So you are ready to order some beautiful custom t-shirts to promote your business, event, or fund raiser. Great! But, “what brand or style of t-shirt do you want” asks the nice young man at the screen print shop in town. Uhh… err… Cotton? Blue? Nice? If these are the extent of your descriptors for which custom t-shirt your company needs, relax. I am here to help! My First Rule of Custom Products is: always fit the product to the customer’s need. In other words, you can’t just grab the cheapest blue t-shirt around, throw some ink on it and call it a day. Not if you want a custom printed shirt that really reflects your brand message and accomplishes the marketing goals you have in mind. You want the best product at the best price that will do the job you need it to do. So let’s talk t-shirts, shall we?
First up: it’s all about the fit.
My first question when a client comes to me with an order for custom t-shirt decoration is “Who will be wearing it?” Humans!! Ok, I have made t-shirts for dogs before… but I digress. Do you need shirts for men and women both? If so, I always highly recommend you offer a women’s cut and not just a “unisex” t-shirt, especially if this is not a shirt that is a “once and done” thing. So – men’s, ladies’, youth? Get your sizes and cuts finalized. Many t-shirt brands used for custom screen printing or digital printing are available in a wide range of sizes with companion cuts for each style – some are not. So be sure to start with this factor before you pick a t-shirt that is only available in ladies’ sizes but you need it for both men and women.
Next, what about fabric?
So thanks to the never-ending advertising budget of America’s Cotton Producers, we all tend to blurt out “Cotton” the minute someone asks us what kind of fabric we like, as if we were stuck in a Pavlovian broken record. (The touch, the feel..) Cotton is great – durable, somewhat soft, easy to print on. But there is so much more out there! Looking for a “fashion” t-shirt? Something that you would actually wear all the time? Maybe you need a performance tee for a sport team or athletic event. Do you need something that will hold up to lots of wear and tear on a job site? All of these scenarios would lead me to pick t-shirts made from materials other than cotton. Today’s tri-blend fabrics are very fashion-forward with a soft drape and beautiful feel. Micro-wicking performance tees are perfect for the gym, the football field, or the golf course. And a 50/50 blend in a heavier weight will be a great bet for company work wear or restaurant uniforms.
Let the design lead the way…
Matching the fabric choice to the design is also important – some fabrics are perfect for full color digital printing, some are great for screen printing. Which method you need to use is determined by your artwork, the number of colors, and your budget. For example, a full color image can be very expensive and difficult to produce using traditional screen printing, but is very easy and cost-effective to create using a digital print method. But some of these digital methods only work on polyester based materials like performance fabric. So, if you have a full color image, you might lean towards a micro-fiber t-shirt. The shirt itself might cost more than a basic cotton tee, but the money saved on decorating will likely offset that by quite a bit! If you want something embroidered, i’d suggest a heavy cotton t-shirt with some stretch, as it will stand up better to the embroidery than a lightweight t-shirt. So talk with your decorator or promotional products consultant about your design up front, so they can help you make the best decision about fabrics.
Budget friendly, or break the bank?
For groups on a budget, like not-for-profits needing an event shirt, I usually recommend a very basic 50/50 poly cotton tee. This is an easy to wear, easy to print t-shirt that is very cost effective if you keep the design simple. On the other hand, if your custom t-shirt project is meant to foster brand awareness and create an image of quality, we’d want to look at a higher-end garment that your target audience will love to wear. The extra couple of dollars will be worth the investment. Maybe you are interested in name brand apparel like Nike or Adidas – those are available for decoration, but they do come at an extra cost. Perhaps if you are looking for custom golf shirts for a company golf outing, that will still be a great choice. What about more unusual options like American made t-shirts, or 100% organic, or maybe even recycled fabric t-shirts? All of these choices can mean extra dollars spent on the project, but can go a long way to getting your message across and remaining true to the ideals of your business. Understanding your company or organization’s brand message will help determine the best style of t-shirt to use for a given project.
Where will this custom t-shirt be in 6 months?
Last but not least, it is a great idea to think about the answer to this question when you are trying to pick the right custom t-shirt. Will it be in a donation pile, or top of the drawer as a go-to, everyday piece of someone’s wardrobe? Will it be worn at work, or play? Will it still be looking great, with your logo or custom design? Thinking ahead about the life cycle of a custom printed t-shirt will make it much easier to answer the question “what style of shirt do you want??” with ease and confidence!
I hope this has been a helpful intro to some of the options that are available when it comes to printing custom t-shirts for business, retail, or fund raising. Within each category of shirts, there are many varied styles, colors, and cuts. Take the time to explore and work with your decorator or promotional products consultant to find the t-shirt that is truly a perfect fit!
Have questions? Need some help? Give us a call – we are always here to help make your business Stand Out!