Although the choice of possible t shirt designs seems endless, there are a few things to keep in mind. One of the most important (and sometimes overlooked) is intellectual property rights.
Can you just use anything in your t shirt design? Not exactly. Certain designs, images, slogans, and other forms of content are legally protected. This means you can't just use the logos of your favorite sports teams in a design or certain things from your favorite television shows. However, that doesn't mean your t shirt design has to be boring.
(Note: The following is not intended to be legal advice. If you're in doubt about copyright laws, consider consulting a lawyer.)
What's a trademark?
While most people have heard the terms trademark and copyright (and may use them interchangeably), not everybody knows what they mean -- or what that might entail.
A trademark refers to a recognizable phrase, word, symbol, or design that denotes a specific product and legally differentiates it from other products of its kind. Among other things, trademark laws protect a company's brand (and brand names).
(The Nike Swoosh is one of the world's most iconic trademarks. Thinking about trying to use it in a t shirt design? Just don't do it!)
What's a copyright?
Copyright refers to the legal right of protecting an owner of "original works of authorship." It's a type of intellectual property that can include literary, musical, or graphic creations. In other words, copyright laws prevent you from uploading Disney movies to Youtube.
What does this mean for you?
Trademark and copyright laws limit what you can legally do with your t shirt designs -- especially if you're making t shirts for commercial purposes, since it's a quick way to get sued out of the t shirt business (and quite possibly lose the shirt off your back in the process... not to mention your home).
More importantly, this means you can't just grab images from search engines for your t shirt designs because those images may be protected.
NOTE: It doesn't matter whether you're purchasing a few items for yourself or a friend, Bolt Printing cannot sell you merchandise that uses trademarked or copyrighted images owned by someone else.
Does something need to have the copyright symbol next to it to be protected?
No. Although the copyright symbol notes that a work has a copyright protection (which is why it should be placed on copyrighted material -- especially because it helps during a copyright infringement suit, since the offending party can't use an innocent infringement defense), it's not what actually protects the copyright. Whether or not the symbol is near the copyrighted material, the content is still protected under copyright law.
A creator's work is automatically copyrighted the second it's created. While it doesn't have to be registered to be protected, copyright registration makes it easier to prevent unauthorized use and helps when you need to file a copyright infringement lawsuit.
What's something nobody wants yet nobody wants to lose? A lawsuit!
Intellectual property violations can have serious consequences. The copyright owner can pursue legal action, which in some cases can have devastating financial repercussions (particularly in the case of flagrant copyright infringement). In short, trademark and copyright infringement is no laughing matter.
If you're in doubt about whether something is trademarked or copyrighted, you're probably better off not using it (to avoid any potential legal risks). However, if you're really interested in using a graphic where the ownership is uncertain, you can always try using a reverse image search to identify the copyright owners.
As a general rule, if the design relates to any of the following, it's almost certainly either trademarked or copyrighted (and therefore we CANNOT print it).
Licensed characters (ie, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny)
Musical groups and singers/musicians (ie, The Beatles, Taylor Swift, BTS, Ed Sheeran)
Sports teams (ie, the NY Yankees, the New England Patriots, the Dallas Mavericks)
Athletes and most celebrities (ie, Kobe Bryant, Tom Cruise, Heath Ledger, Gordon Ramsay)
Comic book characters (ie, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Iron Man)Anime characters (ie, Goku, Vegeta, Luffy, Naruto, Saitama)
Video game characters (ie, Mario, Pikachu, Link, Zelda, Master Chief, Kratos, Mega Man)
Cartoons (ie, Transformers, Scooby Doo, Spongebob Squarepants, the Simpsons, South Park, Bojack Horseman)
Movies (ie, Star Wars, James Bond, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters)
TV shows (ie, Squid Game, Ted Lasso, Doctor Who, Star Trek)
Books that came out in the last 70+ years (ie, Harry Potter, Twilight, Lord of the Rings, Mistborn)
Popular brand logos (ie, Nike, Adidas, Gucci, Louis Vuitton)
Fast food logos (ie, McDonald's (who won't be "lovin' it"if you pirate their logo), Burger King, KFC, Wendy's)
Famous logos (ie, the Olympics)Theme parks (ie, Six Flags, Cedar Point, Universal Studios)
Anything related to Disney (ie, Mickey Mouse ears, Cinderella's castle, Disney World, Disney Land, Epcot)
Those are just a few examples of the countless trademarks and copyrights out there.
"Okay, I hear you, but what if it's for...?"
A birthday party?
A family reunion?
My church group?
A non profit?
A charity event?
A gag gift?
Just for myself and I promise I won't wear it in public?
Nope! That doesn't change anything. You still can't use it as a t shirt design unless you have permission from the intellectual property's owner.
(This is the Gucci logo. Buying official Gucci merchandise is cheaper than hiring lawyers to defend you if you get caught using their logo without permission.)
"Okay, okay, I hear all that, but I redrew or altered the image, so that must count, right?"
No, you can't just redraw or change trademarked or copyrighted content to get around the law. If it was that easy, trademarks and copyrights would be useless.
Whether you redraw a piece of artwork, use characters in a completely new artwork, or just use the title of the work, it doesn't matter -- you can't use it on a custom shirt.
(This is the Mickey Mouse logo. Unless your happiest place on Earth is a court room, don't try to put it on a custom tee.)
"What if I bought the image off Etsy (or another service)?"
Unless the artist got permission from the intellectual property's owner, you can't reproduce an image that uses a trademark or copyright. (And only the owner can give the artist permission to use that trademark or copyright in the first place -- in many cases, the artist doesn't have that permission and shouldn't be selling the image at all.)
(Odds are the shop owners on Etsy and other sites don't have permission to use Bugs Bunny in their designs. If you try to use Bugs in a graphic design without permission, you may find yourself saying, "Eh, what's up, judge?")
And buying an original piece of artwork off Etsy (ie, from a seller who owns all of the relevant copyrights) doesn't always mean you can legally reproduce their art. That's something you'd have to clarify with the seller.
In cases where you specifically commission the art, you generally would get the copyright (but you should get that in writing) -- and, as always, that wouldn't apply to things using somebody else's copyright (meaning you can't go on Fiverr and ask somebody to draw something involving Mickey Mouse).
But what about fair use?
One of the major exceptions under copyright law is the fair use doctrine. The U.S. Copyright Office describes fair use as "a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances."
Some of those circumstances include "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." In simpler terms, it's why a review can use images from the movie being reviewed.
Unfortunately, most fair use exemptions don't apply to t shirt design.
Keep in mind even if you think you're protected by fair use, you could be sued by copyright holders and even if you're ultimately vindicated in court, there's a chance you might be stuck with legal fees.
Does fair use apply to trademarks, too?
Short answer -- it depends.
There are certain contexts where fair use can apply to a trademark. Unsurprisingly, most don't concern t shirt design.
(Tony the Tiger is the mascot for Frosted Flakes. Kellogg's won't think it's "gr-r-reat!" if you try to use him without permission... and they also won't be thrilled if you try to use "They're gr-r-reat!" as one of your t shirt quotes, since it's a trademarked slogan.)
Is everything copyrighted or trademarked?
With all of this talk of copyright law, you might be left thinking there's nothing out there that can be used. Thankfully, that's not the case.
First, you have things in the public domain. These are works outside the realm of copyrights for one reason or another.
Second, you have things like national symbols which can't be copyrighted -- a country's flag, for instance. (A photo or artwork of that flag might be copyrighted, but you can't be sued for drawing that flag or taking your own photo.)
Then you also have creative commons and royalty free images where there might be a copyright holder, but you're able to incorporate their work into your own design.
What's the public domain?
Throughout the course of human history, people have created a LOT of literature, music, artwork, and other original material. Some of it goes back hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
The public domain refers to creative material that isn't protected by intellectual property laws (ie, copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc). Rather than being owned by an individual, the public owns these works.
Or, in much simpler terms, works within the public domain can be used by anybody (no permission needed), but nobody can ever own them.
Works usually arrive in the public domain through one of four ways:
The copyright has expired. A copyright is only valid for a certain length of time, after which it can no longer be claimed. (Copyright rules vary depending on the country. In the US, it lasts for the life of the original creator, plus an additional 70 years.)
The copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules.
The copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain.
Copyright law doesn't protect that type of work.
Everybody is no doubt familiar with at least a few examples of fictional characters in the public domain -- Dracula, Frankenstein, and -- more recently -- Sherlock Holmes. All of these characters can be used in a t shirt design, although some depictions are copyrighted and the artwork featuring them is likely copyrighted.
It can be a little confusing when parts of a fictional franchise are in the public domain and others aren't. In the case of Sherlock Holmes and Peter Pan, the earliest works entered the public domain (and so did the characters), but the later stories, plays, and so on are still protected. (And original work created using those characters is protected -- meaning you can't just use images from Disney's Peter Pan, even if you redraw the characters.)
However, there are a wealth of royalty free images of these characters out there if you want to put them on a t shirt.
How is the public domain different from Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is "a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world's pressing challenges."
The organization provides Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools "that give every person and organization in the world a free, simple, and standardized way to grant copyright permissions for creative and academic works; ensure proper attribution; and allow others to copy, distribute, and make use of those works."
Works within the public domain can't be copyrighted. Creative Commons licenses, on the other hand, allow certain copyrighted material to be used.
To learn more, check out their site.
Can you copyright t shirt designs?
Short answer -- it depends.
If the design incorporates your own work (like an original character or an image you created), the underlying elements of that design could be protected. If it contains a catchphrase you've popularized (for example on a stream or in Youtube videos), that could be copyrighted, too. For certain things you need to file a copyright whereas other copyrights are automatically "created" (for example, unpublished literary works).
However, if your design uses elements for which you don't have the exclusive rights, you may not be able to obtain a copyright.
If you're getting into creating t shirt designs for commercial use, you should probably consult a copyright law attorney at some point or the U.S. Copyright Office.
Err on the side of safety
If you don't have the legal permission to somebody else's work (or somebody else's copyright), you're generally better off not trying to take a chance in using it -- especially if you're buying custom t shirts for a commercial use (ie, re-selling them).
When it comes to copyright infractions, you don't want to take unnecessary risks.
Alternatives to trademarked and copyrighted material
Let's say you want to celebrate a favorite sports team or like a design, but don't want to risk getting in trouble for copyright infringement. What can you do?
First, remember that not everything can be trademarked or copyrighted. While the "Chicago Bulls," for example, can't be tossed on a t shirt without risking legal issues, nobody can copyright the word "Bulls" by itself. Likewise, the iconic Chicago Bulls logo can't be used in your t shirt design unless you have prior permission from the trademark holder, but there's nothing stopping you from using some other image of a bull. (It gets trickier if you use a football instead. And you could get in trouble if you were using the team colors.)
Do you have a child who wants a superhero-themed birthday party? While you can't use the iconic Batman logo, nothing's stopping you from using a normal bat (seen above is clip art from our design tool, which can be used in t shirt designs). For Spider-Man, there are normal spider graphics. And, if you wanted to do something Superman-themed, you could have the first initial of your child's own name on the t shirts instead of the "S".
How to Wash Screen-Printed Shirts: Everything You Need to Know
Screen printing is a popular way to print designs on t shirts and other garments, but it's important to wash them correctly in order to maintain the quality of the print. Everyone has their favorite shirt with a design they love. We want your custom-printed shirts to look amazing for many years to come.
We field hundreds of calls from new customers everyday. Many of these calls are general questions about shirt quality, durability, and screen printing. In this article, we hope to cover the most common questions and concerns you might have. We'll explain everything you need to know about how to wash and dry your printed shirts.
Here are the topics we will cover: washing and drying, shrinkage, ink cracking, color fading, and more. So whether you're the one wearing the screen printed t shirts or the one who designed it, make sure you read this article before handing them out or throwing your printed tees in the wash!
How do I wash screen printed t shirts?
Follow these simple steps when washing and drying your screen printed t shirts so you can keep wearing them over and over.
Will my printed t shirts shrink?
One of the most common questions we get asked is about shrinkage. This greatly depends on the fabric blend.
If you don't want your screen printed t shirt to shrink, wash in cold water and hang dry. Always turn your shirt inside out to protect the screen printed design.
Will the printed shirts disintegrate when laundered?
This is a common misconception. People think that the screen printed shirts will breakdown completely during laundry.
Will my screen printed ink wash away?
This is another common misconception. If your garment was professionally printed with high-quality plastisol inks or inks intended for printing on garments, your design will not wash away.
Plastisol inks are the most commonly used inks for screen printing on garments. They are specifically designed to be durable and withstand repeated washings.
The inks are cured (or heat-set) during the screen printing process, which means the image is bonded to the t shirt fabric.
As long as you follow the washing instructions, your screen printed t shirt will last for 100 washes.
At Bolt Printing, we have systems and processes in place so this won't happen. But if you are working with another screen printer, make sure they use high quality inks that are designed for garment printing.
Will the garment color fade?
This is a common question, especially for darker garments. The short answer is: yes, all garments will eventually fade. But with proper care, you can significantly slow down the fading process when washing screen printed shirts.
To help prevent fading, always wash your garment inside out in cold water. This will protect the garment's color from fades caused by sun exposure and other environmental factors.
In addition, avoid using bleach or fabric softeners as these can also cause colors to fade. Finally, hang drying (or tumble drying on low heat) will also help keep your garment looking new for longer.
By following these simple washing instructions, you can prolong the life of your screen printed shirt and keep it looking its best.
This is usually a result of incorrect wash instructions. Following these simple wash instructions will help prevent your printed design from cracking or peeling.
Here's our recommendation to wash your screen printed shirt:
Can I use bleach on my printed t shirts?
No. We do not recommend using bleach (especially chlorine bleach) on any of our screen printed garments. Bleach may discolor the shirt and degrade the printed design.
Can I use a fabric softener when washing my shirts?
No. We do not recommend using a fabric softener on any screen printed t-shirts. Fabric softeners can break down the fabric threads.
What about stain removers?
Using stain removers on your printed shirts is also not recommended. Stain removers might discolor the garment and might break down the printed ink on your tees.
Will the shirt bleed?
The custom shirt should not bleed when you wash screen printed shirts.
