24/7 in use.

The best alternative is the polyester fabric, as it is a mixture of cotton and polyester chemicals.

Another aiming fact about polyester is its availability in different kinds of blends.

You are not only bound to have the polyester fabric blended with only cotton; the best thing is you can have different blends, which means there are literally no limits when purchasing the polyester fabric for upholstery.

Benefits of having polyester fabric for upholstery

If you are among those few people who still doubt having polyester fabric upholstery only because it is a synthetic fiber, you need to first understand the benefits.

The one I admire the most is the prints and shades; if you cannot help but love the amazingly shaded and printed sofa covers at your home, then go for the polyester fabric. It can easily be dyed in any color, and you can have it in different kinds of digital prints too.

Now coming towards the softness of the material. Like linen and cotton, polyester is also quite soft; however, a few types are slightly rough.

All you need to do is check the fabric just by touching it; 90 percent of polyester fabrics are soft and smooth.

It would not absorb any kind of annoying smells, even though it is comparatively breathable. Still, unlike cotton fabric, it will not retain the smells, which makes it an incredibly better choice over linen and cotton fabric.

Is it easier to clean? Yes, just like the natural cotton fabric, you only need a vacuum cleaner to clean it. As far as the stains are concerned, so it is fortunately relatively more stain-resistant; you can easily clean the stains with dishwashing soap, with nothing serious to worry about.

Say bye to sheet wrinkles with polyester upholstery; unlike cotton and other natural fabrics, it would not become a wrinkled cover, disturbing the look of your room.

Shortcomings of Polyester upholstery

If you are thinking of having a sofa for the outdoors too, then the polyester upholstery cannot be the best choice for it. It is not made for sunlight, and using it for outdoor chairs or sofas will be a total loss.

Even though polyester upholstered sofas are quite beneficial, but there are a few risks with them too. Sadly, polyester is flammable, making it a risky affair for people who have a fireplace in their living room or kids, who might start a fire there.

Lastly, if you want an eco-friendly bio-degradable, then it is not the best choice. Polyester is not bio-degradable; you can only recycle it.

So, dumping the polyester upholstered sofa or the cover will be a cheat for the climate.

The Pros:

  • Minimum wrinkles.
  • Easy to wash.
  • Gives a luxury look.
  • Ideal for the cleaning freaks.
  • Affordable.

The Cons:

  • Heat prone.
  • Inflammable.
  • Not suitable for outdoor furniture.
  • Not eco-friendly.

Velvet

velvet upholstery fabric

To be honest, you can count velvet in either of the two categories; however, as it is made from cotton, silk, or nylon, so we found it safe to count it in the synthetic category.

The only reason why people love to have velvet upholstery is the look.

Sometimes, having the printed silk cover is not the one for your drawing room, so as an alternative, you can have velvet, which will maintain the silky, shiny look while giving the regal feel.

In our opinion, the best and most suitable place to have the leather upholstery is in either offices or the drawing-room, where maintaining a luxurious look is necessary.  

Benefits of having the velvet upholstery

The best thing about having velvet upholstery for your sofas is its durability and longevity. You do not have to worry about fading colors.

Unlike other fabrics, there is no chance of discoloration with velvet.

Secondly, if you have ever touched the velvet covers, you know how durable it is. It would not tear off easily; even the rough nails will not damage it.

So, if you compare silk and velvet upholstery, it will be better to consider velvet.

Surprisingly enough, the buttery texture of the velvet covers is staining resistant to a few types of stains. You can easily wipe off the food stains, most probably as you will do with the leather covers.

Lastly, who does not know about the aesthetically appealing power of velvet? And it might be one of the main reasons why people are inclined to have velvet upholstery.

Shortcomings of Velvet upholstery

Even though the velvet upholstered sofas look divine, they need some extra attention too. You cannot get away without cleaning the velvet covers.

Once you have them, ensure that you have a vacuum cleaner too for the cleaning purpose. As the velvet covers are quite permeable and dust particles can easily settle deep down in them, you need to clean them with a vacuum cleaner every week.

