Choosing the Best T Shirts for Embroidery: 5 Expert Tips

Choosing the Best T Shirts for Embroidery: 5 Expert Tips

When you hear "custom t-shirts," you probably imagine giant, gorgeous print designs. And while you can certainly put those kinds of designs on custom tees, you aren't just limited to printed images. You're also able to embroider certain t-shirt styles.

 Why custom embroider a t-shirt?   

There are generally two major reasons people choose to embroider t-shirts.

 -If you prefer custom embroidered shirt designs over custom printed shirts   

Some people like a thin shirt, other people prefer a thick shirt. In the same way, an embroidered design might be preferred to a print one.

Is one better or worse than the other? If you prefer the look of an embroidered design, you might think so!

Tshirts sometimes ask important questions that make people think... like, "Howl YOU doing?"

The "Howl You Doing?" design (seen above) looks cute as an embroidery. If it was instead printed at that same size, odds are it'd still look cute. However, some people would like one version more than the other.

That said, print and embroidery have different limitations. For practical reasons, embroidered designs have to be smaller (especially since the cost is based on stitch count), although they can be as colorful as you want. Print designs, on the other hand, can be a lot larger (at no extra charge), but the expense will go up as you add more colors to the design (and there's a maximum number of colors when screen printing).

With embroidery, you also need to think about the shirt's thickness. While you can embroider a thinner fabric, it would have to be a simpler design without a lot of stitches or fill. Otherwise, you'd risk tearing the fabric (which is why thicker clothing is preferred for embroidery).

 -If you feel a custom embroidered logo looks more professional than a screen printed logo   

Second, embroidered designs tend to look more professional than printed designs -- even when they're both just a logo.

Print design vs an embroidery design. Which logo looks more professional?

In the example above, you have a screen-printed logo on the left and an embroidered one on the right. They're both great-looking logos that translated well to a shirt, but the embroidered version looks a bit more professional. (As for why embroidery looks more professional than a print design, it might come down to culture -- we're accustomed to embroidery being reserved for more official purposes -- as well as the perception that embroidery is more expensive (although that's not always the case).)

If you're using custom t-shirts for an official function (such as a uniform), an embroidered design might make more sense. An embroidered t-shirt's uses will be similar to a custom polo, except it's a bit more casual.

(Note: Depending on the design, some things will work better when either printed or embroidered. In the example above, it'd be difficult to embroider an image with the level of detail seen in the printed design. However, if you wanted a design with a very wide variety of colors, embroidery would do a nicer job.)

 The advantages of a thicker custom t-shirt   

The perfect t-shirt for when you want people to know how 'gourd' your life is (or, you know, Halloween)

  -The shirt style   

Some people greatly prefer the look of a thicker t-shirt. And, depending on a person's body type, it might be more flattering. (Particularly since thinner shirts have a habit of clinging tightly.)

-It can make a custom tee more comfortable  

A thicker shirt may feel more comfortable. While the thickness of a t-shirt doesn't necessarily determine its softness (which can come down to the fabric and manufacturing process), some people prefer the feel of a thicker tee. And a few thicker tees -- like the beefy tees -- tend to be very soft.

-Thick shirts are often warmer  

While the previous two advantages come down to personal preference, this one is a little more objective. A thicker shirt is usually going to be warmer than a thinner one. For people who get cold easy -- or might be working in a colder area --


 Embroidered tees vs embroidered polos   

When comparing embroidered t-shirts to polos, there are a few important differences:

-An embroidered t-shirt doesn't look as professional  

Polo shirts look a bit less professional than button-down shirts and, in turn, embroidered tees look less professional than that.

Polos are considered acceptable business attire whether in the office or in a customer-facing role

It all comes down to buttons and collars -- and, in the case of dress shirts, the material (and often sleeves). Although polo's share some of the same features as dress shirts, they have fewer buttons. As for an embroidered tee, it's just a thicker version of a tee shirt -- meaning it has no collar or buttons.

