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1. What is t-shirt weight?

T-shirt weight guide: Making the right choice

Navigating the vast world of t-shirts might seem simple, but there's an under-discussed aspect that can significantly impact your wardrobe or product line: t-shirt weight. This comprehensive guide delves into the intricacies of t-shirt weights, unraveling their influence on quality, comfort, and printability.

Whether you're a fashion enthusiast, a fashion brand owner, or simply someone keen on making informed purchasing decisions, understanding the difference between lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight t-shirts is paramount. Let's discuss how you can make the right t-shirt weight choice based on your needs.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • The density or thickness of t-shirt fabric, usually measured in GSM, significantly impacts quality, comfort, and printability.

  • The type of fabric (e.g., cotton vs. polyester), weaving process, thread count, and specific treatments or finishings determine a t-shirt's weight.

  • Lightweight fabric is breathable in warm temperatures, midweight fabric balances comfort and durability for diverse climates, and heavyweight fabric weighs more and retains shape even after repeated washes.

  • Lighter tees might have less vibrant prints due to lower ink absorption, while midweight and heavyweight shirts offer clearer prints and longer print longevity.

  • Align your choice with brand goals, audience needs, climate, and intended usage. Evaluate costs and potential ROI for an informed decision. Popular t-shirt examples include BELLA+CANVAS 3001 and GILDAN 5000.

What is t-shirt weight?

T-shirt weight refers to the density or thickness of the fabric used to craft the garment. It's a key metric that offers insights into the shirt's quality, comfort, and endurance. Typically, this weight is measured in GSM (grams per square meter) or ounces per square yard. 

The weight of a t-shirt has direct implications on its feel and longevity. Lighter shirts with lower GSM tend to be soft and breathable, making them suitable for warmer climates or layering. However, they might not always be the most durable or resistant to wear and tear. On the other hand, shirts with a higher GSM or weight are generally more robust, maintaining their shape and structure over time. These heftier shirts can provide a feeling of quality and durability but might come across as less breathable or slightly bulkier in feel.

Factors influencing t-shirt weight

When we talk about t-shirt weight, it's not just a random number or a manufacturer's whim. Several factors play into it:

1. Type of fabric

A lot comes down to the fabric. Cotton t-shirts, especially those labeled "100% cotton", tend to have a natural, soft, and breathable touch. Polyester, on the other hand, feels a bit more synthetic but can be more resilient and moisture-wicking.

2. Weaving process and thread count

It's like making a basket - the way you interlace the materials and how tightly packed they are makes a difference. For t-shirts, the weaving process and the thread count can influence the weight. A tighter weave or higher thread count often means a heavier and sometimes more durable t-shirt.

3. Finishings and treatments

Some t-shirts undergo a treatment or special finishing, like an enzyme wash, which breaks down the fibers slightly and gives them a super soft, worn-in feel. While these treatments can add to comfort, they might also affect the weight and longevity of the shirt.

Types of t-shirts

The weight of a t-shirt's fabric plays a crucial role in its feel, durability, and suitability for various occasions. From breezy summer days to chilly winter evenings, each weight offers distinct advantages. Explore the different types of t-shirts classified by their fabric weight to find the perfect fit for your target market.

1. Lightweight t-shirts

These t-shirts feel like a gentle hug when you slip them on.

  • Typical weight range: Lightweight t-shirts usually weigh in at around 90-150 GSM.

  • Feel and touch: They're usually smoother and have a gentle drape over the body, not too clingy or stiff.

  • Breathability and comfort: These t-shirts are incredibly breathable, making them feel almost like a second skin.

  • Ideal for hot climates: Lightweight tees are breathable, perfect for staying cool in warm weather.

  • Athletic or underwear use: Ideal as a base layer for workouts or fashion layering.

  • Extended comfort: Soft and cozy, they're the go-to for long wear sessions.

2. Midweight t-shirts

Midweight t-shirts offer the perfect middle ground between lightweight and heavy t-shirts, striking a balance that appeals to many. Let's see what makes them stand out:

  • Typical weight range: Midweight tees are generally in the 150-200 GSM range.

  • A blend of comfort and durability: These t-shirts offer a decent degree of softness while also being rugged enough to withstand daily wear and tear.

