The Best High-Quality T-Shirts for Printing

Carter McCue

9 mins read

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If you’ve been in the print-on-demand business for quite a while, you know how important it is to have high-quality tees for printing. Not only do they make your designs look better, but they also increase customer satisfaction and help build your brand’s reputation. But with the tons of shirt brands claiming to be the best, how exactly do you know which ones to choose?

In this blog post, we’ve researched for you and compiled a list of the best high-quality t-shirts for printing. Below, we will explore their features, pros, and cons and help you make an informed decision about which one is right for your business. So, whether you’re a seasoned print-on-demand entrepreneur or just starting, keep reading, and you’ll finish this article ready to make your next batch of eye-catching pieces!

T-Shirt Printing: A Simple Definition

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of shirt types, fabrics, and printing techniques, let’s start with a simple definition of t-shirt printing. T-shirt printing is creating designs or graphics on a blank t-shirt using various printing methods, such as screen printing, sublimation, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, or heat transfer printing. Now, each of these printing techniques has its own advantages and limitations. Your choice of method will depend on various factors such as your budget, the design complexity, the number of shirts to be printed, and the fabric of the t-shirt. For instance, screen printing is a popular method for printing on cotton and other natural fiber shirts, while sublimation is better suited for synthetic fabrics like polyester. The former is best for bulk printing custom tees with not-so-complex designs, while the latter is ideal for full-color prints with intricate details.

How Does T-Shirt Printing Work?

Now, the printing process’s length and complexity will depend on the printing technique you choose. Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular t-shirt printing methods:

Screen Printing 

This technique involves creating a stencil (or “screen”) of your design and then using it to apply ink onto the shirt. Each color in the design requires a separate screen, making this method best for simple designs with few colors. As mentioned, screen printing is also ideal for printing on cotton and other natural fibers.

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing 

DTG printing prints the design directly onto the shirt using a specialized printer. This method is excellent for complex designs with many colors and can be used on various fabrics.

Heat Transfer Printing 

Heat transfer printing involves using a special transfer paper to print the design, which is then applied to the shirt using heat and pressure. This method can be used on a variety of fabrics and is ideal for smaller orders and designs with complex or tiny, intricate details.

Sublimation Printing 

This method uses heat to transfer dye onto synthetic fabrics like polyester. The design is first printed onto transfer paper using special sublimation ink and then transferred onto the shirt using a heat press. Sublimation printing produces bright, vibrant colors and is great for all-over prints!

The Benefits of T-Shirt Printing

While it may seem like a lot of work to get started, many benefits to t-shirt printing make it a worthwhile investment. Here are just some of them:

It Brings Out Your Creative Juices

T-shirt printing is a great way to unleash your creativity and express yourself through design. You’re free to experiment with different colors, fonts, and images to bring your ideas to life! With tons of easy-to-use design software nowadays, you can easily create stunning designs within an hour or two, even on your mobile device.

It Gives You Control

When you print your own t-shirts, you have complete control over the design and quality of the final product. This means you can customize your t-shirts to cater to a specific niche, audience, or event. You can choose the type of fabric, printing technique, and color that best suits your needs.

It Can Be a Lucrative Business

T-shirt printing can also be a lucrative business venture. With the rise of print-on-demand services, it has become easier to start your own t-shirt printing business without the need for a huge investment. You can print and sell your designs online or even create custom orders for businesses, schools, and organizations. T-shirt printing also has a high-profit margin, making it a great option for those looking to earn a passive income.

What Is Needed to Print T-shirts?

Now, what exactly do you need to get started with your t-shirt printing venture? Here’s a quick rundown:

Your Designs

The first and most important thing you need to start printing t-shirts is your designs. Whether it’s your own original artwork or designs that you’ve licensed or purchased, you need high-quality designs that will make your t-shirts stand out. You can use graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator or Canva to create your designs or hire a freelance graphic designer to help you.

