top of page

What should you look for when you are buying printed apparel?

The T-shirt is a fashion staple in virtually all closets across the country. Comfortable, easy to wear and accessible, the T-shirt is an icon in the advertising industry. With its appeal transcending gender, age and cultures, this staple apparel item has a spot in every customer’s closet. Beyond its versatility, the T-shirt also is a quintessential marketing tool, helping businesses and organizations promote their brands and ideas..So what do you need to know when you are looking to purchase printed apparel?


1) T- Shirt Options

Cotton is by far the most popular fabric for T Shirts. It is soft, sturdy and breathable. It is also usually very affordable. Cotton is a casual fabric that is ideal for everyday wear. There are several types of cotton fabric that are used in apparel, and each one differs slightly. Most cotton shirts are pre-shrunk, meaning that the fabric has been put through a machine that pushes the fibers tightly together, condensing the fabric by removing the space between the stitches. In essence, replicating the shrinking process. However, pre-shrunk unfortunately does not mean your shirt will not shrink at all. It simply means that most of the shrinkage has been taken out. This can sometimes be misleading. Most fabric will shrink, on average 3 to 7 percent, which is not something that most people would even notice when it comes to fit.

Ring-spun cotton is created by continuously twisting and thinning the cotton strands, making a very fine rope of cotton fibers. The twisting makes the short hairs of the cotton stand out, resulting in a stronger yarn that is significantly softer. Additionally the number of times you twist the fiber determines how soft the fabric is. In many instances you will see ring-spun described as “30 Singles Ring-Spun”. This term is used to indicate the diameter of the yarn. The higher the number, the thinner the yarn and the softer because it has been twisted more times.

Polyester is a synthetic material that is used in a variety of our T Shirts. Polyester can be breathable, making it ideal to use in a lot of performance wear. Some polyester shirts will say that they are moisture wicking, meaning that they have been treated to dry quickly and wick (pull) moisture away from the skin. Polyester is an extremely strong fabric with many advantages. It is quick drying, does not mold or mildew, wrinkle resistant and is very easy to machine wash and dry. Polyester can shrink when exposed to extreme heat but, in most cases, will keep its original shape. Another advantage to a polyester shirt is the increased durability, it is an extremely strong fabric that can hold up to a lot of wear and tear.

Often T Shirts are a combination of two or three different materials. Some of the more popular examples of this are a Cotton/Polyester blend or a Cotton/Polyester/Rayon blend (tri-blend). When you combine fabrics you end up with the best qualities from each fabric. A Cotton/Polyester blend results in a fabric that remains cool and light from the cotton fabric, yet also has the strength and wrinkle resistance of the polyester. Cotton/Polyester/Rayon blends have the comfort of cotton, shape retention of the polyester and the addition of rayon allows the fabric to drape against the body for a slimming look.


Another factor to consider when looking for the perfect T Shirt is the weight of the shirt. T Shirt weights range from the very light (3.4 oz) to a more standard (5.5 oz) on up to the heavy (6.1 oz to 7.1 oz) shirts. The weight you choose may depend on a couple of different factors.

Is this shirt going to be used in warm or cool weather? You would obviously want a lighter weight shirt if you are going to be in a warmer climate.

The amount of money you would like to spend on your T Shirts. The heavier weight shirts tend to have a higher perceived value but could cost as much as a lighter brand name shirt. It is something to consider when looking at the heavier shirts.

Who is going to be wearing these shirts? A heavy weight shirt may not be appropriate if you are buying shirts for a 5K. You would want a light weight shirt that is going to wick away moisture. Maybe even a performance or athletic wear shirt. Your end user will keep and hopefully wear multiple times, instead of relegating it to sleep wear. You should always keep the end use in mind when looking at weights.

The Ideal Fabric for Your T Shirt

T-shirts are often bought for a large giveaway, a sporting event, retail or resale, or events geared towards children, and each of these situations could lead you to a different T-shirt fabric.

Large giveaways/trade shows –If you are hosting a large giveaway, you may want a less-expensive shirt due to the high quantity of shirts needed, such as a mid-weight cotton shirt

Sporting event –Spectators giveaways may lead you to select a less-expensive shirt; however, if you are hosting an event where athletes will be wearing your shirt, you may want to look into performance fabrics such as a light- to mid-weight polyester blend. Spending a little more on a performance shirt will generate more impressions for your brand, since the end user will most likely continue to wear it well after the event.

Resale or retail–If you wish to sell T-shirts with a logo or embellishment, select a shirt that is trendier and more fashionable, such as a soft, lightweight T-shirt in organic cotton or a tri-blend in a stylish cut.

Event with Children –You may want a heavier shirt for children for the durability, but also consider a cotton/poly blend that would better resist to wear-and-tear and stains.


