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Ecommerce Printing Guide: Top 5 Quality T-shirts For Your Store

Ecommerce Printing Guide: Top 5 Quality T-shirts For Your Store
Elina Bumbiere

By Elina Bumbiere

6 min read

Launching an online business can be quite difficult, and selecting the products you want to display on your store is no child’s play either. When it comes to t-shirts, everyone’s after quality, but it’s definitely not the only thing that can make your product line stand out.

The one downside to print-on-demand services is that you don’t get to see or feel what your chosen t-shirt looks and fits. And you can only tell so much by reading the product descriptions. We get it, so we want to make it easier for you. We did all the research, compared our t-shirts, and narrowed down the best choices. This is what our top 5 looks like:

In this post, we’ll compare these t-shirts in terms of fabric composition, weight, and transparency. But before we get to the more in-depth comparison, let’s go through this basic checklist for each of the garments:

  Bella + Canvas 3001 American Apparel 2001 Bella + Canvas 3413 Next Level 3600 Anvil 980
Style Unisex Unisex Unisex Women's: Next Level 3900 Women's: Anvil 880
Fabric 100% combed ring-spun cotton* 100% combed ring-spun cotton* 50% polyester, 25% combed ring-spun cotton, 25% rayon 100% combed ring-spun cotton* 100% ring-spun cotton*
Inside label
Outside label
Sleeve print
Sizes XS - 4XL XS - 3XL XS - 4XL XS - 3XL S - 3XL
Price $12.95 $13.95 $16.95 $14.50 $13.50

This basic checklist test may have already pointed out some potential winners for you, but we have a few more tricks up our sleeve to give a better comparison of these garments. First up – fabric composition.

Fabric composition

Most of our top 5 tees are made of 100% cotton, yet they’re not all the same. There’s Plain Jane aka cotton, followed by it’s prettier cousin ring-spun cotton,and finally, we have the queen of the ball –  combed cotton. Plus, we can’t forget fabric blends that contain cotton.

The processes for creating regular cotton, ring-spun cotton, combed cotton, and fabric blends with cotton are definitely not the same. So let’s figure out the specifics of each of these fabrics.

Regular Cotton

Regular cotton is made from soft vegetable fibers that are twisted together to make yarn, which is then woven to make the material. The regular cotton t-shirt is the industry standard. It’s less expensive to make, which means it’s a big seller.

Ring-Spun Cotton

The yarn for ring-spun cotton is made by twisting and thinning the cotton strands to make a very fine, strong, soft rope of cotton fibers. They’ve been through a spinning process that softens and straightens each fiber. Ring-spun cotton t-shirts are more durable and last longer than their regular counterparts, but will also be a bit more expensive, too.

Which of these shirts is ring-spun cotton: Anvil 980

Combed Cotton

Combed cotton has been combed to make the yarn stronger and softer. This combing process also rids the batch of shorter fibers and impurities, which results in a finer, stronger and more compact cotton. Combed cotton is considered higher-quality and softer than cotton that hasn’t been combed.

Ring-Spun Combed Cotton

It’s a step up in quality as it is even more refined. After the cotton fibers have been spun, they’re combed to remove any impurities or imperfect strands. This way, the knit that is produced is soft and extremely durable.

Which of these shirts is ring-spun combed cotton: Bella + Canvas 3001, American Apparel 2001, Next Level 3600

Fabric Blends

When it comes to fabric blends, the key is in the name – blends are created by combining several different types of fibers. These fabrics have their own unique properties. One of the most popular blends right now is a tri-blend that consists of polyester, cotton, and rayon (50/25/25).

T-shirts that are made from this particular tri-blend are soft, stretchy, and durable. What’s more, they have a snuggly feel. But note that DTG print on tri-blends have a vintage feel to them since the fabric shows through the ink a bit.

As you can see, there’s a fabric for everyone, so it’s all about finding what fits your needs. A good quality standard shirt that allows for more profit can be a better match for you than a tee that’s made of top-notch fabric and costs a bit more.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the different types of fabrics and their properties, take a look at our guide to cotton, polyester, and blended fabrics.

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Fabric weight

One of the most important factors to consider is the weight of the fabric. Fabric weight is the outcome of how a fabric has been woven, its finish and sometimes the fiber type.

In the US, the fabric is measured in ounces per square yard (oz/yd2), but everyone else out there might have an easier time understanding the metric unit– grams per square meter (g/m2). G/m2 and Oz/yd2 shows how much 1 square meter/yard of fabric weighs, and the higher the g/m2 or oz/yd2 number, the denser the fabric will be.

Let’s take a look at the fabric weight for our top 5 t-shirts:

  Bella + Canvas 3001 American Apparel 2001 Bella + Canvas 3413 Next Level 3600 Anvil 980
Fabric weight (oz/yd²) 4.2 oz/yd² 4.3 oz/yd² 3.4 oz/yd² 4.3 oz/yd² 4.5 oz/yd²
Fabric weight (g/m²) 142 g/m² 146 g/m² 115 g/m² 146 g/m² 153 g/m²

There used to be a close connection between weight and quality – heavy shirts were good, light shirts were cheap. That’s not the case these days. A lightweight shirt can be just as good when it comes to quality as a heavier one.

What’s the difference, then? Well, just like furry boots are made for winter and flip-flops for summer, a heavier shirt is more durable and warmer than a lightweight one which, on the other hand, is a better layering piece and a hands-down winner when it gets warm and sunny.

So your task in this case is not only to understand the needs of your audience, but also to properly present this info in your product descriptions.

Fabric transparency

We’ve looked at the basic checklist, fabric types, and weight. But here’s another nifty thing that might help you choose the t-shirt that suits your business best – a photo test to see where each of these top 5 tees land on the see-through scale.

We placed a Printful logo in-between the two sides of the shirt and photographed them under the same lighting to see which one will show through the logo the most. Note that the tri-blend Bella + Canvas 3413 doesn’t come in pure white (this is white fleck tri-blend).


A more lightweight shirt is also going to be a bit more sheer than a classic cotton one. You can see the difference when comparing Bella + Canvas 3413 and Anvil 980 – one is tri-blend and the other one is a heavier ring-spun cotton. It’s all about knowing what your customers prefer.

To get some insight into what people are looking for, check out this video:

preview play-button

Which is the best t-shirt?

So who wins the ultimate battle of the tees? Simply put, it’s the t-shirt YOU choose for your customers. We’ve said this a few times in this post, but the perfect tee is the one you know your customers are going to love. If you’re still not sure, order some samples to test your designs on the shirts.

And if you’re looking for something a little different, head to our product catalog to find the shirt that matches your vision!

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By Elina Bumbiere on Feb 1, 2017

Elina Bumbiere