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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. Alan

      Good morning Nora
      As a newly I greatly appreciate any and all of your detailed information!!! The best shirt that I have is DEFINITELY made by Comfort Colors. Gildan owns CC. Does Printful plan on adding the Comfort Color shirts to their line up?

      1. Alise Zindiga

        Hey Alan, we are happy to see that you found this information useful! In regards to Comfort Colors, we haven’t looked into it, however, feel free to submit your idea on our Feature Requestion page.

  1. Louise Buth

    For ease of use,…please create an all inclusive “graph” on a single sheet for convenience!
    Would appreciate if you’d add to your “basic checklist” chart, your figure/descriptions for…
    – Cotton content/variety……ex. Cotton: Ring-spun, or Cotton: Combed etc.
    – Sheerness…….maybe a % to differentiate between your various t-Shirt Brands

    – At the bottom of the page include a list of “definitions” for the various cotton varieties
    – & how % of sheerness can be used to compare varieties of T’s

  2. Mike

    One of the issues I always have with t shirts is the neck size. I hate getting and even selling a shirt with a wide neck, they just looked stretched out. Many makers seem to default with a larger neck. Can neck size be included with the chest and length measurements in the descriptions? It sure would help me and others narrow down what brands to sample. The AA triblend shirts have a great fitting neck, but now that they’re sold to Gildan who knows if they’ll be around much longer….

  3. Joe

    I totally agree with your recommendation of Next Level. Unfortunately Printful only offers 8 of the 30 colors in their 3600 Style. Otherwise, they’d be my go-to tee. With American Apparel’s future uncertain, I would love to see Printful offer more colors and styles from Next Level.

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Thanks for the suggestion! We’re adding more colors to some of our most popular t-shirt models to make up for American Apparel discontinuations, but I’m not sure what’s planned for the 3600 specifically.

    1. Nora Inveiss

      We want to continue stocking them! Right now the ball is in Gildan’s court – once they decide what to do with American Apparel products, we’ll have a better idea of where we stand.

  4. Ananya

    Your blog is very useful for me to know the sizes of clothes and other differences regarding ladies and men’s clothes and especially I am glad to tell you that after reading your blog I came to know that there are so many types of cotton fabric.
    Thank you.

  5. T-shirts

    T-shirt collection is great. You are providing such a great content for online shops. I’m considering adding t-shirts this season and this is helpful for me to collect the different t-shirts.Great post and you done a great work.Keep posting.

  6. David

    Great article! I’m brand new to this stuff and your blog posts have been immensely helpful. Quick question, is the NL 3900 the women’s version of the men’s 3600? Everything else about the shirt is the same?

    Is there a woman’s version of the Bella + Canvas 3001?


    1. Nora Inveiss

      Hey David! I’m glad you’re finding the blog helpful 🙂

      I’m not sure if NL designed these models to be complementary, but I’d say the 3900 and 3600 are comparable. You might want to order sample t-shirts to see for yourself!

      The Bella + Canvas 3001 is unisex, but if you’re looking for a women’s cut, you can try the 8413.

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