Published Apr 13, 2024 ⦁ 20 min read
High Quality Sweatshirts for Printing: Selection Guide

High Quality Sweatshirts for Printing: Selection Guide

Choosing the right high-quality sweatshirts for printing doesn't have to be complicated. Here's what you need to know:

  • Fabric Types: Cotton for comfort and clarity in printing, cotton/polyester blends for durability, and performance fabrics for activity.
  • Weight Matters: Lightweight for layering and detailed prints, midweight for a balance of warmth and printability, heavyweight for cold conditions and simple designs.
  • Sustainability Is Key: Opt for materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and other eco-friendly options.
  • Styles Affect Printing: Pullovers offer large print areas, zip-ups require design consideration around zippers, and crewnecks are versatile for various prints.
  • Brand Reputation: Quality, ethical production, and consistent sizing are crucial for selecting sweatshirts.
  • Printing Compatibility: Screen printing works well on most fabrics, DTG is best for cotton, sublimation for polyester, and HTV for various surfaces.
  • Customization Extras: Consider embroidery, woven labels, and badges for unique touches.

Whether you're starting a new project or choosing stock for your brand, focusing on these aspects ensures your printed sweatshirts are both high-quality and appealing.

Quick Comparison

Feature Importance
Fabric Type Determines print clarity and comfort
Weight Affects warmth and print detail capability
Sustainability Impacts environmental footprint
Style Influences design placement options
Brand Affects quality and ethical standards
Printing Compatibility Determines print quality and technique applicability
Customization Options Enhances uniqueness and brand identity

100% Cotton

Sweatshirts made of 100% cotton are really soft and comfy. They're great for printing because the ink shows up bright and clear. But, there are a few downsides:

  • They might not last as long, can get little balls of fuzz, and shrink
  • They soak up sweat instead of moving it away from your skin
  • The color might fade after a lot of washes

For putting designs on them through screen printing or DTG (direct-to-garment) printing, cotton is a top choice. For other methods like sublimation, you'll need a different fabric.

Cotton/Polyester Blends

Mixing cotton and polyester gives you some benefits of both. Here are a couple of common mixes:

  • 65% cotton / 35% polyester: A good mix for everyday wear that's also strong. It's the mix you'll see a lot and doesn't cost too much.
  • 50% cotton / 50% polyester: This mix is good at moving sweat away from your skin and gives a smooth surface for printing.

These blends are better for different types of printing, including sublimation, because of the polyester in them. But, they might not feel as soft as 100% cotton and can get fuzzy after many washes.

Performance & Technical Fabrics

Some sweatshirts use special fabrics that are great for sports or being active. These can include:

  • 100% polyester: This is super breathable and stretchy but not as soft. It's the go-to for dye-sublimation printing.
  • Polyester/spandex blends: These are stretchy, keep their shape, and are good at moving sweat away.

These types of fabrics are great for sporty or comfy clothes. They handle printing well and keep the design looking good, even if you're moving a lot. They're good for screen printing and sublimation.

Comparison of Fabric Properties

Property 100% Cotton Cotton/Polyester Blend Performance Fabrics
Softness Excellent Very good Good
Breathability Very good Good Excellent
Durability Good Very good Excellent
Stretch Low Low High
Screen printing Excellent Very good Good
DTG printing Excellent Very good Good
Sublimation Poor Good Excellent

When choosing sweatshirts for printing, think about what you're going to use them for and how you want them to look. It's a good idea to test a few samples to make sure they work the way you expect.

Analyzing Sweatshirt Weight

When you're picking out sweatshirts for printing, how thick the fabric is, also known as the weight, really matters. This weight is usually talked about in ounces per square yard (oz/yd2) or grams per square meter (g/m2). The thickness of the fabric affects how warm it is, how long it lasts, how well air can move through it, and what kind of printing works best on it.

Lightweight Sweatshirts

  • Usually 6-7 oz/yd2 or 200-220 g/m2
  • They're airy, so you can breathe and not get too hot, perfect for putting on top of other clothes
  • They might not last as long because they're thinner
  • Good for screen printing and DTG printing

Midweight Sweatshirts

  • Typically 7-9 oz/yd2 or 220-280 g/m2
  • They're a good mix of not too hot, not too cold
  • Strong enough for everyday wearing and washing
  • They work with most types of printing, like screen printing, DTG, and even some sublimation

Heavyweight & Super Heavyweight Sweatshirts

  • Around 10 oz/yd2 and up, or over 300 g/m2
  • Really warm and tough
  • Keep you very warm, so they're best for cold weather
  • Might be tricky for detailed printing; simpler, bigger designs work better

Thicker sweatshirts are warmer but less breathable, while thinner ones are cooler and more breathable. Think about how active you'll be, the weather, what you need the sweatshirt for, and your own brand when choosing the weight. It's a good idea to try some out to make sure they're just right for what you need.

