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

By Reading Time: 4 minutes

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 3001American Apparel 2001Bella + Canvas 3413Next Level 3600Anvil 980
StyleUnisexUnisexUnisexWomen's: Next Level 3900Women's: Anvil 880
Fabric100% combed ring-spun cotton*100% combed ring-spun cotton*50% polyester, 25% combed ring-spun cotton, 25% rayon100% combed ring-spun cotton*100% ring-spun cotton*
Inside label
Outside label
Sleeve print
SizesXS - 4XLXS - 3XLXS - 4XLXS - 3XLS - 3XL

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.

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 3001American Apparel 2001Bella + Canvas 3413Next Level 3600Anvil 980
Fabric weight (oz/yd²)4.2 oz/yd²4.3 oz/yd²3.4 oz/yd²4.3 oz/yd²4.5 oz/yd²
Fabric weight (g/m²)142 g/m²146 g/m²115 g/m²146 g/m²153 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:

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!

A self-proclaimed queen of puns with an odd passion for stats and all things UX / marketing. Has zero chill when it comes to overcomplicating… anything. Especially new feature development.


  1. Lisa D

    This is *great.* I have 3 size L sample shirts I bought from Z*zz**. One fits tightly on my size 2 friend, one long-sleeved one labeled women’s L turned out to be “unisex” i.e. men’s and goes down to my knees with sleeves designed for gorillas, and the other fits fairly well but is a bit too short. (Not to mention the differences in quality and weight.) I will keep this info for when I order my samples from you! Everyone who sells t-shirts online should include width and length in the basic description!

  2. Lisa D

    But then . . . I just went and looked at your Ladies’ Next Level. It is described as slim fitting, and the reviews confirm that it is. This is a good reason why including the measurements of the shirt in your listing would be helpful. Clearly your comments above about the fit of the Next Level refer to the men’s shirt.

    1. Elina Bumbiere Post author

      Hey Lisa,
      You’re right – the women’s tee is described as slim fitting and we are looking at the men’s shirts here. The basic checklist simply points out which of these top 5 tees also has women’s models.

      However, the Next Level 3900 is still half an inch wider than American Apparel. We have a sizing chart available for each model on our product catalog, and it’s always a good idea to check it out. 🙂

      1. Alex

        Is the NL 3600 for men not also fittted? That is what it states in the description. I have ordered some samples purely on the fact it says it is fitted.

        1. Elina Bumbiere Post author

          Hey, Alex!
          The NL 3600 is a fitted shirt, however, the American Apparel 2001 definitely fits more snug and is more body-hugging. We compared the same size shirts and the NL size M is wider than the AA 2001 one.

    1. Elina Bumbiere Post author

      Hey, Craig!
      These are the top 5 because they all have outstanding printing results. Knowing that the other factors such as fit, fabric, and weight are the ones you need to consider when selecting the right garment for your brand.

        1. Alise Zindiga

          In terms of better DTG print quality, 100% cotton is always the best material.
          Both Gildan 64000 and Bella Canvas 3001 are 100% cotton for solid color tees, but there are differences in other colors.

          Gildan 64000:
          * Sport Grey is 90% ring-spun cotton, 10% polyester
          * Dark Heather is 65% polyester, 35% cotton

          * Ash color is 99% combed and ring-spun cotton, 1% polyester
          * Heather colors are 52% combed and ring-spun cotton, 48% polyester
          * Athletic and Black Heather are 90% combed and ring-spun cotton, 10% polyester
          * Heather Prism colors are 99% combed and ring-spun cotton, 1% polyester

          Another difference is fabric weight—Gildan is a bit thicker than BC in this case.

          At the end of the day, it’s a matter of taste. Polyester blend will give a more faded look, while 100% cotton keeps a more vibrant look. Some niches prefer light t-shirts, while some prefer a thicker option.

    1. Elina Bumbiere Post author

      Hey Nathan,
      There was some conflicting info on different product description pages. We got to the bottom of it and turns out Bella + Canvas 3001 is also combed cotton. We’ve since edited our description page. Thanks for catching this one! 🙂

  3. cat bishop

    You guys are providing such such great content for online shops. I’m considering adding t-shirts this year and this is SO helpful. Keep up the great work!

    Cat Bishop

  4. Adrian Sane

    I normally use American Apparel’s 2001 but have been considering using a different brand to offer bigger sizes in my store. I’d also like to offer as close to as many colors that AA offers to any new brand I introduce to my product line. I ordered a BC sample to see what the quality was like and it felt too light for my taste. A few friends and family confirmed this for me as well. Looks like the clear winner for me is going to be Gildan 2000. Awesome info, great article. Thanks!!!

  5. Edwin

    Amazing post Elina!
    We’ve recently made the switch from American Apparel 2001 to Bell+Canvas 3001. The option to print custom inside labels on Bella+Canvas 3001 sold us :). Plus, their fabric seems to bee a little softer than American Apparel 2001.

  6. Adrian Sane

    Any word yet on when you’ll be adding new colors to the Bella+Canvas 3001 line? This is what I’m using to replace ALL of the AA items in my store and, I have to admit, the available colors is kinda disappointing in comparison with what AA offered me. Not to mention that B+C colors look kind of dull by comparison. Thanks!

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