When you want everyone on the same page, get them all in the same shirt. Whether you’re printing shirts for a company anniversary or for an annual departmental team-building exercise, matching one another helps solidify that feeling of togetherness that’s so necessary for teams to function effectively.

But how do you choose the right shirt for the right occasion? It may seem like a straightforward process, but there are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to selecting and ordering custom t-shirts. We’re here to walk you through it, with tips for making the right selections every step of the way.

Custom retro t-shirt design with tape illustration
Custom t-shirt design by BATHI

Step 1: Choose the right fabric

When creating a custom t-shirt, the first step is to select the material you want for your shirts. There are a ton of choices for fabric out there, so get to know the differences between them and select the type that’s right for your needs.

For instance, tri-blend t-shirts are a combination of polyester, ring-spun cotton, and rayon. They’re composed of a comfortable and durable fabric blend that lends itself to a flattering fit, no matter what the cut.

On the other hand, 100 percent cotton t-shirts are breathable, strong, and hypoallergenic. They’re also a good choice for the eco-conscious, as the production of 100 percent cotton apparel is more environmentally friendly than the production of synthetic fabrics.

In between tri-blend and 100 percent cotton tees lie polyester and cotton blends, or polyblends. These can be as balanced as 50 percent cotton and 50 percent polyester or as biased as 99 percent cotton and one percent polyester. Whatever the blend ratio, these shirts combine the comfort of cotton with the durability of polyester, making them easy to care for.

Step 2: Get the proper fit

Custom t-shirt design with lion illustration
T-shirt design by Neatlines

Once you’ve chosen the material you’d like to work with, the next step is to select the right cut. Once again, you’ll find there are a lot of options to choose from out there, so familiarize yourself with the various fits available and pick the one that works best for your needs.

If you’re looking to outfit both men and women in custom t-shirts, you’ll want to select a unisex tee that will flatter all types of figures, or be cognizant of how many t-shirts you’ll need in both men’s and women’s fits.

Decide if you want a long-sleeve or short-sleeve cut. Long-sleeve t-shirts are great for winter team retreats and companies that work in cold climates. They’re pretty straightforward—just a tee with sleeves that come down to the wrists. Short-sleeve t-shirts typically end at the mid-bicep, though for those of you in hotter climates or doing summer team-building exercises, you can always go with a nice tank top or muscle tee for even more comfort.

Other fit factors to consider include whether you’d like the shirt to have a v-neck, come with a breast pocket, or come as a hoodie.

Step 3: Design your custom t-shirt

Custom t-shirt design with astronaut slipping on banana peel
T-shirt design by Pinch Studio

This step may seem overly simplistic, but it’s important to match the right design for the right audience. The more personalized the t-shirt feels in fit, fabric, and design, the more appreciation the recipient will have for it, so don’t just slap your logo on it and call it done. Give it careful thought and consideration, and you’ll see a real return on your investment. For inspiration, find some great t-shirt design ideas here.

There are lots of design decisions to consider. Start by thinking about what you’re hoping to achieve and what you want your shirt to say. Do you want it to be playful or serious? Edgy or conservative? Do you want illustration, text or both? Also, consider things like style, imagery, typography and color. For more t-shirt design guidance, check out this article on how to design a t-shirt.

Creating an amazing t-shirt design isn’t easy, so it’s a good idea to enlist the assistance of a professional and hire a t-shirt designer to create a unique, custom design for you.

Step 4: Upload your design and order your t-shirts

Once you’ve developed or selected a carefully thought-out design for your custom t-shirts, it’s time to upload it and order the quantity of shirts needed. The easiest way is to use a t-shirt printing service like Swag.com and select the t-shirt that best fits your fabric and fit requirements. Be sure to carefully consider the available color choices as well, so the color (or colors) you select complements and doesn’t contrast with your design.

Custom t-shirt with turtle design
T-shirt design by noodlemie

Once you’ve selected the right t-shirt in the right color, upload your designs for the front, as well as the for the back and sides, if applicable. Situate them on the shirt and select the quantity of shirts you’d like to order.

This is where it can get a little tricky if you don’t know the shirt size of everyone you’re ordering for. When you decide to order 100 shirts, mathematically it makes sense to order a quantity of 20 in five sizes. But large is the average size, with medium and extra-large coming in closely behind it, so order more of those sizes than others. Skew away from smalls, extra-smalls, and sizes above extra-large, though definitely include some of each in every order.

Step 5: Printing and packaging

Custom t-shirt design with boxing whales
T-shirt design by Pinch Studio

Screen printing is the most common (and cost-effective) form of decorating t-shirts, so that’s the method we’ll address here. Learn more about other t-shirt printing options here. When a t-shirt is screen printed, ink is pushed through a mesh stencil in layers, creating your custom design. Ink that’s screen printed dries thicker than ink that’s digitally applied, so your design will really pop, especially against dark fabrics.

When the screen printing process is complete, the t-shirts are neatly packaged and shipped to your designated location. All that’s left to do is hand them out to your team and watch their faces light up as they inspect their new custom t-shirt swag.

Ready to order awesome t-shirt for your team?

When it’s time for you to order new custom t-shirts for your organization, give it the attention it deserves. Put some serious thought into selecting the right fabric, fit, design, and size beforehand. Instead of ordering simply what you think looks good, think about the durability of the fabric, the fit of the cut, and the implements of the design. And don’t forget to order your sizes mindfully instead of in a random assortment.

Making these considerations goes a long way toward showing your team you care, instead of just handing them an impersonal and ill-designed white t-shirt at your next event. A great team t-shirt can make your team grow closer together and boost team spirit. Time to get creative and create something unique for your team!

Elizabeth M. Jones
About the author:

Elizabeth M. Jones is a regular contributor to numerous blogs, including swag.com. She likes developing long-form blog pieces, spending time with her family, and petting her five hens. She lives in Maryland.