If you have selected a garment dyed shirt; it requires special care. Garment-dyed goods should ALWAYS BE WASHED SEPARATELY BEFORE WEARING to avoid bleeding issues.
Due to the nature of the dyeing process pigment dyed shades, loose pigments may remain on the surface of the garments even after the first wash. These can rub off onto other garments in your wash cycle.
Will the white ink turn pink?
The white ink printed on your tees should not change color. Although it can occur if the shirts were not printed properly. We have systematic processes in place to prevent this from happening.
This is called Dye Migration; when the dye color of the screen printed garment absorbs into the screen printing ink. This is more likely to happen with 100% polyester garments or garment dyed colors in the red color family (red, charcoal or purple).
The only way to completely prevent dye migration is to use a barrier layer between the ink and the shirt. If you are working with a reputable printer, they will take measures to prevent migration. These include using inks that have been specifically formulated to resist dye migration and properly handling of the shirt during printing and packaging.
We are industry experts and have been providing quality custom shirts for over 10 years.
We hope this article was helpful so you know how to wash screen printed shirts.
If you have other questions that we might have missed let us know. You can always reach us via phone or live chat during regular business hours or use the contact form.
We are here to guide and help you when you are ready to order your custom screen printed shirts.
The Definitive T-Shirt Design Placement Guide
Have you heard the expression, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it"? Well, think of design placement as, "It's not what you say, it's where you say it." (Or, to borrow a popular real estate phrase, "It's all about location, location, location!")
Your message's impact can be enhanced -- or diluted -- by its placement. Some print locations are easier to see -- such as the center chest or upper back (vs the side or hem) -- while other choices may convey a sense of professionalism (ie, a logo placement on the left chest). And, if you opt for multiple locations, there's a greater chance your designs will be seen -- for instance, something on the chest and another design on the upper back.
This design location and placement guide will lead you through a not-always-exciting, but essential part of t-shirt design.
Four terms you need to know and will keep hearing
Print location is WHERE you want the design to be located on your custom tee. This includes the front and back of the shirt, and is further broken down into more specific locations (ie, the front has multiple possible locations -- the center chest, the full front, the left chest, and the hems).
NOTE: Each print location requires a separate screen. If you have two pieces of artwork on the front (such as the front chest and front bottom right), those are two separate print locations.
Print placement is the measurement used to determine the exact placement of the artwork. Despite sounding a lot like a location, it's technically a measured position.
For example, the center chest would be your print location. Your print placement might be 2-3" down from the lowest line of stitches on the collar seam.
Understanding the difference between locations and design placements can save you a lot of aggravating miscommunications. Remember -- your location is the "where" while the placement adds a specific measurement.
Some print locations -- like the side and bottom hem areas -- have what's referred to as a "blind" placement. (More on this in a minute.)
Print area is the amount of printable space in any given location on a garment. In all likelihood, your artwork will only use part of a location's space. (For example, the print area (or dimensions) on a unisex full front location are 12" x 13".)
Print size refers to the exact measurement (width x height) of the artwork being printed. (For obvious reasons, your print sizes will be limited by a location's print area -- ie, the print area determines the maximum size of your design.)
Although large, the template seen above is an example of a single image (in one location).
What's a "blind" placement?
Your print location is determined by guiding lines -- like seams -- in the garment. By using the seams at the shoulder to guide how a shirt is placed on a screen press, we can maintain a relatively consistent print location across your custom tees.
But what happens when those guides aren't available?
When a t shirt is placed on a screen press pallet where the shoulders are hanging off, a worker has to judge things as best as they can with limited context. This means your t shirt design placement is a bit less consistent.
A side design tends to be even harder. The worker tries to gauge the artwork's placement without the help of left and right seams. (When going with a side print location, you'll want a tubular fabric so the design isn't broken up by seams.)
Why all of this matters
Can you remember the last time you saw a t-shirt design that started at a person's stomach? What about a logo that sat right at their shoulder?
The common placement of designs influences what we see as being natural. When things are outside of that range, a viewer can wind up so distracted by the odd placement that they miss the message entirely.
The suggested print locations and print placement tips you're going to see in this guide are generally industry standard recommendations. Most have a practical component -- for instance, if you start a center chest design too low on a shirt, women may find wearing the shirt risque. In other cases, it can reflect an optimal range for something to be seen.
And, on a subconscious level, many of the placements are just where people expect to see them (based on a lifetime of seeing t shirts). Anything outside that normal range can be distracting, if not jarring.
That said, sometimes an unconventional location or placement makes sense for dramatic effect. If you were advertising a weight loss solution or a gut health product, drawing attention to a person's stomach with a design might drive that message home (although the shirt's wearer might feel uncomfortable when people stare at their stomach).
Oh, the places your designs can go!
While the most common print location on a custom t shirt is the chest, it's hardly the only spot. Other placement options include the back, sleeves, hems, nape, and sides.
Of course, if you're looking to save money -- or to just get the best bang for your buck -- you'll want to limit your design placement to one or two locations (usually the front and/or back). Each print location adds to your expense so you should focus on an area that attracts the most attention.
Even the front of a t shirt has multiple print locations
While it's tempting to think of the front of a t shirt as just one print location, it actually offers several.
A full front design, for instance, takes up a much larger area than a center chest placement. The left chest placement is great for a company logo (and maybe a larger design would be placed on the back or upper back).
If you were embroidering a polo shirt, you'd likely limit yourself to a left chest placement with the company name and/or logo. However, if your t shirt has a logo uses this location, you'll likely want to accompany that with a design on the back.
More design placement locations than just the front and back
If you're feeling bold, you might move beyond the front and back of a shirt.
The sleeves are a great print area. While long sleeves give you more room for a design, you can fit things on short sleeves, too. If you're using your custom t shirts as uniforms -- such as at a restaurant -- having a logo on a sleeve will make it easier for customers to identify your employees. This works particularly well when the only other design might be a left chest placement where people won't see it when the employee is turned.
The back collar area is another tasteful area for a logo placement.
Location and placement standards (and why you'd want them there)
Each print location has a benefit. Some are obvious, some aren't.
By sticking with a standard placement, your message will be easier to see and process.
Why you'll probably want to go with the full front
The most common -- and most popular -- location is the full front. A large design placed here is easily noticed even from a distance and, when the design starts at the recommended 2-3" from the collar area, it's easily seen even within a crowd.
Anybody who talks to a person wearing a shirt with a full front design is bound to notice whatever message is there. And, because a person's upper body doesn't sway as much as their arms while walking, it's easier to read.
Whether you're promoting a business, a non-profit, charity, or an event, the full front is the perfect placement for your message. And, if you have to choose just one location, this is usually going to be the best choice.
The most common placement for a design is 2-3" below the lowest line of stitches (meaning that's where the image would begin from the top). Because the collar is lower on scoop necks and v-necks, the ideal placement is 0.5-1.5" below the lowest point. The print area varies by style:
For unisex, it's 12" x 13"
For ladies, it's 10" x 13"
For youths, it's 9" x 11"
If you're using a custom shirt to promote your business or non-profit, a logo or business name placed at the left chest gives your workers a professional look. While most people associate this location with an embroidered logo on a polo shirt, many businesses rely on the more cost-effective option of a printed logo on their t shirts.
Although a logo placed on the left of the chest area looks good by itself, organizations often add a second design -- either a larger graphic on the back (perhaps a bigger version of the logo accompanied by a slogan), a piece of information at the nape (just under the back collar), or something on the sleeve. (In the case of polo shirts, it'd mostly likely just be accompanied by a sleeve design.)
Whatever you decide to do, the placement for a left chest logo is very consistent. You want it 2-3" down from the lowest line of stitches. The print area is consistent, too -- the standard size is 3" x 3" for the top line.
A little trickier with pockets
When printing on shirts with pockets, you have the option of placing a design 1-2" up from the top of the pocket or on the pocket itself.
For the spot above the pocket, it's the same area as the left chest. If you're printing on the pocket itself, it's 3" x 3".
The center chest is a modest placement
Perhaps you don't want a large, overpowering image, but still want something big enough to stand out in a crowd. If so, the center chest might be the location for you.
A center chest graphic will be smaller than something used in the full front (basically it's going to cover far less space).
Although one of the less-used locations, it has some value. The strongest case-in-point might be a design simply consisting of a logo. A giant logo across the front of a shirt may look a bit much, but could seem tasteful at a smaller size.
The other immediate advantage is that it'll be easier to digest at a glance. Plus, the smaller size means the design is less likely to be partially obstructed.
Just like the full front, the placement is 2-3" down from the lowest line of stitches at the collar. The area will also vary depending on style.
For unisex, it's 8" x 6"
For ladies, it's 7" x 5"
For youths, it's 6" x 4"
Yes, you can print on the bottom hem
The final locations on the front of a shirt are the bottom right and bottom left hems.
This tends to be an area where you'll want a compelling reason to place a design since there's a reasonable chance the design won't be noticed on your shirts.
Anything placed here will likely be more for fashion than practicality. If the wearer is walking, this part of the shirt will be difficult to see. It's also very likely to be partially or fully-obstructed in a crowd.
The hems are a blind placement. Although they're 1-2" up from the top line of stitches on the bottom hem, they can be tough as a horizontal design placement. The standard size is 3.5" x 3.5" for the area.
NOTE: Each hem is its own location. (ie, 2 hems = 2 locations.)
The full back is a fantastic secondary location
Although people naturally tend to focus on the front of a shirt, there's a lot of functional, visible space on the back.
Think about how many times you've walked behind somebody. Unlike the front (which is only visible in passing), you likely spent a lot of time looking at that person's back. Strange as it sounds, we spend a lot of time looking at the backs of t shirts -- especially when waiting in lines -- and yet the backs of t shirts often lack any decoration.
While the full back is rarely used by itself, it's a great location for an accompanying design (especially if you have something simple on the left side of your chest).
Although the full back shares the same area as the front, the placement is much lower -- it's 4-5" down from the lowest line of stitches on the collar.
The nape of a shirt shouldn't be overlooked as a possible location. It's a modest, classy location -- a great place to put your company's name and either website or phone number.
The placement is 1-1.5" down and the area is the same as the left of the chest.
The back bottom hem is a little awkward...
Have you ever wanted to give somebody an excuse to stare at a person's posterior? If so, the back bottom hem might be the design location for you!
As far as placements go, the back bottom hem has pragmatic issues. It's going to be less noticeable (unless somebody is specifically looking there), harder to see (unless somebody is going out of their way to look there), and the message may be harder to read (unless somebody is really staring).
With the exception of specific products or services (something related to fitness, for example), the location will probably make the most sense either for fashion or humor (like a "If you're reading this, you've been staring too long" message).
Printing on long sleeves
A long sleeve is a great design location because it looks cool, gives you a lot of space, and can make a message more memorable. You could use it for a tagline, mission statement, or website's URL.
The big drawback is people tend to move their arms a lot. If somebody is walking, they're likely swaying their arms. However, even if they're standing or sitting, odds are there's at least some movement. This makes the message harder to see.
The other issue is temperature. Long sleeves work great in the winter or colder places (including buildings where the A.C. is set way too low), but they're impractical when it's hot.
Long sleeve placement is 3-6" from the top seam connecting the sleeve to the body.
Although their longer cousins tend to get more attention, short sleeves have their own appeal. For starters, it's a great place for logos. If your shirts are used as uniforms, it's a way of letting people quickly identify your workers from the side (which is a benefit for a restaurant).
Notably, the short sleeve offers a smaller area than the long sleeve, limiting what can be done. The placement is at the center of the sleeve, 1-1.5" up from the top line of stitches on the seam. A sleeve's standard area is 3.5" x 3.5"
Why printing on the sides is usually a bad idea
Where's a place that's sure to be missed? What's a spot that's both low on the body and covered up most of the time? And, to top it off, which spot is somewhat awkward for the viewer to look?
There are a LOT of reasons you should avoid printing on the sides of a shirt.
If a person's arms are at their side -- or swaying while walking -- the view is blocked.
It's so low on the body there's little chance of the message being seen or read.
When a person is walking, their side is visible for far less time than the front or back.
You'll need a garment without left and right seams (because otherwise you'd have to print on the seams, which causes all sorts of other issues), which rules out some less expensive shirt options.
A message that requires staring a person's hips is awkward both for the viewer and the shirt's wearer.
In short, when it comes to printing on the sides, I have just one word of advice: Don't.
However, there are occasions when it might make sense. If you're specifically trying to call attention to the area, placing a design in that print location will do the trick. Because it's an unusual spot, it could be more attention-grabbing or memorable -- but that's assuming people can notice or read it. Most of the time, a side design is unlikely to pull its weight.
Which location is right for your design?
Hopefully this placement guide has given you the tips and tricks needed to create a great design. As mentioned, each location has its own benefits -- some more than others. While it's difficult to cover every possible use, this should provide you with a solid anchor point.
For the most part, you'll want one location on the front of a shirt (full, left, or center) and then maybe one other spot (back or sleeve). If you're going for a cost-effective design, a full front location is your best choice. As for the placement, just use the recommendations.
If you stick to these locations and placements, your message will be a lot easier to process. Remember -- you might only have a few seconds to make an impression. Don't squander them by making your design hard to find.
"Would a heat press give me more options?"
Perhaps you've heard about heat transfer vinyl and are wondering whether a heat transfer would give you additional location choices.
The short answer is... no.
While a heat transfer offers some advantages (although the quality is vastly inferior to what you'd get from screen printers -- heat transfer images are less durable, less attractive, and breakdown less gracefully), most don't really impact location or placement because these are industry standards.
Overall, the same design will look better printed than as a heat transfer.
Start designing today
Feeling inspired yet?
If you can't wait to try out some of these principles, head over to our design studio. We've made the process as easy as possible -- you don't need a graphic design background to create stunning custom shirts.
Fonts for T-shirts: The Complete Guide
Font selection can make or break your t shirt design. In fact, what you might think is a cute, fancy, or cool font style could render your t-shirt practically unreadable.
How do you make font decisions? How do you find the perfect t-shirt font?
To illustrate many of the core principles, let's start with an example.
One of the coolest things about fonts is the way they can create an eye-catching design without needing a graphic.
The examples above show three potential designs for a young woman's 21st birthday party. Look each one over carefully and think about what immediately jumps out at you.
