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1. Front design placement

T-shirt design placement guide for eye-catching shirts

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of t-shirt design placement.

In many ways, it’s an artistic choice, but a keen understanding of how to make the right decision on things like print location, print size, and proper placement of graphic elements can be the difference between a chaotic mess and a sharp, eye-catching t-shirt that effectively conveys your intended message or makes an impactful statement about your brand.

Fortunately, you can get started without being a print location expert. Following our t-shirt design and logo placement guide will help your t-shirts grab attention for all the right reasons. Where possible, we've provided an exact measurement for print sizes on Gelato’s Design Editor and referenced the appropriate anchor point for each measurement.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Location, location, location: design placement is as - if not more - important than your designs themselves

  • Each design placement has inherent pros and cons; understanding these can help you make the right choice for your design

  • It’s critical to consider your audience, your chosen t-shirt’s style, and the shape of your design to ensure the most effective placement

Front design placement

front design

A front t-shirt design placement is a versatile choice that works well with graphics of various sizes and complexity. Whether your message is artistic or utilitarian, front design placements make it easy for people to quickly grasp what a shirt is trying to communicate.

Depending on your design needs, there are few drawbacks to this placement. However, an essential consideration for front print placements is wearer comfort, as the size of your print area can impact your t-shirt’s breathability. Choosing a lightweight fabric can help make your t-shirt a customer favorite as a standalone item or as a base layer in colder temperatures.

Full front

full font

Placement: About three inches down from the collar, along the centerline of the t-shirt.

Average design size: About 12” wide; 14” tall

A full-front design is a dependable, attention-grabbing print placement. The generous print area is perfect for artists who want to create t-shirts with complex or detailed designs. This print placement is also well-suited for photographers who wish to showcase their best portraits or landscapes.

You might also consider a full-front design if you’re trying to make a strong impression for your company’s brand, raise awareness for an organization, or support a political campaign. A full-front design can also be a striking way to convey the theme of a concert, festival, or event, like a family reunion or group vacation.

Oversize front

Placement: Two to three inches below the collar, along the centerline of the t-shirt.

Average design size: 12” - 15” wide; 14” - 16” tall

When a full-size front placement doesn’t do your design justice, consider going to an oversize print, which adds half a square foot of print area to the t-shirt. Oversize images fill many of the same use cases as full-front prints, but the added space allows for even more intricate design possibilities.

An oversize print on the chest area is also a good choice if your online store sells extra-large inventory, as standard-size designs can look minuscule on plus-size shirts. Oversize prints are especially prone to breathability issues due to the extra ink required to print these designs.

Left chest

Placement: About three inches down from the collar, then straight to the left

Average design size: 2.5” - 5” wide; 2.5” - 5” tall

A left chest design placement instantly achieves a classic, understated look. They’re ideal for keeping branding on point for dressed-down corporate and professional gatherings where polo shirts might be too formal.

Choosing a left chest design is also an appropriate way to emphasize an element from the back of your t-shirt design, such as a staff shirt with SECURITY on the upper back. A similar approach is practical for sports teams and band merchandise.

Remember that your left chest design should not extend past the armpit seam. It’s also best to avoid using intricate designs in this space, which can affect readability. This placement’s subtlety makes it ineffective for sending a strong brand message.

Center chest

Placement: About four inches below the collar

Average design size: 8” wide; 8” tall

The front center chest print area is safe for big, bold branding and logo placement, simple artwork, and abstract designs. It’s best to avoid using this placement if your artwork is intricate, as fine details may be unclear to viewers at a distance, reducing the impact of your design.

Back design placement

back design

While most people think of front design placements for t-shirt layouts, back design elements can be just as powerful. They offer a unique avenue for creative expression and utility in professional situations.

An essential consideration for deciding on a back design placement is limited visibility. When the wearer faces others, there’s no way for viewers to see what’s on the back of the shirt. As a result, it’s a good idea to select a secondary printing location, such as the left chest or center chest on the front of the shirt. A sleeve design is another good option, but keep in mind that additional print locations will affect the production cost of your t-shirts.

Full back

full back

Placement: About five inches below the collar

Average design size: Around 12" wide; 14" tall

Like front placements, a full back print effectively showcases large images or detailed designs. Full-back prints are ideal for t-shirt printing or jerseys for informal sports leagues. The print area provides enough space to accommodate player names and numbers, making it easy to achieve a cohesive appearance with minimal design skill.

Full-back prints are also a popular choice for band merchandise. The ample printing area is well-suited to listing a tour’s name and venues in a font size that’s easily recognized even from a distance, along with stunning art that can help frame the text.

Upper back

Placement: About four inches below the collar, between the shoulder blades

Average design size: Around 12" wide; 5" tall

Given its comparatively limited height, an upper back placement is a good spot for a secondary logo or slogan. Sports teams typically use this placement for player names, with numbers going on the full-back position. Placing a local sponsor’s logo in this area may also be appropriate, depending on the shirt's layout.

