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Suggested Guidelines for Graphic Placement on Your Garments

Graphic placement is a judgment call. What you see in your shop as proper placement might be an inch too high for the printer down the street, and an inch too low for the printer across town. Within reason, all three printers are correct. Placement in reality is a function of personal preference. And this personal preference will vary from shop to shop.

To that end, the recommendations in this article are based on the average placement locations from shops around the country, my own included. You can use these placement suggestions as a starting point before determining your own “best judgment” guidelines:

Large full chest designs, in the range of 12”x12”, will look best when printed approximately 2” from the base of the collar (where the collar attaches to the body of the shirt). Horizontal, wide graphics across the chest should be printed about 3” from the collar.

Sweatshirts are most commonly printed lower by about an inch, since these garments are not tucked into pants and therefore have a larger printable and visual area. If the sweatshirt has a muff, the graphic is usually centered between the muff and the collar.

Left chest designs should be centered between the vertical center line of the shirt and the seam attaching the sleeve to the shirt body.

Larger left chest designs will be printed on an imaginary line from the bottom of the sleeve at the point it attaches to the shirt body. Smaller left chest designs should be printed 1” above this imaginary line.

This left chest placement applies to placket shirts such as polos and henleys as well. Some printers attempt to line up prints with the bottom of the placket, but visually, placement should be a function of the imaginary line from the bottom of the sleeve since placket lengths vary from style to style.

Pocket prints, physically on a pocket are generally printed in the center of the pocket. For prints above the pocket, the print should be approximately ¾” above the top of the pocket, and centered with the physical pocket.

Not all pockets are perfectly square with the shirt, but the image will look best squared with the actual pocket than to attempt squaring with the physical shirt.

To square a print on the platen, for either on the pocket or above the pocket, tape a raised plastic or cardboard square along the top edge of the pocket so that you can feel an edge to square the top of the pocket with. The plastic or cardboard guide should be the same width as the pocket. By squaring with the raised guide on the platen, your image will be in the same place, on or above each pocket, throughout the print run.

Sleeve graphics, on short sleeve garments, are almost always printed on the left sleeve when given the choice. These prints should be printed 1” from the hem at the bottom of the sleeve. For long sleeve prints, the graphic is commonly centered on the sleeve between cuff and shoulder.

Back prints should be printed as if you are looking through the shirt at the front print. In other words, the print on the back of a shirt will be further from the collar than the same print on the front.

Large, full back designs will print approximately 4” from the collar base. Short, wide designs should be printed about 5” from the collar.

Shoulder blade prints, most often a narrow wide graphic such as a single line type, will be located about 2” from the collar base.

Take special note of back print location. Screen printers will commonly make the mistake of printing the same distance from the collar on both front and back prints. This results in a finished product that appears out of balance, front to back. Using the same distance will make the back print too high on the shirt, since the collar is higher in the back than the front of a shirt.

Your Own Placement Guide

What’s the best way to judge placement in your shop? Print the shirt, put it on yourself and look in the mirror. Have your employees and friends model different size garments and make the same placement judgment call. Then, measure and document your findings so that you will have uniformity with your prints from job to job, press to press, printer to printer.

Terry Combs is a 30+ year veteran of the screen printing industry. He is an industry teacher and consultant through the website TerryCombs.com, offering hands on and online classes. And, he is the owner of the screen printing supply company, GarmentDecoratingSupply.com.
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