2) Artwork & Artwork Design

Where do you start when you have nothing to go on? I usually start with research, then look at fonts and then do a fast comp. Starting with research can help get your juices flowing and may give you a quick idea to present. Going online and checking out the competition and businesses with a similar name are good ways to get ideas and concepts that can create a starting place. Of course, you need to be original with concepts instead of copying, but it often can be a combination of seeing other solutions and a flow of images that will pop just the right idea into your head.

Even if your design is incredibly beautiful, it will not translate into a screen printed graphic if you do not follow basic art guidelines for screen printing. Each screen printing company has established standards to guide their customers. By following those standards, the company will be able to create acceptable and attractive graphics. The guidelines typically include supported file formats, size restrictions, color suggestions, minimums and placement options.

Create and save your design in a supported file format.

At Ink & Thread, we recommend vector artwork saved in the following file formats:

Adobe Illustrator (.ai)

Editable EPS (.eps)

Acrobat PDF (.pdf)

We will accept non-vector artwork saved as an Adobe PhotoShop file (.psd) or an image file (.jpg) for recreation. Be certain to contact us before you create your final design so you can save it properly.

If at all possible, use vector artwork

Vector art is composed of paths, lines, curves, and shapes. These elements are controlled through points with definite locations on the x – and y – axes of the work plane. This process allows you to increase or decrease the size of the graphic without distortion. Vector artwork that is saved correctly is easily transformed into an acceptable screen printed graphic. If you do not use vector art, the screen printer’s graphic designers will have to completely recreate your design.

Choose high-resolution photos. Remember to include any links.

Photographs are not composed of vectors. If photos are not high-resolution they will become blurry and unusable when they are enlarged. Use photos that have a resolution of at least 300 dpi. If your design includes linked photos, be certain to include the photos or embed them when you submit your design.

Convert all fonts to outlines or paths.

If you are including a font in your design, it is crucial to convert them to paths or outlines. If you do not do so and your designer does not have the font you selected, they will not be able to use that font. When you convert fonts to outlines or paths, you are assured that your font shape will be preserved.

Want to save money? Use fewer colors

In order to transform your design into a screen-printed garment, each color requires its own film positive and its own screen. Those cost time and money. To reduce your overall cost, use fewer colors to limit the total number of screens.

Have questions? Don’t be afraid to ask.

We will be happy to explain both the process and why certain file formats are necessary. To make it even easier, our talented graphic designers will be happy to create a custom design just for you.


3) Print Options

Screen Printing

What is Screen Printing?

Let’s start at the very beginning by defining the process of screen printing. Unless you’ve actually worked in the business or, at the very least, placed an order before, you probably have a very limited understanding of what screen printing actually is. Screen Printing in its most basic form involves four basic parts…screens, squeegees, ink and heat. We use a squeegee to press ink through a stencil in a screen. The ink is then sent through a dryer and heated to reach a proper cure temperature which causes the permanent bond to the cotton/polyester.

This is one of the most preferred t-shirts printing methods using a professional t shirt printing machine. If you've got a t-shirt that features a printed graphic and has remained vibrant, soft, and smooth for long, there are high chances that it was screen printed. Meaning that you can count on screen printing for all your t-shirt printing needs. Screen printing is a great option if you’re working on a large project. However, it’s not the best option for everything. Don’t count on it as a viable option if you are working on one-offs or smaller quantities. For instance, if you want to print hen or stag T-shirts, screen printing would require that you create a new screen for each t-shirt plus it will take a lot of time. In other terms, it wouldn’t be cost effective.

Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)

Vinyl printing employs a unique, soft clothing that is professionally cut using CAD cutter and other special software. Then you print this material onto your t-shirt using heat press method.

The method allows you to print one-off designs and, making it a great alternative for printing multiple garment types. Furthermore, it lets you layer vinyl, which makes it possible for you to print in different colors (and create vibrant designs).

Vinyl works well for the slogan, small graphics, and words. But it’s not suitable for large printed areas as your t-shirt may lose its flexibility.


The idea behind this technique is transferring the image from one surface to the other, permanently. The design is printed on a transfer paper and using the best heat press machine it gets transferred to clothes. The method was originally used to add decorative details to ceramics.

Today, it enjoys a wide usage in the t-shirt printing business as well as other garments.


Sublimation works best when used for all over and oversize printing. It’s capable of transforming the whole t-shirt into a great piece of art.

With sublimation dye process, you can do a galaxy print, repeat pattern. But you’ll need special shirts- made from 100% polyester. Some people use 50/50 blends when sublimating, but this method may result in a dull or not very vivid image.


Ready to order? Give us a call @ 256.410.3600 shoot us a email or stop by our store for a free consultation. 14980 Court Street, Moulton, Al 35650.

53 views0 comments


bottom of page