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1. Best quality t-shirts for custom t-shirt printing

Top 5 best-quality t-shirts for printing & branding

If you sell t-shirts online or you're creating a custom t-shirt for yourself, the quality of your t-shirt is as important as the look of your design. A beautiful t-shirt design is wasted on a low-quality shirt. Choosing the best-quality printed t-shirts requires carefully selecting the t-shirt brand, style, and material. In this guide, we'll share five of the best-quality printing t-shirt picks, some guidelines for what to look for when selecting t-shirts, and some tips on getting your t-shirts printed.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Select t-shirts that appeal to your target audience.

  • The best-quality printing t-shirt options are distinguished by brand, weight, and neck style.

  • Leading brands include Gildan, Bella+Canvas, and Stanley Stella.

  • When selecting t-shirts, consider market, fabric, weight, style, fit, knit, and transparency.

  • Printing options include direct-to-garment, screen printing, and sublimation.

Best-quality t-shirts for custom t-shirt printing

A great custom-printed t-shirt should combine the look your target market wants with a comfortable feel and practical durability. To achieve this goal, You need to consider who your market is, such as whether you're targeting a unisex market or women's t-shirt shoppers. You must also consider factors such as style, color, material, thickness, softness, knit, and shrinkage. Along with these variables, you also need to weigh the impact a trusted clothing brand name can have on buyer perception of product quality.

Below we'll take a look at five of the best-quality t-shirts from three major brands: Gildan, Bella+Canvas, and Stanley Stella. We'll include unisex, men's, and women's t-shirt selections in thicknesses ranging from thin to heavy. We'll consider selections in two of today's most popular styles: crew neck and v-neck. Crewnecks have a round neckline that exposes less of the neck, combining a casual look with a warm feel. V-necks have a tapering neckline that reveals more of the neck, creating a more formal look and a cooler feel. For each t-shirt model discussed below, we'll review style, fabric, special features, and intended usage and market. Our selections give you a range of options for designing quality t-shirts for yourself or different target audiences.

heavyweight unisex crewneck t-shirt

This heavyweight cotton unisex t-shirt from Canadian clothing manufacturer Gildan offers a casual crewneck style suitable for everyday and casual wear. This is one of our most popular items, a staple product with a classic fit.

  • Colors: white, light blue, gold, sports grey, military green, dark heather, royal, red, black, navy.

  • Solid colors are 100% cotton; sports grey is 90% ringspun cotton, 10% polyester; other heather colors are 50% polyester, 50% ringspun cotton; fiber content may vary by color.

  • Sizes: S, M. L, XL, 2XL, 3XL.

  • Casual wear style.

  • Tubular, single-cloth t-shirt design with no side seams.

  • Regular, standard-length fit for easy movement.

  • Seamless, double-needle collar.

  • Double-needle sleeve with bottom hems.

  • 100% combed and ringspun cotton.

  • Taped neck and shoulders deliver durability.

  • Thick fabric with medium softness.

  • Fits both men and women perfectly.

  • Extra-comfy.

  • Made on demand with no minimum orders.

  • Orders are fulfilled in seven countries with production hubs in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Czech Republic, and the United States.

  • Standard shipping in 6-9 business days, express shipping in 5-6 business days.

premium unisex crewneck t-shirt

This premium crewneck unisex t-shirt from American clothing manufacturer Bella+Canvas features short sleeves, and superior combed and ringspun cotton, providing the perfect blank canvas for printing. A well-loved favorite, this item sets the standard for premium unisex t-shirts.

  • Colors: white, athletic heather, orange, dark grey heather, asphalt, royal, red, black, navy.

  • Solid colors are 100% combed and ringspun cotton; ash color is 99% combed, ringspun cotton, 1% polyester; heather colors are 52% combed and ringspun cotton, 48% polyester; athletic and black heather is 90% combed and ringspun cotton, 10% polyester; fiber content may vary by color.

  • Sizes: S, M. L, XL, 2XL, 3XL.

  • Casual wear style.

  • Side-seamed construction retains shape.

  • Regular, standard-length fit for easy movement.

  • Medium, soft fabric.

  • Fits both men and women perfectly.

  • High-stitch density for fantastic prints.

  • Preshrunk fabric keeps designs as beautiful as the day they were printed.

  • Made on demand with no minimum orders.

  • Orders are fulfilled in ten countries with production hubs in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

  • Standard shipping in 6-9 business days, express shipping in 5-6 business days.

organic unisex crewneck t-shirt

This unisex crewneck t-shirt from Belgian clothing manufacturer Stanley Stella provides a high-quality, soft, eco-friendly canvas for your designs. Made from 100% certified organic ringspun cotton, this shirt is perfect for eco-conscious consumers and looks great on both men and women.

