The Right Blank for You

Chances are, you’ve already decided on the design or message, and then you go to shop for a t-shirt to put it on – and you hit a wall. There are literally thousands of blank apparel options — which is great for variety, but can feel a bit overwhelming when you’re trying to settle on the best one for you. Ask yourself these simple questions and you’ll find the perfect t-shirt for your project, your budget and your target market.

Who is my audience? 

In order to move on to any of the other questions, you’ll need to know who exactly your target audience is. If you’re hoping to print t-shirts for your family reunion, then you’ll spend less time worrying about softness and fit then if you were hoping to sell your t-shirts in a high-end boutique. Some questions to ask yourself: what is the body type of your target market? (This will be important as you factor in the sizes you’ll need.) What’s the gender makeup? (This will impact the fit you choose) And what’s the budget of your audience? How much to do they usually spend on apparel?

Screen printing or embroidery?

The easiest way to weed through the massive amount of options is to decide on a material, and the best way to narrow down the type of material is to ask, "will it be screen printed or embroidered?"

SCREENPRINTING

The most popular decoration method works on most materials. Although some screen printing processes do not work on all materials. e.g. discharge ink does not work on performance materials, screen printing offers the most options for custom decoration. 

EMBROIDERY

Heavier weight cotton (about at 6.1 weight), but best on a polo shirt. If you must embroider on a T, go with something that has a heavy weight like the 5000 Gildan Heavy Cotton.

How important is softness?

If you’re selling your shirts, softness is king. You can reel them in with your great design, but the next thing they’ll do before pulling out a wallet, is to feel the shirt. If you’re looking for soft cotton tees, then filter your choices to ring-spun cotton shirts. Ring-spun tees are thinner and softer than 100% cotton basics — they’re called fashion tees for a reason. If you look at t-shirts sold at higher-end boutiques, you’re probably looking at a ring spun tee like the 3600 Next Level Premium Fitted S/S Crew. They’ll cost a little bit more than basic cotton but the upgrade is well worth it — particularly if you’re in a band or trying to start your own clothing line.

However there’s another option if you want to pull out all the stops and really wow the folks with softness: a Tri-blend shirt. Tri-blends, are the softest t-shirts you’ll find, and softness comes with a matching price tag. This is where it’s important to have a really solid handle on your audience — can they afford the true softness factor?! The TR461 American Apparel –50% cotton, 25% polyester and 25% rayon— it’s seriously the softest t-shirt, you’ll find. It’s definitely the most expensive option.

What about the features?

If you’d like to be able to market your line as 100% organic, then obviously, you’ll want to go with an organic t-shirt like AA1973 Alternative® Eco-Jersey Crew T-Shirt

But think about other ways you can use your blanks to market your clothing. If you want to advertise your clothing as Made in America, then you want to narrow your choices to brands that manufacture their t-shirts in the U.S. Everyone knows of American Apparel, but there are certainly other companies that make their blanks stateside.

Check out t-shirts from Bayside, Bella Canvas has a made in the USA line of t-shirts, and US Blanks, a t-shirt line in Southern California is another great option.

If you want to start a sports line, look for shirts that provide moisture wicking properties. We particularly love t-shirts made from bamboo fabric, like W2006 All Sport - Women's Racerback Bamboo Tank, because it is naturally anti-bacterial, hypoallergenic and breathable and there are no added chemicals. It’s a little more expensive, but if you have all of those marketing points, it might be worth it.

How should it fit?

This is where you need to have a good handle on the audience that you are targeting. Different people have different preferences when it comes to fit. If your goal is to create a more fashion-forward brand, then you’re most likely going to be looking at more fitted t-shirts. But you should also pay attention to gender when selecting t-shirts. Most women don’t want to just wear smaller versions of men’s shirts — they are going to want styles like rounded or v-necks (Like the deep v of the 6640 Next Level The CVC V).

When you’re looking at fit, think of your intended customer and you might already have a good idea of what you’re going for. But in general, if you’re looking to make more of a fashion line, lean toward fitted t-shirts, or even flowy t-shirts for women (something like the 6960 Next Level The Terry Dolman). If you’re just making a run of t-shirts for your ultimate freebie team, then you might not worry too much about the fit or the feel and instead choose something based on price like the affordable 5000 Gildan Heavy Weight. Of course, the more fashion-forward your t-shirt (like the 8871 Bella Ladies’ Flowy Open Back T-Shirt), then the pricier your blanks will be.

Based on a post from t-shirtmagazineonline.com