The first design uses fonts wildly
The first design uses FOUR different fonts. Each is a different size and has a drastically different appearance. The result? A message that's hard to read at a glance.
When you first looked at the design, your eyes were likely drawn to "gets" and "wild" -- in fact, the two words might've been battling for your attention. Because the viewer is so focused on those particular words, they're likely missing everything else. Even if they're not, they have to drag their attention from the center words to start reading from the top.
And then, to top it off, "21st birthday" is in a script font. Although legible on a computer or phone screen, a script font is much harder to read on a t shirt... and it's even worse when somebody is walking.
Even assuming the viewer was interested in figuring out a design, they're often only able to look at it for so long. That's why it's important to go with an easy-to-read font. (Of course, in the case of this t-shirt design, it wouldn't matter -- the design is celebrating an invitation-only event. But it'd be different if the design had to do with a business.)
Although it makes for a cool t-shirt, this isn't an effective design.
The second design simplifies things
Given that the first design was overwhelming, the second design attempts to simplify the font usage.
This design uses two fonts -- one for "wild" and another for the rest. For that reason alone, it's much easier to read. The viewer's eyes are also less likely to get torn in multiple directions.
Now, your focus is likely drawn to "wild." However, because "wild" isn't competing with "gets," you have more time to pay attention to the rest of the message.
Are there still issues? Possibly. The "wild" is a little hard to read because it's slanted and because the "21st birthday" is small, it has hard-to-read thin lines.
However, all things considered, it's a functional t-shirt design. It (mostly) conveys the message while looking good.
The third design uncages the "Wild"
Finally, we have the third design. Can you tell what's different here?
This design -- the best of the three -- uses a single font. However, because the font is in different sizes, it has a slightly different look.
The other change is you'll notice the use of both uppercase and lowercase characters. In the first design, "gets" and "wild" were in caps. The second design had "wild" in caps. People are accustomed to reading a mix of upper and lowercase letters. Having that mix makes a message that much easier to read.
Despite the "wild" using the same font, it still manages to stand out because it's larger. And doesn't the "wild" look wilder when it's not caged by tiles?
"Wild" stands out, but it's not overpowering. Even if you focused on the "wild" first, your eyes would move to the top of the t shirt design and quickly work your way down. And, perhaps best of all, the "21st birthday" is plainly legible in this version.
Think about your font use
The right font will vary depending on why you're looking to create custom made t shirts. This is especially true of commercial projects.
If you're trying to create trendy t shirt designs, a legible style might be less important than a fashionable font style. You might even go with two or three fonts for effect (and maybe something really wild, like a handwritten script font). After all, the message might not matter -- instead, the focus is on the visual.
For casual t shirt designs, you might opt for a playful font. However, if you want your message to be read, the font needs to be something that's easy to read. There's no reason why casual t shirts can't use a legible font.
If you're looking to deliver an eye-catching, memorable message, there are a few rules to keep in mind when it comes to choosing fonts.
Choose an easy-to-read font
There are thousands of awesome fonts for t shirts... but most are downright terrible choices!
The general rule of thumb is don't over-complicate your t shirt font choice. Where people tend to get in trouble is when they decide on overly fancy or elaborate font styles -- possibly even choosing several -- for their t shirt designs, forgetting that others have to be able to read the design.
Remember -- your message won't get across if people can't read your font.
Avoid using script fonts
A script font is a font designed to mimic cursive handwriting. Some examples in this font family take the idea more literally than others, resembling an actual handwritten font with imitated differences in pressure and other nuances.
The obvious problem with using a cursive-like font is the fact fewer and fewer people know how to read cursive. It's no longer taught in public schools, meaning a growing portion of the population has little or no experience with it. Additionally, non-native English speakers tend to have trouble with cursive. And that's in addition to everybody who struggles with cursive because they rarely use it for anything more than signing their name.
However, besides people not knowing it, there's a second pragmatic issue -- it's much harder to read on a shirt. The lack of separation between letters, the often less-distinct shapes, and the thin lines greatly hamper readability.
Avoid fine detail
Thin lines make for terrible t shirt fonts because the fine detail is hard to see.
If a font is nothing but thin lines, your message may be missed completely. However, you can sometimes fix this by making your font larger.
Watch out for overly thick fonts
While fine detail is an issue, so is excessive thickness. At smaller sizes, the letters can blend together or possibly look like other letters.
What are the best fonts for t shirts?
The best t shirt fonts are simple ones. They aren't elaborate or ornate. They're easily read, even from a distance. And they're something most people will be able to read.
The perfect font for your t shirt design will depend on what you're trying to do. However, the best t shirt fonts tend to be great under all circumstances.
Of course, with so many font options, it helps to break them up into categories.
There are two basic font styles: serif and sans serif.
Avoid fine detail
Thin lines make for terrible t shirt fonts because the fine detail is hard to see.
If a font is nothing but thin lines, your message may be missed completely. However, you can sometimes fix this by making your font larger.
Watch out for overly thick fonts
While fine detail is an issue, so is excessive thickness. At smaller sizes, the letters can blend together or possibly look like other letters.
What are the best fonts for t shirts?
The best t shirt fonts are simple ones. They aren't elaborate or ornate. They're easily read, even from a distance. And they're something most people will be able to read.
The perfect font for your t shirt design will depend on what you're trying to do. However, the best t shirt fonts tend to be great under all circumstances.
Of course, with so many font options, it helps to break them up into categories.
There are two basic font styles: serif and sans serif.
What's a serif font? What's a sans serif font? Why does it matter?
A serif font -- in the simplest terms possible -- is a font with "serifs" (small lines attached to letters -- see the "T" on the left). These are a purely decorative feature whose origins have been lost to time, although it's suspected they arose from when people used older writing instruments like brushes and quills.
Sans serif, on the other hand, is a font lacking serifs. ("Sans" is French for "without," so sans serif literally means "without serif/s.")
Serif fonts are seen as being traditional while sans serif is considered more of a modern font. Many newspapers use serif fonts while websites tend to prefer sans serif.
The drawback with serif t shirt fonts is that many tend to be thin, so the fine detail can be missed. And, at some font sizes, the serifs can fill space inside a letter (so DOG WALKER might look like DOO WALKER).
Best serif fonts for t shirts
Cinzel Bold (bold uppercase letters only -- use as a larger size)
Ferrara Bold (a simple sans serif font that packs a punch -- it's perfect for a t shirt design)
Freshman (great athletic look -- like something off the back of a letter jacket -- but it's bold uppercase letters only, so use it at a larger size)
Georgia (great, all-purpose font)
Times Bold (fine detail is an issue at smaller sizes)
Best sans serif fonts for t shirts
Bangers (neat font on a slight slant; uppercase letters only)
Conway Regular (great font for all uses)
CreativeBlock BB (playful, fun font -- use sparingly; listed as "Creative" in Design Studio)
Grobold (a fun, thick style -- better at larger sizes and when used sparingly; listed as "Grob" in Design Studio)
The example above is a fairly busy design. Although you might have trouble digesting the message, it's not because of the font choice or the mix of images. Instead, it comes down to the font color. The red doesn't pop against the green -- both shades are dark -- so part of the message blends into the background. (And, other than around the holidays, you should consider avoiding red & green design combos since close to 1-in-10 people suffer from colorblindness -- meaning a sizable portion of the population may miss your message (which is a further problem if you're trying to reach men, since they're more likely to be colorblind)).
LIMIT YOUR USE OF CAPS!!!
Uppercase letters (or capital letters, a.k.a. "caps") may be great at grabbing attention, but they're harder to read -- especially as a large block. People are used to uppercase letters being at the start of sentences and certain words. It's how they were taught to read and write. If they tried writing in all uppercase letters, their teachers would yell at them. As such, we're used to seeing uppercase letters at the start of sentences and lowercase letters thereafter. It's just how people read.
Does that mean you shouldn't ever use all uppercase letters? No, but you should limit their use. A few words in caps is fine -- particularly if you're highlighting a specific word or two. However, when you have a long sentence, it can present an issue. It'll likely take longer for the viewer to process, which isn't a huge deal when they're looking at it on a screen, but it quickly becomes a problem on a t shirt.
Lowercase letters help keep things readable -- use them.
Exceptions to the rule
There are sometimes good reasons to go with what might seem like a bad font. For the most part, these exceptions fall under the age-old idea of "everything in moderation" -- in other words, they're good in small doses, but become a problem when they're used across your entire t-shirt design.
Caps are one example. While uppercase letters can draw attention to a word or two within your message, they can become a problem when your entire message is in caps.
A script font might also make sense at times -- particularly if you go with one larger word to draw attention to it.
The real trick is finding a less-obtrusive font that complements your exception. This font will be used for the rest of your design. For example, if you go for an exaggerated font with serifs, you might choose another font from the serif family for the rest. How will you know what works? Trial and error mostly. You should play around with a lot of different combinations to see what works -- although resist the urge to pair two exaggerated styles. You want one fancy font and one plain font. After all, if you combine a lot of font styles, it looks like a mess -- and there are almost no exceptions to that rule!
Fantastic fonts and where to find them
When looking for free t shirt fonts, you usually don't need to search any further than the graphic design software you're using to create your t shirt designs.
Don't have any graphics software? We you have covered with our online design studio.
Our studio takes the hard work of finding that perfect font and makes it easy by arranging our font styles into easy-to-navigate categories.
Looking for a modern font? A vintage font? Stylish fonts? Some unique fonts? We have what you want and our studio will help you use them to create incredible t shirt designs.
How big?! What you need to know about image size for t shirt printing
Size alone can sometimes make the difference between a good t shirt design and a bad one. Whether it's a matter of an artwork being too large for a space or a problem with image quality, size matters.
With any luck, this comprehensive guide -- chock full of tips and tricks -- will help you avoid running into problems with image size when designing a custom t shirt.
Size can impact image resolution
A graphic's image resolution has a direct impact on how that image will look at certain sizes. While a high resolution image may look great whether it's large or small, a low resolution image will only look good at its actual size (or smaller).
Considering graphics seen on a screen are generally tiny while t-shirts offer a lot of space, there's a good chance that the cool image you Googled won't look so cool when it's printed on a tee. But don't fret, there are ways to get a high resolution image at your desired size.
Some file types are better than others
How much thought do you usually give to your image file type? If you're like most people, the answer is probably none. And yet the file type can make the difference between an amazing-looking graphic and a crappy-looking one.
And, when it comes to file types, you should usually choose vector files.
As illustrated above, the difference between a vector image and a raster image can be like night and day. Vector images give you precise edges and lines, with clear areas of a defined color. Raster files, on the other hand, give you rounded images and lines.
Examples of vector file formats/extensions
.ai (Adobe Illustrator)
.dxf (AutoCAD Drawing Exchange Format)
.eps (Encapsulated PostScript)
.pdf (Portable Document Format)
.svg (Scalable Vector Graphics)
Note: for those looking to upload artwork: Bolt Printing's preferred vector formats are EPS and PDF.
Examples of raster file formats/extensions
.bmp (Bit Map Picture)
.gif (Graphics Interchange Format)
.jpeg (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
.png (Portable Network Graphics)
.tiff (Tagged Image File Format)
Note: for those looking to upload artwork: Bolt Printing's preferred raster formats are PNG (save with transparent background, 10" wide at 150 PPI/DPI), JPEG, and TIFF.
Why are vector graphics so much crisper than raster graphics?
Raster files are composed of a set number of pixels -- ie, no matter the size, the number of pixels remains the same. This means when you enlarge a raster image, you're enlarging the pixels. So when you double the size of a raster graphic, you've effectively cut the resolution in half.
Vectors, on the other hand, are built around formulas. As a result, a vector file can scale in high resolution to virtually all sizes because it's not dependent on the original number of pixels.
PPI (pixels per inch) is a big deal when it comes to raster images because that number is determined when the image is created and, if you want to maintain the resolution, you'd need to add more pixels. However, you don't need to think about pixels per inch at all with vector graphics.
A quick side-note: PPI vs DPI
You'll sometimes hear PPI used interchangeably with DPI (dots per inch). The difference between PPI and DPI comes down to media type.
DPI refers to the number of printed dots contained within one inch of an image printed by a printer whereas PPI refers to the pixels per inch on a screen.
"If vector files are so awesome, why do people use anything else?"
While vector files have an array of benefits, they have one major drawback: they require specialized graphic design software to open. On top of that, it takes additional experience and/or training to work with the graphic.
Vectors are the best format when it comes to printing text, a logo, and/or graphic elements that are distinct from other elements.
You'll also find that many images were created or manipulated in a vector format before being exported as a raster file. (And, if you're working with a graphic designer, always be sure to request the vector files. There's no telling when you might need them!)
(Also note that the file size on vectors tends to be larger than raster files.)
Shirt size can influence design size
Perhaps it goes without saying that adult sizes give you more design space than youth sizes. The same is true (to a lesser extent) when it comes to male styles vs female ones.
It probably also goes without saying (but I'm going to say it anyway!) that your design space dictates your design size. After all, you can't have a t-shirt design extend past the t-shirt!
As such, you'll notice some variation in our image size recommendations for t-shirt designs when it comes to the type of shirt. Any sizing guide would be incomplete without exceptions, after all.
Image size for t-shirt designs
There are a LOT of print locations on a custom t-shirt. Even the front has multiple options. However, the most popular print location by far is the full front.
The right size for a full front design
A full front design is the prime real estate on a shirt. It's the area everybody is likely to notice, even if they don't get much time to look at it. And an awesome full size image is sure to turn some heads.
The print area for this placement tends to start at the chest (2-3" below the collar) and goes down from there.
Unisex print area - 12" x 13"
Ladies print area - 10" x 13"
Youth print area - 9" x 11"
(You'll notice the width is consistent between the unisex and ladies version -- it's because height is generally the bigger issue.)
If you're trying to keep your t-shirt printing costs down, screen printing on just the front is definitely the way to go. As seen in the example above, there's little chance of missing a large t-shirt design that sits right around a person's chest.
Just want to go with a large logo? Try the center chest instead
If you're trying to draw attention to a brand, a large logo is among the best ways of doing it.
However, logos don't need to take up a full front -- in fact, you'll want to leave room so the design doesn't look overwhelming.
