The typical viewing distance for a T-shirt is six to 10 feet. This is a fact lost on many people who provide art for T-shirts. One of the biggest problems we see in screen printing is receiving art from a designer that has spent most of his career in the paper or print side of the business. Logos that look good at 14 to 24 inches (the typical viewing distance for magazine and Web design) often contain too much detail that gets lost or closes in at a distance. The image ends up looking flat or dull.
This is why “Bold is Best” when it comes to T-shirts. It’s also why the size of the imprint is a very important consideration. Let’s look at the sizing standards for imprints, depending on their location on a T-shirt.
First, here are three of the most popular print locations:
Center Chest Imprints that are square are typically 10”-11” wide. Some people prefer large imprints and go with 12”. Taller imprints are generally sized thinner, anywhere from 9”-11” wide. Shorter imprints are generally sized wider at roughly 11”-12”. An important consideration for center chest imprints is the size and fit of the shirts you are using. A more fitted shirt will usually look better with a slightly smaller logo, where a looser fitting garment will work better with a slightly larger image.
Left Chest Imprints are generally 3” wide if they are box-shaped or taller than they are wide. Use 4” for short blocks of text. (Sometimes, even 4.5” will suffice.)
Full-back Imprints are generally the largest standard imprints. The most common sizes are between 11”-12” wide, with shorter (less than 6” tall) imprints being upwards of 13”. For imprints over 12” wide, please consult the garment to make sure it will fit on your smaller size. As with center chest designs, tall imprints of 13” and above are generally thinner, about 9”-11.5” wide.
In addition, here are some popular off-location prints and their sizing:
Sleeve Imprints: 2”-3.5” Wide
With sleeve imprints, consider the shape of the imprint. A 3.5” circular imprint will look rather large on a sleeve. For single line text, consider 3.5”. For circular objects, consider 2-2.5”.
Down the Sleeve: 3.5” Max Width and 14” Tall
When printing down the sleeve, remember that smaller sizes can be difficult. Standard sleeve pallets are 4” wide, and they also have mounting hardware below the pallet which adds mass to the overall area that the sleeve must fit over. The sleeve usually needs to fit over an area that is 6” wide or more in the lower to middle portion of the sleeve. This makes it very difficult to print on smaller sleeves like youth sizes in addition to fleece, which is more prone to move around, especially when stretched on the pallet.
Hip Imprints: 6”-15”
This is a grey area. Generally people want a large imprint to wrap around the shirt. To wrap, use a larger imprint. For a small hip logo, try something between 6”-9”. Double-check to make sure that your garment is not side-seamed. Printing over a side seam will cause the print area to look blotchy in the area of the seam. Also, ink will smudge in the seam area because the seam will not be in the exact same place on every pallet, causing ink buildup from the previous print. If printing across seams, it is best to create the design with a distressed pattern to help camouflage the imperfections in the printing.
Locker Tag: 2”-5”
This is one of those preference things – many people prefer these to be between 3”-4” and between the shoulder blades a few inches down from the neck line.
Pocket Print: 2.5” x 2.5” Maximum
The pocket print must fit within a 2.5” x 2.5” square. Keep the amount of detail and colors on the pocket to a minimum.