The Role of Sustainability

Sustainability is getting more attention in how sweatshirts are made. Companies are thinking about how their choices affect the planet. This includes the materials they use, how they make the sweatshirts, and making sure they treat workers well. Let's look at what makes a sweatshirt sustainable.

Sustainable Materials

Some materials are better for the planet:

  • Organic cotton: This cotton doesn't use harmful chemicals and needs less water.
  • Recycled polyester: Made from used plastic bottles, it helps reduce waste.
  • Hemp: Grows quickly and doesn't need much to thrive. It's strong and breaks down easily when you're done with it.
  • Tencel: Comes from trees and is made in a way that reuses what's needed to make it.

Choosing these materials helps the environment.

Environmentally Responsible Production

Making sweatshirts should:

  • Use less water and clean it before it goes back to nature
  • Try to use clean energy
  • Make sure workers are safe and paid fairly
  • Ship products in a way that doesn't pollute as much

Some companies get special labels like Fair Trade or B Corp that show they're doing things right.

Leading Sustainable Brands

A few companies are really good at this:

  • Patagonia: They've cared about the planet for a long time and use recycled and organic stuff.
  • Pact: Known for using organic cotton that meets high standards.
  • Reformation: They don't add to the carbon problem and use sustainable materials like Tencel.

People nowadays want to buy from companies that make things without harming the planet. Those that focus on using the right materials, making things responsibly, and getting the right certifications will do well.

Sweatshirt Styles and Printing Impact

Pullover Sweatshirts

Pullover sweatshirts are the kind you pull over your head to wear. They usually have a crew neck or a hood and no zippers or buttons in the front.

Printing Considerations

  • Since there's no zipper in the way, you have a big space on the front to print something big and bold.
  • You can also print along the sleeves easily because there's lots of room.
  • The back is also a good spot for printing, but remember, if there's a hood, it takes up some space.
  • Printing on the hood itself can be a bit tricky because it's not flat. Stitching a design with embroidery might be easier.

Zip-Up Sweatshirts

Zip-up sweatshirts zip up like a jacket but feel as comfy as a sweatshirt. They have a zipper that goes all the way down the front.

Printing Considerations

  • The zipper means you have to split your front design on either side of it.
  • The sleeves might be a bit harder to print on because of the zippers. Best to keep designs simple here.
  • The back is great for printing since the zipper doesn't affect it.
  • For the hood, the same rules apply as with pullovers.

Crewneck Sweatshirts

Crewneck sweatshirts don't have a hood, which means they have a simple round neck.

Printing Considerations

  • Without a hood, you get more space near the neck for printing. This means you can print across the shoulders and upper chest easily.
  • Sleeves and back are also good places for prints, just like with pullovers.

The Role of Brand Reputation

When you're looking for sweatshirts to print on, it's really important to pick brands that are known for making good stuff, being fair, and keeping their quality consistent. The top brands pay a lot of attention to things like:

Quality Control & Durability Testing

Big-name brands make sure their sweatshirts are strong and last a long time by:

  • Washing and drying them a bunch to see if they shrink, fade, or fall apart
  • Rubbing them to check if they can handle wear and tear
  • Pulling them to make sure they don't rip easily
  • Checking every step of making them to catch any mistakes

This means the sweatshirts will look good with your prints and hold up well.

Ethical Sourcing & Production

Good brands are open about where and how they make their sweatshirts, including:

  • Being clear about where materials come from and how factories work
  • Making sure workers have safe places to work, are treated right, and get paid fairly
  • Using ways to make things that don't hurt the planet too much

Brands like Patagonia and Pact are really good at this.

Accurate & Consistent Sizing

Reliable brands use careful measurements and quality checks to make sure sizes are right. This means:

  • Lots of measuring to make sure each style fits as expected
  • Making sure everything is cut and sewn just right
  • Checking the finished sweatshirts to make sure they match the size chart

When sizes are reliable, it's easier for you to order what you need.

Comparison of Leading Brands

Brand Quality Ethics Sizing Printing Price
Hanes Very Good Good Very Good Very Good $
Gildan Excellent Very Good Excellent Excellent $
Carhartt Excellent Good Excellent Very Good $$
Patagonia Very Good Excellent Very Good Good $$

Brands that do well in all these areas are great choices for sweatshirts.


