The Top 8 Screen Printing Locations (and Why They Are Standard)
June 4, 2021
Who doesn’t love the standards? There’s a reason why the vast majority of T-shirt designs get printed in standard locations. They are tried and true. We’ve tried them all, and it’s true.
If you’re ordering standard locations, it’s important to know about the typical print sizes, placements, and if there are any restrictions based on your garment style. You may find that you want to try a different standard location, or even get crazy with an alternative location.
In this post, I’m going to describe the top 8 standards and give you some additional information about each print location to help you decide where to print your design or logo.
Need a quick refresh on what a print location is before diving into the details? Here’s a handy graphic that lays out some of the most common terms:
You can also read my post on screen printing terminology for even more info.
Before diving in, check out some of our most popular customizable t-shirts:
Now, on to the top 8 print locations and why they are standard.
1. Left Chest
The classic, and the go-to location for your logo when you’re providing shirts for employees or event staff.
The size is tasteful; typically 3” to 4” wide, and placement will adjust along with the size of the shirt, so it always looks right. I mean, left.
One of the trade-offs is details. You want to avoid a lot of details because people won’t be able to see them. So keep it simple.
Our Art Department can advise you on this, or simplify your logo if needed, and usually with no additional fee.
This location is not to be confused with Right Chest- although it often is. To be clear, left is referring to your left when you’re wearing it. Right Chest is fine if you prefer that, but it’s not the standard.
2. Center Chest
This location is also a classic, and it’s exactly where you would expect it to be: in the center, on the chest.
This is a moderately sized print and will be almost fully visible, even if someone is wearing a jacket, hoodie, or open button-down shirt.
The size is typically larger than left or a right chest, but not as large as a full front.
The range is anywhere from 6” to 10” wide, so 8” would be average. Make sure you specify what you want, or have one of our designers size it right. I’m mean, center.
If you were planning for a “standard front” you have a choice between this location and a Full Front (see below). The range of garment sizes in your order could help decide; if they skew smaller, especially into youth sizes, go with Center Chest. If they skew larger, into the 3XL range, you may want to go with a Full Front.
If your garment sizes range all the way from smaller youth to adult 3XL, you may want to consider ordering two separate print sizes. This will cost you a bit more, but your design will look great across all the different sizes.
3. Full Front
We now arrive at what is probably the most common print location. When people say “front” they usually mean Full Front. The standard print size for Full Front is 12”w x 14”h.
For some designs, this size can look very large, and you can end up with a lot of ink on the shirt, which can result in a heavy print that isn’t breathable, also known as a “sweat patch”, for obvious reasons.
Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate my point.
This is a standard size Full Front print (12” x 14”) on a medium shirt. As you can see, the logo takes up the entire front. And because white ink needs to be hit twice, this will have a heavy feel to it, and zero breathability in the areas that the ink covers.
So what are some options?
By adjusting the design of the logo, we can dramatically reduce the amount of ink going onto the shirt, even though this is the same size as the first example. So it’s still too large for my taste, but it’s no longer a “sweat patch”.
This approach will not work for all logos, as some of them cannot be inverted or changed, but for many of them, it will. Check with your sales rep or the Art Department to see if your logo or design can be adjusted to reduce the amount of ink.
Here we keep the original design of the logo, but reduce the size from 12”w to 8”w, making this a Center Chest rather than a Full Front. So even though there’s still ink covering most of the print area, there’s less of it, and breathability will be improved.
Now we have the best of both worlds: the adjusted logo design with less ink coverage, plus a reduced size. For most people and uses, this is plenty big. Even on a 3XL person, this will look good. And if they are running a 5K in it, they will thank you for not making it a sweat patch.
4. Oversize Front
If you thought Full Front was big, Oversize Front is even bigger. It’s over the size that should be printed on a T-shirt. But some people like it and want it, so I’m including it.
An Oversize print can be anything bigger than standard Full front. Our maximum print size is 13.5” wide by 16.5” high, but this can vary depending on your garment sizes.
For example, an oversize print may not fit on Youth sizes, smaller Ladies sizes, or tank tops, v-necks, etc.
The same principle I described for Full Front is going to apply here: you’ll want to consider your design, and the surface area the ink will be covering when selecting this size. Here are two examples to illustrate this point: a “DO” and a “DON’T”.
This type of design is not what you want to use for an Oversize print; the vast majority of the surface area will be ink. So it will be heavy, uncomfortable, and awkward-looking.
This is the same design, inverted. Now the majority of the print area is shirt showing. Whether or not this is a good look is debatable, but at least we’re not covering the whole front with ink.
Bottom line: some designs lend themselves better to Oversize print, some designs should not be printed Oversize, and you should always consider the ink coverage plus your garment sizes.
5. Collar / Small Upper Back
This print location started out as an alternative, and now it’s so popular it’s become a standard. Kind of like Radiohead. Anyway, it’s a great place to put a logo and that’s usually what gets printed here.
The average size is smaller than a Left Chest, typically 2” to 3” wide, so keep the design simple. Placement is about 1” from the edge of the collar.
You can also use this size for the small area on racerback tank tops, so it’s perfect for an order that includes those.
6. Upper Back
This print location could just be called “Back” but the important is that the placement is up across the shoulder blades.
It’s the #1 location to put the words “SECURITY” or “EVENT STAFF” or the hashtag of your choice.
The size is usually 12” wide to make sure people can read it from across the crowd.
Pro tip: If you’ve maxed out the width and the type still doesn’t look big enough for you, consider using a taller font. Anything with “Bold Extra Compressed” in the title will work well.
Of course, this list would not be complete without the Sleeve. This can vary, so make sure you describe what you want if it’s any different from standard.
As with the rest of the print locations, the size and placement should depend on your particular logo or design.
The standard is around 3” wide, but we can go as big as 4.5” wide (not recommended unless your logo is very wide), or as small as 1” wide.
Standard placement is about an inch from the hem.
8. Full Back
The Full Back is a classic and the second-most-popular print location after the front. But it’s printed slightly lower and usually larger.
It pairs well with a Left Chest. You could say it’s the Big Dipper to the Left Chest’s Little Dipper.
When you want an extra large print, the Full Back should be your first choice. You can get away with a bigger image– it’s more of a billboard than the front. Usually, 12” wide x 14” high is plenty.
And again, we can go up to 13.5”w x 16.5”h if the garments aren’t too small.
Now that you’re familiar with all the standard locations, how about some alternative options? Check out my post 12 Alternative Print Locations That Will Set Your T-shirt Apart
UPDATE: Here’s a new infographic all about this topic!
About the Author
A graduate of the Multimedia program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Imri Merritt is an industry veteran with over 10 years of graphic design and color separations experience in the screen printing industry.