As we have just mentioned that velvet is quite absorbent, so it is a red flag too.

Particularly for liquid spills, cleaning a juice spill is impossible then; all you can do then is dry that with a hairdryer.

Lastly, it is relatively expensive, and you cannot have the velvet upholstered sofas for the outdoors; these are exclusively for indoor use.

The Pros:

  • Gives the shiny look.
  • Stain resistant.
  • Color retention.
  • available in several colors.
  • Long-lasting fabric.
  • Bang for the bucks.

The Cons:

  • Not easy to clean.
  • Very absorptive.

Sunbrella

sunbrella upholstery fabric

Sunbrella is an acrylic fabric, it is particularly designed for outdoor furniture, but it does not mean that you cannot have it for indoor use.

Sunbrella is an ideal choice for both types of furniture as far as durability is concerned.

Another reason to have it is its look; it gives the formally sophisticated look of wool too.   

Benefits of having the Sunbrella fabric for upholstery.

The most highlighted benefit of Sunbrella is its sun-proof texture. It will not get damaged in the sun, so you can have it for outdoor sittings too.

On top of that, it is easier to clean; if you ever must wash this canvas and wool-like fabric, it will easily dry up.

As many people wish to have some bright colors for outdoor furniture, so sunbrella will be a nice choice here.

It is not only an exclusive outdoor furniture fabric but also one available in amazingly vivid colors. You can have it in different colors, prints, and shades depending on your mood/need.

It is not only sun-resistant but also a water-resistant fabric. You do not have to worry about the rain either. If it is raining, and the body of the furniture is waterproof too, let your outdoor furniture stay there without worrying.

Lastly, it is mildew resistant too. Unlike the other outdoor furniture fabrics, this one is a safer choice for those who cannot afford to change the fabric after every few months.

Shortcomings of Sunbrella fabric

One very common issue that a lot of people have reported is allergy. So, before you buy sunbrella upholstered furniture, ensure that you are not allergic to the fabric; otherwise, it will be a total loss for you.

Another reason for not considering this fabric is the price; it is way too much higher than Olefin and other acrylic fabrics.

The Pros:

  • Ideal for outdoor furniture.
  • Water-resistant.
  • Affordable option.

The Cons:

  • Allergic material.
  • Does not have that soft texture.

Olefin

olefin upholstery fabric

Olefin is a purely synthetic fiber made in 1957 by some Italian chemists by treating polypropylene.

The best part about Olefin is its extremely stain-resistant property.

You might not find any other alternative for this property.

Benefits of having Olefin.

Even though it is also a great outdoor furniture fabric ideal to upholster your outdoor chairs and sofa, but it is not as expensive as the sunbrella.

You can have it without even thinking about the price.

The reason for affordability is the availability and production; it can now be easily prepared as machines to produce it are widely spread.

If you live in a rainy area, such as Malaysia, where it often rains, you need to have the olefin fabric for your outdoor furniture as it is water-resistant.

Secondly, the texture of the fabric is quite soft, unlike the canvas.

You can feel the comfort; it is not as smooth as cotton but not as rough as other acrylic and synthetic covers.

Shortcomings of Olefin

Even though Olefin is an outdoor cover, but still cannot stand much heat. You need to place your chairs under shade when not in use.

The Pros:

  • Very affordable.
  • suitable for outdoor furniture.
  • Water-resistant.
  • Very soft fabric.

The Cons:

  • Cannot stand the heat.
  • Cannot place under direct sunlight.

Rayon

rayon upholstery fabric

If you are new to this upholstery world, then rayon might be a new thing for you. Currently, rayon is being used to manufacture several materials, and upholstery fabric is also one of them. Thanks to advanced technology.

If you think rayon is a new fabric, then mind you that it has been here for the last century. However, it is only recently that it gained popularity among the masses.

You might be surprised to know, but rayon is actually a material created after recycling all the fabric trash. It is mainly crafted from cotton trash.