Printing Compatibility Factors

Screen Printing

Screen printing is good for most sweatshirt materials. But, how thick or rough the material is can change how well the print turns out:

  • Lightweight fabrics (6-7 oz) let the ink go all the way through, making the print look sharp and bright.
  • Midweight fabrics (7-9 oz) are also good for screen printing. The ink sticks well.
  • Heavyweight fabrics (10+ oz) might have a problem if the ink doesn't go all the way through, making the print look patchy.

Smooth materials are better for screen printing than rough ones because the ink goes on more evenly.

DTG Printing

DTG printing puts ink right into the fabric, making it feel soft. What's important for DTG printing is:

  • 100% cotton is the best for soaking up the ink. Polyester isn't as good.
  • Light to midweight fabrics are better because the ink can sit right and soak in well.
  • Heavyweight fabrics might not soak up the ink as well, so the print might fade faster.

Rough fabrics can mess with the printing, making it not as clear.

Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation needs fabrics with a lot of polyester because the ink needs to stick to synthetic fibers when it's heated. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • 100% polyester is the best for bright and clear prints.
  • Polyester blends can work, but the more cotton there is, the less vibrant the print.
  • Smooth fabrics help the dye spread evenly for a uniform look. Rough fabrics can make the dye spread unevenly.

Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)

HTV can be used on almost any fabric, but how stretchy, rough, or thick the fabric is can affect how well it works:

  • Lightweight fabrics that don't stretch are the easiest for clean HTV application.
  • Heavy fabrics that are rough might make it hard for the HTV to stick on smoothly.
  • Stretchy blends need a lot of heat and pressure to make sure the HTV sticks well and doesn't crack or peel.

It's a good idea to try HTV on a small piece of fabric first before doing a lot.

Extra Ways to Customize Your Sweatshirts

Besides printing, you can add special touches like stitching, tags, patches, and pins to make your sweatshirts stand out more.


Stitching designs or logos on your sweatshirt can add a cool texture. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Lightweight sweatshirts work best for stitching since they can handle the detail without messing it up. Thick fabrics might not look as neat.
  • If your sweatshirt already has a big printed design, keep stitching small and simple, like a logo or initials, so it doesn’t overwhelm.
  • Place stitching in areas without prints so it’s easy to see, like near the top left where your heart is.
  • Use 100% polyester thread because it lasts longer and doesn’t fade as quickly as cotton.

Woven Labels

Adding a custom tag can give your sweatshirts a more finished, branded look.

  • Choose light fabric tags that won’t bother the skin. Stay away from thick, scratchy ones.
  • Put tags in spots where they won’t cover your designs, like on the side or at the bottom.
  • Branded tags that match your design theme can pull everything together nicely.

Buttons & Badges

Buttons and badges are fun ways to add personality.

  • Enamel and woven badges look sharp and colorful. Sew them on tight.
  • Cool buttons and pin badges are a simple way to add a bit of flair without making things too busy.
  • Stick buttons and badges in places where they won’t get lost in your design.

Adding these extra bits can really make your sweatshirts special and unique.

Comparing Top Sweatshirt Picks

Independent Trading Co. Midweight Hoodie Overview

Independent Trading Co. makes really comfy basics, and their midweight hoodie is perfect if you want something not too heavy but still cozy. Here's the scoop:

  • Fabric: 80% cotton, 20% polyester fleece
  • Weight: 8 oz/yd2
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Printing: Great for screen printing, DTG, and vinyl

Bella + Canvas Unisex Fleece Zip Hoodie Overview

Bella + Canvas offers a soft and durable zip-up hoodie. It's made with a mix of cotton and polyester. Quick facts:

  • Fabric: 52% airlume combed and ring-spun cotton, 48% polyester
  • Weight: 7 oz/yd2
  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Printing: Good for screen printing, DTG

Patagonia Organic Cotton Hoodie Overview

Patagonia's hoodie is all about comfort and caring for the planet. It's made with 100% organic cotton. What you need to know:

  • Fabric: 100% organic cotton
  • Weight: Midweight
  • Fit: Regular
  • Printing: Great for screen printing and embroidery

Key Metric Comparison

Metric Independent Trading Co. Bella + Canvas Patagonia
Fabric 80% cotton, 20% polyester 52% cotton, 48% polyester 100% organic cotton
Weight 8 oz/yd2 7 oz/yd2 Midweight
Fit Relaxed Relaxed Regular
Screen printing Excellent Very good Excellent
DTG printing Excellent Very good Good
Embroidery Very good Good Excellent
Price $ $ $$

Final Selection Guidance

Balancing Quality and Budget

When picking the right sweatshirts for printing, think about how much you can spend versus how good you want them to be. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • If you're just starting or have a one-time project, go for something that's good enough but not too pricey. You can always go for higher quality as you grow.
  • If you're already set up and expect to sell a lot, it's better to spend a bit more on quality. This makes sure your prints look great and last long, which is good for your brand.
  • Look at different brands that are known for being really good and see which ones fit your budget.
  • You might want to mix and match. Use really nice sweatshirts for the main stuff and find cheaper ones for everything else.

