Sometimes the hardest part of custom printing a t-shirt is picking what kind of t-shirt it goes on. CustomTees offers a variety of popular blank apparel brands to choose from, such as Gildan, Bella+Canvas, Comfort Colors, Next Level, Anvil, Hanes, and District. Depending on your goal with your custom tee, some brands may be more suitable for it than others. Do you want a basic tee, or are you looking for something more fashionable?
The differences between them aren’t immediately obvious. You’ll find a lot of these brands like to come up with their own fancy trademarks to describe something as simple as a “100% cotton” t-shirt. Once you get a handle around the obtuse naming schemes, it’s actually pretty easy to figure out what you want.
Gildan is the most ubiquitous apparel brand in the shirt printing industry. If you want us to print you a cheap custom t-shirt, it’ll likely end up on a Gildan brand, one of which there are many. It’s the most affordable brand of them all.
Gildan is a Canadian apparel manufacturer of numerous undecorated clothing products, and they’ve quickly become a global leader in the business. Gildan also owns many other apparel brands, including Anvil, American Apparel, and Comfort Colors. Their constant omnipresence nets them the biggest brand description on this page.
Some could consider Gildan to be the king of cotton products, as they have many different lines of cotton shirts, ranging from heavy, soft cottons to more premium cottons, all in a ton of different colors. Since 100% cotton is the ideal fabric type for custom printing, be it Screen Printing, DTG, or vinyl, Gildan makes an excellent choice for your custom t-shirt needs.
The Gildan Ultra Cotton is their heaviest 100% cotton t-shirt at around 6 oz. These shirts are very thick, therefore they feel very soft. They’re probably the most popular variety of Gildan’s cotton offerings.
There second most-popular offering would be their Heavy Cotton line. It’s a less heavy 5 oz. and less thick than the Ultra variety, but still 100% cotton!
If you want a softer, more premium-feeling cotton t-shirt, then Gildan Softstyle is a good choice. This line uses 100% ring spun cotton, a higher quality cotton than their other cotton styles. It’s a better, softer wear.
“DryBlend” is just Gildan’s fancy way of saying “50/50 polyester/cotton blend.” These fabrics have moisture-wicking properties, making them a good choice for those always on the move.
This 50/50 poly cotton blend line is made up mostly of heavier fleece knit clothing, such as sweatshirts and hoodies.
In addition to the large variety of t-shirts that Gildan offers, they also have a number of polos sprinkled throughout their product lines, in both pique and jersey knits.
If you’re looking to make a vintage-style custom t-shirt, Comfort Colors is the brand to print on. Their colorful 100% ring-spun cotton t-shirts make for an incredible DTG or screen printed shirt.
“Comfort Colors” is probably the most apt name for the brand, as that’s exactly what they offer: comfort and colors. Comfort Colors shirts are known for their soft, vintage feel in a large selection of “nature-inspired” colors. Their products are soft washed, specifically targeting the feel and coziness of a well-worn shirt, except they’re actually brand new! It’s a very popular brand among the youth and college students, so perfect if you’re look to make a shirt for Greek life.
Comfort Colors specializes in dyed fabrics, specifically with direct/reactive dye and pigment dye. Garments of the directly-dyed variety boast beautiful, bright, and bold colors since the dye fully saturates the fabric. With pigment dye, the dye is only applied to the surface of the fabric, so the fibers don’t fully absorb, achieving a desirable weathered, washed-out look.
You’re probably pretty familiar with the Hanes brand. They’re well-known thanks to their endorsement from high profile celebrities like Michael Jordan, one of the greatest players in the game. It turns out Hanes is pretty big in the t-shirt printing game, too.
Hanes has pretty basic t-shirts, comparable to Gildan. Hanes shirts are generally a looser fit than other brands, however.
If you’re looking to print a hoodie, Hanes offers 90/10 Cotton/Polyester blend hoodies that work well with DTG printing due to the high cotton content. Hoodies are usually a 50/50 poly/cotton blend, which doesn’t result in a very good print on DTG.
Now we’re starting to get into the fancy fashion brands of undecorated clothing. If you’re looking for something more fashionable and fitted than a Gildan, Next Level is a good choice.
Most all of their cotton products are made up of combed ring-spun cotton, which is very high quality cotton that has been thinned into many fine, strong cotton fibers and combed of all its impurities. It’s great for not only printing on, but also feels fantastic on the body.
And if going all-cotton isn’t your thing, Next Level has a variety of CVC and tri-blend shirts if you want to go even softer and lighter. Their selection of womens’ clothing is also quite large.
If you know you want a basic t-shirt, but with a premium feel, go for the Next Level 3600, the premium short sleeve crew shirt, their most popular tee.
This is actually a combination of two clothing brands: “Bella” for women and “Canvas” for men.
Bella+Canvas is another upscale brand and a strong competitor to Next Level. Much like Next Level, all their cotton products are made from combed ring-spun cotton, and they have a good selection of poly-cotton blends and tri-blends as well.
The big difference comes mainly from the construction of the shirts. All of Bella+Canvas shirts are side-seamed rather than tubular like some of the cheaper brands. The side seams give the clothes a more tailored fit. The brand’s clothing tends to run on the slimmer side, for that “fashion fit.”
Bella+Canvas is a better choice if you’re looking for something more trendy. Their basic and most popular shirt is the unisex jersey short sleeve tee, aka Bella+Canvas 3001, a shirt that many have sung the praises for online.
Anvil Knitwear is an apparel brand that’s been around for over a century, starting in 1899 as a workwear brand in New York City. The company has undergone numerous changes in the past hundred years, and, in 2012, Gildan purchased them, turning Anvil into Gildan’s high end brand to compete with the likes of Next Level and Bella+Canvas.
Anvil’s clothing uses softer fabrics when compared to the basic Gildan brand, using higher quality combed ring-spun cotton in many of their products. Many of their shirts are also fitted or semi-fitted, making them a more secure wear than the boxy feeling of basic Gildan shirts.
Anvil’s most popular tee is the Anvil 980, the Lightweight 100% combed ring-spun cotton tee.
District is relatively new a fashion brand, founded in 2012 under the company SanMar. District could be considered an economical alternative to Next Level and Bella+Canvas.
They sell 2 lines differentiated by their fits. The plain District line is made up of fitted shirts, as most fashion brands tend to be. They’re targeted towards teens and young adults. You know, the wild and the wild at heart. If you’re living a more laidback lifestyle, their looser, more relaxed fits are called “District Made.” Yeah, it’s kind of confusing, but, as you’ve probably learned, confusing is par for the course when it comes to these apparel companies.
If you’re looking for clothing that suits a more active lifestyle, SanMar also has an athletic wear brand called Sport-Tek.