  • Colors: white, charcoal, black, navy.

  • All colors are in 100% Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton.

  • Sizes: S, M. L, XL, 2XL.

  • Casual wear style.

  • Side-seamed construction retains shape.

  • Regular, standard-length fit for easy movement.

  • Thick fabric with medium softness.

  • Fits both men and women perfectly.

  • Responsibly produced, per Gelato's preference for Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) certified brands and Fair Labor Association (FLA) participants or members of the Fair Wear Foundation.

  • Made on demand with no minimum orders.

  • Orders are fulfilled in five countries with production hubs: Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.

  • Standard shipping in 6-9 business days, express shipping in 5-6 business days.

premium women v-neck t-shirt

This 100% combed and ringspun cotton v-neck t-shirt from Bella+Canvas features a modern, slim fit with short sleeves. A popular favorite, this item offers a quality canvas for your t-shirt designs.

  • Colors: white, black, navy.

  • Solid colors are 100% combed and ringspun cotton; fiber content may vary by color.

  • Sizes: S, M. L, XL, 2XL.

  • Casual wear style.

  • Side-seamed construction retains shape.

  • 100% combed and ringspun cotton.

  • Light, soft fabric.

  • Feminine cut for a flattering fit.

  • Extra-comfy.

  • High-stitch density fabric for high-quality prints.

  • Made on demand with no minimum orders.

  • Orders are fulfilled in six countries with production hubs in Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

  • Standard shipping in 6-9 business days, express shipping in 5-6 business days.

heavywweight womens crewneck t-shirt

This heavyweight women's crewneck t-shirt from Gildan sports a casual style with a contoured shape and classic scoop neck. Pre-shrunk to preserve designs through wash after wash, this is a t-shirt shoppers repeatedly reach for.

  • Colors: white, daisy, sports grey, royal, red, black, navy.

  • All colors are 100% cotton.

  • Sizes: S, M. L, XL, 2XL.

  • Casual wear style.

  • Semi-fitted with a regular, standard-length fit for easy movement.

  • Thick fabric with medium softness.

  • Extra-comfy.

  • Pre-shrunk so t-shirt designs stay looking as good as the day they were printed.

  • Made on demand with no minimum orders.

  • Orders are fulfilled in seven countries with production hubs in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Czech Republic, and the United States.
    Standard shipping in 6-9 business days, express shipping in 5-6 business days.

What to consider when choosing a shirt for custom t-shirt printing

choosing t-shirt

What are the most important qualities to look for when selecting the best-quality printing t-shirt for custom t-shirt printing? Some of the most important attributes to consider include the following:

  • Market

  • Fabric

  • Weight

  • Style

  • Fit

  • Knit

  • Transparency

Here's what to consider in each of these areas:

Market

Some t-shirts cater to men's or women's niches, while others target a unisex market. Consider your brand's target market when selecting shirt options. Note that whether you sell to men or women, unisex t-shirts are a winning choice.

T-shirt fabric

T-shirt fabric composition affects key shirt qualities such as weight, look, feel, and durability. This makes fabric selection one of the most important considerations for choosing the best-quality printed t-shirts. Popular fabrics include cotton, polyester, and blended fibers. Each material has its strengths, pros, and cons.

Cotton t-shirts

Cotton t-shirts have a soft, comfortable feel that is gentle on the skin. They breathe and don't cling. They tend to be heavier than polyester t-shirts, which can be a pro or a con depending on how and when the buyer intends to wear them. Cotton t-shirts are slower to dry than polyester shirts, more prone to shrinking and wrinkling, and easier to stain and damage.

Polyester t-shirts

Polyester t-shirts feel smooth and light. They don't easily shrink, wrinkle, or attract odors. They dry quickly, and they're highly durable. On the con side, they don't breathe easily, making them prone to cling. Their synthetic texture can irritate the skin of some wearers. They can be more expensive than cotton t-shirts. They offer fewer custom t-shirt printing options than cotton t-shirts.

Blended cotton/polyester t-shirts

Blended cotton/polyester shirts combine some of the benefits of cotton and polyester shirts while sharing some of the limitations of polyester. Like cotton, they are soft and comfortable. Like polyester, they are light, quick-drying, resistant to shrinkage and wrinkling, and durable. However, also like polyester, they can be clingy, irritating to some customers, pricey, and restrictive on printing options.

Weight

Fabric selection directly affects t-shirt weight, another key consideration. T-shirts range from very light to very heavy weights. Lighter fabrics breathe more easily, making them suitable for warmer weather, layering, or exercise. Heavier fabrics provide more warmth in cold weather and more durability.

