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I am aware that most screen printing or DTG (Direct To Garment) have a maximum print size but I'm curious to know what is the proper way to address apparel designs when the intended design is to be printed on a size small all the way up to a 2XL.

When designing for apparel should a design canvas size be considered based on each shirt to be printed or should it be based on the median of shirt sizes?

Would it be proper to suggest to the client the different canvas sizes even though that could be considered another design fee?

This could be a printer and client decision but based on being able to provide the designs I am curious to know what is the proper way to address the situation.

So my question is, when apparel designing how should a designer choose their canvas?

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I've designed about 12 different shirts and hoodies that have been reprinted in the thousands for national conferences and events.

My rule of thumb when designing a t-shirt is based on the typical digital and silk screen sizes, which is 11x17.

So far, I have not had any printer request any changes from my submittal in that canvas size. Not saying this is the only absolute answer, but one that has never failed me.

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There is not a definite answer as this will vary from client to client. Generally I’ve found that you’ll set a median canvas size that works for all garment sizes. But for bigger clients with a large production they might very well want different sizes of your graphics delivered.

When working with a client that produces clothing they’ll usually have a buyer or producer employed that is in charge of placing orders to factories, sourcing materials, quality control etc. A good producer will be able to tell you what they need delivered in terms of canvas size and file formats, and what is possible to do with their resources and production budget.

Feel them out, if they don’t have a producer they’re probably a smaller sized company and won’t have the budget to produce different sized prints. Suggest a size and make them sign off on it before you start your work.

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When designing for apparel should a design canvas size be considered based on each shirt to be printed or should it be based on the median of shirt sizes?

In general, the same artwork size is used for all different sizes but in high quality clothing, it's not uncommon to use a different canvas for a very small t-shirt and another one for a XXL for example. Clothing sizes don't "expand" proportionally, they have different ratios.

Printers do not always resize canvas!

Example:

https://printaura.com/image-requirements/

As you know, you need to refer to the printer's specifications for the canvas size. The sizes depends on the market (country) and the machines of the printer.

To create your design: the easiest way to do this is to start with the best seller size as your "demo", which is probably the medium/large sizes; that's the size you can use for your own workflow. If you work in vector it won't be an issue to change the size if your client ever decides to use different templates; for raster, then start with a higher resolution and the biggest canvas size since it's easier to lower the size down than increase it.

And if you know your client will use a print-on-demand type of service, then simply use the medium size as demo; there's usually only one size for all shirts and no option of using a bigger or smaller canvas based on the garment size.

In general, the best is to use all the area you have on your canvas unless your goal is to print something very small!

Would it be proper to suggest to the client the different canvas sizes even though that could be considered another design fee?

My suggestion is to show a proof with the design on each t-shirt size; you can usually get these garment sizes on the printer's site and if you work with a manufacturer, you can always ask them. Standard sizes depends on which country they're produced for, so be careful if you get this info online.

As you guess, the print on very small size will look very "busy" because the print will occupy a large area of the shirt while the XXL will look "empty". Sometimes the right and left edges of the print on very small size get sewed and "cropped"; apply the same rule to your clothing print as you would for any other print project and make sure you have some safe margin (but bleed isn't necessary).

So yes, after showing your client how the print will look like on the different sizes of shirt, it might be proper to suggest to the client to use different canvas sizes if the artwork looks out of place on some specific t-shirt sizes. By showing the proofs, you'll let the client decide and see if it fits the budget.

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Children's t-shirt graphics are, of course, smaller.

Adult graphics are generally the same size because unless you're designing for a company such as Big Dog, who specializes in larger sizes, the number of extra large sizes which are sold is very small in relation to the normal small-medium-large sizes.

Much will depend upon who your end customer will be - do they expect many larger-sized people to be purchasing these shirts? Normally they target the average-sized person and most companies don't want to pay the extra cost just for the smaller number of XL t-shirts which they sell.

I hope that your client is willing to pay the extra cost to print XL-XXXL shirts with a larger design; that would be preferable.

However, be careful not to make your design so large that it is unflattering to the wearer.

The silkscreen printer will be able to give you the dimensions for the optimum size.

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    You don't submit different final files for different shirt sizes. The printer will scale those appropriately. – Peacockerie Sep 24 '15 at 21:11

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