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Beginner's handbook

Weighing Your Options: An In-Depth T-Shirt Weight Guide

Weighing Your Options: An In-Depth T-Shirt Weight Guide
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

11 min read

We need to talk about t-shirt weight. While it doesn’t seem like the flashiest topic at first, it’s vital to the quality of your custom products. The weight of your tee influences various factors—from the feel and fit to the durability and print results.

Dive with us into the realm of t-shirt weights, from lighter tees like a gentle summer breeze on your skin to hefty ones that give you that cozy, snug feeling. This guide will help you figure out which weight is the perfect match for your vision and customer needs.

So get ready, fabric enthusiasts! It’s time to weigh in on t-shirt weight. 

How much does an average t-shirt weigh?

The weight of a t-shirt can vary significantly depending on the material, size, and thickness of the fabric. However, as a general rule, a medium-sized t-shirt made from a standard cotton fabric weighs around 4.5 to 5.5 ounces (roughly 130–155 grams). Fabric weight is typically measured in ounces per square yard or grams per square meter (GSM).

How is t-shirt fabric weight measured? 

T-shirt weight is typically measured using one of three methods: 

  1. Grams per square meter (GSM)

  2. Ounces per square yard (oz/yd²) 

  3. Count known as “singles”

Let’s break them all down.

Grams per square meter (GSM)

GSM is a standard unit of measure used in the textile industry to determine the weight of the fabric. It tells you how much a square meter of a certain fabric weighs, considering the material’s thickness and density.

This is an essential factor in understanding textile quality. A high GSM indicates a denser, heavier, and generally more durable fabric, while a low GSM suggests a lighter, less dense fabric. But note that a higher or lower GSM isn’t inherently better or worse—it all depends on what you want from the material.

For example, lighter fabrics (with lower GSM) are preferred for summer clothing or for garments requiring a softer drape. Heavier fabrics (with higher GSM) on the other hand can be used as part of winter outfits or in products that experience more wear and tear.

Ounces per Square Yard (oz/yd²)

This is the imperial equivalent of GSM. It refers to the weight of the fabric in ounces per square yard. Again, a higher value indicates a heavier, denser fabric. A typical t-shirt is around 4–7 oz/yd².

Singles (Thread Count)

The term “singles” refers to the yarn count, a measure of the fineness or coarseness of the fabric. The thread count is determined by the number of times the yarn is twisted, which affects the fabric’s weight, texture, strength, and drape. A higher singles count indicates a finer fabric, which is often softer, smoother, and lighter.

In contrast, a lower singles count means a coarser and heavier fabric. For example, a typical premium t-shirt might be made from 30 singles of yarn, while a basic, heavier t-shirt might be made from 18 singles of yarn.

Each of these measurements can help determine the quality, durability, and feel of a t-shirt. However, it’s important to note that a higher GSM or oz/yd², or a higher or lower singles count, doesn’t automatically mean better quality. The “best” weight and thread count depends on other factors like the intended use of the t-shirt, personal preferences, and specific design requirements.

Lightweight t-shirts

Welcome to the featherweight division. T-shirts in the 120–150 GSM or 3.5–4.5 oz/yd² range belong to what we lovingly refer to as “the lightweights.” 

Now, you might think the term “lightweight” implies a lack of substance or quality. But in reality, it’s quite the opposite. Lightweight t-shirts are revered in the clothing industry, mainly for their ability to find the optimal harmony between comfort and versatility. They may be light on the scale, but they’re certainly big on features.

Feel and comfort

Picture those breezy, summer-friendly tees that feel as light as a cloud. Lightweight t-shirts are usually soft and smooth to the touch, providing a comfortable wear experience. If you’re in the business of keeping your customers cool, lightweight tees are your secret weapon. The thinner fabric also drapes well on various body types, offering a flattering fit.

Breathability

Because of the low t-shirt weight, these t-shirts allow for better airflow compared to their heavier counterparts. This makes them particularly suitable for warmer climate or activities that generate a lot of body heat, like working out or performing manual labor.

Printability

In print-on-demand, these lightweight tees shine, particularly with DTG (direct-to-garment) printing. The fineness of lightweight t-shirts can result in a good print resolution, meaning intricate or detailed designs may appear clear and defined, but there’s always a risk of the designs cracking if they’re not taken care of properly. Remember to include care instructions for each garment in your product descriptions. This will ensure customer satisfaction and will make their shirts last longer. 

PS You should reconsider if you want to use any of the lightest shirts for custom embroidery, as the thickness of it can pucker the fabric. 

Durability

While lightweight t-shirts provide comfort and breathability, they may not be as durable as heavier ones. However, with proper care and washing, they can still maintain their quality over time.