  • Versatile for various climates: Great for both mild spring days and cool autumn evenings.

  • Suitable for a wide range of applications: Perfect for home lounging, casual work, or nights out.

  • Good printability with most methods: Midweight t-shirts allow for clear and vibrant prints using a range of printing techniques.

3. Heavyweight t-shirts

These are sturdy and built to endure. A heavy t-shirt will mostly be made of premium fabric.

  • Typical weight range: These t-shirts tip the scales at around 200 GSM and above.

  • Robust and sturdy feel: These are made of thicker fabric, offering a sense of solidity and depth that's unmistakably different from their lighter counterparts.

  • Long-lasting and can handle rough usage: Designed to take a beating, these t-shirts are perfect for those who need something that can stand up to demanding conditions.

  • Holds shape well, even after multiple washes: A heavyweight tee has the ability to resist the wear and tear of frequent washing. They retain their shape and feel despite countless laundry cycles.

  • Good printability for detailed designs: Whether you're aiming for intricate designs or bold patterns, heavyweight t-shirts' dense fabric ensures clarity and longevity in prints.

How weight affects the print quality

Lightweight t-shirts

  • Ink absorption: These tees, with their fine weave, might not absorb ink as deeply, which can sometimes result in less vibrant prints.

  • Surface smoothness: Typically offer a smoother surface, which is advantageous for detailed and intricate designs.

  • Print longevity: Their delicate nature might make the prints more susceptible to fading with repeated washing.

Midweight t-shirts

  • Ink absorption: Provide a balanced absorption level, ensuring prints are vivid but without the risk of ink bleeding.

  • Surface smoothness: Generally smooth, but more texture might be present compared to lightweight tees, which can be a factor in print clarity.

  • Print longevity: Strikes a balance between durability and softness, meaning prints tend to last with regular care.

Heavyweight t-shirts

  • Ink absorption: The denser fabric typically allows for better ink absorption, yielding vibrant prints.

  • Surface smoothness: Depending on the weave, they might have a rougher texture, which could affect the clarity of detailed prints.

  • Print longevity: Their robust nature means they can endure rougher handling and washing, preserving the print for longer durations.

Suitable printing methods for each weight category

  • Lightweight tees: Direct-to-garment (DTG) works well with thinner fabric, as it's gentle and can handle the fine details on softer fabrics.

  • Midweight tees: Screen printing is a versatile option for design placement, offering good clarity and longevity. DTG also works quite effectively.

  • Heavyweight tees: Both screen printing and heat transfer techniques suit heavyweight fabrics. The best heavyweight t-shirt can handle both heat and pressure from these methods.

How to determine the right t-shirt weight for your product range?

Selecting the perfect t-shirt weight for your product range isn't just a matter of personal preference; it's about aligning with your brand's goals, understanding your audience, and optimizing for both comfort and purpose. Here's a guide to help you navigate this decision:

Assess your audience's needs and preferences

  • Surveys & feedback: Consider engaging with your potential customers or current client base. Ask about their preferences, daily activities, and what they value most in a t-shirt.

  • Demographics & lifestyle: A younger, active audience might lean towards lightweight or athletic wear, while a more mature or professional demographic might appreciate the durability of midweight or heavyweight shirts.

Climatic conditions and intended use

  • Climate: The geographical location of your primary audience is pivotal. For tropical or warmer areas, lightweight shirts might be preferred due to their breathability. In contrast, cooler regions might appreciate the sturdiness and warmth of a heavier tee.

  • Use: Are these shirts for a gym line? Lightweight might be your go-to. Launching a line of durable workwear? Heavyweight tees could be ideal. For everyday casual wear, midweight often strikes the right balance.

Budget and production costs

  • Material & production costs: Generally, heavier shirts with more fabric might cost more. However, the longevity they offer can sometimes justify the initial investment.

  • Printing costs: Weight can influence the printing method. Some techniques are more expensive than others. For instance, DTG might be costlier than traditional screen printing, especially for bulk orders.

  • Return on investment (ROI): A slightly more expensive heavyweight shirt that lasts longer might result in higher customer satisfaction and fewer returns or complaints.

