When it comes to creating custom t-shirts, few elements are as essential as color contrast and tonal contrast. Unfortunately, very few t-shirt creators understand what those terms mean — and we don’t blame them! Most of us only learn the fundamentals of color theory in school, such as the difference between warm colors like yellow and orange versus cool colors like green and blue.
The more advanced elements of color theory, like color and tonal contrast, are usually left out of the typical school curriculum. However, if you’re a t-shirt designer or ecommerce entrepreneur, you likely deal with these elements every single day! The contrast between the different shades in your graphics and the different tones of your t-shirt make or break the visibility of each t-shirt design.
While it’s easy to tweak the colors of your designs for maximum clarity, you can’t exactly alter the color of your t-shirts without committing to an entire dye job. The good news is, today’s top t-shirt brands offer a variety of shades for this exact reason! Take a look at the popular Bella Canvas color chart and Gildan color chart to decide which manufacturer is the best fit for your designs.
Any article of clothing printed with a custom design, such as a custom t-shirt, requires a visible contrast between the graphics and the color of the shirt.
Bella Canvas and Gildan Activewear are the top t-shirt manufacturers for print on demand suppliers, dropshippers, and ecommerce store owners worldwide.
The more robust Bella Canvas color chart has key characteristics, such as more pastel and muted color choices, that set it apart from the Gildan color chart.
The slightly smaller Gildan color chart has positive attributes, such as more vibrant and bold colors, that differentiate it from the larger Bella Canvas color chart.
Bella Canvas and Gildan are two clothing manufacturers that specialize in everyday apparel like sweatshirts, heavyweight t-shirts, and long-sleeve t-shirts. Whether you operate a t-shirt shop of your own or create t-shirt designs in your free time, chances are that you’re familiar with both Bella Canvas and Gildan products. The two are favorites among the print on demand (POD) industry.
Bella Canvas and Gildan products are known as ‘blanks’ in the POD industry, or clean slates to place custom designs anywhere across the chest, sleeves, or back. The majority of print on demand providers, like Gelato, keep both these manufacturers’ popular products in stock for t-shirt store owners and other ecommerce entrepreneurs to print high-quality designs at an affordable price.
Before choosing a manufacturer for your t-shirt designs, learn a bit more about each brand.
Bella Canvas (often listed by its stylized name, BELLA+CANVAS) is the brainchild of childhood best friends, Danny and Marco. The brand got its start more than 30 years ago when the two high school pals launched a screen printing business in their parent’s garage. After realizing a lack of quality in the women’s printwear market, the two launched Bella, their own cut-and-sew operation.
Bella Canvas was officially born in the year 2000, once a new men’s apparel line was added to the existing women’s line. Today, Bella Canvas is the largest dyer and cutter of apparel in the United States. With a mission to manufacture high-quality apparel responsibly, Bella Canvas is known for its minimal ecological footprint, which uses seven times less water than the average fashion brand.
Pro Tip: Is sustainability top of mind for your t-shirt business? If so, partner with a print on demand supplier like Gelato, which works to reduce carbon emissions on each order we produce!
Like Bella Canvas, Gildan was founded by another duo — in this case, brothers Greg and Glenn Chamandy, who launched Gildan in 1984 to supply their family’s existing childrenswear business, Harley Inc. The American-based brothers acquired a knitting mill in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which soon expanded to offer 100% cotton t-shirts to wholesalers across North America.
By 1994, the entire Chamandy family turned their efforts to Gildan Activewear, the brand most consumers are familiar with today. Gildan Activewear manufactures tons of basic apparel, from underwear and socks to t-shirts and sweatshirts. To date, Gildan has acquired Comfort Colors and American Apparel brands to become one of the largest US suppliers of 100% cotton t-shirts.
Before we hop into the Bella Canvas color chart versus the Gildan color chart discussion, it might be helpful for you to understand a few color theory basics — like, what is a color chart, anyway? As the name might suggest, a color chart is a reference of color samples available for a particular product. In this case, the Bella Canvas and Gildan color charts apply to each brand’s t-shirt apparel items.
When assessing a color chart to select a t-shirt color, it’s crucial to consider the potential colors of your t-shirt designs. Keep an eye out for a clear contrast between your design and your desired t-shirt color for maximum visibility between the lightest and darkest shades. Be sure to consider complementary colors for your design or colors that create the strongest visual contrast.
As you shop around for a t-shirt provider, review the basics of the Bella Canvas color chart versus the Gildan color chart.
To get the best idea of how the Bella Canvas color chart applies to t-shirts, it’s useful to consider a specific product, like the Bella Canvas 3001 shirt. As one of Bella Canvas’ top products (and a mainstay for print on demand t-shirt sellers), the 3001 shirts are available in over 80 colors. In fact, the brand offers 86 solid colors and 83 heather colors made with 100% ring-spun cotton.
While the Bella Canvas color chart is expansive, most print on demand services only stock around a dozen colors. Because POD suppliers manage a large amount of inventory, it’s often more profitable (and sustainable!) for suppliers like Gelato to only stock the most popular shades. Popular shades in the Bella Canvas color chart include trendy, bold colors like Royal Blue and Bright Orange.
