Fill the blank: Top 7 t-shirt blanks to use when starting out

t-shirt blanks

You want to create a t-shirt company, you have the name, the designs, the money, but you’re missing one thing….the finished product! There are a bunch of t-shirt blanks out there, but which one should you choose? It is important to find a brand that’s a perfect fit for your brand and what you believe your customers will want to wear. DISCLAIMER: Most people will not give a shit what the t-shirt brand is or how it feels. They do care if the graphic is cool and if it fits comfortable on their body. I, on the other hand are one of the fashionable few who care what the t-shirt fits like. Since that is out of the way, let’s take a look on the best blanks to use when you’re starting out.

next level apparel

Next Level- 3600 Next Level is probably my favorite brand to use when it comes to blanks. The 3600 is Next Level’s standard t-shirt, which is a soft and fashionably fit. They seem to pop up the last couple years as a competitor to American Apparel and honestly, I feel like Next Level is better. They have a decent amount of color choices and the quality of the shirt is definitely worth it. I even went to a concert recently and saw that the shirts that were printed and sold throughout the arena were on next level, which had me impressed.  Next Level has a tearaway tag, which makes it easy for you to insert your own custom tag or screenprinted tag.

bella canvas

Bella+Canvas- 3001 The Bella-Canvas t-shirt is another comfortable fashion fit tee that rivals American Apparel’s. The color choices are a lot more than Next Level, but as a quality and fit they’re pretty similar. I find that it is more of a preference. If you’re ordering women items through Bella chances are you may go with the whole brand loyalty and stick with them. It’s a good tee, I do find that it’s a bit tighter, so I would recommend going a size up. It feels nice, washes well, and printing on them is fine.

anvil 980

Anvil 980-I remember when I doing my research and learning more about picking the right tee, Anvil 980 was the style that was trying to rival the fashionable American Apparel. It is a good shirt and I have used it, but I would not recommend them unless you’re doing a small test batch or if selling shirts is just a hobby. I tend to like the sleeves a bit closer to the arms and not sticking out so far, which the Anvil 980 tends to do.

american apparel 2001

American Apparel- 2001 The popular American Apparel t-shirt made in America. This the shirt company that set the standard to what a soft shirt should feel like. This fits very well on the body, has the right length, not too thin or too thick, and has plenty of colors to choose from. If a company does use them, I know that the shirt will be a top tier shirt. The downside I have seen is that you’re buying the brand name and sometimes they don’t wash very well. Sometimes. If you care or your customers care that it is “made in the USA” then choose this. When I started I thought American Apparel was the shirt that I MUST print my designs on, because that’s the industry standard and it is the only quality shirt there is. Well, I ended up finding out that it wasn’t cost effective for me to use them when starting out and that there were other quality alternatives. Yes, you want to come out with a bang and spend money on quality items, but maybe there are other brands that are equal that will save you some coin.

Alstyle 5301

Alstyle 1301 – This one is pretty much the streetwear “go to” shirt as it is a durable shirt. It is heavy when it comes to the previously listed shirts, which does not mean it’s not one to start out with it depends on what shirt you’re seeking for. I personally prefer softer shirts, but that does not mean you’re target market is looking for that.

Alternative Apparel

Alternative Apparel AA1070- Alternative Apparel is a company that is set on making some of the softest shirts out there. They are aimed to being a high end brand, a bit more than American Apparel, so they’re a bit on the costly side. I do find they’re quite thin, so for softness you will be giving up on the thickness. They tend to run on the smaller side, so unless you’re preferring planning on Hulking out, I would get a size up. I’ve noticed that crossfit companies tend to use Alternative, so if that’s a target market you’re after, check them out.

gildan softstyle

Gildan 64000- I know I’m going to catch heat for placing Gildan on this list, BUT let me try to justify this. Gildan is a heavyweight when it comes to the apparel business offering a wide variety of options. Granted, the shirts usually printed and given out at events are usually the G5000 and G2000, they are not the ones to be used. If you’re starting out and just looking to print on anything for your t-shirt brand, chances are you will get these when you pick them up or have them ordered. Those shirts are heavy, boxy, and they do last, they are not ones you want when you’re presenting yourself as a t-shirt brand. If you’re looking for the most affordable shirt to start out with, this is the one, it is soft and fashion fit. The down side is that it tends to shrink after you wash it, it can be a bit small, it’s soft, but not super soft, and the collar tends to be thin and lower than most shirts. I would say if you’re starting out as a hobby and just want a taste, try these out. I’ve printed shirts for people and they were satisfied. It is an okay shirt and not the one I would say use.


Those are my suggestions from using them for my brand and for screen printing for clients. My best advice is to get samples of the t-shirts and try them out yourself. If you go to a screen printer, they should have a samples and make sure you look at them. If you know a tradeshow where they’ll be at or a know a wholesaler that offers the brands above, pay for samples. You want to be prepared before you go ahead and launch your company, so choose the right brand to start out with. You can always change brands and add different styles, but these are the ones you will want to check when you’re starting out.

Joe Baron

Joe Baron

Graphic designer, screenprinter, photographer, writer/blogger, you might say I am an all around creative fella.
Joe Baron

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3 responses to “Fill the blank: Top 7 t-shirt blanks to use when starting out”

  1. Brendan says:

    I’ve found the 1301 to be the longest. I make tees for athletes so one that will fit a thinner midsection and still be long enough is really important. I am 6’1 and I hate it when I wash a large t-shirt that fits my midsection well width-wise but all of a sudden I’m wearing a ladies midriff tee. Nobody wants to see that.

  2. Zac Guo says:

    I’d like to recommend our 4600 from Pima Apparel Inc. We are confidence on our quality and prices. Thanks.

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