A dress shirt is a widely-accepted standard for business, fancier event attire, and upscale social functions. However, you could wear a polo shirt under some of those circumstances. By contrast, an embroidered t-shirt will be out of place in most offices.

In the case of a company's work uniform -- be it for a resort, country club, hotel, or some retailers -- a dress shirt works fine, but a polo may be preferred. In some of those cases, though, an embroidered shirt also works.

-An embroidered tee is a lot less expensive  

Largely thanks to the previous reason, embroidered t-shirts tend to be far less expensive -- after all, polos have a lot of features that t-shirts lack.

A collar looks more professional than something without a collar, but that adds to the expense.

Likewise, buttons look more professional than something without buttons, but they also add to the expense.

 "Are there any special care instructions for an embroidered shirt?"   

We get a surprising number of questions about how well a printed t-shirt holds up in the wash (so many that we had to make a guide). Of course, a lot of those questions seem to confuse screen printing with heat press transfers. The ink on a screen-printed t-shirt will hold up as well as anything you buy at retail, but there are ways to prolong a shirt's life (see the guide).

A heat press transfer will last fewer washes than a screen print, which is one reason why heat press transfers aren't as widely used

When washing an embroidered tee, you don't have to worry about ink. However, if loose threads are a concern, you could turn the shirt inside-out (and, if you get bored while doing the laundry, you could watch Disney-Pixar's Inside-Out).

"Does hot or cold water affect custom embroidery?"  

An embroidered design might last longer if you use cold water. If nothing else, it could help preserve the thread colors.

On a more general level, cold water and line drying (ie, hanging things up on a clothesline to dry) will prevent shrinkage.

"Is there anything else I should know about custom t-shirt care?"  

Another consideration involves what's going in the wash with your custom-embroidered apparel. Clothing with zippers or buttons might snag on an embroidered design, but that's less of an issue if your shirts are turned inside-out.

To preserve your colors, you'll also want to avoid using bleach.

And, of course, you shouldn't iron custom embroidery. Instead, rely on the garments being wrinkle-resistant -- or fold them quickly after they come out of the dryer.

If you take good care of your embroidery, it'll likely last longer than the shirt it's on.

 5 Tips for choosing the best custom t-shirts for embroidery   

Unlike some apparel where you have dozens of things to mull over, embroidered t-shirt options are thankfully very manageable.

 #1 - Shirt brand   

Your first consideration might be the shirt brand. Many people have a strong preference when it comes to thicker tees, particularly the Hanes Beefy-T.

The Hanes Beefy-T (5180-E) is a super-soft. 100% ring-spun cotton shirt -- perfect for embroidery

Available in 12 colors, the Hanes Beefy-T (5180-E) is an all-time classic beefy t-shirt that's perfect for embroidery.

Gildan's Ultra-Cotton custom tshirts and other models tend to offer a lot of colors

Another popular choice is Gildan's Ultra-Cotton custom shirts (2000-E; available in a whopping 60 colors!)

Gildan is a top manufacturer of custom apparel with a reputation for consistency -- because they have a strong vertically-integrated supply chain and handle all of their manufacturing in the same region, Gildan can turn out clothing that's as close to identical as you're going to get.

 #2 - A custom long-sleeve shirt or short-sleeve shirt? 

While many (if not most) people prefer short sleeve t-shirts, sometimes a long sleeved version might be the better choice -- particularly if they're going to be worn in colder weather.

Of course, given that embroidered shirts tend to be thicker (because the t-shirt needs to be thick enough to embroider), they're naturally going to be a bit warmer so going with long sleeves gives people something they can wear during the chillier parts of spring and fall (and the milder days of winter).

Gildan produces a remarkably consistent fabric quality, as seen with the Ultra-Cotton long-sleeve shirt

If you're looking for a long-sleeved custom tee, you can't go wrong with Gildan's Ultra-Cotton long sleeve t-shirt (2400-E). Available in 28 colors, there's sure to be an option that looks amazing with your logo or design.

The long-sleeved Hanes Beefy-T might be good for youth group camping trips

The long-sleeved Hanes Beefy-T (5186-E; available in 9 colors) "expands" on the classic Hanes beefy tee by extending the short sleeves to long sleeves, making the super-comfortable beefy tee a bit warmer.

