When starting a t-shirt line there are a number of things to consider. First and foremost you should always use a quality garment. An example of a quality garment versus a non quality garment would be a 30 singles American Apparel 2001 T versus a Gildan G500 heavyweight 100% cotton T. The differences between these two blank tee shirts while on the surface may seem minor are in reality vast.
Have you ever purchased or been given a cheap promotional t shirt? You know the one from your local marathon or three on three basketball tournament? Remember how when you washed it the very first time it faded, and for some reason seemed to grow wider yet shorter? Not exactly even shrinkage more of an obtuse growth? This 100% cotton product is your non quality basic T. Its also usually a heavy weight carded opened ended product, which means it wears about like a burlap sack. Although these T’s are inexpensive when comparing them to the afore mentioned American product and are great for cheap promotional use, when starting a clothing line if you are interested in repeat customers or any kind of reputation preservation at all you should probably consider a garment that washes and wears well.
Have you ever purchased or seen a seventy five dollar Nordstrom’s t shirt? You know the one that fits just right in all the right places, it looks new yet feels like it’s been washed and worn a hundred or more times? This is a high quality garment. It’s usually made from high quality lightweight cotton or in some cases a blend of cotton and polyester. Instead of wearing like a burlap sack it wears more like a nicely tailored garment. Also because of a higher thread count it holds color and size when washed and worn.
Unfortunately the American Apparel garment runs around six dollars while you can get the non quality basic Gildan for just upwards of two dollars. Believe me it’s tempting to go with the cheaper garment!! Don’t do it. Remember a clothing line is more than just a printed T. It’s a symbol of quality be that high or low. Don’t skimp or with your brand. People remember T shirts they like and ones they don’t. Believe it or not, it’s not the print they remember it’s the fit and feel. A couple great cost effective options in lieu of the spendy 2001 Tee are the Tultex 0202, or the Tultex 0241, both are amazingly affordable and comfortable. Two other comparable and affordable high quality brands are Next Level and 213 Apparel.
The number one choice for embellishment is screen printing. A Screen Printer can provide you with a number of options depending on how you want your finished garment to feel and look. The option you settle on depends on your target market, and your ultimate quality goal. Ask your printer about the different print process options available in order to insure your garments turn out exactly the way you expect them to.
The most popular medium of screen printing is Plastisol. Plastisol is basically a liquid plastic that when adhered to a t shirt dries rubbery and flexible. Popular examples of plastisol printed T’s are everywhere. Most restaurants and bars print using this medium. A plastisol print can be felt if you run your hand over the top of it.
A step up from the standard plastisol print is the soft feel plastisol. This is just a watered down version of a plastisol print. When done right it should have very little or no feel to the touch. As a general rule soft feel is a great alternative to a more expensive process like a water base or discharge print.
A water base print is much softer and is an ink based with water as opposed to plastic. Affliction garments are a popular example of water base printing. When you grab the garment you will be unable to tell the difference between the garment and the print. Discharge printing is similar to water base in.
That garments screen printed with this style have no distinguishable feel between the garment and the print. Discharge is the process of discharging a portion of the garments color to create another color. The is a very popular method of screening when it comes to vintage garments.
Bottom line, the highest quality choice is water base or discharge, but if you are on a budget you can probably get away with soft feel plastisol. One other tip on saving money with screen printing is cutting your colors and increasing your quantity.
Screen Printers charge you per color, and because they have to specially cut screens for each color they will also charge you a set up fee for each color. Printers also give you discounts for higher quantities of the same garment printed. Keeping this in mind when starting a clothing line you may want to consider rolling out one design at a time rather than say ten at once.
If you want to create a high quality garment but control your cost per garment, Keep your colors to a minimum, your quantity per design to a maxim, use a high quality blank T and a high quality print medium. One last trick to add color but not cost is a process called “half tones”. half tones are basically a lighter version of the same color used to create a new color. If your design has a light green and a dark green, instead of using two colors, request that the printer use a half tone of the dark green as the light green. Your design will look slightly different, but you will be getting the look of two colors for the price of one!