Shirt Printing & Embroidery Company Comparison:

What Makes Custom Clothing Companies Different?

Placing an order of decorated shirts or apparel is exciting! But let’s not forget the truth – no two printing companies are alike. For customers looking for a new printing shop, it can be frustrating and even tiring looking through companies and learning about turnaround time, trying to get an artwork approval, sorting through products and nearly running in circles trying to get an “all-in” price per shirt that won’t have hidden fee’s later.

To make this process a little bit easier we’ve established a resource to help you know exactly what you need to look for when selecting a shirt printing company that can meet your needs. 

1. Clothing Selection

When you’re getting your potential order ready, think about whether you’re looking for basics or something less common. Does your order contain T-shirts or Hoodies? All apparel print shops will have these basics, so chances are whatever company you choose will be able to provide those.

On the other hand, if you’re looking something more specific and less common you’ll want to check whether that company is going to have the selection you need. Rare products (think: Dog sweaters, youth polyester tank-tops in neon green, aprons, or even irregular sized products) are carried by some suppliers, so if you do require some specific, be sure to find out at the beginning before you start talking about print pricing or turnaround time. 

If you’re flexible and not too picky, most companies can help guide you into a good product option for your order. 

2. Service Types

When you’re looking for a clothing decorator it’s important you match with a company who provides the right services. Are you looking for a screen-printed order? Are you looking for an embroidered order? Do you need a small order of 1-2 shirts? What you’re looking for will determine which shop will be the best to work with. 

If your business is still growing and you’re focused on marketing, you can benefit from working with a company who can help you beyond just apparel. It’s not uncommon for a shirt shop to provide complimentary services, like promotional items, signs, graphic design, web design and other marketing service or products. Sometimes the convenience of getting these all in one place can be worth it.

3. Decoration Quality

When you’re looking at a company online: if they don’t have photo’s of their work, that’s a red flag. Good quality pictures of a shop’s work are easy to take even from a smart phone, so if a company doesn’t seem to have a track record it could be best to move on. Beyond just photos of well designed shirts, customer reviews can be a good way to see if the company will be able to meet your needs. If customers seem to be saying good things its at least positive signal that you’ll have something you’ll be happy with. 

If your artwork involves some specific or uncommon printing techniques, metallic inks, cmyk or simulated process, or puff embroidery, you’re really going to want to shop around. If a companies price for these complex types of orders seems to be too good to be true: it probably is. The more important impeccable print quality is to the success of your order, the more diligent you should be in comparing shirt suppliers. 

4. Turnaround Time

Besides the basics like print quality and shirt price, without the right turnaround time all the credibility and expertise in the world still won’t help the company be the right choice. If your project is for an event, a show, or essential to have for a specific date: you need a company who can guarantee your order will be printed and ready in time!

Don’t forget to check on whether your estimated order completion date includes delivery time, or not, and what type of guarantee the printer has if something happens and your shirt order is late. It can be smart to ask for an estimated delivery date even if your clothing order’s deadline isn’t right around the corner to ensure it doesn’t drag on. 

5. Communication

When you think about good communication it really can become dizzying how many times it matters along a t-shirt order. When comparing print shops think how poor communication can impact your order. You need to make initial contact: do they answer their phone or emails? You need to receive pricing information: does their quote make sense? 

While “Put the logo on the front” sounds pretty straight forward: think about it. Was that front full across the chest, or a smaller pocket print above the heart? Custom shirt shops with good communication make sure to clarify with certainty the details of your order through both visual mock-ups and itemized work-orders. If there’s any room for miscommunication – it will happen! When you feel confident that they really understand your deadline, your artwork, and your needs – that’s a signal communication is good and your order is likely to go well.

6. Average Price Per Item (including ALL fees)

Don’t just look at the sticker price — examine your all-in costs. Some shirt shops advertise 3$ shirts but when you finally arrive at your checkout page and find out those 3$ shirts are now 15$ – that’s significant! It’s important to be aware some shops will advertise their all-in costs per item(so while it looks higher initially it can actually be much less than the competition at check-out) while others do a variation of included services. Some of the “extras” suppliers can charge for might be screen fee’s, artwork fee’s, delivery charges, set-up fee’s, rush fee’s and we’ve even heard of some less common ones. 

A supplier who breaks their pricing into segments, where prices go up as you get closer to purchasing doesn’t necessarily make them a poor supplier don’t let yourself be lured in with too-good-to-be-true prices but get swindled at the check-out page. Ask for your all-in prices from both companies, including delivery, all set-up fee’s and real costs – then compare apples to apples.

7. Flexibility and Collaboration

For some buyers a shirt decorator’s flexibility is surprisingly really important. It’s almost a forgotten factor right up until you need it, then it’s invaluable.

In the print and embroidery industry there are some suppliers out there who will only work from very specific file formats that only a graphic designer will be able to create. Other suppliers will only take your order in a very specific ways, like through a webpage. You can understand why a company might want orders placed in a certain type of file, or placed in a certain way – but ask yourself: if you’re sending them business regularly and for whatever reason you’re not able to jump through these specific “hoops”, will they leave you up-the-creek with your order when you’re just trying to get some shirts?

Other ways flexibility and collaboration can be important is to bands and people on your. Your shirt provider might be able to ship to you at a specific time and place while on tour. Or events: maybe you have a big event but will also have some last minute registrations… Will your printer do a split run for you? Will they print on products you provide or will they enforce buying from them? Any creative or ambitious project that requires out-of-the-box thinking will only be possible if you’re working with someone who rates high in this category.

8. Likability and Ordering Experience 

Even though likability sounds similar to collaboration if you’ve ever worked in an office you’ve probably collaborated a project to completion with unlikable halfwits before. When it comes to comparing shirt printing shops you’re more than likely going to re-order yearly or multiple times per year… If everything else like price, quality and turnaround time are good – why not have those orders be with someone you like?

A low-friction buying experience and a good atmosphere shows up in terms of better results on your order too. While we understand and empathize with shop owners or sales reps who are having a bad day or are perpetually over-worked and have a “rush-rush-rush” vibe – a friendly attentive person with some patience to take your order is just better. A friendly and likable person taking your order will suggest alternative print ideas you hadn’t thought of; make suggestions of products that might work well for your shirt project, or even take the time to educate you on different parts of the process and other branding ideas.