FAQ: Materials, Inks, and Fit

Know what you’re wearing


Says here your tees are screenprinted. What does that mean?

Unless otherwise noted, all of our adult tees are screenprinted by hand by our friends at Clockwise Tees. Screenprinting ensures the absolute best color and clarity. It’s not easy (or cheap) to make great screenprinted tees. That’s why we started Cotton Bureau.

What kinds of inks do you use?

The best kinds, 😜. But seriously, we print primarily with water-based and plastisol inks. Water-based are softest to the touch, plastisol is best for vibrant colors. When the design calls for it, we also occasionally use glow-in-the-dark, discharge, and metallic inks as well as offering foils and appliqué.

What shirts do you use?

Every shirt page includes comprehensive product details, but we’ll give you a quick rundown of our most used blanks here.

  • For tees, we use almost exclusively Next Level. Our shirts come in 100% cotton, poly-cotton, and tri-blend flavors. They’re all soft and breathable. You can’t go wrong.
  • Our sweatshirts are sourced from Alternative Apparel, Bella+Canvas, and Independent. People tell us they’ve never had a more comfortable sweatshirt.
  • Tank tops are usually Bella + Canvas.

P.S. We’re developing our own tees! We’ve been searching for years for the perfect tee (hint: one that actually fits women). Keep an eye out for them on the site.

I ordered a women’s tee, and I just have to say, it is way too small. What is wrong with you?

We know! We have been searching for years to find a shirt that fits women, comes in a solid range of colors, is ethically made, and is available in the quantities we need for a price we can afford. The bad news is that we’ve never found the one. The good news is, we’re making our own! We are in the process right now of designing and manufacturing our own lines of women’s tees so we can stop relying on the entirely inadequate options the wholesale market provides. In the meantime, we’re terribly sorry our current option is too small. Please know we’re working as fast as we can to make a great women’s tee.

What is Direct To Garment (DTG) printing?

You know how you have an inkjet printer at home? It’s just like that. Instead of separating colors onto individual screens, a shirt is put into a big machine that has little nozzles that spray ink straight onto your shirt. It’s fast and easy and works pretty well for a lot of different applications. The ink won’t be quite as soft or long-lasting as a traditionally screenprinted tee, but it means we can print (and sell) shirts on demand rather than hoping lots of people all agree to buy the same shirt at the same time.

Why are you printing some tees DTG?

DTG has several advantages over screen printing. It’s less expensive (for small runs), it lets us do lots of colors instead of just a few, and it means we can ship shirts faster since we don’t have to wait for demand to accumulate. We’re not going to sugarcoat it: DTG is not as nice as screenprinting for most designs. The ink can feel more rubbery or sticky, it won’t last as long, and some traditional printing applications just aren’t possible. For kids shirts (and the occasional special adult tee), we think the tradeoffs are worth it. If you agree, we promise the shirt we ship you is going to make you happy. If you aren’t, just let us know and we’ll take care of you.

Does this mean I can get any design I want on a kids tee?

No. This may come as a surprise, but not everyone design makes sense for children. If you see something you like, though, tell us! We’ll check with the designer to see if he or she is okay with making it available to kids.

Can I get a DTG adult tee?

Possibly. Screen printing provides the best overall quality—which is important when you plan to have and wear a shirt for a long time. While we prefer screen printing, sometimes it can be prohibitively expensive. In those situations we may offer DTG.

What if I don’t like the DTG printing? Can I get a kids tee that is screen printed?

While we’re not necessarily ruling out screen printed kids tees, what you see on the product page is what you get. If it says DTG, DTG it is.

Are your kids’ shirts CPSIA compliant?

Yes. Our garments are all sourced from reputable manufacturers including LAT Apparel, American Apparel, Next Level Apparel, and Independent. Our children’s shirts are all printed using lead-free water-based inks. We wear them constantly ourselves and recommend them without hesitation to our friends and family. If you have any questions about a specific item that you ordered, please email us.