Benefits of having Rayon Fabric

The first and topmost benefit of using rayon fabric for upholstery is its eco-friendly nature. You would be satisfied to use such material.

When upholstering a sofa for your baby then choosing rayon fabric might help. The reason is its soft quality. One does not need to worry about the rough taffeta fabric for their baby, using velvet or rayon fabric for the baby.

Secondly, not many people might be able to purchase velvet, so they can go for rayon fabric for upholstery. Along with its softness, but also gives a luxurious look. So, you can have that royal interior decor.

One thing which is a super feature for the meticulous house owners. Rayon fabric will not have wrinkles!! Yes, you read it right. Now the buyers do not need to stick to leather when rayon is also a good option.

Shortcomings of Rayon

No one would ever want to have a weak fabric. Unfortunately, rayon does not come with resilience. It would not be stout, and strong when wet.

So, if you have some careless people around, who might dampen the sofa upholstery, then it might tear the fabric.

Next, it will not stretch at all. You might hate it. When covering sofas or cushions with it, then you might need to get an extra cloth. So, it will not be a wise choice.

The Pros:

  • Eco-friendly material.
  • Super affordable.
  • No wrinkles.

The Cons:

  • It is very weak.
  • minimum elasticity.

Nylon

nylon upholstery fabric

You might have seen several synthetic fabrics, but nylon is unique because it does not have any base fabric. The manufacturers use various types of synthetic, artificially created polymers to compose nylon.

It was created in world war II when cotton was short. To fulfill the need for cloth, and cotton, the polymer industry introduced nylon.  

It is now in use for upholstery too. Let us see, why you would need nylon.

Benefits of having Nylon

The first thing, that I loved the most is it’s the easiest to clean. Then it is water repellent. You can have it in your kid’s room. However, do not expect it to be super water-repellent.

It might not soak water very quickly, but leaving water on a nylon sofa will eventually make it wet. So you still need to be cautious.

Next, you do not need to spend a lot of money, when upholstering your sofas. It would be only a few bucks that can easily get your sofa upholstered with nylon.

Bear in mind, that it is with respect to all the other fabrics available for upholstery.

It is very lustrous, so if you want a fabric that will stand apart, nylon can be a great synthetic fabric for upholstery in that regard.

Shortcomings of Nylon

Are you thinking of having nylon fabric upholstery for the sofa placed around the fireplace? Well, do not do it.

Nylon can melt when it’s too hot.  You do not even need to put anything hot on it, the heat coming from a faraway place would be enough to damage the cloth.

The Pros:

  • Very affordable.
  • Have that luster.
  • Less water absorption.
  • A safe choice for kids.

The Cons:

  • Highly flammable.
  • Unsafe for kids and old people.
  • Not suitable for hot places.

Microfiber

microfiber upholstery fabric

As the name implies microfiber is one created with the help of tiny strands of silk. In some cases, it is also available with cotton as the base fabric.

However, currently, the best microfiber available is the one made with polymer.  You might have heard about the microfiber towel, that many skincare freaks use. It is one of them.

Benefits of having a microfiber

The topmost benefit of microfiber is its durability. You can have microfiber sheets for around ten years without getting damaged.

Second, you can easily wash them in cold water. Cleaning microfiber is not an issue. It would dry pretty quickly as compared to the natural fabrics.

Then, just like nylon, it is very cheap. You do not need to spend a huge sum. In comparison to all the natural fabrics for upholstery, microfiber is a much cheaper option.

Shortcomings of Microfiber

You might not want to have a sofa with a little breathability. It is very important when your couch is being used for several other tasks too. Sadly, microfibre does not give you that breathability factor.

If you would ever feel a microfiber fabric, you will feel as if it’s some paper. Having it on the main sofa is quite risky because a small scratch can damage the cover. It is durable and elastic, but when it comes to the thickness you cannot expect much.

I would not recommend it for kids, as it is highly flammable. You cannot trust children with a highly inflammable fabric.

