Making the Most of Your T-shirt Advertising

  • May 1, 2018

T-shirt season is here. Festivals, races, walks, tournaments, competitions, you name it. Organizations of all types are ordering T-shirts to advertise an event or commemorate an occasion. Too many of these are worn once and never again. Why would this be? Branding should be more than a one-time thing. An investment in a higher quality shirt or unique decoration pays dividends in the long life and extended exposure of the shirt.

The T-shirt weight, which can range from 3.2 ounces to 6.1 ounces, and the fabric content (100-percent cotton, 50/50 or a tri-blend), are personal preferences. However, there is a significant difference in the softness and comfort of a shirt that is crafted of 30 singles and ringspun cotton vs. a coarser yarn. The shirt quality also can dramatically impact how the print looks. A higher-quality shirt provides a better decorating canvas, resulting in a sharper, crisper print. It makes sense when you think that a coarser, less refined surface is not going to be as receptive as a smooth, flat one. When inks are laid down on a high-quality garment, a thinner layer of ink may be used, making it more breathable, holding finer detail in the design, and achieving more vibrant colors. When printing on dark colors, it is necessary to create a white base first and then print the design on top. This increases the number of ink layers and, consequently, increases the heaviness of the feel. It is less breathable and less comfortable to wear. However, for a slightly higher cost, a discharge technique may be used. This process bleaches the dark color from the shirt and replaces it with the design. The result is that the design feels like it is part of the garment. It has a much softer hand and a much higher-perceived quality.


What Makes One T-Shirt Better Than Another?

The softness and print-ability of a cotton T-shirt greatly depend on how it’s processed. There are two primary types of yarn used to make T-shirts: open end and ring spun. The difference between the two comes from the yarn-spinning method. Open-end cotton yarns typically use shorter-length cotton fibers and yield a fabric that has a drier or crisper hand. Open-end yarns tend to be coarser, more loosely bound and with rougher thread. Ring-spun yarns have longer, staple-length fibers that require two steps in the manufacturing process versus one step used for open-end yarn. This increases the labor required, and therefore is one factor in their higher price.

There are two techniques used to process yarn: carding and combing. Carding is just like it sounds: moving a card over the yarns. It doesn’t really align the threads, and it doesn’t eliminate the shorter, roving fibers. Think of it in terms of combing your hair with a comb or a card. The comb is going to sink in and align the strands so you’ll have a smoother, cleaner look as opposed to a card that is just skimming the top. Combing also breaks the fibers apart, adding to the softness of the garment. The gauge or thickness of the yarn is referred to as “singles.” The higher the number, the finer the yarn. So, 30 singles is thinner than 20 singles. The finer the yarns used, the smoother the surface of the fabric and the softer to the touch.

Four Low-Cost Decorating Ideas


An add-on that can enhance the look of a decorated garment for a nominal increase in cost is printing over the zipper. This offers the potential of featuring a more eye-catching design increasing the perceived value of the product and offering greater customer satisfaction.

Through the use of halftones, it’s possible to create gradients of the same color, giving the print a multi-color look while still only using one color. As each color costs more when screen printing, this is a low-cost way to create a more eye-catching design.



This design is an example of a discharge print. When screen printing on dark colors, a white under-base must be laid down first as a foundation for the design. This layer also adds weight to the ‘hand’ of the shirt. An alternative process uses discharge inks, which bleach out the color of the shirt, leaving a white or neutral area for the design to be printed on. Because no under-base is needed, the shirt has a softer hand. In quantities between 48 and 200 pieces, discharge printing can lower the overall cost of the product.

This garment uses several techniques to lower the cost while increasing the attractiveness of the overall design. Using a distressed effect eliminates the need for a white under-base, which would normally add to the cost of the print and create a heavier ‘hand.’ The process also allows for a thinner deposit of ink, which makes for a softer-feeling print. Halftones are also used to create gradients of the single color, lending a multi-color look without the cost of additional screens.


Did You Know?

The lowest budget options aren’t always the best; top quality garments will be chosen to be worn more frequently and longer.

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