#3 - The added convenience of a custom pocket t-shirt   

T-shirt pockets can be a funny thing. Some people hate them while others don't want to go without one. Considering adding a pocket increases your cost, I'd suggest figuring out the recipients' tastes. If it's going to people who see pockets as being essential, it could be a make-or-break decision. Everybody else might not even notice.

For the viewer who notices, having a pocket can make an embroidered t-shirt look a little more professional. If you're outfitting employees in customer-facing roles, that added presentation could make them seem more competent or trustworthy.

(Note: Custom embroidery on a shirt with a pocket has to be done above the pocket to avoid stitching it closed.)

The custom embroidery design on a Hanes pocket beefy tee (5190-E) has to be above the pocket

The Hanes pocket Beefy-T (5190-E; available in 9 colors) is... well, a beefy t-shirt with a pocket. If you like beefy tees and you like pockets -- or are giving these to people who do -- it's a great choice.

Gildan's tshirts use high-quality fabrics absolutely sure to hold your graphic

Another option is Gildan's pocket t-shirt (2300-E; available in 11 colors). Although the color selection isn't as extensive as other Gildan shirts, you can find all of the essentials.

#4 - A custom long-sleeve shirt... with a pocket?!  

Perhaps long sleeves alone aren't enough for you. Perhaps you can't settle for just having a pocket. This is where the option of having long sleeves AND a pocket will come in.

In a way, this is the highest-end choice for a custom-embroidered t-shirt. The combination of longer sleeves and a pocket makes it look a bit fancier.

Gildan's 2410 is more of a slim fit than a bulky sweater, despite offering some warmth

Gildan's Ultra-Cotton long sleeve shirt with a pocket (2410-e) may only be available in 6 colors, but -- as seen above -- they're some neat colors.

#5 - Shirt color (and how it interacts with the colors in your custom design)  

And, speaking of color, it can be an important consideration when embroidering a t-shirt.

"Yay or neigh" or "Yea or neigh"? A reminder to check how something is spelled before putting it on a t-shirt

A shirt's color can really help a logo or image pop -- or, in other cases, hide the graphic.

Some t-shirts have a lot of color choices while others just have a few. And, depending on your logo's colors, this might be an important part of the custom embroidery process. After all, what good is a design that nobody can see?


 Let Bolt Printing be your one-stop shop for all of your custom apparel needs   

While it usually pays to shop around, you can rest assured you're getting a great deal when ordering from Bolt Printing. We offer high quality at low prices with lightning-fast turnaround times.

How are we able to do this?

Bolt is not a middleman service -- we do all of our own custom embroidering (and screen printing, too!)

When you order custom embroidery from Bolt Printing, you don't have to search far for a great deal

Unlike many of our competitors, we don't outsource our labor -- instead, we do all our of customization in-house at our headquarters in beautiful Brookfield, CT (one of the sunniest towns in New England).  And because we handle that customization ourselves instead of paying a third-party to do it for us, we have fewer expenses than other custom apparel companies.

Quality + low prices + lightning-fast turnaround times = an incredible shirt buying experience  

But that's not where the benefit ends. Because you're not dealing with a middleman, you have an open line of communication between you and the experts handling your custom embroidery (or screen printing) -- meaning the chances of an error are substantially lower, ensuring a higher level of quality.

But wait, there's more! Because you don't have to worry about an added layer separating you from the custom apparel experts working on your order, we're able to process it that much faster.

 Embroider your own t-shirt today!   

Feeling hyped to create your own embroidered tee? Why not tryout our design studio?

When it comes to creating t-shirts, our online custom apparel studio is no light-weight!

Bolt Printing's online design studio makes creating embroidered t-shirts simple. And, with experts available to look over your design, you don't have to worry about things going wrong. (They're great at spotting the fine details others might miss -- the kinds of things that could go horribly wrong.)

Not ready to order today? Save your design for later. It's that easy! So, what are you waiting for?