Looking professional! What you should know about the left-chest spot
The left-chest is an almost-universally recognized location for a company's (or organization's) name and usually their logo. In the case of a printed t-shirt, you may also want a larger design on the back (but, if you were embroidering a polo instead, you'd likely want something on the sleeve).
[NOTE: When sending in a left-chest design, make sure it's actually a left-chest design. Some people mistakenly try to request a right-chest design because they're looking at their left and forgetting it's not the same as left on the t-shirt.]
Because the left-chest is so widely used, it has a pretty uniform print area.
Whether man or woman, youth or adult, the print area for a left-chest is 3" x 3" overall (basically the size of a Post-It note).
Of course, if you also have a graphic for your logo, you won't have as much room if you want to add text.
"What if my company name or logo won't fit within that area?"
The easiest solution would be to make the logo and/or name smaller. You could also try experimenting with different fonts.
Of course, if you have to exceed the standard width, it helps if the t-shirt is on the larger side so it's less noticeable (and you get a little extra room).
"But what about shirt pockets?"
When it comes to screen printing on shirt pockets, you have two options: above the pocket or on it.
Beyond that, the print area above the pocket is the same as left-chest location.
When printing on the pocket itself, you'll want to say within a 3" x 3" print area.
Back to basics with the shirt back
Arguably the second-most popular print location on a t-shirt might be the back (although it's rarely used as a solo location).
The full back has the same area as the full front:
Unisex print area - 12" x 13"
Ladies print area - 10" x 13"
Youth print area - 9" x 11"
However, it's worth noting the placement is a little different. This print location starts 4-5" down from last line of stitches on the collar. (There's a practical reason for this -- people tend to slouch forward a bit so, if design was higher up, part of it would be pulled forward.)
While the shirt front is great for getting attention, a t-shirt back is good at keeping it. If you're standing behind somebody in line, for example, you have lots of time to check out their shirt back. (As opposed to if you were talking to them, your eyes would likely be on the person's face -- and, if you weren't talking to them, you might worry they'll catch you staring.)
And you can sometimes go a little nuts with the image size on the back.
Printing on the nape of a t-shirt
The nape is a frequently underappreciated print location on t-shirts. Like the left-chest, it has a bit of a professional vibe. It's also in a relatively good place to be seen, since the location is high up on the back (even if the spot itself is pretty small).
In a crowd, you'd be be able to see nape design over people's shoulders... although, given the size, it can be hard to make out what it says (so it's a good spot for companies' logos).
The print area starts 1-1.5" below the collar and the size is identical to that of the left-chest.
Printing on a long sleeve
A long sleeve t-shirt may not be something you wear year-round (unless you're in a climate-controlled area), but a long sleeve provides an eye-catching location for a message.
The sleeve is unique in that it provides a lot of width for your design, meaning you can have a long message -- and you can certainly use the area to create something magical.
As a result, the design itself can be memorable just for its placement. (Especially because very few t-shirts have designs on the sleeves!)
The placement for a sleeve design is 3-6" down from the top seam connecting the sleeve to the body and the print area is 3" x 14" -- which is the largest width of any print location.
If there's any drawback to a long sleeve design, it's that you're somewhat limited in what you can do with it. It's a long, narrow area so a lot of conventional images are infeasible. Your printed art or design needs to be something that specifically takes advantage of the space.
Printing on a short sleeve
Just keep in mind you don't have nearly as much room on a short sleeve t-shirt -- only a 3.5" x 3.5" area.
Get started on your own t-shirt designs today!
By now, you should have a good starting point when it comes to understanding image size.
You can upload artwork or a photograph to our online design studio and see how it looks on various garment styles. Our studio is a convenient, user-friendly, all-in-one design solution (so you don't have to rely on Photoshop when designing your t-shirts).
(And although today's blog focused on t-shirt printing, remember we have lots of other apparel, too -- polos, fleeces, hats, beanies, etc -- that can be embellished through either printing or embroidery.)
How to Choose the Best T-Shirt Printing Company: Tips for recognizing quality and avoiding malarkey
In short, custom t-shirt printing is an art form -- and, as with any other form of art, you have talented masters and you have hacks. Some companies (like Bolt Printing) will work with you to ensure your design turns out beautifully. Other companies will just print whatever you send them -- no matter how bad it looks on a shirt -- and may even have additional quality issues on top of that.
If you're going to the trouble and expense of investing in custom apparel, you want shirts that look good. But how can you tell the reliable custom t-shirt printing companies from the less-reputable ones? Here are a few things you need to look at.
Is the custom apparel company upfront about their pricing?
When doing a comparison between companies, the first thing you might look at is price... and that's where you can easily get tripped up.
A LOT of custom t-shirt printing companies try to obscure their pricing -- hiding fees -- to make their prices look lower than they actually are. So just trying to look at a price comparison by itself can sometimes be deceptive because not every custom apparel company believes in using all-inclusive pricing.
In some cases, these companies rely on cheap tricks because they don't handle the customization themselves -- instead, they act as a middleman and farm the labor out to another company.
Do you want to work with a company where you're led to believe everything will be one price only to learn there are additional set-up fees, special processing fees, hidden labor fees, and whatever other fees they can try to squeeze in there? And are you willing to trust a company that engages in those kinds of business practices?
At Bolt Printing, our price is the price -- there are no tricks, no hidden fees, and you don't need to add something to your cart then get to the end of checkout just to see the price. And if you do need to request a free quote, expect a reasonable price well below most of our competition.
Does the company handle its own production or is it a middleman?
As crazy as it sounds, not every custom apparel company handles its own customization. Some will instead take customers' orders and then ask another company to do the actual work.
Why is this a problem?
First, who are you really dealing with? And will the middleman stand by the other company's work when there's a mistake or issue?
Second, more layers = more cost. If a custom apparel company is paying another company to do that customization, they're passing those costs along to you.
Not to mention additional layers means more places where things can go wrong. Have you ever played a game of telephone? With each person, the original message gets more muddled. And even taking miscommunications off the table, how much control does the middleman have over the other company's production?
At Bolt Printing, all production is done in-house. This means that we have complete control over the quality of our products and how quickly we can turn them around for you. Our close collaboration between customer service, the art department, and production staff means that you always get the best possible product at the best possible price.
Does the t-shirt printing company have proven experience?
Custom t-shirt printing is an art form. At a single glance, a talented printer can tell when a t-shirt design absolutely won't work... and a lousy printer will just try to run the design.
There's a LOT that goes into screen printing t-shirts. You have to understand the dyes, how certain dyes will interact with specific garment types and colors, etc.
A good screen printer -- like a good cook -- understands that temperature and time are important factors. They can follow a basic recipe, often producing an okay result.
However, a truly excellent screen printer is like a master chef, with an experience and understanding that goes far beyond that. They know how specific interactions between temperature, humidity, chemical compounds, fabric types, and dye formulations can determine success or failure when creating the perfect final product.
And, like a master chef, this experience can't just be learned overnight or even in a year. Aspiring chefs often apprentice in top restaurants for years, dutifully learning their craft from seasoned veterans and working their way up.
At Bolt Printing, we have over a hundred years of combined experience. This includes everything from garment manufacturing to art production, screen printing to digital printing, and embroidery.
We're passionate about our work and strive for excellence in everything we do. When choosing a custom apparel company, you should settle for nothing less.
Can you put a face to the company?
This is Lana Corsano, the CEO and founder of Bolt Printing. She started the company by herself in 2009, successfully growing the organization to have dozens of employees and an impressive production facility in Brookfield, CT.
When buying from a custom t shirt printing company, you should know who you're working with. Be wary of any company that isn't upfront about its leadership -- what do they have to hide? If a company doesn't want you to know who they are, can you count on them to answer their phones when you have a problem?
Can you communicate directly with them?
Be cautious with any custom apparel company that doesn't list their phone number. This can be a good predictor for how tough it'll be to get in touch with them if something goes wrong.
And, when they have a phone number, you should consider calling it before placing an order just to make sure they pick up their phone. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions. You'll want to know whether you're talking to a call center or people actually working at the company.
If your only lines of communication are online forms or chatbots -- or anything else where a real person isn't answering your questions -- I'd suggest running far, far away.
Are you able to talk with an expert?
Many people get nervous when it comes to ordering custom shirts -- after all, it's usually a decent amount of money and so many things can go wrong. When it comes to being reassured, few things build confidence like speaking with an expert.
A reputable company isn't afraid to let you talk directly to somebody who works on turning your t-shirt design ideas into t-shirt reality. This could be somebody who works with custom artwork (making sure it's the best it can be) or an expert with deep knowledge of the printing process who knows whether something will or won't work (and has more than a few tricks for turning a design that won't otherwise work into one that will).
At Bolt Printing, our customer service experts handle the graphic design work. When you call, you're generally dealing with somebody who will work on your custom design, ensuring it'll turn out great. This greatly simplifies the process, streamlining communication and reducing the places where a miscommunication can happen. From there, they can walk directly into our state-of-the-art production facility to talk directly with any of highly-qualified, expert printers.
How do they run their company?
The level of quality and care often varies depending on a company's culture. When employees care about their work, customers are more likely to receive top notch, speedy service.
Our company values and encourages collaboration. Great things can only be achieved by working together and keeping close lines of communication helps us avoid problems.
However, not every custom tee business takes this same approach. Some companies might rely on call centers in another state -- or even another country -- where the person answering the phone knows almost nothing about customization and may have never spoken directly with any production staff. (In fact, they might not even be able to tell you the production facility's address!)
That's why it's so important to know who you're talking to when you get on the phone. Don't be afraid to ask who they are and what their role is with the company.
Talking with an expert can head off potential issues
When's the best time to resolve a mistake? Before it's made.
By talking with somebody who routinely works with t-shirt designs, issues can be flagged before they become major problems. After all, the worst time to fix a design issue is after you have shirts printed.
If you have concerns, raise them. Ask how something will work. Make sure people understand what you want to do. If you have a question about your proof, speak up. This approach will ensure your order flows smoothly from start-to-finish.
Do they let you order blank t-shirts?
The best way to see if you like the design and feel of a t-shirt is to see it in-person. Unfortunately, if you're not seeing it until after your custom tees arrive, it's a bit late to change anything.
Many custom shirt companies will let you order blank t-shirts. This way you can know exactly what you're getting.
Can you order generic printed t shirts as a sample?
With a generic printed t-shirt sample, you're able to judge the quality of the screen printing on the t shirt. This way you can be sure the color, style, size, t-shirt quality, and printing are to your liking.
If you're placing a large order, it could be a worthwhile investment. Otherwise, you might wind up ordering a hundred shirts and having something you dislike.
Check if they provide proofs
When a t-shirt printing company cares about producing high-quality products, they'll take extra steps to make sure everything is to the customer's specifications. One of the absolute best ways to do this is by providing proofs.
A proof shows customers how their custom designs will look. This is an easy way of eliminating potential miscommunications and making sure customers get the GREAT (not just good) quality products they expect.
Proofs are an essential part of the ordering process, ensuring that the print quality is the best it can be. They're created when a skilled production artist prepares uploaded files by improving image quality and applying necessary adjustments to match the on-press requirements.
By asking customers to sign off on a proof, the company is making sure you approve of the design.
At Bolt Printing, we want you to be satisfied with your order. That's why we wait for your approval on the final proof before we start to print t-shirts.
What's their return policy?
Because custom t-shirts are designed to a customer's specifications, returns and refunds are tricky. Some custom apparel companies don't accept returns at all while others deal with complaints by not answering their phone.
Screen printing is permanent. Once your design is on a shirt, it can't be removed. This means the t-shirts are effectively unsalvageable because who would they be resold to? (For instance, if the t-shirts were for a family reunion, you'd need another family with that exact same last name, who like that exact design, and who need shirts in those exact same sizes. What are the odds of that?)
Given the nature of these returns, you should be suspicious of any custom apparel company with a generous return policy. In at least some cases, the company has no intention of honoring it.
However, study whatever terms are listed. Reputable companies tend to be very clear about the specific conditions for a return and what isn't covered -- and that specificity is usually a sign that a company stands by its return policy.
If customers receive defective printed t-shirts (either the material or printing), a reputable company will make submitting a claim easy and then make things right when applicable.
Do the reviews seem trustworthy?
Reviews are among the most powerful forms of social proof. After all, if a lot of other people have had positive experiences, wouldn't you expect the same treatment?
However, you shouldn't be so quick when it comes to just looking at an overall number. There can be a deeper story behind it.
Do the reviews look legitimate? Some unethical companies will post fake reviews in an attempt to make themselves look better (and, in some cases, to make competitors look worse).
Make sure to read at least a few 5-star reviews along with some 1-star reviews to check if the reviews sound like they were written by actual customers. Some review sites will verify that the customers actually purchased product -- but bear in mind some really unscrupulous companies can find ways around that. (One method for cheating reviews is called "brushing" -- this scam involves companies sending out fake orders (generally cheap, unrequested goods) to people and then using those addresses and information to post reviews for other product.) That's why even if the review involves a "verified purchase," you may want to read more than just the rating.
Look at the dates on the reviews. Are they recent? A company's performance several years ago may no longer be true today. After all, companies change over time -- people come, people leave, standards can improve, standards can decline, etc.
Always take a minute to glance over the last few months' worth of reviews and see how they stack up against the review history. Is the rating buoyed by a lot of good reviews in the past and taking on water today? Or is a stellar recent performance being sunk by things that happened years ago involving people who aren't with the company anymore?
Were the reviewers provided free product or an incentive to write the review? And were they offered something to rewrite a review? Unfortunately, this one can be harder to spot.
Are the shipping costs reasonable?
Before placing an order, always be sure to look over the shipping terms.
Some companies will offer free standard shipping while others may have flat rate shipping. If you need to rush order tees, there are often expedited options for speedy service.
However, there are a few companies out there who try to squeeze customers for a little extra profit on shipping and handling. This can be a way of giving the appearance of being low cost when in fact they're more expensive than their competitors. (And their hope is once they get you to the end of the checkout, you'll agree to pay it just just to get things over with -- which is often done as a deliberate psychological tactic.)
Bolt Printing offers free standard shipping on most orders to a single address in the continental US (meaning if you place an order where you need something shipped to multiple addresses, that won't be covered). And, if you're in a super rush, we have paid expedited options.
Tips for getting a custom tee you're sure to love
#1- Start by looking at your favorite t-shirts.