Style

T-shirts come in different styles designed to go with different body types and looks. One of the most important style distinctions is crewneck vs. v-neck t-shirts.

Crewneck t-shirts

Crewneck t-shirts, named for a style popular with boat crews, have a round collar that covers more of the wearer's neck. They put more focus on the upper body and shoulders. This provides balance for the look of wearers with narrow faces and long necks and helps make people with sloping shoulders look like their shoulders are more square. They display the appearance of a round neck when worn with a top button that is undone.

Crewnecks can provide a more casual look and greater warmth than v-necks. They can be layered with certain other looks, such as jackets, cardigans, and jumpers, but don't layer easily with other crew neck shirts.

V-neck t-shirts

V-neck t-shirts taper to expose more of the wearer's neck. They make necks look longer and narrower, making a person's face look slimmer.

V-necks can show off a fit physique, conceal an open top button, or reveal an accessory such as a necklace. They can be worn for a casual look or a more semi-formal look. They are cooler than crewneck t-shirts, making them suitable for warmer occasions.

Fit

T-shirt fits vary based on how tightly they hug the body. Slim fits hug the upper body closely and taper toward the waist. Relaxed fits have a loose feel. Regular fits (also known as standard fits) fall in between with a moderate amount of looseness. A slim fit is designed for a slender person and can show off a fit physique, but it can feel tight on a large or muscular wearer. A regular or relaxed fit provides more freedom of movement, especially for people with bigger torsos, but can look baggy on a smaller person. These fits can accommodate layering but bunch up when tucked in.

Knit

T-shirts come in tubular and side-steamed knits. Tubular knits are made by cutting the shirt's torso from a fabric tube and then sewing on the sleeves and collar, making them seamless on the sides. This makes them cheap to produce but gives them a generic fit. Their one-size-fits-all torso design doesn't flatter the female form and isn't tailored to the neck or sleeves. Tubular knits look identical from the front and back. They're prone to twist in the wash.

Side-seamed knits use stitching between the underarm and hem of the t-shirt. This allows the front, back, and sleeves to be cut individually for a more tailored fit. Side seams reduce twisting in the wash. They serve as guidelines to hold shirts during printing, making them better for displaying designs. They cost more than tubular t-shirts, but they deliver the best quality t-shirts.

Transparency

Shirts that are lighter in weight and color are more transparent, while shirts that are darker and heavier are more opaque. This affects how your design will look on the shirt, making it a crucial consideration. Factor in whether your design's color scheme will look better on a lighter or heavier background.

Top printing options for custom t-shirts

top t-shirts

The printing method you plan to use affects your t-shirt choice. Manufacturers use several popular printing methods for custom t-shirts:

  • Direct-to-garment (DTG)

  • Screen printing

  • Sublimation

Each method has its own best uses:

Direct-to-garment (DTG)

Direct-to-garment t-shirt printing applies ink directly to garment surfaces using a printer. It employs thin, water-based inks. It makes designs look like they're part of the t-shirt. This makes DTG excellent for highlighting details and colors. Darker colors require pretreatment to prevent them from blending in, and they show up best on t-shirts that are at least 50% cotton.

Direct-to-garment printing can be used to produce individual shirts or small quantities of shirts at a low cost. This makes DTG ideal for print on demand (POD) business models.

Screen printing

Screen printing applies ink to t-shirts through a screen. It employs plastisol-based inks, which form a viscous gel. Different screens are used to apply different colors.

Screen printing works well for large volumes of orders in quantities of hundreds or thousands. It can be economical at these scales, but DTG is better for small quantities. It takes longer to produce custom t-shirts than DTG since each color must be applied individually.

Sublimation

Sublimation uses a heat press or oven to convert dyes into a gaseous form that soaks into the t-shirt before cooling back into a solid state. It uses specialized dyes, printers, papers, and coatings. It works best on polyester and other synthetic fabrics. It doesn't work well on natural fabrics such as cotton.

Use premium t-shirts for effective print designs

T-shirt quality can make or break your custom shirt design. To select the best-quality printing t-shirt options, consider the market, fabric, weight, style, fit, knit, and transparency. Leading choices include unisex and women's crewneck and v-neck t-shirts from Gildan, Bella+Canvas, and Stanley Stella. Direct-to-garment printing offers a more efficient and less expensive production method than screen printing and sublimation.

Gelato enables local, on-demand DTG t-shirt production globally through the world's largest network for production on demand. Gelato produces personalized products in thirty-two countries, enabling creators and ecommerce sellers to scale their business and reach customers faster while reducing waste, costs, and carbon emissions. Sign up for Gelato today to get started producing the best-quality printed t-shirts.

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