Ordering Samples

It's super important to get a few sample sweatshirts printed first:

  • This way, you can see how your design actually looks and holds up on the sweatshirts you picked.

  • Make sure the samples cover everything you want to do, like printing on the front, back, and sleeves, and using different methods like screen printing or DTG.

  • Check the samples carefully before you go all in. This is your chance to make any changes.

  • If you're thinking about embroidery, try out both simple and detailed designs to see how they turn out.

Assessing Print Durability

You also want to make sure your prints will last:

  • Wash testing: Wash the samples a bunch of times to see if the print fades, cracks, or peels off.

  • Abrasion testing: Rub the print hard for a bit and see if it starts to come off.

  • Wear testing: Actually wear the sweatshirt and do stuff to see how it holds up.

  • Lightfastness testing: Put the printed part in strong sunlight and see if it fades.

Doing these tests will help you make sure the sweatshirts and prints can handle whatever your customers throw at them. If there are any problems, you might need to change the print, how you're doing it, or even the sweatshirt itself.


Picking the right sweatshirts for your printing project is super important if you want them to look good and last long. You need to think about what the sweatshirts are made of, how heavy they are, if they're made in a way that's good for the planet, and if the company making them is known for doing a good job.

The type of material makes a big difference. Sweatshirts that are all cotton are really soft and breathe well, which is great for putting designs on them with screen printing or DTG. But, mixing cotton with polyester makes the sweatshirt stronger and able to stretch, which is better for putting designs on with sublimation. Polyester fabrics are even more flexible for printing and are good for staying dry when you're moving around.

How thick the sweatshirt is also matters. Lighter sweatshirts are better for detailed designs or embroidery, while heavier ones are good for simple designs or really cold weather. You want to make sure the thickness matches where and how you'll wear it, and what kind of design you want on it.

People care a lot about products being made in a way that doesn't hurt the planet. Look for sweatshirts made with things like organic cotton or recycled materials. Companies like Patagonia and Pact are really careful about how they make their products, making sure they're good for the environment and for the people making them.

Before you make a bunch of sweatshirts, it's a smart idea to test a few first. Try out different ways of putting designs on them and see how they hold up to being washed and worn. This helps you catch any problems before you have a lot of them.

By paying attention to these things, you can pick the best sweatshirts for whatever you're planning to do. This means looking at the material, how heavy they are, if they're made responsibly, and making sure they pass your tests.

Which brand has the best quality sweatshirts?

Some top brands for high-quality sweatshirts are Champion, Nike, Carhartt, Hanes, and American Giant. Champion is known for comfy sportswear. Nike makes high-end athletic clothes. Carhartt is great for tough workwear. Hanes offers good basics at a nice price. American Giant focuses on making sweatshirts that last using strong materials.

When looking at brands, think about the fabric, how well it's made, if it lasts, if it's made the right way, and if it's worth the price. The best brands use nicer fabrics, make sure their sweatshirts can handle wear and tear, test them out a lot, and make them in a fair way.

How do you know if a sweatshirt is good quality?

To tell if a sweatshirt is good quality, look for:

  • Fabric quality: Good sweatshirts are usually made of a mix of cotton and polyester that's thick and soft.

  • Strong seams and stitching: Look for sweatshirts with strong seams and even stitching.

  • Well-made details: Things like sleeves that fit right and neat inside tags show care in making.

  • Fits well: Good brands make sweatshirts that fit the same way every time.

  • Warranties: Some brands promise their sweatshirts will last.

  • Made the right way: Sweatshirts that don't harm the planet or people are a good choice.

How do I choose a good sweatshirt?

To pick a good sweatshirt, follow these tips:

  • Choose sweatshirts that are a bit heavy but have some cotton for softness.

  • Make sure it fits you well.

  • Check for strong seams and neat stitching.

  • Pullovers are good for big designs. Zip-ups work if you want to split the design.

  • Think about if you need it to breathe well or keep sweat away.

  • Go with brands known for being good and fair, like Champion or Patagonia.

  • Try out a few samples to make sure they're what you want before ordering a lot.

What is the best print type for hoodies?

Screen printing and direct-to-garment (DTG) printing are both great for putting designs on hoodies.

Screen printing is good for designs with solid colors that need to last a long time. DTG printing is better for designs with lots of colors or details.

Think about how many colors you're using, how detailed the design is, how many you need, and your budget. It's always a good idea to test out a few first.

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