Top t-shirts that perfectly blend weight and comfort


Crafted with precision and a keen eye for detail, the BELLA+CANVAS 3001 is a unisex short-sleeve tee that offers a premium experience. It's a perfect combination of style, comfort, and durability.

Key features
  • Made of Airlume combed and ring-spun cotton

  • Offers a balanced feel adaptable for various climates and events

  • Features a modern, tailored fit that suits different body shapes

  • Excellent for printing clear and lasting designs using diverse techniques


The BELLA+CANVAS 3005 is an experience in comfort. Tailored to fit like your standard t-shirt, its classic V-neck design with short sleeves makes it a timeless wardrobe must-have.

Key features
  • Unisex t-shirt designed to exude a relaxed vibe

  • Made of combed and ring-spun cotton to offer a gentle softness

  • Excellent for printing vibrant and clear designs

  • Comfortable fit that provides a sense of familiarity and ease

3. GILDAN 5000

The GILDAN 5000 is not an average t-shirt; it is a commitment to quality and durability. As a heavier t-shirt, it provides a solid and robust feel, ensuring it stands the test of time.

Key features
  • Traditional fit ideal for relaxed, everyday wear

  • A seamless double-needle collar ensures durability and shape retention

  • Double-needle sleeve and bottom hems resist wear and fraying

  • 100% combed and ring-spun cotton blends comfort with durability

4. GILDAN 64000

A timeless unisex t-shirt, the GILDAN 64000 effortlessly complements any ensemble. Crafted from a robust cotton fabric, it comes with a double-stitched neckline and fitted sleeves for enhanced style and durability.

Key features
  • Rolled-forward shoulders provide a snug and improved fit.

  • Boasts a stylish, fitted sleeve design.

  • The seamless double-needle collar adds to its resilience.

  • Offers a tubular fit, ensuring minimal torque and a consistent shape.

5. GILDAN 2000

An iconic staple in the world of t-shirts, the GILDAN 2000 is known for its classic design, comfortable fit, and dependable durability. It's crafted to cater to both style and function.

Key features
  • Made from cotton for a consistently soft feel

  • GILDAN's signature durability is evident in the 2000's robust design

  • Suits varied body types with its timeless fit

  • Simple design suitable for standalone wear or custom t-shirts

6. NEXT LEVEL 6710

As part of the NEXT LEVEL lineup, the 6710 t-shirt is designed with today's fashion-conscious individuals in mind. It combines softness, fit, and a sleek finish, making it ideal for those seeking comfort and style.

Key features
  • Premium fabric to ensure a soft, skin-friendly touch

  • A balanced fit that's both relaxed and flattering

  • Built for longevity and consistent wear

  • Minimalist design suitable for diverse occasions


A part of BELLA+CANVAS's esteemed collection, the 6400 t-shirt is designed to provide a contemporary touch to the classic t-shirt. Its attention to detail and emphasis on comfort make it a sought-after choice for those wanting to make a subtle yet impactful style statement.

Key Features
  • High-quality materials ensure day-long comfort

  • Modern design offers a versatile and flattering fit

  • Resilient build ensures lasting quality through repeated use

  • Sleek design suitable for both casual and polished looks

Leverage Gelato's on-demand printing for consistent quality

When aiming for impeccable print results, Gelato's on-demand printing service stands out as an unmatched choice, ensuring optimum print results irrespective of the t-shirt fabric weight. Here's how:

  • Adaptability to varied weights: Gelato’s technology adjusts printing parameters to cater to different t-shirt weights - be it lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight.

  • Precision printing: Every t-shirt weight requires a specific touch. Gelato ensures that the ink penetration is just right so your designs are sharp and vibrant.

  • Versatile designs: Whether you're printing on a delicate, lightweight tee or a robust, heavyweight one, Gelato can handle intricate designs to bold graphics with equal finesse.

  • Durability: Gelato's on-demand printing ensures that the print withstands the test of time, wash after wash, regardless of the t-shirt's weight.

  • Consistency: Whether it's your first print or your thousandth, expect the same high-quality result every single time.

Whatever the t-shirt weight, Gelato's on-demand printing promises a tailored solution for all your t-shirt types, ensuring that your designs not only stand out but last. It's the perfect platform for brands aiming for consistent quality across their entire t-shirt range. Sign up for Gelato today!


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