Employee-related designs like “SECURITY” or “STAFF” easily stand out in a crowd when placed on the upper back. This placement helps maintain a clean, organized appearance. However, adding the same information in another placement on the left chest or sleeve is important for improved visibility, which can add to printing costs.

Prominent upper-back design placement is also an excellent choice if you’re creating t-shirts for retail or service staff who may have the front of their t-shirt design obscured by an apron or similar garment. Your customers will be thankful that they can quickly identify employees in your store.

Outer neck collar

Placement: About an inch below the collar, essentially the reverse of the garment tag

Average design size: 1” - 3” wide; 1” - 3” tall

This subtle, creative placement is ideal for smaller designs without many intricate details. If you’re creating t-shirts for an amateur sports team, the outer neck collar can be an ideal placement for a local sponsor’s logo. It’s also a good placement for details that complement a t-shirt’s main design features, such as a concert or event date.

Note that this print risks exposure to sweat, especially if your t-shirt will be used for an athletic event or worn by people in warmer climates. As a result, designs in this area are often susceptible to premature wear and fading.

Inner neck collar

inner neck

Placement: Inside the shirt, just below the collar - essentially the “tag” area

Average design size: 2” - 3” wide; 1” - 2” tall

A t-shirt’s inner neck collar is one of the best-kept secrets for print placement locations in the t-shirt business. It’s a practical choice for maintaining a clean, minimalist aesthetic on the exterior of your shirt while still finding a home for your logo or brand information.

Placing your logo inside the shirt creates a premium feel that’s especially appealing for designers who want to keep the focus on their t-shirt artwork rather than a logo. Designers can also use this print area to denote that a garment is part of a limited run, which can help reinforce a brand’s exclusivity.

Because the inside of your shirts will be in direct contact with the wearer’s skin, ordering samples of your shirt is a good idea to ensure the printing process creates a comfortable result that won’t irritate the wearer. Sweat and friction can also cause designs placed in this print area to wear or fade over time.

Sleeve design placement

sleeve design

Placement: About an inch above the hem on either the left sleeve or right sleeve

Average design size: 1” - 4” wide; 1” - 4” tall

Sleeve designs are another under-utilized t-shirt design placement. They’re an excellent spot for a highly-visible logo or branding placement that doesn’t overshadow a t-shirt’s primary design elements. T-shirt designers can also use the sleeve to complement a t-shirt’s primary graphic elements, as long as the sleeve’s intended artwork isn’t too complex or intricate.

When incorporated into t-shirts worn by staff at a business or event, designers can use graphic elements on a t-shirt’s sleeve to indicate seniority, helping employees and customers alike quickly identify staff leaders or management team members. The relatively small print area also means that logo designs and graphics must be large and bold to communicate their message successfully.

Design placement tips

While many design considerations are unique to specific t-shirt print areas, we've gathered a few tips and general best practices for design that will help you create impactful t-shirts that resonate with your target audience.

Factor in the shirt's style

A t-shirt’s style can drastically alter its available print areas and measurements. For example, a design with many vertical elements may look fine on a crewneck but could sit awkwardly on polo shirts, v-necks, or scoop-necks. Ensure you also factor features like pockets and elements like the shoulder seams into your design considerations, as they can distort your designs if not accounted for.

Remember your audience

Before embarking on any t-shirt printing project, you should know who will ultimately wear your shirts. For example, if your target audience skews younger, unconventional graphic placements and visual elements may be desirable or signature elements of your designs. Older customers will likely favor understated graphics and subtle branding or logo placements.

Meanwhile, emphasizing branding and logos with your placement choices is essential if you’re designing t-shirts for a sports team or corporate event. Similarly, if you’re putting together a t-shirt for a group outing, like a family reunion or vacation, ensure your designs prominently include those elements.

Consider your design's shape

Some designs naturally fit specific placements. For example, sleeves are an excellent spot for long and narrow designs, whereas front and back placements may better suit circular, rectangular, and square graphic elements.

It’s also important to consider how different shirt sizes impact your design’s shape and how your designs will look on different body types. For example, people who wear plus-size clothing will not buy a garment if the design's print size looks tiny, as the disparity can draw attention to their size.

While there's no hard-and-fast placement guide for special sizes, altering your design and logo placement to accommodate a wide range of sizes and fits will increase the size of your addressable market. Positioning your brand as an ally for the burgeoning body positivity movement could help you grab market share from competitors focusing exclusively on standard sizes.

Finding the perfect placement for your t-shirt designs

The placement of your design on a t-shirt is arguably more important than the design itself: a lousy placement can muddy your message and damage your brand by making you look like an amateur.

In other words - don’t put a ton of work into your design only to stumble at the finish line with DIY screen printing.

Take advantage of our placement guide, then check out Gelato’s print on demand services to ensure your designs hit the mark every time. Upload your design to experiment with Gelato’s Design Editor and mock-up generator to see your graphic on hundreds of men’s, women’s, and kids’ shirts, as well as a digital representation of the final product on models with various body types.

Learn how easy it can be to create t-shirt designs online with Gelato today.


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