Are you printing t-shirts? It could band shirts, jerseys for your team, or matching uniforms for your volunteers. If so, you’re likely going to want some kind of logo, design, artwork, or text on all of your custom t-shirts. It’s important that this graphic is the right size!

Maybe you’re not a screen printing pro, but that’s no problem. Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about printing on your tees.  

Where Can You Print on a T-Shirt?

You don’t have to just print the design on the front of the t-shirt and call it a day. The following areas of a shirt can be printed with a design:

Full Front

The graphic takes up the entire front of the t-shirt. Band shirts commonly fall into this category, printing their album cover or elaborate artwork smack dab in the middle.

Full Back

You can get an elaborate design printed on the back of the shirt rather than the front. Jerseys for a sports league, for example, will have a number, name, and maybe a sponsor printed in this area.

Top Back

Some t-shirts are printed with a name or text running across the back from left to right. This is usually placed near the top.

Across the Chest

It’s common for non-profits to wear t-shirts that say “volunteer” printed across the chest.

Pocket

Team uniforms for fast food restaurants or retail stores will often have a simple name or text printed on the right chest.

Short Sleeve

If you have a small logo, it might be a good idea to print it on a short sleeve rather than on the front. This is a simple look that makes the tee look almost plain at first glance.

Long Sleeve

A graphic design or text printed on a long sleeve creates an unexpected, yet trendy look. This makes it a good printing idea for fashion stores and winter-themed events.

What Size Should an Image Be for a Printed T-Shirt?

Now it’s time for the fun part – printing on your custom t-shirts. The question is how big or how small should you print the design or text? Use this guide to help you get started!

Full Front & Full Back

  • Image Size for Adult Men’s:  11” to 12.5”
  • Image Size for Adult Women’s:  9” to 11”
  • Image Size for Youth:   9” to 10.5”

How to measure a t-shirt for printing on the front or back:

Use a tape measure and measure 2” to 3.5” down from the collar on the front or back of the shirt. The idea is for the design to be printed on the intersection of the center line of the tee and the chest line. This will give you perfect placement on your custom shirts every time! 

Across the Chest & Top Back

How to measure a t-shirt for printing across the chest:

1.  Start by putting one finger from the bottom of the collar to the chest. Mark that area.

2.  Put one finger from the middle of the left sleeve to the chest. Mark that area.

3.  Use one finger from the middle of the right sleeve to the chest. Mark that area.

4. Print your design between the three marked areas.

Pocket

How to measure a t-shirt for printing on the pocket:

1.  Measure the vertical reference line – Start at the area where the collar meets the shoulder and use a tape measure to measure to the bottom of the arm hole.

2. Keep an item in that area to mark your place.

3.  Measure the horizontal reference line – From the bottom of the arm hole, measure the width of one finger to your marker.

4. Print your design in this area.

Short Sleeve

  • Image Size for Adult: 4” x 3”
  • Image Size for Youth: 3” x 2”

Try to center the graphic on the sleeve of your custom t-shirts as much as possible. Be sure that you don’t take up the entire sleeve with the t-shirt printing and that you still have a little bit of the color peeking through on the sides, top, and bottom.

Long Sleeve

The ideal size for the graphic on a long sleeve t-shirt is somewhere between 2.5” x 14” and 3.5” x 15.” You want to start the design about a finger down from the shoulder and make sure it doesn’t end up hitting the wrist area.

Onesie

Babies love custom printing, too! You can print a fun design on the front of a onesie. The size of your image just depends on the size of the garment.

  • 0-3 mos. – Image Size: 3” x 3”
  • 3-6 mos. – Image Size: 4” x 4”
  • 6-9 mos. – Image Size: 5” x 5”
  • 12 mos. – Image Size: 6” x 6”
  • 18 mos. – Image Size: 7” x 7”
  • 24 mos. – Image Size: 8” x 8”

Do You Have to Pay for Every Ink Color?

The final thing to keep in mind when printing t-shirts is the number of ink colors you use. This will affect your final price, so it’s a good idea to know your options.

Want only 1 ink color? Try screen printing or heat transfer!

Typically, only one ink color is included free when screen printing or applying a heat transfer to custom shirts. A good rule is to stick with colors of a lighter or darker scale.

For instance, if you’re printing on a dark t-shirt, use a light color like white, lavender, or sky blue. If you’re printing on a light t-shirt, use a dark color like black, navy, or maroon.

Want a colorful design? Try full color printing!

Full colorful printing gives you the option to use unlimited ink colors in your printed t-shirts. This is a cost-effective option for band, school, or company t-shirts.

Want a design with texture? Try embroidery!

You can also totally forgo the ink and embroider your design onto the custom t-shirts instead. Embroidery is also a great option for other apparel like beanie hats and jackets.

It doesn’t have to cost you all your hard-earned money to print custom t-shirts. Just be smart about your imprint method, and you’re good to go!

Final Thoughts

While these size suggestions aren’t foolproof, they definitely give you a good idea of where to start when printing t-shirts. You want your custom shirts to look as awesome as possible and that starts with the right design tips. Keep this guide handy for your next printing job!

About the author

Michael Wenger

Michael Wenger is a born-and-bred salesman. He started Quality Logo Products with Bret Bonnet when they were both in college at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.