Home Customer How to Select a T-Shirt Printing Machine?

How to Select a T-Shirt Printing Machine?

by Mariya Parackal
tshirt printing

Decided to start a small t-shirt printing business?  But can’t decide about the best t-shirt printer machine for yourself? You’re probably looking for the best t-shirt printing machine to print high-quality products and be ahead of the competitors in the market.

There are two routes to choose from printing t-shirts. You can either use a paid service or independently print shirts if you are willing to invest in purchasing a printer. A printing shirt business is always a profitable business.

T shirt printing
Image from Digital Printing Dubai

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 for your online printing platform.

T-Shirt Printing Techniques

1. Digital Printing

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.

T shirt printer software

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 t-shirt printing machine printers are limited to printing only on pure cotton or garments with a cotton blend.

With advancement in technology, most of the problems related to digital printing including high prices and printing defects are slowly coming down. A lot of modern print shops are now using digital printing exclusively.

2. Heat Transfer Printing

T shirt screenprinting
T-shirt Screenprinting

The next option for t-shirt printing is by heat transfer machine. 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 heat press machines.

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. To print a t-shirt with incredibly colorful digital garment printers are the best. DTG printing is ideal for the short run and easy to print custom t-shirts.

3. Screen printing

Screen Printing
Image from Wise Geek

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 Printing techniques

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. For high-quality UV LED flatbed printers you can look for compress UV printers.

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.

Pros and Cons of Different Printing Methods:

Screen Printing


  1. Gives you high quality
  2. Multiple color printing is possible
  3. Soft Finish


  1. Not a good option for small quantities
  2. Messy if done manually
  3. Color accuracy issues

Direct to Garments


  1. Support one-off designs
  2. Offers full-color printing
  3. Professional Finish


  1. Consumes a lot of space
  2. Slower for mass production
  3. Initial cost is high

Die Sublimation


  1. Highly Unique
  2. Unlimited use of styles and graphics


  1. Need 100% polyester material
  2. Need to work on 50 plus garments to make financially viable

Heat Press Printing


  1. Allow using several colors
  2. Not messy
  3. Photographic materials can be pressed


  1. Initial cost is expensive
  2. Prints are best on light-colored materials
  3. Prints fade after several washes

CAD Cut Vinyl 


  1. No fading or cracking of the prints
  2. Minimal setup cost
  3. More placement options


  1. Less Flexible
  2. Not Scalable
  3. Need special CAD cutters and software

Types of Printing Machine

tshirt 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
  • Handbags
  • Caps

Standard swingers sizes are:

  • 9” X 12” 
  • 16” X 20”

There are a lot of printing machines available to start your business. If you need more online printing ideas we can help you a bit.

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”. 

How much is a T-shirt Printer Machine?

The average T-shirt Printing machine cost starts at $180 to $230, with better one demanding twice as much.

Things to consider before buying a t-shirt printing machine

The expensive part of running a printing business is the cost of labor. When you think about buying a printing machine, you have to consider a lot more than just price. You have to consider mainly the efficiency, durability, and versatility of the machine you are buying. 

When thinking about your first high-quality printing machine, then you have to consider the below things: 

  • Quality
  • Durability
  • Size
  • Ease of Use
  • Platen/pallet compatibility
  • Versatility
  • Ease of Installation
  • Warranty and Services
  • Budget

Want to create an online printing business?

online tshirt business

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.

Check out iScripts PrintLogic Demo

iScripts PrintLogic Live Demo


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