Custom t-shirts have a large variety of parts, including some people rarely think about. Once a great t-shirt design has been created, it is important to bring quality into every step to ensure a great product. One often overlooked part of creating a t-shirt is the label. With so many options for t-shirt labels available, I have researched and tested the simplest way to do it.
Here is how to make a label for a t-shirt:
- Choose a type of label
- Organize necessary label information
- Design the label
- Print the label on transfer paper
- Heat press the label onto fabric
- Glue or tape the label to the shirt
Those are the basic steps for creating a t-shirt label. Below, details about each step and the large number of choices each provides will be explained.
Step-by-Step Tutorial: How to Make a Label for a T-shirt
Let’s walk through each step to understand what you need to do to have your t-shirt label come out just the way you want the first time.
1. Choosing A Type of Label
You have probably seen a number of different t-shirt labels. T-shirt labels are meant to identify the brand of a shirt, provide necessary washing and care information, and a few other things depending on local laws.
Beyond those few necessary pieces, t-shirt labels can be a great way to inject even more creativity into custom t-shirts. While most labels are small pieces of fabric attached afterword, labels can also be printed directly onto the shirt.
These two options each have pros and cons and can influence how customers perceive your t-shirts.
Inside Label Printing
Inside labeling is the process of printing label information directly onto the t-shirt. This avoids tags and often results in a more premium feeling product. Additionally, labels printed inside the t-shirt are less limited in size, allowing for creative shapes and text which otherwise would not be an option.
Inside labels are great for adding that final, premium touch to a product and can really help a brand stand out.
There are a wide variety of pros to utilizing inside label printing, including:
- Increased Professionalism. Often, details make or break customer perception. Choosing inside label printing means taking a long look at even the bland parts of a product.
- Brand Identity. T-shirts are often not remembered for which store they were bought from, or which company produced them. Choosing an inside label that can sport your logo helps ensure that customers see and notice it more often.
- Creativity. Adding a fun blurb or easter-egg to the laundry list of requirements on a label can help customers feel better about your brand.
With these pros, of course, come a few cons as well.
- Lack of Availability. If your t-shirt is being printed through a third-party supplier, they may not offer the option for inside labeling.
- Increased Cost. When compared to traditional tag labels, inside labels tend to be more expensive.
- Larger Time Investment. Especially with small at-home printing operations, taking the time to press a custom tag into every t-shirt could take more time than it is worth.
When comparing the pros and cons of inside label printing, it is a good idea to weigh how your products and brand should come across to customers. If your products are supposed to be top of the line, and customers are paying that premium, it may be a worthy option.
Hanging labels are the most common form of labels for t-shirts. Occasionally, t-shirts may come with a tag defining all necessary information, allowing designers to print a smaller tag on top of that one. This will often include the brand logo and where customers can find more information about the shirt.
Hanging labels are perfect for shirts that are expected to see a lot of sales, and keep things simple for manufacturers.
Here are some of the pros of choosing a classic tag label:
- Cheap. Tag labels can be ordered in bulk from a variety of places online, but they can easily be printed at home, as well. Materials are cheap and easy to make in large batches.
- Ready Information. Most t-shirts have a tag on them already, listing all government-mandated information. Designers do not have to worry about missing a piece of information and violating the law.
- Common Form. Nobody will be confused about how to read a tag label when they are trying to find information, as almost everyone has had a t-shirt with one before. This allows the design on the front of the t-shirt to be the main focus.
Tag labels are fantastic for their ease of use and common availability. However, there are some cons as well.
- Tags May Be Itchy. Depending on the material you choose for creating your tag label, customers may find them irritable and choose to tear them off.
- Lack of Creativity. Tags are, by design, extremely small areas. There is not much space to do anything creative or catch a customer’s eye when choosing tag labels.
- No Premium Feel. While people are not likely to think of the t-shirt as cheap simply because of a tag, choosing a hanging label could hurt if you want your t-shirts to give off an air of higher quality.
Tag labels are fantastic for creating custom labels, especially for beginners. They can cover a lot of necessary information and will not add a large amount of time to getting products ready to ship out.
2. Gathering Necessary Information
There are a few things that must be put on any custom t-shirt label. Before any design starts to happen, it is worth it to gather these pieces in a list to ensure that all will be hit.
Some countries have different requirements for what must be printed on a t-shirt label. While this list should cover everything for the United States, it is worth taking the time and finding out what other information you may need.
You can also add information to any label that is not explicitly laid out here. Anything that makes your t-shirts more recognizable or that you think is worth stating can find a way into the design!
Here is a small list of what should be printed on a t-shirt label:
- Brand Name
- Washing Instructions
- Country of Origin
While many of these are self-explanatory, there are options within each of them. Here are some tips for nailing each category on your custom labels.
Incorporating your logo into your tag may not be a necessary step, but it is certainly a worthwhile one. This is how customers can interact with and remember your brand, so take the time to find a good space for it.
Making your brand logo the center of attention may seem weird when there is plenty of information that needs to be provided, but it is the best way to ensure that customers can return to you if they like the product.
Brand names must be legible and clear, even when printed on a small tag. Be creative!
