There are two routes to choose from when printing t-shirts. You can either use a paid service or independently print shirts if you are willing to invest in purchasing a printer. If you choose to purchase a t-shirt printing machine, there are a few different methods that can be used which will then determine the type of printer that you will need to buy.
There are pros and cons to each printing technique and before making a large purchase such as a printer, you should be well informed of them. There are 3 ways to print a t-shirt. You can either use a heat transfer, digital printing, or screen printing and each type require a different process as well as the machine.
Although digital printing can be very costly, it is widely used for t-shirt printing. Digital printing is also referred to as “direct to garment.” In order to use this method, an inkjet printer is required.
The special printer then directly prints the design on the shirt or garment. The only piece of equipment required for digitally printing is the actual printer. This is not the best route to go for bulk printing; however, individual orders of custom t-shirt designs are very effective. There is are some high costs associated with the maintenance as well as the actual price of the machine.
Certain elements of the printer have to be maintained and cleaned on a regular basis. If it is not kept up regularly, this resorts to some defects printed on the t-shirts. Aside from printing defects, on other issues with digital printing is that most of the digital printers are limited to printing only on pure cotton or garments with a cotton blend.
The next option for t-shirt printing is by heat transfer. Heat transfer t-shirt printing is when the image or design is printed to a special heat transfer page. Then that page is used to transfer the image onto the garment by applying heat and pressure. To use this technique, you must purchase an inkjet or laser printer along with heat transfer paper and a heat press.
It is unfortunate that the designs or images printed on the t-shirt or garment do not typically last as long as digital printing. The advantages of heat transfers are that they are more affordable and faster. Heat transfers are good for customized orders but are only optimal printing on cotton or garments with a cotton blend.
The final method, screen printing is much more professional and higher quality. It is a cost-effective technique for printing and is great for mass production. When screen printing, you should print starting with the light inks and ending with the darker inks. One of the largest disadvantages of screen printing is that it is not an easy process to perform without prior knowledge of the printing machine and methods to use.
Other than these 3 ways to print a t-shirt or garment, there are more various printing techniques. The other two additional forms of printing that can be used for t-shirts are dye sublimation and vinyl heat transfer. Dye sublimation uses sublimation ink and a heat press. Die sublimation as well as the heat transfer process both utilize a heat press in order to transfer images to the t-shirt.
However, dye sublimation uses a gaseous process that is triggered by heat transfer. Vinyl heat transfer printing is excellent for printing vector signs or basic symbols. The best way for printing vector signs or basic symbols is vinyl heat transfer printing. This transfer is easy to execute for smaller scale printing with many individual orders. In order to use a vinyl heat transfer for printing, all you need is a vinyl cutter that shapes large images into segments from a special vinyl film which is then transferred by heat to attach the cutout onto the t-shirt.
Types of Printing Machine
Clamshell and Swing Away are the two types of printing machines.
Clamshell press is easy and efficient to use and best for beginners. Clamshell presses can be found in below sizes:
- 11” X 15”
- 15” X 15”
- 16” X 16”
- 16” X 20”
A clamshell heat press is best used with items that are flat.
- T-shirts, sports shirts and sweatshirts
- Children’s clothing
- Tea towels, sheets, cushion covers
- Tote bags
It is easier to layout your items with less risk of being burnt as the platen swings right away from the other. For using Swing Away you need more than one room. It is not portable like Clamshell. You can use the machine at home, but you will need a dedicated space for it. Including the clamshell items, Swing Away also use for below items:
- Mouse mats
- Plaques and signs
Standard swingers sizes are:
- 9” X 12”
- 16” X 20”
Size of Printing Machine
The type of work will determine the size of the heat press. General sizes are:
Very Small Press – Used for printing baby clothes, tote bags, and other small items. Smallest available sizes are 4” X 6” to 6” X 8”
Small Press – Used to run small productions. They are portable and inexpensive. Available sizes are from 9” X 12” to 12” X 14”
Medium Press – Used for decoration works. Its cost is considerably less. Available sizes are 16” X 16”, 15” X 15” and 14” X 16”.
Large Press – Large press is available for the size 20” X 25” and even bigger one of size 40” X 64”.
Best t-shirt printing methods are:
- Screen Printing
- Gives you high quality
- Multiple colour printing is possible
- Soft Finish
- Not a good option for small quantities
- Messy if done manually
- Colour accuracy issues
- Direct to Garments
- Support one-off designs
- Offers full-colour printing
- Professional Finish
- Consumes a lot of space
- Slower for mass production
- Initial cost is high
- Die Sublimation
- Highly Unique
- Unlimited use of styles and graphics
- Need 100% polyester material
- Need to work on 50 plus garments to make financially viable
- Heat Press Printing
- Allow to use several colors
- Not messy
- Photographic materials can be pressed
- Initial cost is expensive
- Prints are best on light-colored materials
- Prints fade after several washes
- CAD Cut Vinyl
- No fading or cracking of the prints
- Minimal setup cost
- More placement options
- Less Flexible
- Not Scalable
- Need special CAD cutters and software
Things to consider before buying a t-shirt printing machine?
- Ease of Use
- Platen/pallet compatibility
- Ease of Installation
- Warranty and Services
Reasons on Why t-shirt printing business trend in 2019
- For Web Series
- Boosting Team Spirit
- Customer Loyalty
- Making Fashion Quality
- Off-the-clock Marketing
- Less Costly
- Better Promotions
Tips on starting a t-shirt business plan in 2019
- Have a business plan
- Know your market
- Build an eCommerce platform
- Build a website
- Use a designer tool
- Choose right printing method
- Choose right t-shirt supplier
- Set up a printing studio
- Set-up a delivery system
- Hire a graphic designer
- Create a logo
Benefits of building your business in an eCommerce platform
- Increased Security
- Ease of setup
- Technical Support
- Cost Effective
It is extremely important to determine which method best fits your business and to implement it prior to the start of your t-shirt printing business. Once you are prepared with the proper tools and equipment necessary to run a t-shirt or garment printing business, the most optimal way to get set up is, to begin with, an online shopping cart system or you can fully design a platform yourself with customizable web scripts such as iScripts PrintLogic.
Any website built with your own insight and perspective according to your business’s requirements is more likely to generate more traffic or a larger audience and ultimately supply a better service with more ease.