You've worked hard to prep your team. You've paid your fees, made your plans, spent hours in preparation. Why not look like a million bucks? 

Production Options for Team Clothing

  1. PREFERRED: Use a Direct Print Vendor:  These vendors can print you logo and customization to each shirt in full color. The process is direct print in which they inkjet with permanent ink directly onto your item. And, they offer hundreds of items that can be customized with your logo.
    1. PROS: One design can be applied to many items. Each item can be customized without penalty (for example, we make a shirt for each person with their name). Online system is easy to use. Quick turnaround (2-4 days). Good quality garments (even our shirts from 4 years ago are still going strong). You can open a free store if you want just one one of each item (no customization) Basic stores (unlimited items) are about $6 per month. But you can close the store after the season.
    2. CONS:  Really none except cost. A typical shirt will cost  $14-17 or more but you only have to make what you need (no minimums).
  2. Make a sponge print template for custom shirts. This year our FLL teams are going to use generic t-shirts and use sponges and brushes to color their logo. To do this you need to use a local sign shop that can digitally cut out the template. The key is that you cannot have any floating elements (like the center of an "O'). You have to connect them. This will create similar shirts that are each unique.
  3. Do it Yourself: Using any number of iron on materials from a variety of vendors you can make great shirts yourself. There are now iron on transfers for light and dark shirts. The key to getting these to work is to FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS.
    1. PROS: Do it at home, can be done in a night. Can be done  in color (any thing you can design). Can be customized (since you are printing a graphic for each shirt).
    2. CONS: More expensive than you would expect (materials, ink, shirts).  You will spend, between ink, iron-on, and the shirt, at least $10 per item. Prone to error (which means you typically have to discard the garment). Relatively short wear life (may break up or fades after a few washings. Time consuming (doing 10 shirts will take you a few hours).
    3. WHERE TO FIND SUPPLIES:  Your local Staples, BestBuy, Office Depot, etc. will have the iron on inkjet material. Shirts can be purchased from local sports stores or Wal-Mart/Target (for white). Shirts should be 100% cotton for best results.
  4. Use a Silk Screen Vendor: Silk screening is a process that uses inks pressed through screens into the garment. The screens provide a mask for the design.
    1. PROS: Relatively low cost in 1 or 2 colors. Can be put on almost any type of garment. Shops will offer a wide range of garment choices (which effects cost) Extreme garment life (image will rarely fade or crack). In large quantities (48+) this is a very affordable way to make shirt. You can often go to full color screen printing at this level
    2. CONS: Limited colors (fixed range).  No customization (every shirt is the same). Expensive with more than 2 colors. Typically must be ordered in large quantities to be affordable (24 or more). Set up fees are typically charged. Delivery time is typically 10-14 days for most shops.
    3. WHERE TO FIND VENDORS: Start in your local area. There are silk screen shops in almost every town and it's good to buy locally. After that, check online.

Tips for graphic design

Designing good graphics for your team's shirts is not difficult. Each site provides templates for each item (or class of items). Here's our suggested tools.

  1. Buy Adobe Photoshop Elements: This is Adobe's basic image editing software and it can be purchased for less than $100 (it is often bundled with Premier Elements for $150. Premier is a very good video editing package). It's available at almost any technology/office store.
  2. Create Graphics at the Actual Size at 300 dots per inch (pixels per inch) in RGB (Red/Green/Blue) color model. Cafe Press offers templates for each item that you just need to open in Photoshop and then add your graphics.
  3. Understand the limitations of the printing processes: 
    • For silkscreen you typically can only use solid colors. The more colors, the more expensive. Also, not all colors you see on your screen can be printed with inks. Check with your vendor for color palettes.
    • For Direct Print On Light Shirts remember that your shirt color is your 'paper color.' Most of are used to designing on white (paper). However, your shirts will typically not be white so the colors are additive. That is, for example, yellow color in a light blue shirt will produce a greenish tint. Also, anything that is "white" in your art will be transparent (hence the shirt color). So it best to create a mockup by putting the logo on a sample shirt graphic and removing all white from your logo.
    • For Direct Print on Dark Shirts you can almost do anything you wish. The process works by putting down a white mask and then printing on top of it. There a few issues to consider:
      • The shirts are not as durable as direct print to light shirts.
      • The printed areas don't breath and become hot or sweaty in warm/sunny situations.
      • They are typically more expensive.
  4. Make sure you have good starting graphics: You can download Postscript version of the FIRST logos for all programs. Postscript logos (ai, ps, eps, and pdf extensions)  can be converted to images at any resolution.
    1. For your team's Logo:
      Ideally it should be created in Illustrator or Freehand as a postscript, vector based graphic. This will let you apply it to any item at any size and allows for transparency. These can be converted to images at any resolution through PhotoShop. Have fun. Use color. Be creative. Hire a local graphic designer if you don't have the skill set on your team.
    2. For US FIRST resources go to:
      Choose your program then choose "Marketing Tools" from the menu.
      Be sure to review the Intellectual Property Document from US FIRST. Specifically Section II paragraphs 1 and 2.

Happy designing! Let's see a sea of great shirts this year....

// Marco

There are many many sites that now do shirts on demand. Each has it's own unique features. Some sites will do dark shirts front and back, others will not. Some will print on sleeves, and other features. We suggest you look at a few, create a sample shirt to get an idea of costs, the pick the one that works best for you.

Great Shirt Sites for Direct Printing

Totally Cheap Tees (Online):
Very good prices

928-536-7705 to call them (White Mountain)  and ask for Tyler

Amazing shirts printed edge to edge.

Café Press (Online)

Zazzle (Online)

Custom Ink (Online)

Spreadshirt (Online)

Vista Print
Bewildering array of items and clothing.

TechBrick Education
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD USA

Managed by Northern Chesapeake STEM, Inc.

FIRST®, the FIRST® logo, FIRST® Robotics Competition, FIRST® Tech Challenge, FIRST® FORWARDSM , RAPID REACTSM, and FREIGHT FRENZYSM are trademarks of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). LEGO®, the LEGO logo, and the Minifigure are trademarks of the LEGO Group. FIRST® LEGO® League, and CARGO CONNECTSM are jointly held trademarks of FIRST and the LEGO Group. neither of which is overseeing, involved with, or responsible for this activity, product, or service.