Check their labels for the brand and fabric content, which can give you an idea of what to look for.
#2- If you're not sure about a t-shirt color, order a blank sample.
When looking at garments online, the color can appear different.
#3- Provide high-quality artwork files.
Remember -- just because something looks good quality on a screen doesn't mean it'll look great on a shirt!
#4- Pay attention to the spelling in your design.
#5- Request a proof before they print your shirts. (And be careful if a company doesn't provide one!)
Carefully review the proof and request changes if something doesn't look right. And, if changes are made, request a new proof.
#6- If you're not completely sure about something, ask questions.
Only work with a t-shirt printing company you can trust
With so many reputable, quality custom apparel companies out there, there's no reason to take a risk on a company you don't fully trust.
At Bolt Printing, we're passionate about bringing customers' t-shirt designs to life and take custom t-shirt printing seriously -- the quality of our printing and products is always a top concern. We want to make sure you get the best possible results for your money, whether you need 50 custom t-shirts or 500 (or even 5,000!)
You don't need to be a graphic designer to create your own designs -- especially when you can rely on our online design studio. Bolt Printing's online designer has a wealth of clip art that can be used in any number of designs. (It's almost like having your own online artist community. Of course, if you've hired actual freelance creative artists, you can import their artwork into our studio.)
And there's no pressure to order today -- if you've come up with a design you like, you can sleep on the decision by saving the design for later.
What are the best t-shirt brands for printing? A quick (but detailed) guide
How much thought do you put into t-shirt brands? Do you stick with a few favorites? Or do you just pick whichever has a style or print design you like?
Do t-shirt brands matter with custom apparel?
The short answer? It depends.
Here's a little secret -- Bolt Printing only stocks quality t-shirts. You don't need to worry about any of the t-shirts we sell just falling apart or the design vanishing after a few washes.
However, that isn't to say t-shirt brands don't matter. Your blank t shirt's brand can matter a lot depending on how you intend to use those custom t-shirts.
For example, if you're trying to start your own clothing line, you're going to want something a little higher quality -- at least a carded ring-spun cotton, if not a combed ring-spun cotton -- in a retail fit.
The elusive nature of quality
Quality can mean very different things to different people. For some, it might mean a strong value -- such as a lot of bang for your buck (ie, a low-cost, extremely durable garment). Others might see it as a consistent product (whether it's the exact same measurements, an identical shade of color, or simply being defect-free). And then still others might look for specific traits, like durability or a certain preferred fit.
However, there are some markers usually associated with higher-end shirts. For instance, a higher yarn count produces a finer, lighter-weight garment. More stitch-work doesn't just improve t-shirts' durability, but it also has a cleaner look.
Why features matter
T-shirts are generally sold by features, which relate to a want or need. Somebody who wants a performance tee will be unhappy with a 100% cotton shirt. And someone who wants a thick, durable shirt won't like a fashion style.
Ultimately, the 'quality' of a t-shirt comes down to its utility. The best shirt for one activity very well may be the worst for another -- for instance, it's difficult (if not impossible) to have a t-shirt that both keeps you warm and cool. And the more specialized a shirt is in one area, the worse it'll perform in other areas.
When choosing a custom tee, always keep a list of features in mind.
The impact of fabric
Although a cotton t-shirt is a great choice for most uses, other kinds of fabric also have their advantages.
A 50/50, for instance, holds up better with multiple washings. (Because of the polyester, it shrinks less. Meanwhile, the cotton reduces the pilling you'd normally get with polyester.) It also carries some wicking properties, helping it dry faster.
And then a tri-blend combines the advantages of three fabrics -- providing some of the perks associated with cotton, polyester, and rayon.
A few other considerations
There's a natural temptation to pick the cheapest option -- and, on a certain level, it seems to make a lot of sense. But take a moment to really think about why you're ordering custom t-shirts in the first place. If you're promoting an event or your brand, how much good will it do if nobody wants to wear those tees?
There's a certain minimum comfort threshold with t-shirts. No matter how much somebody likes a print design, odds are they aren't going to wear a shirt they find uncomfortable. So while you could go as budget-friendly as possible, there's a point where you're hurting yourself.
Likewise, there's a style factor -- even if a t-shirt is super-comfy, it won't get worn around if the print design is ugly (although it'll likely get worn around the house). So, you could pick the highest-quality t shirts -- the absolute best-quality t-shirts out there -- and if people really dislike your design, it won't matter.
A sometimes-less considered aspect is the clothing brand itself. Some brands carry a perceived value completely independent of a shirt's actual features -- for example, you might have people who want to wear a Bella+Canvas simply because it's a Bella+Canvas.
If you're just looking for a bargain, check out Bolt Printing's best deals section -- we have some incredible offers if you don't care about custom t-shirt brands. However, for a little bit more, you could go from good quality t-shirts to great quality t-shirts. And, depending on how your shirts will be used, that little extra can go a very long way.
Notable custom t-shirt brands
There are a great many blank t-shirt brands -- far too many to list in one article -- so instead let's take a look at several of the most popular t-shirt makers and their prominent offerings.
Gildan is one of the world's leading manufacturers for blank t-shirts and other apparel.
The company's most notable trait might be its incredible consistency. Because Gildan is so vertically integrated (meaning it directly controls its supply chain), it's able to maintain highly-consistent production standards.
And because Gildan's manufacturing tends to be centralized around certain areas, small details -- like a water's pH level -- remain consistent, which in turn leads to greater consistency with their t-shirts.
Custom t-shirt printing companies love Gildan because you always know what you're getting.
And even if you're not familiar with Gildan, you might recognize American Apparel -- in fact, you might've even bought something from the American Apparel website in the past. Gildan purchased American Apparel in 2017 and has since taken over manufacturing garments for the popular clothing brand.
(Above is an example of a screen printed design on a Gildan blank t-shirt.)
Gildan also owns Comfort Colors, a popular t-shirt brand beloved by the resort market and fraternities. Despite Gildan being known for its consistency, Comfort Colors is famous for its "color blast tees" which CC advertises as no two being the same.
Popular Gildan shirts
2000 - thick & heavyweight t shirt
Where does Gildan rank?
Gildan runs the gamut from opening price points (meaning very budget-friendly) to higher-end offerings that rival brands known for their quality t-shirts.
Another popular t shirt brand used in the custom t-shirt industry is Bella+Canvas. The company is interesting in that its founders -- Danny Harris and Marco DeGeorge -- got started in screen printing. Upon being disappointed by a lack of "great-fitting and feeling" garments, the two shifted to producing blank t-shirts and other garments. (Or, in other words, they went from shirt-printing to shirt-manufacturing.)
Bella+Canvas sticks to producing higher-end t-shirts, like their combed, ringspun cotton v-neck tees and crew neck t-shirts. They also have an extremely popular tri-blend tee.
Popular Bella+Canvas shirts
3001 - regular (features a ton of color choices)
Where does Bella+Canvas rank?
As noted, Bella+Canvas tends to be on the higher-end of blank t-shirts. It enjoys a very high perceived quality -- thanks to the company's great brand recognition -- which makes Bella+Canvas's apparel something people want to wear.
Next Level is a maker of stylish apparel. The company is big when it comes to fabric blends (including a lot of tri-blends) and prides itself on having apparel with a finer fabric weight.
Fabric composition is a big deal at Next Level, which blends fabrics to achieve a soft feel, provide a better printing surface, and other effects.
Popular Next Level shirts
Where does Next Level Apparel rank?
Next Level produces what's widely viewed as a very high-end product and is known for making incredible tri-blend t-shirts.
While not something you'd want to use for a giveaway (unless you were promoting a luxury product or brand associated with quality), these are among the best t-shirts out there.
As the name suggests, Sport-Tek focuses on high-performance athletic apparel. Thanks to its moisture-wicking fabrics, Sport-Tek's garments are breathable, manage moisture, and reduce odor.
Popular Sport-Tek shirts
Where does Sport-Tek rank?
Sport-Tek is a premier provider of athletic wear. If you're looking to outfit a local sports team (and don't need to customize names or numbers), Sport-Tek is a great choice.
Does screen vs digital printing matter for custom t-shirts?
The short answer? Once again, it depends.
Although it makes the most sense to screen print when possible (because it offers more vibrant colors and can be done at a lower cost), digital printing has some advantages.
Digital printing -- also known as direct-to-garment (or DTG) printing -- is effectively a print-on-demand solution. While orders need to be a certain size for screen printing (given the set-up), a digital print can be done with an order of any size (although it's mostly saved for smaller orders).
The other big advantage with DTG printing is that it handles certain kinds of designs -- like photographs -- better than screen printing.
"Why don't companies just digitally print everything?"
So why isn't digital printing the industry standard for custom t shirts? Why don't all custom apparel companies focus exclusively on print-on-demand business? Why hasn't it become the only t-shirt printing method?
First, there's the cost -- when ordering in bulk, it's cheaper to screen print. Second, the colors on a digital print tend to look a little muted. Third, digital printing has a lot of limitations when it comes to style, fabric type, and ink.
Which custom clothing brand is right for you?
Still making up your mind? Be sure to check out our online catalog or give us a call. You'll find additional details about the t-shirts offered by these different brands, including information on pricing.
Bolt Printing carries many of the top custom apparel brands. Whether you're looking to get a ringspun cotton t shirt, a tri-blend, a combed cotton t-shirt, or just a plain old regular cotton tee with short sleeves, we have you covered.
You can always order a sample
Picking the right shirt can be hard -- we get that. It's why we let customers order blank t-shirt samples so they see the fabric for themselves.
We want you to be happy with your t-shirt purchase. At the end of the day, the best t-shirts are the ones you absolutely love and enjoy wearing.
Start designing today!
If you're looking to try your hand at designing a custom t-shirt, try out our online design studio. You can test various combinations of artwork (we have a large clip art library) and fonts.
And if you're not ready to order today, you can always save your design for later.
How to Choose the Best Beanies for Embroidery: 6 Expert Tips
There are a lot of common choices for custom apparel -- shirts, hats, fleeces, jackets, and such -- where you expect to see a message of some kind. And, because you expect it to be there, chances are you barely notice it.
Less-expected custom apparel may be more likely to grab somebody's attention and something like a custom beanie can be particularly eye-catching.
Why a custom beanie?
Much like custom hats, beanies can convey a greater sense of value than other forms of custom apparel. And, like hats, custom beanies have a few promotional advantages over other apparel.
- High visibility
Given beanies are on people's heads, they're in a prominent, highly-visible location.
Even in a tightly packed crowd -- where you can't see anything below a person's shoulders -- beanies will be readily seen. They're in a great spot to be noticed.
- Can be worn every day of the week
How often do you wear most garments before cleaning them? And how many days in a row do you see somebody wearing the same outfit?
As with hats, it's not unusual to see somebody wearing the same beanie all week long. Beanies are more thought of in the same sense as jackets or shoes than shirts.
- The curiosity factor
People tend to pay more attention to headwear. Whether it's due to the proximity to a person's face or headwear's association with sports, it's a heavily-noticed area.
- High perceived value
Not all promotional items are viewed equally. Custom pens are frequently lost, thrown away, or left behind. Custom mugs can wind up in the back of a cupboard, never to be seen again. Even custom tees sometimes sit at the bottom of a drawer or hanging at the end of a closet.
Embroidered beanies, on the other hand, feel more like a gift than just a giveaway item. There's a specialness to them that's sorely lacking from other items. A knit beanie is viewed along the same lines as a hat... which brings us to beanies' next big perk.
- Low cost
Beanie hats are much, much cheaper than custom hats despite serving a very similar role. In fact, Bolt Printing's embroidered beanies aren't much more expensive than ordering custom tees.
Note: The cost of custom beanies can vary dramatically between custom apparel companies. Not every company sells at Bolt Printing's incredible prices. How do we manage it? Bolt Printing handles the customization in-house at our own facility in sunny Brookfield, CT. Many other businesses outsource the production elsewhere, so they're paying another company to handle the customization for them.
In short, beanies are a terrific value -- low cost + high perceived value = bargain!
- Unique design
There's nothing quite like a beanie. Unlike shirts -- which are given out all the time -- and even hats, a beanie represents a less conventional item for giveaways and promotions.
If you're selling custom apparel for a fundraiser, custom beanies are incredible because you can have a very healthy profit margin. And, because it's such a different item, they can generate more interest.
- Truly a one-size-fits-all item
Although hats can be one-size-fits-all, there's a comfort factor -- each person has a different preference when it comes to hats. However, beanies offer a consistent kind of fit no matter a person's head size.
A few drawbacks associated with custom beanies
While custom beanies are a great promotional item, they're by no means perfect. They have a few issues to keep in mind.
Beanies are seen as seasonal apparel
First, unlike hats, beanies aren't a year-round piece of clothing. Even though they can be worn during summer, most people won't do that.
Like it or not, the focus of a beanie is to help people stay warm during those cold winter months (and sometimes those chilly autumn months). Although there are some beanie fans out there, they tend to be few and far between -- plus, hardcore beanie fans likely have a great selection of beanies they alternate between.
Smaller design space
Beanies and hats don't give you as much space for a design as custom tees. You really need to prioritize your design elements -- such as just going with a logo.
When somebody puts on a hat, the design will usually be facing a proper direction. After all, the hat's bill guides the way it's meant to be worn. And, although some people will tilt a hat a different way for style reasons, the days of backward-facing caps mostly went out with the 90s.
The same is true for tees -- people are usually going have the front where the front should be, meaning the design is facing the right direction.
However, beanies are different. There's nothing necessarily guiding a person to put a beanie on so the logo faces a certain direction. As such, there's a chance somebody might have the custom embroidery near a part of their head where the design could be completely missed.
Are any of these drawbacks serious?
Should these drawbacks discourage you from creating customized beanies?
The short answer is no.
If you think a custom beanie will help promote your business, organization, or charity, you likely have compelling reasons for wanting custom beanies. And, for a lot of things, beanies will make a lot of sense -- particularly if your business has a seasonal component.
If your custom beanies are meant to commemorate an event or intended as holiday gifts, none of drawbacks may be an actual issue. Not just because it's the thought that counts, but also on account of it being a nice gesture. Or, in other words, you're not relying on them for promotional reasons. While you likely want to see people wear them, that's not their primary purpose -- their main point was being a gift.