Lightweight options at Printful

Unisex lightweight t-shirts

Men’s lightweight t-shirts

Embroidered Sports Jersey | Sport-Tek ST350

3.8 oz/yd² (128.8 g/m²)

Men’s Curved Hem T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 3003

4.2 oz/yd² (142.4 g/m²)

Men’s Fitted T-Shirt | Next Level 3600

4.3 oz/y² (145.8 g/m²)

 

All-Over Print Men's Athletic T-Shirt

4.42 oz/yd² (150 g/m²), weight may vary by 5%

 

Women’s lightweight t-shirts

Women's Relaxed Tri-Blend T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 6413

3.80 oz/yd² (128.84 g/m²)

Women’s Relaxed T-Shirt | Bella + Canvas 6400

4.2 oz/y² (142 g/m²)

 

All-Over Print Women’s Athletic T-Shirt

Fabric weight (may vary by 5%): 4.42 oz/yd² (150 g/m²)

 
Women’s Fitted V-Neck T-Shirt

Women’s Fitted V-Neck T-Shirt | B&C TW045

4.13 oz/yd² (140 g/m²)

 
Women’s High-Waisted Tee

Women’s High-Waisted Tee | Cotton Heritage OW1086

4.3 oz/yd² (145.79 g/m²)

 
Women's Fashion Fit T-Shirt

Women's Fashion Fit T-Shirt | Gildan 880

4.3 oz/yd² (145.8 g/m²)

 
Women’s Round Neck Tee

Women’s Round Neck Tee | AS Colour 4008

Fabric weight: 4.42 oz/yd² (150 g/m²)

 
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Mediumweight t-shirts

Let’s shift gears and slide into the middle lane. The 150–180 GSM or 4.5–5.3 oz/yd² range is like the Goldilocks of t-shirt weight. Not too heavy, not too light, but just right. Perfect for those who want a blend of comfort, durability, and versatility.

Mediumweight t-shirts are the unsung heroes in the spectrum of t-shirt weights, effortlessly encapsulating the best of both worlds. On one hand, they maintain the versatile, easy-to-wear appeal of their lightweight counterparts. They are light enough for summer wear and layering, yet they bring a bit more substance to the table, providing a more structured and polished appearance.

On the other hand, they inch towards the durability and robust feel typically associated with heavyweight t-shirts. Mediumweight t-shirts come with a touch of added resilience, making them less prone to wear and tear. Whether it’s a day at the park or an evening jog, these t-shirts have got your back, quite literally.

And it’s not just about durability and comfort. There’s a certain sense of versatility to mediumweight t-shirts that makes them a staple in every wardrobe because of their. . .

Feel and comfort

Mediumweight t-shirts in the 150–180 GSM range keep a good balance of softness and substance. They offer a comforting touch that’s light enough to feel relaxed yet sturdy enough to feel high quality. 

These t-shirts are the all-weather friends of the wardrobe. Not too heavy for the summer heat, yet substantial enough to provide some warmth when the temperature dips a little. They’re a reliable choice for your customers, regardless of the season.

Breathability

Breathability is another winning feature. The mediumweight fabric of these t-shirts allows for efficient air circulation, keeping your customers cool and comfortable. This makes them great for active wear or casual outfits on warm days.

Printability

When it comes to t-shirt printing, mediumweights are the perfect canvas. The 150–180 GSM range is a sweet spot for many printing techniques. Whether it’s DTG, sublimation, or screen printing, these shirts can handle it all with ease. These custom shirts are thick enough for the prints to look bold and vibrant, while still being comfortable to wear in a variety of climates.

Durability

In terms of durability, mediumweight t-shirts sit snugly in the middle. They offer the sturdiness needed to withstand daily wear and frequent washes without being as heavy as their heavyweight counterparts. These are an excellent choice for customers looking for a tee that can hold its own.

Exploring the world of t-shirt weight is about knowing your customer base and aligning that with the best tee. The mediumweights, with their perfect balance, might just be the versatile solution you need to meet a wide range of customer needs and preferences.

Mediumweight options at Printful

Unisex mediumweight t-shirts

All-Over Print Recycled Unisex Sports Jersey

All-Over Print Recycled Unisex Sports Jersey

4.7 oz/yd² (160 g/m²)

Unisex Organic Cotton T-Shirt

Unisex Organic Cotton T-Shirt | Stanley/Stella STTU755

5.3 oz/yd² (180 g/m²)

  Unisex Oversized T-shirt

Unisex Oversized T-shirt | United Athle 5508-01

5.6 oz/yd² (190 g/m²)

Unisex Short Sleeve Tee

Unisex Short Sleeve Tee | Printstar 00085-CVT

5.6 oz/yd² (190 g/m²)

Unisex Basic Softstyle T-Shirt

Unisex Basic Softstyle T-Shirt | Gildan 64000

Fabric weight: 4.5 oz/yd² (153 g/m²)

  Unisex Organic Cotton Tee

Unisex Organic Cotton Tee | AS Colour 5001G

5.3 oz/yd² (180 g/m²)

Men’s mediumweight t-shirts

Men’s Fitted Straight Cut T-Shirt

Men’s Fitted Straight Cut T-Shirt

Fabric weight: 4.8 oz/yd² (165 g/m²)

Men’s Classic Tee

Men’s Classic Tee | Gildan 5000

Fabric weight: 5.0–5.3 oz/yd² (170–180 g/m²)

