How To Choose The Best T-Shirt For Your Custom Apparel Business

by Gooten Editorial Team on Feb. 11, 2022

The humble t-shirt is the most popular garment option for custom merch and on-demand apparel businesses. But when it comes to choosing which model is the right one for your brand, there seems to be an endless number of options. In order to help you narrow down which ones are a good fit for your brand, we’re going to break down the main factors when evaluating a t-shirt. 

Especially for print on demand businesses, where everything happens online, it can be difficult to determine the various factors of a shirt just from your computer or phone screen. Additionally, factors like comfort  and style can vary from person to person and brand to brand. So instead, we’re going to go over the most basic aspects of how a t-shirt is made so that you can get a true sense what to assess. The four basic factors of a t-shirt are:

  1. Yarn
  2. Fabric
  3. Weight
  4. Construction
  5. Fit

At the end of the day, we always recommend ordering samples so that you can get the true look and feel of a product, but hopefully this guide can be the foundation to choosing your top options. 

Apparel Components You Should Understand For Your Print on Demand Business


First up – yarn. People tend to associate bundles of yarn with knitting or crocheting. But when it comes to apparel, yarn is the essential element that makes up the fabric of a garment.

Cotton is the most common type of yarn and in order to make it into a garment, it is twisted multiple times. With t-shirts, you’ll commonly hear the phrases ‘30 singles’ or ‘32 singles’—this refers to the yarn count, which is the number of times the yarn is twisted and the number of ends of yarns used. Meaning, 30 singles is a single yarn twisted 30 times.

While it might sound counterintuitive, the higher the yarn count, the finer (and softer) the thread of the fabric will be. An easy way to understand yarn count is to think of bedsheets. The higher the thread count, the softer and higher quality the sheets are. 

One of the most popular print on demand shirts at Gooten is the Bella + Canvas 3001. It is a 32-singles shirt which means that the yarn used in the shirt has been spun around 32 times leading to a fabric with the perfect face for on demand printing. 

Bella + Canvas 3001

All the shirts we offer at Gooten are 30-singles or higher because that amount is optimal for DTG printing. Anything lower is not recommended print on demand t-shirts because the print quality will be substandard. 


Now that you know about yarn, let’s move onto fabric.

Plainly speaking, fabric is a combination of yarns. Because there are an endless amount of combinations, there are a lot of different types of fabrics!

Some of the more popular fabric combos are:

  • 100% cotton
  • 50% polyester / 50% cotton
  • Tri-blend (poly/cotton/rayon) 

The reason different yarns are combined into a fabric is to reap the benefits of each yarn to net a desired effect. For example, polyester can act as a wicking agent and helps resist wrinkles.  Whereas, cotton acts as a cooling agent, providing breathability. 

When it comes to shirts, cotton is the most common fabric. Here are main types of cotton you’ll encounter with print on demand t-shirts:

1. Regular cotton

is made from soft vegetable fibers that are twisted into yarn, which is then woven into fabric. Regular cotton is less expensive to make and is the industry standard. Ex: Gildan 2000

2. Ringspun yarn

is made by twisting and thinning the cotton strands to make a very fine, strong, soft rope of cotton fibers. Ring-spun cotton t-shirts are generally more durable and longer-lasting than their regular counterparts, but will also be more expensive, too. Ex: Delta 11600L

3. Combed cotton

is a kind of cotton that 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. Example: Bella Canvas 3001

If you’re looking for a more economical choice, we recommend choosing a shirt made from regular cotton. If you’re looking for something more premium or that has a softer feel, then we suggest going with ringspun, combed, or a combination of the two.


Once you determine what kind of cotton you prefer, the next factor to consider is the fabric weight. The two most common weights you’ll see for adult-sized tees are: 4.5 oz and 6.0 oz. Let’s dive a little deeper into what the differences are and how they affect the feel of a shirt.

  1. 4.5 oz is obviously a lighter weight. A 4.5 oz t-shirt is softer, looser, and. This kind of shirt will be lighter on the body and is often more breathable for those hot, summer days. They are also lighter to pack and ship, but they can get wrinkled more easily. 
  2. 6.0 oz is a medium to heavier weight option. They tend to be slightly more expensive because more yarn is used to make the garment. It has a more substantial feeling, and the heavier fabric can feel to some like it’s richer or more expensive. However, an important thing to note is that weight does not correlate with quality. A heavier shirt doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better quality. A lighter shirt can still be a high-quality on-demand garment. A 6.0 oz shirt will stand away from the body more—meaning, it’s less clingy. The added weight means it can also take longer to dry but is tends to wrinkle less.
4.5 oz: Gildan 64000
6.0 oz: Hanes 5250


How a garment is constructed is the next factor to consider when choosing a t-shirt for your print on demand business. The two most common construction types are: 1) cut & sew and 2) tubular 

1. Cut & Sew (Side seams): You probably have never noticed these on your t-shirts before, but once you learn what they are, you won’t be able to unsee them! When a shirt is created with side-seams, the front, back, and sleeves are cut separately and then sewn together. 

2. Tubular: Tubular shirts are created by literally cutting a cylinder—or tube—of fabric, creating a space for the neckline and armholes. Then the sleeves and neck finishing are separately sewn on. They are cheaper to manufacture because they eliminate the steps of cutting and sewing the garment together, but they can come at a cost to the quality and fit of the shirt.   


Now that you know the two main ways a t-shirt is constructed, you can better understand how the construction process affects the fit or the style of the shirt.

  • Cut and sew shirts create a side seam that runs from the underarm to the bottom hem of the shirt. This leads to a more stable fit, meaning it will torque less over time and multiple washings. Side-seam shirts tend to be a bit pricier because they are more labor intensive, but they are generally associated with a higher quality fit. For print on demand, side-seams can better help the printer operator center a design on a shirt because they can visibly see the sides of the fabric. 
  • On the other hand, tubular shirts are less form fitting. Because our bodies aren’t shaped like tubes, these shirts are tighter fitting and less balanced than cut and sew shirts. The neckline tends to creep up higher on the wearer and sometimes you will see these referred to as “fashion fit” or “European fit.” While tubular shirts are quick and cheap to produce, you can lose out on fit.
Side Seam vs. Tubular (Source: Bella + Canvas)

Picking Your Perfect Print on Demand T-Shirt

Having a basic understanding of how a t-shirt is constructed is the foundation to choosing the perfect tee. Wading through the countless styles today can be overwhelming, but knowing the differences in yarn count, fabric, weight, construction, and fit can help save your print on demand business time and money. 

Want to learn more about scaling your custom t-shirt business?

Check out Inside Out in the T-Shirt Industry, an eBook created with Shirt Lab. Learn all about textiles and printing techniques involved in creating the best version of everyone's favorite stable item: the t-shirt.