And, if you're looking to sell custom beanies, the seasonal nature is just something you'd have to factor into your overall merchandise strategy. It's no different than any other kind of apparel where some items make more sense during certain times of the year (unless you're selling to a customer-base in a colder region).
Ways you might customize a beanie
Beanies are a bit less restrictive than hats when it comes to customization.
Where a phone number isn't a great fit on a hat, it can work on a beanie. Likewise, a website would work on a beanie. (Just be careful to not overload it with information! You want people to look at specific elements and the more you have, the more distracted they'll be.)
Or you can stick with something more basic, like an embroidered logo. There's also space to embroider your company's name on a beanie.
However, there are still limitations. Really small elements pose an issue, for instance. While our embroidery specialists are amazing when it comes to designs, there are certain things that just won't work well for feasibility reasons.
"Why embroidery? Can't you print on a beanie?"
No. Besides the practical issues around trying to print on a beanie, the print design wouldn't last.
How to choose the best beanie for your embroidered design
When it comes to selecting a beanie, you'll want to consider questions of style and functionality.
#1 - Will it have a pom-pom?
Pom-poms can be a divisive fashion statement. Some people love pom-poms while others find them silly.
The appeal of a pom-pom beanie is often driven by gender and/or age. Women tend to prefer pom-poms more than men, and pom-poms tend to be popular among children.
If your custom beanies will be going to specific people, look at the demographics. When it's mostly guys, you might avoid pom-poms. However, pom-pom beanies might be a hit with everybody else.
Overall, pom-pom beanies tend to be more popular than non-pom beanies.
#2 - Cuff or no cuff?
While a pom-pom is purely decorative, cuffs have a practical component. When it's really cold out, you can pull down on a cuff to keep more of your head warm.
Additionally, a cuff offers a little more material in that area, which should provide extra warmth. And some people feel that a cuff helps lock heat in better.
Style-wise, not everybody is a fan of cuffed beanies. Some people prefer a cuff-less look (these kinds of beanies are sometimes called skull caps).
Whether it's right for your beanie might come down to who's receiving them. However, unlike pom-poms, it's a feature a lot of people don't even notice.
#3 - Stripes or solid?
Do you want a plain beanie or something a little more eye-catching? Stripes are an easy way to help a beanie stand out.
However, keep in mind that stripes will impact your design choices. If you're going with a larger design, it might make sense to stick with a solid color for consistency. However, you can use the stripes to your advantage -- like trying to match the thread colors to the stripe.
A striped beanie will probably appeal to most people. It's also an easy way to draw attention to your custom beanie and, in turn, to your custom logo or message.
#4 - Do you want a fleece beanie? How about a fleece-lining?
Going with a fleece tends to add warmth, which is a massive plus when wearing a beanie during colder months. However, a fleece-lining is also a comfort consideration.
#5 - How's it going to be used?
The best beanie for a trade worker is going to look different from the best beanie for a hiker or college student. What's considered great will vary based on how it's being used.
If you're giving beanies to employees who work outside in dirty jobs, you can expect the beanie to get dirty, too -- so it wouldn't make sense to go with an expensive, patterned beanie. You'd probably want a solid color that could hide stains and isn't too expensive in case it needs to be replaced.
There are a lot of specific considerations that depend on who's using the beanie. However, for a general purpose beanie, any kind might do.
#6 - Will you go with a specific brand?
Name brands are closely associated with a perception of quality and value. However, even if somebody doesn't realize the brand -- or isn't familiar with it -- oftentimes the quality will shine through.
For a giveaway, the brand might encourage people to use the beanies. However, if you're selling your custom embroidered beanies, these things can matter a lot more. In fact, spending an extra two or three bucks on a beanie could make it easier to charge an extra five bucks (putting an extra two or three dollars of profit in your pocket!)
Note: Because Bolt Printing only carries high-quality brands, any beanie hats on our site will be a solid choice.
Top beanie brands
Here are just a few of the top brands you can use for a custom embroidered beanie.
As with other custom apparel, New Era is an extremely well-recognized, well-regarded maker of beanie hats.
Pictured above is the NE902G, which is available in two color patterns. Similar designs include the NE902B (available in three color patterns) and the NE902 (available in a single color pattern -- a gorgeous red, white, and gray design).
New Era also offers several designs without stripes, such as the NE904 (pictured above; available in four color patterns).
Although a bit higher in price, New Era produces some of the finest-quality beanies. They're also notable for being the official manufacturer of apparel for multiple sports franchises, such as the maker of MLB teams' hats. If your goal is to sell your custom beanies, New Era is a great choice.
Port Authority is known for providing a solid value. Its products offer a good deal of quality while staying within an affordable price range.
Pictured above is the CP90 (available in 23 colors), which is Bolt Printing's #1-selling custom beanie. This beanie is popular for its reasonable price, quality, and large selection of colors. It's a solid offering that makes sense for a lot of uses.
Not a fan of the CP90's cuffed design? The CP91 is a cuff-less version of the CP90. Same reasonable price, making it a solid value. However, the CP91 is available in fewer colors (8 instead of 23).
Spot-Tek is a recognized manufacturer of athletic apparel and it's no surprise they have winter-themed offerings like custom knit beanies.
The STC20MC is available in 4 colors.
While a lot of people know the company best for its jackets, North Face also produces beanies -- meaning you can really deck yourself out in North Face apparel to ward off winter's chill.
Whether you're giving away or selling custom beanies, you'll benefit from using a recognizable brand. Even if the quality wasn't readily apparent, North Face is a trusted name.
Bolt Printing is adding new North Face styles to our catalog this fall.
Carhartt has a strong reputation as a workperson's brand and is known for making high-quality, durable apparel.
While you might not need to worry about how well a beanie holds up like you would other clothing, the Carhartt logo is a good sign that a piece of apparel is going to hold up winter after winter.
Bolt Printing is adding new Carhartt styles to our catalog this fall.
Create your own custom embroidered beanie today
If you've ever wanted to customize your own beanie -- whether for a business, charity, special event, or even to get into the exciting world of beanie fashion -- Bolt Printing is here to help.
Our design studio will give you an idea how your logo, artwork, or text will look on any number of styles of beanies.
Unlike other companies, we don't charge setup fees. We believe in all-inclusive pricing and try to be as upfront as possible.
How to Design T-shirts: The Complete Guide
What goes into designing a t shirt? With endless possibilities -- ranging from what's included in the design all the way to where the design is placed -- the process can feel overwhelming. We want to guide you through that process, taking you from having a cool idea all the way to having those finished shirts in your hands. And each step of the way, we'll explain the best practices to ensure your t shirts will be something you want to show off.
"Do I even need custom t shirts?"
The first question you're probably considering is whether you need custom tees at all.
The short answer is... it depends. There are a lot of great reasons to want a custom t-shirt, ranging from the personal to the professional. And this usage will determine the perfect t-shirt design for your needs. That's why your design process should begin with clearly identifying what you hope to accomplish.
Of course, all of these needs will met by different designs. Although there is one-size-fits-all apparel, there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to t shirt design.
Start by identifying your goal(s)
Before you decide anything else, you should start by sitting down and figuring out what you're trying to accomplish (which may require some market research). This goal should inform every step of your design process.
Again, there are many reasons to create a custom t shirt, which can lead to very different designs. What you might create as a company uniform will look different from a t-shirt promoting a charity which won't look the same as one celebrating a birthday.
Think about it like a bullseye. You might have a general category of customers, but you can usually narrow down your target audience until you reach a specific niche.
Let's say you run a pet supplies company. In theory, your customers are pet owners. However, you might not have much to offer turtle owners and I'm sure your crocodile supplies are limited. So, instead of trying to appeal to all pet owners, you want to focus on specific pet types (like dogs, cats, or maybe even hamsters) and possibly narrow things down further by interest (such as dog toys).
If your pet store offers dog grooming and it's a service you're trying to grow, a shirt design featuring a gecko probably isn't the best choice. Instead, you'll likely want an image of a dog with some of your services listed underneath. If other pet products are a large part of your business, you might include some of those animals in the graphic. However, if dog grooming is your largest service, you could instead get hyper-focused with your graphic and choose an image of a dog being bathed.
Look at the example of a pet services t-shirt in the image above. Is there any ambiguity about the service this company offers? Even if you only caught a glimpse of the design, you'd know what the company is about (and, if the employee had a dog with them, they'd be the perfect walking billboard).
Likewise, if you're trying to help a candidate running for mayor, a shirt targeting all voters is going to be less helpful than one designed to appeal to voters living in that particular city or town. And, if it's for a primary, you specifically need to appeal to registered members of that candidate's political party living within their district.
When promoting an event, your most important information will include the date (or specific time) and location. However, if it's a private celebration (like a family reunion), you might only list the month or year (since the shirt design is commemorating the event instead of promoting it).
These are just a few examples of the considerations that should go into figuring out your own t-shirt design.
When it comes to shirt design, always remember a message designed to appeal to everybody will generally appeal to nobody.
Screen printing or digital?
When it comes to printing methods, the two most popular options are screen printing and digital printing (also called direct-to-garment printing, or DTG printing for short).
Thankfully, this isn't a choice you have to worry about -- Bolt Printing will always pick the option that's best for your project (by looking at your order quantity, the colors used in the design, and other factors).
Prior to digital printing, the options for printing a small number of tees weren't great. Customers were mostly limited to things like heat-transferred vinyl graphics, which don't last nearly as printed tees -- after a certain number of washes, you'd start to see cracks as it broke down. Then digital printing came along with what amounts to a print-on-demand service.
While you might hear people insist digital printing is the future, it has the same issues as other print-on-demand services -- namely, cost. Screen printing is substantially cheaper when buying in bulk.
Other differences between digital (direct to garment) and screen printing
However, that's not to say the only difference between these two printing options is the minimum order quantity and price. Digital can work better for certain kinds of designs (like putting a photograph on a t shirt or if a design involves a lot of colors). However, digital doesn't always print perfectly, so you should expect a certain amount of variation.
While your color choices are a bit more limited with screen printing, you still have access to multiple colors and -- more importantly -- a screen print can give you more vibrant colors. You'll also see greater consistency across tees. And you're able to print on a wider variety of t-shirt types.
Do you have a logo?
Not all t-shirt designs will include a logo. If you're creating a shirt to celebrate a special event, for instance, you'll probably just select a graphic. However, if you're using your t-shirt to build a brand, you'll want to use a logo.
If you own a business, are in charge of a charity, or anything else with a long-term presence, you should consider building a consistent brand identity. This way when people see your name or logo, they're more likely to have a positive opinion of your organization. And when you regularly use your logo, people will start to recognize it at a glance.
A logo tends to be a good idea for businesses of any size, but it's often not considered a priority. If you've gone up until now without a logo, this might be a good time to create one.
Creating a logo
If you're creating a logo from scratch -- and have the budget for it -- you may consider hiring a graphic designer. However, you don't need a background in graphic design or even artistic skills to create a perfectly serviceable logo. (Which is a good thing, since not everybody can afford a professional designer! Nor does everybody want to master Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.)
Keep in mind while many logos include a graphic, others are just text (or have a very simple image). For example, a logo for a law firm will usually look pretty subdued because they're going for a specific kind of brand identity. Their logo will look very different from that of an ice cream shop, for instance.
If you decide to use a graphic, you should consider keeping it simple -- something that can be easily recognized at a glance. Many of the world's most iconic businesses have extremely simple logos, such as the Nike Swoosh or McDonald's Golden Arches.
Ideally, the graphic should pertain to either your business's industry or its name. If you own a deli, the image of a sandwich would tell potential customers exactly what you do. If you own a pet care business, you'll probably want to go with an animal.
For more logo design tips, be sure to check out our guide.
Choosing a graphic
If you don't have a logo -- or if you have an all-text logo -- you're probably going to want to choose a graphic for your t-shirt design. While not all t-shirts need a graphic (since fonts and a catchy slogan are sometimes enough), they tend to be an eye-catching addition to a design.
Not sure where to look for artwork? There are a number of free resources as well as paid options, including professional designers. You can check Pixabay, Flickr, or any other number of other sites. (Additionally, Bolt Printing has a great collection of clip art in its design studio. If you were planning on making t shirts with that design tool anyway, it makes sense to find a graphic in there -- especially since you'll know the image works on a shirt.)
Keep in it can take time to find the right files for your t-shirt design. If possible, you'll want to go with a graphic in the vector format (also known as vector graphics), such as an eps file.
For an in-depth "ultimate guide" covering graphic decisions and the differences between file types, be sure to check out our blog entry on finding free t shirt graphics. Otherwise, just be aware that a graphic's file type can sometimes make the difference between a good t-shirt and a bad one.
In general, you should look for something that specifically relates to your goal -- after all, the graphic is part of your overall message and can be an all-important supporting feature. When your image tells the viewer a little of what you're about, they're more likely to pay attention when the subject interests them.
What to look for in a graphic
A graphic that looks great on a screen doesn't always look great on a t shirt. Typically, you'll want to use a simple image, something that the viewer can process in a second or two (because that might be the entire time they see it).
Things to watch out for include:
Basically, if somebody has to stop and stare at your shirt before they can figure out your message, it's probably not an effective t shirt design.
The perfect font for your t-shirt design?
With so many awesome-looking fonts out there, choosing just one can be a struggle... but you're usually better off sticking with a single font. The simpler your fonts, the easier it'll be for people to read the message on your t shirt.
One of the really cool things about fonts is that they can carry a design by themselves. Each of the examples above doesn't include a graphic and yet nothing feels missing. However, while it's tempting to go with a mix of graphics for a dazzling effect, you can easily overwhelm the viewer or make the message too hard to read.
Consider the first example (on the left), which has four different fonts. When you're staring at it on a screen, the design looks great. However, you'd probably need to stare at it for a few seconds to make sense of everything, which is why it's not a great t shirt design.
[For a full breakdown on how fonts should be used, be sure to check out our font guide.]
As for which font will work best in your design, you'll want to play around with them to see how they interact with your other design elements.
Quick font tip
That's so funny! (Or not)
While we're still on the subject of fonts, it's worth considering the text using those fonts. As such, I wanted to briefly touch on the use of humor in t-shirt designs.
