Blog Post

The Ultimate Guide to Creating Custom Apparel

Len Naumovich

Custom apparel is a fantastic way to create a sense of community, promote a brand, or outfit a team for a special event. An estimated 85% of customers remember the advertiser that gave them a shirt or a hat! [Source: 2019 ASI Central].

But with so many choices for apparel and printing methods, choosing the right combination can feel overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown to simplify the process for choosing the best custom apparel printing!

Selecting the Right Fabric

  • Consider the Use: Are you planning a one-time event? Prioritize affordability with comfortable, basic, inexpensive t-shirts or tank tops. Thinking of long-term wear for an ongoing event? Invest in high-quality fabrics like a soft cotton or polyester blends for lasting comfort and durability that will be worn multiple times.
  • Consider the Activity Level: For active wear, moisture-wicking polyester blends are ideal, while cotton shines for everyday wear. Want a more professional look? Choose a high-quality fabric for polos and dress shirts.
  • Materials Matter:
    • Cotton: A timeless classic, cotton is soft, breathable and absorbs ink well, making it perfect for company t-shirts and casual wear.
    • Polyester: Known for its durability, wrinkle resistance, and ability to hold vibrant colors, polyester is ideal for activewear and frequently washed items.
    • Blends: Offering the best of both worlds, cotton poly blends combine the comfort of cotton with the durability of polyester.

Pro Tip: Consider the season when selecting materials. Opt for breathable cotton for summer events and cozy fleece sweatshirts for chilly weather.


Understanding Printing Methods: Achieving Your Design Vision

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect fabric, it’s time to bring your design to life! There are a lot of options for custom printing. Choosing a professional printer will ensure that your project matches the right fabric with the right type of printing .

Here’s a breakdown of some popular printing methods to help you achieve your vision:

Screen Printing

A cost-effective and time-tested option, screen sprinting is ideal for bold designs and large quantities of personalized clothing. It's perfect for simple logos and text on custom t-shirts, polos, and sweatshirts.

Direct-to-Garment (DTG)

This innovative technique applies ink directly onto the fabric. creating a smooth, high-resolution design that feels like part of the garment. It's perfect for intricate details, photos, and full-color designs, especially on lighter-colored clothes and merchandise.


This method uses transfer paper infuses color onto synthetic fabrics like polyester. The advantages include color matching and full coverage of the design onto your clothing like sports apparel or products like a mousepad or a pillow.

Heat Transfer

A versatile option for complex designs and smaller quantities, heat transfer uses heat and pressure to transfer a pre-printed design onto the garment. 


For a touch of elegance and sophistication, embroidery creates a raised, stitched design that adds a unique dimension to your custom clothing. This method is well-suited for polos, hats, and bags. Embroidered uniforms and scrubs are also popular. 


Selecting the Right Color: Create a Brand Impact

Color is a powerful tool in branding and communication. When choosing colors for your custom apparel, consider the following factors:

  • Brand Identity: Align your color choices with your brand's existing color pallet to create a cohesive and recognizable look. For instance, a sports team wouldn't use pastel colors typically associated with relaxation. 
  • Target Audience: Consider the demographics of your target audience, men, women, or both. Certain colors evoke specific emotions and can be more appealing to different groups. For example, red is associated with excitement and energy, great branded clothing for athletic events. Blue conveys trust and would be good for a corporate fundraiser.
  • Contrast: Make sure your design and color fabric work together. If there isn't enough contrast between the fabric and the design, people will have trouble reading the image or making out your logo. Ask a professional for help.


Pro Tip: Work with a professional branding company like Primo to create an annual plan for branded clothing and products to align with your calendar of events. 


Choosing the Perfect Fit  

When selecting apparel, consider offering a variety of sizes to accommodate different body types. Not sure how many to order? Check out our comprehensive guide How to Choose Shirt Sizes for Groups for detailed advice on estimating size distribution for bulk orders. 


Design Your Image

You may be using your company logo, or you may want to create a custom design for your event. Make sure you think about the design on the clothing. Will it be understandable in a small step-and-repeat pattern on a necktie or lanyard? Use a professional designer for a quality design. Your print shop may have a professional designer on staff – like Primo does. 


File Formats: Keeping it Crisp and Clear

You've chosen your fabrics, your printing method, your colors, and polished your design. Now it's time to send the files to your printer. Most professional printers use venctor files (.ai, .eps, .pdf, .svg) for printing. These superheroes of the design world are "scalable", meaning they can be enlarged without losing quality. This is ideal for logos, icons, and sharp text. Plus, they're compact in size and easy to edit for color changes. Be sure to check with your printer about file size and types. 



Not sure what a vector file is? For a deeper dive into the file formats and preparation best practices, check out our File Preparation Guide.

Primo Designs: Your Expert Partner in Custom BRANDED CLOTHING

Use this guide as your starting point, and then contact Primo for a free quote.

Still not sure what to choose? Our team of experts are here to guide you through every step of the process, from selecting the perfect shirt, pants, sweatshirt, polo, or jacket matched to the right printing method that will give you a durable, high-quality product. 

To make things easier, you can open a company store to have a pre-approved set of branded clothing and products available for your employees to purchase on their own.  

With over 40 years as an Illinois printing company, we understand the power of custom printing for clothing and products. We offer a comprehensive selection of high-quality apparel and a wide range of innovative printing techniques to create garments that perfectly match your vision. 

Contact us today!