"What size should I make my transfer for this shirt?" "Where exactly do I place this on the front of my t-shirt?" These are some of the questions that nearly every shirt maker asks when getting started. Thankfully, there are some general guidelines for sizing and placement that will help eliminate a lot of guesswork on your next project.
This blog is in not intended to be an exhaustive or final word on sizing and placement. Rather, it is a set of guidelines that we've compiled with beginners in mind. The great thing about guidelines is they can be bent to your meet your preference, desired aesthetic, and/or customer request.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let's start with how to size your transfers!
Single or set sizing is where you use the same size transfers on your entire run of t-shirts, regardless of difference in garment size. This usually ends up in a graphic that looks good on your medium through extra-large tees. The graphic may seem a little large on your extra-small tees and a little small on your 2XL or larger tees. This method is the way 99% of all mass-produced t-shirts are customized.
The standard size range for single size transfers is 9” or 10.5” wide. This is just a recommendation; every individual job is unique and may call for your transfers to be sized outside of this range. You always want to measure the width of your smallest t-shirt to make sure you have enough space to fit the transfer.
Graduated sizing is where each transfer is perfectly fitted to match the size of the t-shirt. This is a practice many shops adopt for their custom one-off orders or small quantity shirt runs. It allows each shirt to have a truly custom feel and is one of the benefits of being able to create your own transfers.
Again, you may likely find the need to adjust these recommendations based on a variety of factors including (but not limited to): graphic style, shirt fit, customer request, and your own preference. Here are my recommendations: Starting with an adult size small, set your standard transfer width at 8”. Add 1” to the width of your transfer for every size up and go down 1” for an extra-small tee.
Here are the suggested transfer widths for the most common shirt sizes:
7” - X-small
8” - small
9” - medium
10” - large
11” - X-large
12” - 2XL
13” - 3XL
If you are using a vinyl cutter, sublimation printer, or other machine that allows you to create your own individual transfers, you can use a hybrid of these two methods. You can create a smaller graphic for your XS to Large tees, and a larger graphic for your 2XL+ tees. This method is great for jobs that call for multiple plus-sized tees.
A good starting point is to set your smaller graphic at around 9.75” and your larger graphic around 12”. Again, this may need to be adjusted depending on the variables of each individual job.
Pocket & Sleeve Logo Sizing
For pocket & sleeve logos, a business card is a great reference point for transfer sizing - 3.5” on the largest dimension. Single sizing is usually appropriate, since this size transfer looks great on nearly all t-shirt sizes. However, hybrid sizing may be necessary for 3XL and larger sizes. For those tees, transfers that are 4.25” on the largest dimension should work just fine.
A good set size for long sleeve transfers (that are intended to run the length of the sleeve) is 14” to 17” and not usually exceeding 4” on the short dimension. If you plan to do graduated sizing, you can start at 14” for a small t-shirt and add 1” for each additional size. With sleeve transfers, you’ll find that your eye and some measuring tape are your best assets.
CLICK HERE to download a printable PDF of our Placement Guidelines.
So now we know how to size our transfers. But where exactly do we put them on the t-shirt?
Front graphics are placed over the chest area of the t-shirt. This is the most natural and visually appealing placement. If the garment is placed too low, it will land over the belly of the wearer. This does not look good to the eye at all. The “sweet spot” for chest placement is placing the top of the transfer 1.5” to 3” below the collar of the t-shirt. For shorter graphics and/or larger shirts, you’ll want to keep it closer to 3”. For taller graphics and/or smaller shirts, you’ll want to keep it closer to 1.5”
A great way to keep uniformity on all transfers in a run is by using a Tee Square It. A Tee Square It will also help you ensure the graphic is straight and aligned horizontally. Eventually, you’ll train your eye to identify straight and centered graphics. Until then, I can’t stress how important it is for beginners to have an alignment tool on-hand. Check out this quick video on how to use the Tee Square It.
I recommend centering your pocket transfer with the right edge of the collar, then placing it approximately 1.5” to 3” below the collar, depending on how tall the transfer is. In my experience, this placement works great for all sizes.
You may have a different preference for pocket logo placement. In that case, you can have an assistant wear a t-shirt while you tape a business card to their chest in the ideal pocket logo location. Have them take the shirt off so you can measure how far the transfer is from the collar, both vertically and horizontally. Use this as your new measurement and mark it on your Logo Grid It tool. Check out this quick video on how to use the Logo Grid It.
For a large majority of back transfers, my placement recommendation is the same: place the transfer right below wherever the FRONT collar lands, regardless of shirt size. This will place the top of your graphic right over the upper back and looks great for jersey names. Using this method is also great for those who don’t have a fully threadable heat press, since it allows the collar to hang off the edge of your heat press.
This placement doesn’t work 100% of the time. If you find it doesn’t look right with your particular transfer, try to align it vertically with the armpits of your t-shirt.
Short Sleeve Transfer
Most sleeve hits are going to be a name/website/etc. or a logo. It’s rare that you’ll have a text graphic or something super detailed. Sleeve transfers look best over the bicep, the location of which depends on the fit of the garment. This is usually about 1” to 3” above the seam of the sleeve hem. Smaller or more fitted garments will be closer to 1" and larger or looser fitting garments will be closer to 3".
When placing a name (or website) on the sleeve, you may also consider hem placement. This is usually 0.25” to 0.5” above the seam on the sleeve hem regardless of size.
Long Sleeve Transfer
Long sleeve transfers that run down the sleeve can be a little tricky. Do you place the transfer closer to the shoulder or the wrist - or center it between them? Any of the three methods works, depending on the situation. You should always get direction from your client as to how they want their sleeve transfer placed on the garment. Provide a mockup whenever possible to ensure there is no miscommunication here.
When in doubt, center the graphic between the wrist and shoulder seams on the sleeve. If placement is requested closer to the wrist or shoulder, 2” to 3” away from either seam should do the trick. To ensure proper placement along the side of the sleeve, lay the sleeve flat (how the shirt lays naturally) on the press when pre-pressing. This will crease the sleeve. You can then re-orient the sleeve, which will now have a crease along the center of the sleeve. This crease makes a perfect guideline for centering your long transfers
A Final Word...
I can’t stress enough that this whole blog and download are guidelines and not rules. You will find that different images will look better at different sizes. As you get deeper and more experienced in garment decoration, you’ll see that every job is different - each with an opportunity to learn something new.
Do you have any tips that we didn’t cover? Do you have any sizing or placement questions for us? Let us know in the comments!