The majestic t-shirt is the most versatile and recognized piece of apparel in this world. You can wear it with practically anything and to almost any occasion; with a suit to a wedding, on the beach, to the gym, even at your cousin’s Bar Mitzvah!
For some people, it is more than that. It is their bread and butter and what their world revolves around. Yes, we are looking at you the relentless t-shirt printer. If you’re already in the business or just starting out, you need to know what blank t-shirt is right for your store, the brands and types of blanks out there, how to properly choose them, and how to source them properly. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you with all of that.
First of all, let’s start with the basics. The printing processes. For soon to be customers, knowing this is as important as the desire to be an entrepreneur itself.
This is by far the most popular and widely used method. Almost all kinds of t-shirts work for this method. It produces results which are durable and will last a long time depending upon the quality of the t-shirt. Screen printing is most cost effective if you produce t-shirts in bulk.
If you’re an existing brick and mortar store, or are planning to produce print t-shirts on a higher scale as an online store, this is the method for you.
By the way, if you’re planning on sourcing blanks for your business, here’s an article we wrote on how to source apparel from Bangladesh!
Heat Transfer is another popular method. It’s as easy as taking images from your computer and then putting them on the t-shirts with a special iron. You need to use a special heat transfer paper for this process as well. There are more advanced ones called plastisol transfers which are used by professional printers using more high quality paper.
This would be better for you if your store caters to specific customers who do one-off orders. Stores that tend to be in more touristy areas.
Direct to Garment (DTG)
The direct-to-garment printing process operates much like an ink-jet printer you would have at home. DTG prints ink directly onto the t-shirt and can produce full color images with accuracy. Just like a Heat Transfer, a DTG printer is great for small orders or one-offs. Since there really is no setup cost, you can literally start printing anywhere. So grab an ice cold drink and head somewhere tropical to start printing your wild designs!
This is not as popular in most print shops, but it’s still something that is present in the industry. You need to have specialized equipment for embroidery though, and someone who knows their craft. Either that or you could outsource the orders that demand embroidery.
Most t-shirts can be usually be used for almost any printing method, but not all printing methods can use all kinds of t-shirts. When buying blanks t-shirts consider these three things: material, quality, and most importantly your clientele.
The material itself is easy to understand. There is 100% cotton, polyester, 50/50 cotton polyester blend, etc. The quality of the t-shirt will dictate what you pay and what your customers pay. The quality in turn will depend on what your customers want. If you’re in a heavy foot traffic area where your customers come only for the designs or your artwork, then mostly source the basic cotton t-shirts. If your a top of the line fashion line in Beverly Hills, then your customers will prefer the softer kind. Here is a glimpse into the different kinds of blank t-shirts.
The 100% Cotton
100% cotton t-shirts are the most widely used types of blank t-shirts. Whether you are using American Apparel, or good old Gildan G500s, every single blank t-shirt company has a standard 100% cotton tee they make! The basic weight of this kind of t-shirt is usually 5.3 Oz (180 GSM).
You should choose 100% cotton t-shirts, depending on the clientele you have and what they like. If your average customer is an everyday working or they don’t really care about the t-shirt itself, keep Gildan G500s on stock. However, if your customers want t-shirts that are more durable and they plan to use it for a lot of physical activity, then go for heavier ones. T-shirts that weigh around 6 Oz. A great example is the Gildan G200.
100% Ringspun Cotton
These kinds of t-shirts tend to be very softer, lighter, and thinner than the average 100% cotton t-shirt. Walk into a “bougee” boutique store in the Lower East Side (one of Manhattan’s premier neighborhoods) and chances are this is what the use to produce their t-shirts. They are called “fashion tees” and there is good reason why. Ring spun cotton t-shirts are very durable and they can keep their shape and form for a while. The weight of these t-shirts tend to be around 4.3 Oz (145 GSM)
Like the previous paragraph states, if you’re customer base has money to spend then this is the blank to keep. The American Apparel 2001 is an industry standard but Anvil and Tultex also make great ringspuns as well.
This is a great choice for getting that middle ground softness and price. The 50/50 cotton polyester blend is highly durable and great for wear and tear. You can wash them as many times you want and yet they keep a nice form and fit. However, be careful when using them for sports too much. A great example is the Gildan G800 at 5.6 Oz (190 GSM).
If your customers want the softest shirts at the cheapest price, then this is the way to go. This would fare well if your customers are high schoolers, college students, etc. For neighborhood printing shops, this is the one to keep!
Cottons and ringspun cottons also come in variations. Combed cotton and ringspun cottons are also options for your store. However, they tend to be more expensive. The weight can vary from 4.2 Oz to 4.5 Oz but the general theme of softness is the same. Look into the Bella + Canvas 3001 or the Anvil 980 for great combed ringspun cotton t-shirts.
Polyester t-shirts are also an option, but be aware that they are extremely hard to print on the print tends to come off eventually. Polyester t-shirts tend to be extremely light yet very durable and best used for sports and strenuous physical activity.
Lastly, for the creme-de-la-creme of blank t-shirts, look out for tri blend 50/50/25 polyester, cotton, rayon t-shirts. Very soft, very comfortable, and very expensive. Bella + Canvas 3413 is a great example at only 3.4 Oz (115 GSM). Yes it’s that light!
We’ll cut to the chase and tell you how to source and save on your costs, so you can keep on doing what you do best – print t-shirts. Source from Bangladesh!
Most printing businesses source blank t-shirts and apparels from regional distributors who also charge a commission for sourcing from factories. These factories are usually from China or Bangladesh. Custom t-shirt printers can take advantage of this but directly producing blanks for Bangladesh and reduce overall production costs. 100% Cotton t-shirts weighing at 5.3 oz can easily be produced in Bangladesh at about $1. Bulk quantity can reduce the costs even further.
Header Image Source: T-Shirt Magazine