Humor, as I'm sure you're well-aware, is largely subjective. What amuses one audience may offend another. If you're targeting a specific demographic, you can focus your humor on what might appeal to that group (without worrying as much about how everybody else might take it -- provided that it's not so wildly offensive as to provoke outrage). But if you're trying to appeal to a broader audience, you might be better off going with something inoffensively humorous.
Is a shirt asking "Got Shirts?" likely to offend anybody? Probably not. Considering it spoofs the popular "Got Milk?" ads (and would be perfect for a t shirt business), it might get a chuckle from people who've seen the original ads parodied time and time again (or enjoyed the old commercials), but it's unlikely to rub anybody the wrong way because it's not vulgar, it doesn't poke fun at anybody, and isn't even slightly edgy.
Be cautious with edgy humor
While "Got Shirts?" probably won't offend anybody, some people might find a joke about neutering pets to be in poor taste. However, the use of humor in this case is eye-catching, memorable, and instantly drives the point home.
Use the pop culture, Luke
Pop culture references are often fun, although you'll want to select something with a wide appeal.
In short, humor can be an incredible way to attract attention, deliver a message, and make your t shirt design memorable. However, you'll want to check whether your intended audience finds the joke funny and, in some cases, balance the value provided by the humor against the potential for offending somebody. (And you should make sure the humor is consistent with your brand identity.)
[Note: When using pop culture in your design, be careful to not cross the line into copyright infringement.]
Picking a shirt style and material
Here's something people usually overlook -- the actual shirt that a t shirt design goes on.
Believe it or not, but there's more than one type of t shirt. In addition to the obvious design options, you'll also need to consider the fabric choice.
The best -- and most budget-friendly -- t shirt type, 100% cotton shirts have a few additional options. Unless noted as being "ring-spun," assume that a cotton shirt is knitted with fabric using an "open-end" or "carded" yarn.
**Ring-spun cotton means the the fabric was knitted with ring-spun yarn (which is made by a spinning technique that stretches the yarn between the spindles). It's both softer and a bit more expensive than normal cotton.
(Note: Ring-spun cotton tends to be a retail style. If you're planning on selling t-shirts -- or even starting a t-shirt business (either an online store or a t-shirt store) -- this will probably be the fabric you want.)
**Combed ring-spun cotton is a step up from regular ring-spun yarn. During this process, cotton fibers are spun then combed through to remove impurities, making it softer and lighter (and also a bit more expensive). This type of fabric is most-often used for retail-style shirts.
Knitted from a yarn that's half 100% cotton and half polyester, 50/50 blends are a little lighter (and can feel more breathable and softer). This fabric is preferred for custom shirts used as uniforms (ie, a polo shirt with a logo or custom t-shirts) because it's easy to care for and less prone to wrinkling. It's most commonly used by community sports leagues/teams and small businesses such as landscaping companies, construction companies, trade service companies, and restaurants.
A fabric created by blending three different types of thread, tri-blend shirts offer the durability of polyester, the comfort of cotton, and the drape of rayon. This material is even softer, lighter, and more comfortable than combed ring-spun cotton shirts (and is more expensive).
This 100% polyester material is designed to wick moisture away from the body and is mostly used for athletic shirts.
But what does all that mean?!
If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by the range of options you hadn't even considered (or maybe didn't know existed), here's the simple version:
For most uses, you'll just want to go with 100% cotton because it's the most cost-effective choice (and therefore the best option for giveaways).
If your shirt design is being used as a uniform, you might consider a 50/50 blend because the care instructions are easier.
Planning on starting a t-shirt business? You should consider either ring-spun cotton or combed ring-spun cotton.
Choosing your garment color
The garment selection process doesn't end with picking a fabric. You also have to choose the fabric color.
Most successful t shirts stick to a handful of garment colors. For example, think about how many t shirts you've seen -- which t-shirt colors were the most common? Odds are you've probably seen a lot of black tees (whereas something like a light blue is less common).
There are a few factors that might influence your color choice. The first is your t shirt design. If you have a logo that's usually depicted in one color, you'll probably want to keep that color for brand consistency. Likewise, you could have your heart set on a shirt design in a particular color. Either way, this will influence your garment's color choice because a black logo on a black shirt will stand out as about as much as a polar bear in a blizzard. Instead, you should use black ink (or darker ink colors) on a light shirt.
How color use helps a t-shirt design stand out (or sometimes doesn't)
Are you familiar with color theory? Color is a surprisingly complicated subject. However, designing a t shirt doesn't require mastering that subject -- you just need to keep a few simple things in mind when designing an amazing t shirt.
A color combination can make the difference between a t-shirt design being seen and completely missed. Although some color combos look cool -- especially on a screen -- the colors might be too close to really stand out.
Consider the above examples. On the left, you have the Eye of Providence in black on a gray background. Although it looks great, even on a computer or cellphone screen you might have some difficulty making out the design -- so just imagine how much of a harder time you'd have if it was on a shirt... and then compound that by having to see it at a distance, possibly while either you and/or the wearer was walking.
However, if you take that same design and change the color -- in this case from black to white -- suddenly it's very easy to understand. (Well, as easy as the Eye of Providence is for people to understand.)
The Color Wheel
If you're looking to use color to create an eye-catching design, it always helps to consult the color wheel.
The color wheel is a concept developed by Isaac Newton in 1666 AD to show the different colors of light and their relationships to each other. These relationships can take a number of forms.
A monochromatic color scheme uses shades of the same basic color. Because they're just different shades of a color, they won't offer a strong contrast.
Analogous colors (sometimes called adjacent colors) are the colors close to each other on the color wheel. They can provide a bit of contrast without looking too loud.
Examples include red and orange, orange and yellow, blue and purple, and purple and pink.
Complementary colors are colors opposite each other on the color wheel. These will often provide the strongest contrast.
Examples include orange and blue (used by the NY Mets and Knicks), red and green, and yellow and purple (used by the LA Lakers).
Keep in mind that colors don't have to be complementary to offer a strong contrast -- there just needs to be a certain amount of separation on the color wheel. Red and yellow, for example, offer a very strong contrast (think of the McDonald's logo -- the Golden Arches tend to have a red background behind them).
A rather important side-note about one particular complementary color combination
You might've noticed the previous selection didn't include an example for red and green... and it has nothing to do with the colors' association with Christmas.
Roughly 8% of men and 0.5% of women worldwide suffer from red-green color blindness.
This can sometimes present a major issue for people who suffer from color-blindness, such as when a sports team in green jerseys plays against a sports team in red jerseys (one notable example was when the NY Jets in all-green uniforms played against Buffalo Bills in all-red outfits).
In fact, if your t shirts are using a red-green color combination, there's a chance a portion of the population will miss your message completely.
While I'm not suggesting you should never combine red and green, it's something that needs to be considered when designing a t shirt. If you intend to use your design to create awareness for your brand, it could present an issue. However, if you're using the colors in a design meant to commemorate a holiday party, that's probably not going to pose as much of a problem.
Image and text layout
Once you've settled on what you want on your shirt and the colors, it's time to decide how that information will be laid out.
Your layout is an important part of your overall message because what you choose to prioritize will get the most attention. These considerations range from the size of your graphic in relation to your text, your font size in one part of your text compared to other parts, and the placement of these elements.
Start by deciding what information is important. If your t-shirt is promoting a business or charity, obviously the name should be in there. However, where it's placed can vary. If you're promoting a fundraiser for that charity, the name of the event might get top billing.
Each of the three examples above takes a slightly different approach to the layout. What stands out to you about each one?
All three are effective for different reasons, but they have one thing in common: they keep things simple by limiting the number of design elements.
Where (and when) t-shirt designs go bad
A great custom t shirt requires a logical, easy-to-follow design. People sometimes get in trouble when they try to be a little too clever or innovative with their design.
The example on the left features a non-linear design with a lot of empty space and small elements, making it difficult to read. If you only had 3-5 seconds to look at that shirt, how much about you notice? I'm guessing probably not much -- in fact, it might take 5 seconds just to make sense of it!
Is the example on the right a little boring? Maybe, but it's extremely easy to comprehend even at a glance. The company name is in big, bold letters. The promise right below it is a little smaller because it's less important than the name. You have a good-sized graphic to grab people's attention. And finally you have the phone number. It's a very functional design. (And, I should note, the garment color works. Green is a good choice for a lawn care company.)
T-shirt or TMI shirt?
Most t-shirts promoting a business contain a little information about the company... but other shirts have way, way, WAY too much information about that company.
Yes, you can include too many details. And when your information is overwhelming, the viewer struggles to process anything.
The original t shirt design (on the left) doesn't need all that information. This is a t shirt, not a business card or website.
The revised image on the right mercifully trims the t-shirt design down to its important parts: the company's name, a graphic (possibly a logo) that clearly lets the viewer know their industry (and won't be mistaken for any other industry), a few details about the business itself, the phone number, and the company's website.
De-cluttering a design
Sometimes when somebody gets really creative and tries to flex their artistic skills, they go a little overboard with the design. The result can look a little cluttered. Above are two t-shirt designs for a zoo's tiger exhibit. Which of these options more clearly delivers its message?
The design on the left uses multiple fonts and has an overly busy graphic. At first glance, do you spot the tiger? Or is it camouflaged by the forest? The longer it takes for somebody to make sense of the graphic, the less time they have to read the text.
Because the second design jumps out at the viewer, their eyes can process it quicker, ensuring they'll get to the surrounding information sooner. And, since the text is a single font, it's faster to read.
The final question might be where your t-shirt design will go. There are multiple print locations on t-shirts, including the front, back, sides, and sleeves.
Most of the time, you'll probably want to stick with the front of the shirt since it's the most prominent print location -- or, in other words, your prime real estate. People are most likely to notice a design when it's on the front of a shirt, although the back is also a visible print location.
Keep in mind that using a lot of print locations can increase the production time and -- perhaps more importantly -- the price. If you're looking to print on a budget, you'll likely want to stick to the front.
Ready to start creating your own design?
Now that you understand more about design fundamentals, you might feel ready to design your own t shirt.
However, even if you're not ready today, I'd suggest checking out our online design studio. It's an incredible design tool with a wealth of stock images that should give you an idea of everything that's possible. And, since we even have the option to save your design for later, so there's nothing to lose by experimenting. (Of course, if you're less adventurous, we also offer a number of free templates!)
And if you found this crash course on t shirt design helpful, you may consider checking out our other blog articles where many of these t shirt design tips are discussed in detail.
Choosing the Best Custom Hats: 7 Expert Tips
When it comes to the perceived value of a promotional item, a custom hat almost feels like a gift. While custom t-shirts are a mainstay in giveaways, there are a number of reasons why people might not wear them -- the wrong size, an awkward fit, and so on.
Custom hats avoid a lot of those issues. A one-size-fits-all hat isn't impacted by a person's height or weight. It's also usually going to be a pretty good fit, especially if it's adjustable. In fact, if you're giving away hats, you can be pretty sure just about everybody is going to be able to use them... and that's what makes them an incredible promotional item.
However, even if you're not using a hat to promote a business, organization, or charity, there are great reasons for using customized hats. (Partly for the same reasons they excel as a promotional tool.)
Custom hats could be the feather in your promotional campaign's cap
Hats have several advantages over other kinds of custom apparel when it comes to promoting a business, organization, or cause. These include:
- High visibility
Given hats are on people's heads, they're in a prominent, highly visible location.
Think about it -- even if you're in a crowd, you're going to see other people's heads. In fact, that might be the only part of their body that's visible. A hat is in a better place to be seen than any other type of apparel.
- Can be worn every day of the week
How many times does somebody typically use a t-shirt before washing it? And how many times a week can you see somebody wearing the same shirt even if it's clean?
Unlike most types of apparel, it's not unusual for somebody to wear the same hat everyday.
- People pay attention to hats
Although designs on custom apparel are likely to be noticed, a lot of people -- particularly sports fans -- seem to pay special attention to hats.
Hats are frequently used to show some kind of affiliation -- to a sports team, brand, or organization. Team hats are especially likely to get a reaction. And because peoples' eyes are drawn to hats, it's a great place for a logo.
Top custom hat brands
Although all custom hats are a great promotional item, some brands are better than others. Here are a few of the most notable brands -- ones that people absolutely love (and will therefore be more likely to actually use!)
Richardson is a super-popular, top-selling hat brand, typically seen as a mid-to-high-end choice. It offers a consistent, great fit.
This consistency is perhaps Richardson's greatest value. When you buy a Richardson, you always know exactly what you're getting.
Unlike some other brands, Flexfit is sold by sizes -- meaning it's not adjustable. Instead,these hats come in small, medium, large, and XL.
Despite being fitted hats, Flexfit can stretch. The brand is named for its "Flexfit Technology," a feature found in its core products (Flexfit®, Flexfit 110®, Flexfit 210® and Flexfit Delta®), which involves weaving polyurethane spandex into the sweatband and throughout the crown for added elasticity.
New Era is an incredibly well-recognized and respected brand. In fact, the company goes all the way back to 1920.
The business, which started with fashion caps, first made the leap to baseball caps in 1934. By 1950, New Era was producing hats for 16 baseball teams. And, in 1993, New Era became exclusive baseball cap supplier for Major League Baseball (MLB).
So even if you haven't heard the name until now, you've likely seen New Era baseball caps. And, if you're a longtime fan, you might get a kick out of using the MLB's official supplier for your own custom hats -- especially if you're using them for your own team.
New Era custom hats are available as unisex and also by size.
When it comes to athletic apparel, few brands are as well-recognized as Nike. Their iconic Swoosh logo is known globally as a symbol of excellence.
There's a certain prestige factor to Nike products, which might count double for custom caps. After all, the design and style aren't just speaking for themselves, you also have the Swoosh. That automatically suggests a higher value in many people's minds.
Nike can be amusing choice for custom logo hats, considering the hats will have two logos -- whatever you choose to put on it and the Swoosh logo. While it's not an issue for a sports team, businesses might think twice when choosing it for their company logo hats.
The challenges of hat design
There are two inescapable facts when it comes to caps.
First, a hat's surface isn't flat. This means that something that might be legible on a shirt won't always be easily-read on a hat.
Second, you're dealing with a small space. The average maximum size for an embellishment is only 4" x 2".
These two aspects will influence a lot of your design choices. And, if you keep them in mind, you'll wind up with much nicer custom embroidered caps.
