How many shirts should I print?!

This question comes up a lot and I think it really needs an article about it.

I remember printing my first shirt, live every week like it’s shark week, and I was asking the same question. I asked people what sizes I should order and I also unwisely asked what size people wanted to buy. I say unwisely because I asked it on emptees and not everyone that answered was my market or would be my customer.

It isn’t as simple as someone telling you how many shirts to buy. It depends on your market the design and a lot of factors that are really hard to calculate when you are buying your first print.


I recommend buying the minimums. Most times this is 36-50 shirts sometimes even lower. The worst thing you can do is order shirt sizes that don’t sell and you have tons of stock left. Whatever you do don’t print more shirts because you get a discount. When you have the customers and know the sizes they order this is fine but it is disastrous if it’s your first time printing.

Do the research

I think your best bet is to talk to similar clothing companies. A lot of them might not respond but a lot of it is how you talk to them. Talk about how you like their clothing line, how you are printing your first shirt and don’t know what to get, how you are doing something similar and want their expertise, and I think most importantly give them a reason to help you. I send out shirts to a lot of people that have helped me and it’s always great to get gifts. Make them want to help you!


This is a breakdown of small to extra large that a lot of people use. They get twice as many mediums and larges as smalls and xl’s. I find that what I sell is usually more on the smaller side so I get more smalls and mediums, and less larges and xl’s then this breakdown. Really every market is different so you have to test and use your data to reorder.

Another thing is I always like to order 1 or 2 2XL’s or x-small. These don’t sell very well but your customer will appreciate you for carrying their size.

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  • trippytaka

    Totally test the waters… you’re right, every market is different. Our company focuses on car fans, which as it turns out, as larger. We’re selling more XL and 2XL than M.

  • Andy

    Wish I’d had this a couple of weeks ago when I was putting together the HYA tee order, good work Jon.

  • Oxygen 3

    Nice post, we recently had this dilemma when we ordered our first batch (although we print ourselves). Turns out the sizes were on the large side, and we actually wound up with way too many of the larger sizes. Kinda the opposite of trippytaka.

    The best advice is to just test the waters. You’ll never know what you really need until you have them in your hands, no matter how much to analyze the situation.

  • nnm

    Wish I'd had this a couple of weeks ago when I was putting together the…

  • Biaka Zaidarhzauva

    I'm finding out that with the kind of shirts we make, it jumps from kids sizes to XXXL. But these happen so sporadically we stay with the S-M-L range. I guess one way we try to figure sizes out is by picking the models who wear our shirt, and see if that encourages or deters people.

  • SignifyingNot

    I think this is really great advice. It is really hard to predict what number of what size you are going to need. The first time I bought shirts, I way underestimated the amount of medium and larges that I needed. It is a lot of trial and error.

  • jonkruse

    A lot of trial and error but it gets easier as time goes on because you have all the data about how well your shirts sell and what sizes.

  • mark of the guerilla

    very interesting post sir!

    keep it up. will post after action report/s when we are able to launch our own clothing line. :) cheers!

  • yodude711

    i can definitely relate to this quandry – how many shirts should i print? when i first started selling tshirts in college, it was a huge dilemma because like jon says, you don't want to print too many and have a bunch that never sell.

    nowadays, though, i don't print ANY inventory. besides the issue of spending a ton of money on an inventory, i hate managing an inventory. i've sworn it off twice in the 8 years i've been selling shirts.

    i scoured the country looking for screen printers that would screen print shirts on demand. i didn't want digital or DTG printing, only screen printing for me. i feel it's just more professional looking. kinda separates the men from the boys, you know?

    anyway, it took me a couple years, but i finally found a screen printer that would work with me. now, when a customer orders a shirt on my website, the order gets sent to directly to the screen printer, he prints it up, drop-ships it to my customer, and then charges my business credit card.

    after doing it this way for a while, it occurred to me that there are probably a lot of other people out there that would love to setup their shirt companies this way.

    so in the interest of sending more business to my screen printer, making his service available to more and more people, and because he didn't really have a good web presence, i'm building a website to market his on-demand screen printing services.

    i suggest anyone who's interested in starting a clothing company that doesn't have a lot of money to start look into doing print-on-demand screen printing. you can avoid the traditional hassles and headaches, as well as the main barriers to entry in this industry, if you set up your business this way. anyone read “The 4-Hour Workweek”? this is right up your alley. make a little money machine (muse) that puts money in your pocket without your involvement. that's what it's all about, right?

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  • hohg

    who is the t shirt printer you go through, please thanks for your help. I will tell him/her you sent me. thanks

  • jonkruse

    Hey email me at jon@doubledragonstudios and I'll tell you my secrets.

  • Denelldees

    what is the cheapest and easyest way to get my clothing line started and what website can i go to

  • Nobody nude

    Good advice about the xxl and xs sizes. I always make 100 shirts per new item I put in my shop.

  • Rich

    Thanks for information. Im looking forward to starting my new clothing company and im learning more each

  • Shane

    exactly what I was looking for, thanks

  • Dg1

    Thanks for the info. I started Schism Apparel awhile back, and the printing company I went through made me order 144 at a time for oversized prints. Do you know of a company that does oversized prints with a lower minimum?

  • JJ

    I’m trying to decide on a size breakdown for t-shirts. I see that in various places  (including here) people recommend (for S M L XL) a 1 2 2 1 ratio. But what if I have a different cut for men and women. What would be the size division for men and what would be the size division for women? (assume I have the same amount of men and women).


  • thesaft

    a good Idea is to do a kickstarter or crowd funding scheme in order to attempt to fund the first run. this way you know what some of your markets sizes are and it will lessen the pain on the pocket book eh?

  • Northwest Embroidery

    If you decide to print with DTG, you really can start out small in terms of inventory since reorders are fast and don’t typically require any additional setup fees, unlike screenprinting. Its a safe way to test the waters with designs, and reduces the risk of a ton of unsold merchandise.