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General Running • April 10, 2012

Tips on designing and printing running team shirts

Team uniforms

Create your artwork in a vector format.

If you make your design in Photoshop you will not be able to scale the design any larger than you made it originally. Design in 300 dpi on your computer. A 72 dpi image may look great, but try printing it out. The size it prints is the size you are stuck with. Vector designs can scale up and down without any loss in image quality. The crisp vector lines screen print better too. If you have a design that you like but it isn’t vector, you can either have an artist recreate the design for you or ask the printer if they will recreate it. If you are including sponsor logos request either .eps or .ai (Adobe Illustrator) files. Some screen printers offer art services for design if you would rather somebody else design your event tee.

Limit the design to one or two colors.

In the silk screening process they use one screen for every color. Typically screen printers will charge you for each screen they make and for each pass they have to make over the screen. More screens and more passes equals more expensive shirt. If your design is going on a dark colored shirt the printer will have to lay down a white screen called and underlay so that your colors stay vibrant. Even if you are using white in your design on a dark shirt they will hit the screen with ink twice. To keep costs down try to use a lighter colored tech tee.

Don’t use gradients.

Gradients never print as smooth as they look on your monitor. The mesh on the printing screen can reproduce a relatively large dot of color. Gradients and halftones always make a shirt look shoddy.

Don’t cover large areas with solid color.

You are ordering performance tees because they wick sweat and breath better than cotton. When you lay down a lot of ink on a shirt, you create a blanket that can’t transfer moisture. One year I received a St. Patrick’s Day shirt that had a giant shamrock on the back. It was suffocating to wear and went straight into the garbage.

Design to fit the smallest size shirt you will produce.

When it comes to apparel the simpler the better. Make sure when you scale the image down that you can still read all the text and that the lines don’t close in. Ink spreads, it is easy to loose detail in a design.

Any thing less than 100 shirt order is a pain in the ass project for your local screen printer.

Most of the time the screen printer is doing you a favor if he prints less than 50 items. Remember this and be nice. They probably have an order for thousands of shirts they will either have to move off the press to do your shirts or wait until your shirts get off the press to start. There are some new printing processes that make it easier for printers to take on smaller projects. I will provide a list of printing resources below. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have another printer or you are a printer that would like to help runners create small batch tees.


Running Warehouse Screenprinting


Eastbay Team Services



Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Greg says:

    I have worked in the screenprinting business for almost 20 years and I could not have explained this process better than Thomas has in this article. He is dead on with his technical industry knowledge and then backs it up with the prospective of a serious runner. A new technique called sublimation has become very popular in the last few years. You are probably familiar with this process, as it is used on cycling jerseys. Sublimation is the act of using heat and pressure to have the dyes become one with the polyester fiber. With this process you do not feel the Ink, and the “print” is now permanently part of the garment. This technique is great for running team shirts because it gives you the opportunity to show off a logo but does not change the performance qualities of your apparel. Finally the best part about this process, no minimum quantities and so screen charges. If you find the right apparel decorating company, they may even let you supply that shirts yourself!

  2. Wow. Brilliant idea. I love t-shirt printing.

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