Why you should always stick with embroidery when it comes to custom hats
Although screen printing is the preferred embellishment method for custom t-shirts, embroidery is the standard for caps.
Why the difference? The nature of the surface area.
Screen printing works well on custom shirts because shirts provide a smooth, flat surface. Hats, on the other hand, don't have a flat surface. As a result, printed hats tend to turn out badly.
For that reason, Bolt Printing doesn't offer custom-printed hats. If we can't ensure a level of quality you'll be happy with, we don't want to risk providing that service. (And while there are companies who sell custom-printed hats, you should be careful -- not every company has a commitment to quality. Many are all too happy to do whatever you ask, no matter how badly it turns out... and will often avoid your phone calls when you try to complain.)
While it can still be tricky to embroider custom hats, it's much more reliable than printing.
7 Things to consider when choosing -- and designing -- a custom hat
#1 - Too much information is often a problem
While you might think potential customers need to know as much as possible about your company, remember that your hat isn't a business card.
There's a place for your phone number, but it's probably not on your hat.
There's a place for your email address, but it's probably not on your hat.
There's a place to list what services you offer, but it's probably not on your hat.
So what should be on your hat?
Your company logo. This is the best option for a custom embroidery.
Your company's name. Whether on the front, back, or side of a hat, it's practical to have your company's name since not everybody will recognize your company logo.
Maybe a website. This one is iffier because it can be harder to read. And, honestly, most people can just Google your company's name.
Always keep in mind the average person might not see your hat for very long. If the person wearing your hat and the viewer are both walking, they might only see your design for a few seconds (and that's while the hat is being jostled!)
#2 - Avoid tiny elements
How much good is a graphic or text if nobody can see it? When you go with smaller elements, you run the risk of people either struggling to figure out what's there or missing it completely.
And then you have the practical issue of embroidering those details. A sewing machine is a bit like a jackhammer -- or, in other words, it tends to struggle with very small, very precise detail.
#3 - Less is more
With so little space to embellish, you really need to prioritize your content.
Again, anybody who sees your cap while walking will likely only catch a glimpse of what's there. The more content you have, the longer it'll take for them to make sense of the design. You might only have a few seconds to deliver your message. Make that time count.
#4 - Sizing
While the great thing about hats is most people can wear them, you still need to think about the sizes while ordering.
If you're planning on a normal giveaway, make sure to order a one-size-fits-all style of hat. After all, you won't know who's going to be wearing them.
However, if you're giving hats to specific people -- such as your employees -- you might choose more precise sizes instead.
(Note: Be careful with sized hats. You're often better off ordering a sample to make sure you get the right size.)
#5 - Comfort
The comfort level of your hats will influence how often they're worn. Unfortunately, comfort comes down to a lot more than just a question of size, but also how the headwear fits and other small details.
Higher-end brands tend to do better in terms of comfort. While you might spend a little more on a nicer brand of custom caps, those additional few dollars could decide whether it's something a person wears all the time or not at all. (Which can be huge if you want people wearing your custom logo hats -- think of each person as a walking billboard, bringing attention and interest to your business or cause.)
#6 - Style
There are more hat styles than most people realize and those styles can give very different impressions of your brand.
Some styles are more casual while others are either fashionable or practical. The style you might give to somebody working outside could be very different from the hats you might hand out to customers during a giveaway.
After all, dad hats will appeal more to some people than others.
#7 - Stay within the limitations
Similar to issues with tiny elements, there are a number of technical limitations when it comes to embroidering hats. Trying to incorporate too much into a small space will cause issues.
Bolt Printing has great headwear at great prices
Whether buying hats or beanies, Bolt Printing has you covered.
We carry all of the top brands and, thanks to our incredible embroidery knowledge (as well as our white glove service), we can make sure your custom apparel looks amazing.
Unlike other custom apparel companies, we have no setup fees or hidden fees -- the price is the price. (And, if something changes -- such as needing to make a substitution because a product isn't in stock -- you'll be notified promptly.)
Does it get better? You bet! We offer free shipping on most standard orders to a single location. And, if standard shipping isn't fast enough for you, we have expedited options at reasonable shipping costs.
How can Bolt Printing afford to offer such low prices and great terms?
There are a lot of things that can contribute to the cost of custom apparel. The biggest one by far is whether or not a company outsources its labor -- the actual customization of that apparel -- to another business. Basically, this is when one company serves as a middle man, standing between a customer and the company actually doing the work on the customer's order.
Bolt Printing is not a middle man. We handle all of our production in-house within our own facility in sunny Brookfield, CT.
That means we can offer you low prices WITHOUT sacrificing quality.
Start designing your own hat today!
If you've been considering custom embroidered hats for a while, now is a great time to look into them. You can use our online design studio to see how your custom embroidered caps might look.
Upload your art into our design lab to see how it'll look on a hat or, if you don't have a graphic, you can always pick something from our huge selection of clip art.
Not ready to order today? You can save your design for later.
Choosing the Best Custom Drawstring Bags: 4 Expert Tips
What's the first thing that jumps to mind when you think of promotional items? Is it pens? Mugs? Maybe t-shirts?
What if I specifically asked about custom bags? Odds are you immediately think about tote bags. However, there's another -- much more often overlooked -- option: custom drawstring bags.
What's a custom drawstring bag?
If you're completely unfamiliar with the concept, a drawstring bag is exactly what it sounds like: a bag with a drawstring. In this case, the drawstring is used to close the bag.
Sometimes called cinch bags, a drawstring bag can basically be used as a backpack -- but with two important differences.
First, a drawstring bag uses a much thinner material than most traditional backpacks. This helps it carry things that might not fit as neatly in a normal backpack (like a pair of shoes).
Second, drawstring backpacks don't use straps like normal backpacks. Instead, they rely on the same cord used to draw the bag closed. This means drawstring backpacks won't necessarily be as comfortable as their normal variants, especially if you're carrying a lot of weight in the bag.
The advantages of promotional drawstring bags
Although generally overlooked, custom drawstring bags offer an array of benefits that make them a great promotional tool. Here are just a few of the reasons you should consider using personalized drawstring bags.
Drawstring bags can feel like a big deal
A drawstring bag is basically a backpack, which gives the impression of being a premium item. After all, when's the last time somebody offered you a free backpack?
Despite the prestige factor, drawstring bags are almost shockingly inexpensive. In many cases, you won't pay much more than you would for a custom t-shirt.
Basically, they're an item with a perceived value that's far higher than their actual cost. This means it's something people will keep (and hopefully use) where you don't have to heavily invest in.
Can be used again and again and again (and again)
Although a custom t-shirt needs to be washed every time you wear it -- and probably won't be worn more than once a week unless it's a uniform -- custom drawstring backpacks can be used just about everyday. (However, when they do get dirty, you can clean them.)
Convenient design placement
When it comes to where you can put a design on your custom drawstring bags, that decision is pretty limited -- it's obviously going on the back.
However, even though there's really only one option, it's a fantastic place for a design. The back is a spot people can easily see and nobody has to worry about being seen staring while reading your message.
Good amount of space for a design
Whether you're looking to fit your brand message or just have a large logo, custom drawstring bags give you a lot of space to work with.
Flexible storage space
Besides offering a lot of storage, these bags provide a flexible space. Whether it's sports equipment, something for gym trips (shoes, workout clothes, etc), energy drinks, or just a big water bottle, drawstring bags can carry a wide variety of objects.
(Of course, it might help if you evenly distribute weight inside the backpack!)
An empty bag can be folded up and stuffed in your pocket when not in-use. So if you're carrying food or drinks, you can stash the bag in your pocket after you've finished eating. (Unlike a normal backpack which still needs to be carried.)
This kind of utility makes the bags popular at concerts and other outdoor events, meaning more people will see your drawstring bag's design.
Custom drawstring bags vs tote bags
When it comes to custom bags, totes tend to be the first thing people think of. And while each of these bags has its fans, there isn't necessarily a clear-cut "better" overall choice. Like anything else, it comes down how to how they'll be used.
Totes are a bit more professional, drawstring bags tend to be casual
What jumps to mind when you hear the word "backpack?" If you're like many people, your first thought is probably kids and school.
Most of us grew up with backpacks and then "outgrew" them when we became older (or, at least, stopped using them as often). Because drawstring bags might as well be called drawstring backpacks, they tend to attract that same association.
Tote bags, on the other hand, don't carry that stigma. And, even when totes are associated with schools, they're seen as what teachers (not students) carried around. Or, in simpler words, totes seem more "mature."
And that brings us to the larger issue of context...
Certain functions and activities favor one over the other
Can you imagine being given a drawstring bag at a business conference or trade show? How about a tote bag at a little league game? And have you ever brought a drawstring bag to the beach? Or been given a drawstring backpack with mementos at a wedding?
Either one bag or the other will make more sense within certain contexts. Anything athletic will probably favor drawstring bags while totes tend to associated with less-active endeavors (as well as some creative pursuits -- totes can be big when it comes to arts and crafts).
Very different types of storage
Besides those other factors, there's a very practical component, too. The two bags are good at storing very different types of things.
Tossing books into a tote bag? No big deal. Tossing books into a drawstring backpack? That can be a bit of an issue.
Gym clothes or equipment in a drawstring bag? Sure. Tossing them in a tote? Well... it'll feel awkward.
Additionally, the thin materials used for drawstring bags means that certain objects are likely to rip a hole. (While some drawstring backpacks are durable, they generally aren't even known for their abrasion resistance, let alone the ability to hold pointy objects!)
Finally, there's the subject of weight. While carrying a heavy tote bag is inconvenient, wearing a heavy drawstring backpack can be downright painful. Because the straps are just cords, they have a habit of digging into your shoulders.
Drawstring bags are print-only
While you can get some types of tote bags embroidered, drawstring bags are usually limited to print designs. Again, this comes down to the nature of the bags.
Embroidery works best with a thicker material. Because drawstring bags are on the thinner side, if you were to customize them with embroidery, the design wouldn't come out right.
Does this limitation make a difference? Not really. Considering drawstring bags tend to be more casual, you probably weren't going to embroider them anyway. And a print design is far more cost-effective because you can get a larger design at a lower price.
Custom drawstring bags vs traditional backpacks
Considering how often drawstring bags are used as backpacks, it's also worth comparing them to traditional backpacks -- particularly if you're looking for a higher-end item.
Drawstring backpacks are way cheaper than their normal counterparts
The biggest difference between personalized drawstring backpacks and custom traditional backpacks is the price... and you'll notice it immediately.
In many cases, you're looking at a minimum twenty-dollar difference. This makes the promotional backpack a super-high-end item, typically reserved for special occasions. Most people won't be able to justify the difference in price.
Traditional backpacks are far more durable... and offer more options
Given they're an ultra-premium item, traditional backpacks have a lot more going for them.
It's not uncommon for normal backpacks to have an unbelievable number of pockets -- including side pockets and interior pockets -- and most of them are somewhat more rigid, padded structures (meaning the contents of those pockets are better protected from everything else).
They're also incredibly durable, with the highest-end options using some of the most durable materials (among fabrics, anyway).
However, one of the biggest perks is having real shoulder straps, meaning they can help you carry heavy loads comfortably.
When it comes to choosing between custom drawstring bags and traditional backpacks, ask yourself whether you need those additional features.
However, if you are considering that jump, Port Authority's BG204 basic backpack is a great choice. Available in 6 colors, it's a significant step up from personalized drawstring bags.
Ultimately, the choice between drawstring bags and traditional backpacks will mostly come down to price. For most uses, normal backpacks just won't make sense.
Best uses for custom drawstring bags
If real estate is all about, "Location, location, location!", then drawstring bags are all about, "Occasion, occasion, occasion!"
These bags tend to work best as inexpensive giveaways at outdoor events. For example, if your business is trying to build its presence in a community, you could sponsor local sporting events -- like little league games or marathons -- where you'd give out bags.
Conversely, a minor league, school, or other local sports team could probably make a little extra money by selling t-shirts and bags featuring their team's logo.
It's also a nice little item for a church or family picnic, among other personal events.
Or, if you run a kid-centered business like an after-school program or summer camp, you might include the bags as an extra souvenir to get kids and their parents excited about your service (and to help spread the word).
Which custom drawstring bags are best for you?
While custom drawstring bags are an incredible promotional product, you're probably wondering which ones best meet your needs. And the short answer is... it depends on why you need them and what they'll be used for.
There are a number of things you should consider.
#1 - Cost
While drawstring bags tend to be inexpensive, the price can still vary by style. If you're trying to stretch your promotional budget as far as possible, picking the lowest-cost option might be a big help (although you generally won't break the bank on drawstring bags).
Currently, Bolt Printing's most budget-friendly option is our custom-printed cinch bag. Although it's low-cost, the material is durable and water-resistant. To top it all off, it's available in 10 colors.
If you're ordering custom drawstring bags for giveaways, cost will likely be a major factor. The savings when ordering in bulk can be substantial.
#2 - Bag size
How much are you looking to fit in your custom drawstring bags? If you want a lot of storage, you can go with a larger style.
The Liberty Bags 8882 is somewhat larger than your average custom drawstring bags, measuring 17" x 20". Available in 14 colors, it gives the wearer a bit more space for their stuff.
However, from a practical standpoint, most drawstring bags are going to be large enough to fit whatever you need. There really aren't any super-tiny drawstring backpacks.
#3 - The fabric
A drawstring bag's material can make a difference in its ability to carry your belongings.
Our BP6BP cotton custom drawstring bags (available in 22 different colors, including the vibrant orange seen above) use a 6-ounce cotton canvas, making them a little sturdier than than other options.
Conversely, Liberty Bags's 8886 promotional drawstring bags (available in 10 colors) use a denier nylon. This gives it a bit of weather resistance while still remaining lightweight.
How much do the materials matter, you ask? What's the big difference between cotton, nylon, polyester, and the rest? For the most part, the differences are going to be subtle. Polyester and nylon, for example, will be a little better at keeping out moisture. Cotton will be a bit more durable. However, all of these bags will be pretty good for most normal uses. (Unlike, say, a faux leather, which won't perform well outdoors.)
And other fabrics can provide a vastly different utility. For example, there are drawstring bags that use a mesh material, which lets the bag's contents dry or air out.
#4 - What about a zipper?