The size of the shirt is a vital piece of information. There is a surprising amount of space for creativity here, as well. When deciding where the size information will be, consider a few key pieces of information:
- Is the shirt unisex, male, or female cut?
- Do you want the fit of the shirt to be seen? As in athletic cut or loose-fitting.
- Is there enough space for larger sizes, such as 2XL, to be printed clearly?
You want to create a label that does not require modification when dealing with various cuts and sizes, so it is important to answer these questions from the beginning. This will save you work in the long term and help your custom labels look as professional as possible!
The material of the shirt is important so that people can recognize the feel of the shirt, how to wash it, and any allergies they may have.
Especially with shirts that are made from rarer fabrics that may require more care, such as 100% cotton, taking the time to find and note the material down will be a welcome step by customers.
Washing and Care Instructions
If you are going to leave the manufacturer’s tag and add your own on top, you do not need to worry about this information. However, when creating a custom inside label or fully replacing tag labels, it is vital to add notes on how customers should care for their t-shirts.
Common information here includes notes on whether the shirt is machine washable and dryable, if it can be mixed with like colors, and any special care instructions.
You can take a look at the labels you are removing from the shirt to get a good idea for what you should include on the custom tag for this sort of thing.
Country of Origin
Many customers enjoy seeing where the shirt was manufactured. In some countries, this information is essential to put on the label, so it is best to always include it.
Note that this is not the country where the design was created – it is explicitly where the original t-shirt was made, which could be different.
Especially if your t-shirt was created in the United States of America, many customers will enjoy seeing that and may support your products more for it.
The RN#, or the Registered Identification Number, is issued by the Federal Trade Commission when producing in the United States. This number may not need to go on your custom t-shirt labels, so it is best to look into the details yourself on the FTC’s website.
As a quick summary, the RN# may not be necessary if the full business name is also available on the t-shirt label. Be sure to do your own research and decide the best course of action for your custom labels.
This also only applies when the t-shirts are being produced and sold from the United States. Checking for your own countries laws and practices regarding sales of merchandise is a worthy task.
3. Designing The Label
Once the type of label has been decided and all information gathered, the process of designing your t-shirt label can begin!
Tip: Using a t-shirt label design template from Placeit to design your label will be a big time saver. It’s best to get your t-shirt label design correct the first time so you don’t have to re-do it later!
This is an exciting time in the process as it is where creativity can really shine through. Think outside of the box and go through a few iterations before deciding on the labels.
Here are a few tips for designing the best t-shirt labels you can.
Choosing The Ink
It is important to choose an ink that can easily be seen, whether you choose inside labeling or tag labeling. The information on the label, ranging from your business logo to required washing instructions, needs to be legible. Otherwise, there is no point in putting it there in the first place!
If you choose to go with an inside label, it is important to also ensure that the ink does not bleed through the shirt. This can especially be an issue with light-colored t-shirts.
While any ink color could be feasible, the most common colors for shirt label inks are black, grey, or white. These are highly legible through a variety of colors and never appear tacky or out of style.
It is also best to choose one ink color when designing your label. This allows for the label to blend into the shirt more, and also saves on printing costs.
Be Careful With Size
Even with inside labels, you have a highly limited space to put in all that information you previously found. The text should be clearly legible, and there should be padding around each area of the design so that customers can tell what each part is.
The smallest recommended text size for labels is 6 points. Even with tag labels, going smaller than that can cause text to become difficult if not impossible to read.
Inside labels have a much larger space to work in than tag labels, but it is important to still not get too big. A great size barrier to set for your custom label is a 4-inch by 4-inch square. Keeping inside labels smaller than that can also help to cut costs down and save on ink.
Tag labels are much smaller, with an average size of roughly 50mm. When customizing your own, the size can change to accommodate your needs, but it is vital to remember that long tags can get annoying to wearers of the shirt.
Design Around Your Logo
This relates to keeping size in mind but is worth going into more detail about. Your brand logo is one of the few ways customers can recognize your work beyond the t-shirt design itself and come back for more.
Having your logo be clearly visible using some basic design principles will ensure that your brand does not fade into the background.
If using inside printing, consider making your logo larger than any other information. This will make the logo the first thing customers see when looking at the label.
When using a tag label, it could be highly beneficial to put your logo on a separate, front tag. While this will create more work, it will allow your logo to not be squished in with all of the other information. I recommend putting the logo tag ahead of the others so that it is still the first thing people see.
4. Printing The Label
Once the shirt label has been designed, the next step is printing it out. The process is surprisingly similar for both inside label shirts and tag labels.
There are a few materials that are essential for printing custom tags. These are:
- Iron-On Transfer Paper
- Inkjet Printer
- Any Cutting Utensil
Below, I will go into detail about why each material is needed and how to use them in the process.
How Transfer Paper Works
The first step for printing the label is to gather iron-on transfer paper. There are a few options available but any high-quality variants should do.
Transfer paper is a thin paper that is coated with wax. Later, when the paper is heated, the wax melts and transfers the image onto something else – in this case, the fabric of the shirt or tag label.
Transfer paper is essential for getting the design onto fabric, regardless of what kind of label you are making.