Your Chosen Shirt Styles & Fabrics

Once you have your designs, you need to choose the right shirt styles and fabrics. Different shirt styles and fabrics work better with different printing techniques, so you need to consider this when making your selection. Also, consider your target market and their preferences when choosing the shirt styles and fabrics. What kind of activities do your target shoppers enjoy? Are they into sports or fitness? Are they looking for a casual or more formal look? Do they prefer a certain type of fabric, such as cotton or polyester? These are all important factors to consider when choosing the shirt styles and fabrics for your t-shirt printing business. 

Additionally, it’s important to consider the quality of the shirts you are using, as this will impact the final product and customer satisfaction.

A Print-on-Demand Partner You Can Trust

If you need more resources or time to handle printing and shipping yourself, consider partnering with a print-on-demand (POD) provider. A POD provider like Awkward Styles will handle the printing, shipping, and fulfillment for you, allowing you to focus on creating and marketing your designs. When choosing a POD provider, consider their pricing, quality of printing, shipping options, and customer service.

What Are The Best Quality T-shirts For Printing?

And we’ve reached the ultimate question: what are the best quality t-shirts for printing? Well, here are five of the ones we’ve researched and found to be top contenders:

Unisex Champion T-shirt (Champion – T425)

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Champion is known for its producing high-quality t-shirts, and its T425 model is no exception. It’s made from 100% cotton and has a sturdy, heavyweight feel to it. This t-shirt is an excellent option for screen printing and holds colors well. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors and sizes, making it a versatile choice for any printing project. Not to mention, its subtly placed Champion logo on the sleeve adds a touch of authenticity and style. The T425 model is also durable and long-lasting, making it a great option for customers who are looking for a t-shirt that will withstand wear and tear.

Unisex Jersey Tee (Bella+Canvas – 3001)

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Next up is the Bella+Canvas 3001 Unisex Jersey Tee, which is made from 100% airlume combed and ringspun cotton, making it a comfy and soft option for t-shirt printing. This shirt has a modern fit and is available in a wide range of colors. It also has a tear-away label, making it perfect for relabeling with your own branding. The Bella+Canvas 3001 is a great option for direct-to-garment (DTG) printing due to its high-quality fabric and smooth surface, which allows for vibrant and detailed prints. Overall, this t-shirt is an excellent choice for those who value comfort and quality in their t-shirt printing projects.

Men’s Triblend T-shirt (Next Level – 6010)

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This Next Level’s triblend tee definitely stands out from the crowd with its unique blend of polyester, cotton, and rayon materials. The Next Level 6010 Men’s Triblend T-shirt is incredibly soft and lightweight, making it perfect for a variety of printing techniques. It’s a popular choice for those who want a vintage, heathered look and feel. Plus, it’s available in a range of colors and sizes, making it a versatile option for any printing project. It’s also worth noting that Next Level is committed to ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices, making this a great choice for those who prioritize ethical fashion.

Women’s Flowy Cropped Tee (Bella+Canvas – 8882)

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With their flattering cut and laid-back vibe, cropped tees are becoming a fashion staple, and the Bella+Canvas 8882 Women’s Flowy Cropped Tee is a great option for printing your designs. This tee is made from a blend of polyester and viscose fabric, making it lightweight and airy, perfect for warm weather. It has a flowy fit and a raw edge hem that adds a trendy touch to any outfit. Additionally, it comes in a variety of colors and sizes to suit any preference. 

Women’s Boyfriend T-shirt (Next Level – 3900)

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Oversized boyfriend tees are becoming a thing, even for single ladies. And the Next Level 3900 Women’s Boyfriend T-shirt is a perfect choice for those looking for a comfortable and stylish option. This t-shirt is made from 100% combed ringspun cotton, making it incredibly soft and has a relaxed, oversized fit. It’s perfect for casual wear or for dressing up with accessories. The fabric is also great for printing, allowing for high-quality and vibrant designs.

What Makes a T-shirt High Quality?

Found the right fit for your designs? Great!

But what exactly makes a t-shirt high quality?