  Lightweight Cotton T-Shirt

Lightweight Cotton T-Shirt | OGB-910

Fabric weight: 5.3 oz/yd² (180 g/m²)

 

Women’s mediumweight t-shirts

Women’s Fitted Eco Tee

Women’s Fitted Eco Tee | Stanley/Stella STTW032

Fabric weight: 4.57 oz/yd² (155 g/m²)

Women’s Basic Organic T-Shirt

Women's Basic Organic T-Shirt | SOL’S 02077

4.57 oz/yd² (155 g/m²) 

Organic Cotton T-Shirt Dress

Organic Cotton T-Shirt Dress | Stanley/Stella STDW144

5.3 oz/yd² (180 g/m²)

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Heavyweight t-shirts

Navigating into the 180–200+ GSM or 5.3–6+ oz/yd² zone, we’re docking at the cozy harbor. These heavyweight t-shirts bring a noticeable difference in feel and comfort. They have a unique, super soft touch that speaks volumes about quality. They’re smooth, sturdy, and feel just right. Not to mention, they’re pretty stylish too.

Heavier fabrics drape differently, creating a distinctive silhouette that’s not easily replicated by lightweight ones. If you’re looking to add a sense of luxury and indulgence to your collection, heavyweight t-shirts are the way to go.

Breathability

Heavyweight t-shirts may not be the top choice when it comes to breathability in the heat of summer. But hold on, they’ve got their moments. Picture a breezy summer night, a crisp autumn day, or a mild winter afternoon—these are where heavyweight tees shine. They offer a touch more warmth, making them the cozy companion when the weather’s on the cooler side. 

Printability

Heavyweights are the best quality t-shirts for printing. They’re able to hold prints and designs with a distinct crispness, thus amplifying their visual appeal. With their thick fabric, your designs will not only look vivid but will also last through countless washes without fading. 

Durability

Durability is where these t-shirts truly shine. 180–200+ GSM tees are made for the long haul. They’re trusty companions that can stand up to frequent use and multiple washes, maintaining their shape and color over time. If your customers are looking for t-shirts that are long-lasting investments, these heavyweight champs are the way to go.

Read more: What Is a Heavyweight T-Shirt: A Short Guide

Mediumweight options at Printful

Unisex heavyweight t-shirts

Unisex Organic T-Shirt

Unisex Organic T-Shirt | Econscious EC1000

5.5 oz/yd² (186.5 g/m²)

Unisex Denim T-Shirt

Unisex Denim T-Shirt | Husky CA6689

5.7 oz/yd² (193.6 g/m²)

  Unisex Garment-Dyed Pocket T-Shirt

Unisex Garment-Dyed Pocket T-Shirt | Comfort Colors 6030

6.1 oz/yd² (206.8 g/m²)

 

Men’s heavyweight t-shirts

Adult Quality Tee

Adult Quality Tee | United Athle 5001-01

5.6 oz/yd² (190 g/m²)

  Men’s Premium Cotton T-Shirt

Men’s Premium Cotton T-Shirt

5.89 oz/yd² (200 g/m²)

  Men’s Garment-Dyed Heavyweight T-Shirt with design

Men’s Garment-Dyed Heavyweight T-Shirt | Comfort Colors 1717

6.1 oz/yd² (206.8 g/m²)

 
All-Over Print Men’s Crew Neck T-Shirt with feather print

All-Over Print Men’s Crew Neck T-Shirt

6.19 oz/yd² (210 g/m²), weight may vary by 5%

Men’s Premium Heavyweight Tee on a man with tattoos

Men’s Premium Heavyweight Tee | Cotton Heritage MC1086

6.5 oz/yd² (220 g/m²)

 
Men’s Champion T-Shirt with design

Men’s Champion T-Shirt

7 oz/yd² (237.3 g/m²)

Oversized Tie-Dye T-Shirt

Oversized Tie-Dye T-Shirt | Shaka Wear SHHTDS

7.5 oz/yd² (254 g/m²)

 

Women’s heavyweight t-shirts

Blue All-Over Print Women’s Crew Neck T-Shirt

All-Over Print Women’s Crew Neck T-Shirt

Fabric weight (may vary by 5%): 6.19 oz/yd² (210 g/m²)

 

Weighing up your choices

And there you have it—your ultimate guide to navigating the wide world of t-shirt weight. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer when choosing the weight of your tees. It’s all about what fits best for your design vision, your customers’ preferences, and the statement you want your brand to make.

Whether you opt for the airy feel of a 120–150 GSM tee, the versatile nature of the 150–180 GSM range, or the snug comfort of 180–200+ GSM heavyweight champs, you’re making a choice that speaks volumes about your brand.

So take this knowledge, apply it to your next design project, and feel the difference it makes. Here’s to creating fantastic products that not only look great, but also feel amazing to wear. Happy designing, and even happier selling!

author

By Lilija Karpjaka on Jul. 19, 2023

Lilija Karpjaka

SEO Content Writer

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.