When printing onto the paper, it is best to maximize space. This means copying the design multiple times and fitting as many as is comfortably possible on one page. Remember to leave some padding as you will need to individually cut out each label design later on.
When printing onto transfer paper, it is also vital to flip the design. If the label is not flipped, it will appear mirrored and useless when later transferred on.
Getting A Good Print
The design must be printed out in high quality. Otherwise, it could look fuzzy and unprofessional. While any printer will do, inkjet printers tend to be highly accurate especially when compared with other home printers.
When setting up your printer for the labels, there are a few settings you should change to ensure the best prints:
- Set The Printer To Slow, High-Quality Prints. While increasing the time may feel like a waste, doing this will help the printer stay on track and not miss any details of the design.
- Put The Paper In The Correct Way. It can be extremely easy to insert the transfer paper into the printer bed upside down, ruining the expensive paper. Take a moment to ensure the paper is correct before sending any mass prints to production.
- Fill Ink Cartridges. While label designs are generally one color, any variations or lack of ink could cause inconsistencies in the printing. Be sure your printer has enough ink to print everything you need it to.
Cutting The Labels
Cutting the labels out is a fairly obvious step. This is where the padding that was left in between the label designs early will be very helpful, allowing for slightly more variation.
The best way to get accurate cuts of the label design is to have a ruler and sharp craft knife, but scissors also work. Simply trace through the space left during the print and cut carefully.
At the end of the process, you should have very little scrap paper leftover and a host of your designs ready to be made into labels.
5. Heat Pressing The Label
Now that the label has been printed onto transfer paper, the act of transferring the designs onto fabric comes next.
Transfer paper works when heat and pressure are applied to it. While there are a few different ways of activating the paper, a clothing iron works best for this.
Testing the process on scrap material first is a good option, as the timing and pressure can be tricky to find, as well as changing depending on the fabric you are attaching it to.
While most fabrics will work great for tags, you must double-check that they are iron safe. Otherwise, the material could burn and ruin the label.
How To Heat Press Transfer Paper
Heat pressing transfer paper is very straight forward. Check the instructions provided with your own transfer paper for extra information on how much heat or pressure your specific brand may need.
To start the process, here are a few steps:
- Lay the transfer paper design down onto the fabric
- Apply heat and pressure from the iron for as long as your transfer paper recommends
- Peel away the backing of the transfer paper while it is warm
Those three steps apply whether the label is being applied directly inside the shirt or onto a ribbon of fabric. However, depending on whether you are creating an inside label or tag label, future steps will change slightly.
Finishing Transfering To Inside Labels
Once the backing of the transfer paper has been removed from an inside label, there is very little left to do. Simply wait for the area to fully cool and you are done!
If the ink has come out chipped, sloppy, or otherwise unsatisfactory, all may not be lost. Warming the area again and carefully removing the transfer ink may allow for a second attempt to be made. Doing this too many times can ruin the shirt, though, so it is best to be as accurate as possible the first time.
If the transfer was satisfactory, you are done and have successfully created a custom label for your t-shirts!
Finishing Transfering To Tag Labels
Finishing the transfer to tag labels does have a few more steps to ensure a quality product. While none of these steps are essential, they will ensure the tag lasts much longer and feels nicer for customers.
First, trim the edges of the fabric to straighten them out. This will help keep the tag from getting itchy or pulling apart with normal wear and tear.
After it has been lined off, taking a lighter or other flame to the edges of the tag will stop it from fraying in the future. Be careful to not hold the flame near the label for long as it could burn or cause hard, irritating edges.
Finally, if you are folding your tag, creasing it properly can help keep it down and look great. Simply take your iron and crease the tag label at the bend.
Once all of these steps have been completed, the last step awaits: attaching it to the shirt!
6. Gluing or Taping The Label
The final step of the custom label process is perhaps the most important one, where everything comes together. Attaching the label to the shirt can be done in a variety of ways, each with their own benefits.
Experimenting at this stage with what method works best for you may be a good option, as it is hard to go wrong. Assuming the label is attached to the shirt and will not fall off, you have done your job!
Still, there are two main ways of attaching the tag label: Gluing it to the shirt or taping it in.
Gluing The Tag Label
Gluing the tag label into the shirt is surprisingly easy. Any fabric glue will do. Simply add a small bead of the glue to the label before inserting it into the upper neckline of the shirt. Keep pressure on for a short while, generally a minute or two. After that, the tag should hold on its own. Allow it to dry for a full 24 hours at a minimum, and the bond should be mostly permanent!
Fabric glue can come apart in a drying machine or under heavy wear, so be sure to note that on washing and care instructions if that is the plan.
Taping The Tag Label
The option of hemming tape may be better for most people.
Hemming tape is a double-sided adhesive tape that melts into a strong bond under heat. It is perfect for applying tags to clothing, and machine dryable.
Instructions on hemming tape may change depending on the brand, so double-check your own before continuing. However, the basic application of the tape will be very similar to the heat transfer paper used to get the design onto fabric earlier.
Hemming tape results in a thin label without extra sewing or too many steps and is a great option.
Now, you’re all set to make a label for any t-shirt you design!