Well, it will always start with the materials. High-quality t-shirts are typically made from 100% cotton or a blend of cotton and other high-quality fibers like polyester, rayon, or bamboo. The fabric should be soft, breathable, and durable, and it should hold its shape well over time. The construction of the t-shirt is also important. Look for shirts with double-stitched seams and a ribbed neckline that won’t stretch out of shape. A high-quality T-shirt will also have a good weight to it, without being too heavy or too light. And finally, the finishing details, like the printing or embroidery, should be crisp and long-lasting. All these factors combine to make a t-shirt that looks not only good but also feels great to wear and will last a long time.

What Is the Highest Quality T-shirt Material?

Believe it or not, there can be more than one answer to this question, as it largely depends on personal preference and the intended use of the t-shirt. However, one of the highest quality materials for t-shirts is Pima cotton. Pima cotton is a type of extra-long staple cotton that is known for its strength, durability, and softness. It also holds dyes well, which makes it a great option for printing. Another high-quality material is Supima cotton, which is a trademarked type of Pima cotton that has even longer and stronger fibers.

But the thing is, not all custom shirt business owners look for cotton as the highest quality material for t-shirts. Some may prefer other materials like polyester or a blend of cotton and polyester for their specific needs. Polyester is a synthetic material that is known for its durability, moisture-wicking properties, and resistance to wrinkles and shrinkage. It also holds colors well and is a popular choice for athletic and performance wear. Cotton-poly blends, on the other hand, offer the best of both worlds with the softness and breathability of cotton and the durability and moisture-wicking properties of polyester. 

Ultimately, the highest quality t-shirt material will depend on your consumers’ specific needs and how you want to fulfill these.

What High-Quality T-shirts Are Best For Sublimation?

As earlier mentioned; sublimation is the process of printing a design onto a specially coated surface using heat and pressure. When it comes to t-shirts, the best ones for sublimation are those made of 100% polyester or a polyester blend. This is because the sublimation ink is able to bond directly with the polyester fibers, resulting in a vibrant and long-lasting print.

Nonetheless, if you want more comfy and breathable t-shirts for sublimation, you can also look for t-shirts made of moisture-wicking materials like performance polyester or polyester-cotton blends. These materials are designed to wick away sweat and moisture from the body, keeping the wearer cool and dry. While the sublimation results may not be as vibrant as with 100% polyester, they can still produce high-quality prints with good color retention.

How Do You Know If a T-shirt Is of Good Quality?

Hmm, so how do you now pick the right shirts for your merch line and ensure their quality? Here are a few tips:

Check the Fabric

The fabric of a good quality t-shirt should feel soft, smooth, and durable. Whichever fabric type you choose, make sure that it has a tight weave and feels substantial in your hand. You can also check the fabric’s fiber content to determine its durability and quality.

Consider the Weight

The weight of a T-shirt is another important factor to consider. A heavier-weight t-shirt usually indicates that it is made of thicker, more durable material. However, it’s important to note that a heavy T-shirt may only sometimes be the most comfortable to wear.

Consider the Quality of the Print

The quality of the print on a t-shirt is another indicator of its overall quality. A good quality print should be vibrant, crisp, and long-lasting, without any signs of cracking or fading. Make sure to choose a printing method and ink type that will produce high-quality results.

Consider the Brand

The brand of the t-shirt can also be an important factor in determining its quality. Look for brands that are known for their high-quality materials and manufacturing processes, and have a good reputation in the industry. Researching the brand’s reviews and customer feedback can also help you make an informed decision.

Which T-shirt Printing is Most Durable?

When it comes to durability screen printing is considered to be the most long-lasting and durable printing method for t-shirts. This is because screen printing uses ink that is thicker and more opaque, resulting in a print that can withstand multiple piles of washing without fading or cracking. Additionally, screen printing is also more cost effective for larger orders and designs with fewer colors.

However, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing has also made significant advancements in recent years and is now able to produce high-quality, long-lasting prints on t-shirts. Plus, as mentioned, it’s great for small orders or for printing tees with intricate design details.

That’s a Wrap!

We hope this guide has provided you with helpful insights and tips on choosing the best t-shirts for your custom printing business. While it can be quite overwhelming to choose from the dozens of available shirts out there, keep in mind that it’s your consumers’ satisfaction that matters the most. 

Happy creating and selling!
For more print-on-demand business tips and tricks, check out our blog!

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