The best look at the Gildan color chart is through the Gildan 5000 shirt, a well-loved favorite among print on demand suppliers available in just over 70 colors. Like the Bella Canvas 3001 shirt, most print on demand partners only stock the Gildan 5000 shirt in a select few popular colors. At Gelato, we’ve found this Gildan t-shirt to be most popular in bright shades like Gold and Light Blue.
While both the Bella Canvas color chart and the Gildan color chart contain various basic shades ideal for a variety of designs, Gildan is often a good option to create contrast between your design and your t-shirt colors. For instance, the brand’s Sports Grey and Military Green are neutral shades that can create lots of visual contrast once more vibrant designs are printed on top.
Pro Tip: Unsure how your design will look printed on different t-shirt colors? Experiment with millions of premium mockups on the Gelato Mockup Studio with a Gelato+ subscription!
From Spring Green and Steel Blue to Royal Purple and True Royal, the Bella Canvas color chart contains dozens of attractive shades for men’s and women’s apparel. Even kids and baby clothing looks good in an assortment of Bella Canvas colors! As you consider potential manufacturers for your custom t-shirts, check out how the Bella Canvas color chart stacks up in pros and cons.
Bella Canvas is well-known for its 100% cotton t-shirts that come in a variety of flattering colors for men and women alike. On the one hand, the brand’s singular solid colors range from deep blues and purples to pastel pinks and greens. On the other hand, the brand’s heather colors blend multiple different colored fibers into one yarn to create more muted shades, such as creams and grays.
The Bella Canvas color chart has several pros, primarily the wide range of colors available. With bold solid colors and more muted heather colors, t-shirt designers and ecommerce entrepreneurs can find a variety of shades that could complement numerous designs without overshadowing the graphics. A wide selection also allows Bella Canvas colors to be more versatile.
Because the Bella Canvas color chart is so vast, you might assume there aren’t any cons associated with the color selection. However, a quick glance at the broad color chart reveals that the brand does not manufacture as many primary colors, such as yellow and blue. Despite several pastel and neon alternatives to these classics, the actual Bella Canvas primary colors are lackluster.
A lack of primary colors might influence your potential t-shirt designs, especially if your t-shirt niche caters to sports teams or a related niche market. The Bella Canvas color chart may also impact your t-shirt choices around certain holidays. The brand’s pastel tones are ideal for spring festivities, but the lack of certain primary colors is not as reflective of fall and winter celebrations.
Pro Tip: The pastel and muted shades found on the Bella Canvas color chart are a perfect match for t-shirt designs that include deeper colors, like navy and purple.
With 20 shades of green in the Gildan color chart alone, you can imagine that the Gildan brand produces a diverse range of t-shirt colors. Print on demand providers like Gelato leverage Gildan’s expansive color chart to apply to various ecommerce products, especially men's sportswear and women’s sportswear. Here’s how the Gildan color chart compares to a brand like Bella Canvas.
Gildan products are well-stocked by print on demand suppliers due to the variety of bold colors that are great for everyday wear. The Gildan color chart has many vibrant colors ranging from electric green and neon pink to tropical blue and orchid purple. These brighter shades pair perfectly with designs like funny t-shirt sayings because the bold colors don’t compete with simpler fonts.
The bold shades on the Gildan color chart are also ideal for athletic purposes. Bright yellows and reds help to keep people like runners and bicyclists more visible while sharing the road with vehicles, whereas earthy greens and blues make for ideal yoga-themed apparel for wellness-focused consumers. Regardless of which color you choose, Gildan t-shirt shades are always sure to pop.
While the Gildan color chart is bold and vibrant, it tends to replace standard pastel shades with neon versions of a comparable color. Though these brighter shades can make for awesome t-shirt designs, they may create more visual distractions for a more complicated design. Likewise, the chart contains several heather shades that don’t have a solid color alternative, which could be frustrating.
However, the potential overlap in the Gildan color chart may be even more frustrating. As mentioned above, Gildan produces 20 different shades of green out of approximately 70 t-shirt colors. Due to the sheer variety of green shades, you will likely find several similar colors when selecting a t-shirt for your designs. There is a similar overlap for blue and yellow Gildan shades.
Pro Tip: Pair one of Gildan’s bold or neon t-shirt colors with a simple t-shirt font so that the bright shade of the tee steals the show!
The importance of shirt color when creating and selling custom shirts simply cannot be overstated. For t-shirt designs that pop (and designs that can be read clearly from across the room), there must be a visible contrast between your design colors and the color of your t-shirt. Fortunately, top brands like Gildan and Bella Canvas offer robust color charts that provide endless possibilities!
As you choose a t-shirt brand for your custom tees, experiment with Gildan and Bella Canvas’s top products through a print on demand partner like Gelato. As a sustainable and scalable provider, Gelato manages your entire t-shirt inventory and order fulfillment process. You’re free to print your favorite designs on multiple shirts to decide which brand’s color chart reigns supreme.
Learn to design custom Gildan and Bella Canvas t-shirts with Gelato print on demand today!