The Pros:

  • Easy
  • to wash.
  • Durable fabric.
  • Soft wool-like texture.
  • Available in different colors.

The Cons:

  • Inflammable fabric.
  • Very thin.

Acrylic

acrylic-upholstery-fabric

People have mostly heard about acrylic paints, but acrylic fabric is also a thing, in case you do not know. It is made up of acrylic yarn. So, here again, we don’t have a base fabric. It is also made up of fossil fuels, and other petroleum products.

They use extraction and spinning methods to get the yarn. Then this yarn is then combined together to create acrylic fabric.

Benefits of Acrylic fabric

Acrylic fabric is great for color retention. There are many people who would complain about the color of their sofa. So, my friend, if you are one of them, then choose the acrylic fabric. It would be very easy for you then, to choose from a wide variety of colors.

Then, If you do not want to choose the notoriously thin microfiber, then you must go for acrylic fabric. It is thick and comes with a wool-like texture. Thus, you can easily have it for warm places.

Lastly, it is a good option for all lazy house-owners. If any of you thinks that it will be very hard for them to keep the sofa wrinkle-free, then they must choose the acrylic fabric. It is wrinkle-free, so it demands lesser care.

Shortcomings of Acrylic fabric

You might feel lost when it would come to washing the acrylic upholstery. It is nearly impossible to wash that sofa cover made of acrylic in a washing machine.

Now, who would wash it by hand?

Obviously, then the last option will be dry cleaning. Thus, it is pretty evident that to clean the acrylic fabric upholstery, one needs to invest so much in dry cleaning.

Even though, the actual price of the acrylic fabric is relatively less than all other fabrics. But, the maintenance cost is pretty high.

Then like nylon, it melts when it burns. It is highly inflammable because obviously it is made up of fossil fuel. So, whenever something hot would be placed on the sofa, it will start shrinking and melting.

The Pros:

  • Available in various colors.
  • Thicker and durable.
  • Wrinkle-free fabric

The Cons:

  • Difficult to wash.
  • High maintenance cost.
  • Inflammable cloth.

Modacrylic

modacrylic upholstery fabric

Modacrylic is a type of acrylic fabric. It is made with several other compounds that are not used to make regular acrylic fabric. The main ingredient in its making is vinyl. As it is made up of more polymers, therefore, it is also known as the copolymer fabric.

Benefits of having Modacrylic

Unlike regular acrylic fabric, modacrylic is not combustible. You can have it at places where there is fire and heat. It will not melt. So, those who were thinking that there is no option for them in synthetic fabric for upholstery may consider modacrylic. It is so far the safest synthetic fabric.

You might be surprised to know, that it is also resistant to organic solvents. You don’t need to worry about spills. Secondly, modacrylic is also immune to mildew.

Shortcomings of Modacrylic

Even though heat or fire might not affect the modacrylic. But it is prone to pilling. So, it requires a lot of care. Do not let anyone walk on the sofa covered with modacrylic. It will damage the cover.

You can assume that it is not a durable fabric like nylon. Even though it has a wool-like look and cotton-like feel. It is soft to the touch, but still very delicate.

After a period of careless use, it will look like a mat, destroying the look of your entire room.  

The Pros:

  • Not inflammable.
  • Safe for hot places.
  • Soft texture.
  • Ideal for drawing rooms.

The Cons:

  • Can easily get rough.
  • Loses its texture very fast.

Conclusion

Choosing the right upholstery fabric is not an easy task, as there is a wide variety of fabrics available. The most pragmatic way to deal with it is to first explore the available choices. Then conduct a need analysis and then choose the most suitable fabric. There is no point in having a fabric that is not in accordance with your need and desire, so do not forget to make a checklist first.

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Syed Shabbar Abbas Naqvi

As a fan of both indie and triple-A games, Justin finds joy in discovering and sharing hidden gems with other passionate gamers. In addition to reporting on the latest and greatest titles, he manages GamingScan’s social media channels.