What Do I Need to Print T-Shirts at Home? T-Shirt Printing Guide

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If you’re planning to print t-shirts at home, this guide will help you. There are different types of garment printing methods. But the two easiest printing methods you can do at home are sublimation printing and heat transfer vinyl printing.

These two methods of printing t-shirts are the recommended process because they won’t take up so much space at home. Plus, you don’t need high start-up costs. For sublimation printing, all you need is a sublimation printer, sublimation paper, and a heat press machine.

For heat transfer vinyl printing, what you'll need is heat transfer vinyl, a cutting machine, and a heat press machine. Printing t-shirts may start as a hobby, but in the long run, you can make money out of it. You can start custom-printing shirts for your friends and family.

Then you can go big and sell your funny shirt ideas online. All of these can be done from the comfort of your home. For the next parts of this craft post, you’ll learn about sublimation and heat transfer vinyl printing. Plus, other types of printing methods are available if you want to start a t-shirt business.

low In The Dark Puff Heat Transfer Vinyl

TeckWrap Craft’s Glow In The Dark Puff Heat Transfer Vinyl

Types of T-Shirt Printing Methods

If you intend to start a t-shirt printing business, you need to familiarize yourself with the different types of t-shirt printing methods. Other than sublimation printing and heat transfer vinyl printing, the other options for t-shirt printing are:

Direct-To-Garment Printing

Direct-To-Garment Printing

Image captured from YouTube: Epson SureColor 4720 printheads Direct To Garment Printing T-shirt printing machine by EraSmart

Direct-To-Garment Printing uses a direct-to-garment printer (DTG). DTG prints directly on the shirt, much like an ordinary printer, instead you're printing directly on the garment. The downside of a DTG printer is it’s costly.

Screen Printing

Screen Printing

Image from Flickr by University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu

Screen printing is a printing method where a mesh screen is used. An emulsion or stencil is used as the outline of the design in a mesh. Then fabric paint is used to print on the garment. Screen printing requires a wide workspace and is a tedious process of t-shirt printing, but is cost-efficient.

Printable Vinyl Printing

With printable vinyl printing, you’ll need a printable vinyl for garments, a printer with eco-solvent ink, a heat press machine, and a cutting machine. It’s much like printing heat transfer vinyl, except you can print on the printable heat transfer vinyl. The drawbacks of printable heat transfer vinyl printing are expensive set-up costs and a limited number of colors that can be printed.

Dark Transfer Paper / Light Transfer Paper Printing

With transfer paper printing, what you need are dark or light transfer paper, a printer with pigment ink, a cutting machine, and a heat press machine. If you want to print on light-colored shirts, you can use light transfer paper. If you need to print on dark-colored shirts, printing on dark transfer paper is recommended.

Using dark or light transfer paper when printing on garments is of advantage if you print a small number of shirts. However, the overhead costs are too high for large batch printing. Additionally, the prints are stiff and may get ruined when directly ironed.

What’s the easiest t-shirt printing method for starters?

In the printing industry, the top two easiest printing methods are sublimation printing and heat transfer vinyl printing. If you’re just starting out in the t-shirt printing industry, it is best to master these two printing methods first before trying out the other ones.

Why are these printing methods recommended for beginners? Both printing methods have a low start-up cost and are easy to do. If you want to custom t-shirts, you also need to familiarize yourself with an image editing program and hone your skills with that too. It’ll come in handy.

Without further ado, here is a list of supplies or machines you need to gather for each kind of printing method. Included in this post, you’ll learn everything that you need to know about sublimation and heat transfer vinyl printing.

What do I need to print t-shirts at home?

Let’s get to the point and discuss the three main things you’ll need if you want to print t-shirts at home. These are the machines you want to invest in if you want to venture into heat transfer vinyl printing and sublimation printing.

A Heat Press Machine

A heat press machine is a commercial-grade iron that uses heat to transfer prints. There are different kinds of heat press machines available. There’s the flat surface heat press machine used to print shirts, cotton pillowcases, and many more.

Heat press machines are also available in different types like a mini heat press machine, cap press for hats, and mug press, of course for mugs. You can invest in these heat press machines one at a time so you can offer more customized projects for your future clients.

An Inkjet Printer

For sublimation printing, you’ll need an inkjet printer with dye sublimation ink. The most common printer brands used for sublimation are Epson and Sawgrass. An inkjet printer is widely used as a sublimation printer as compared to a laser printer.

A Cutting Machine

A cutting machine like Silhouette, Brother, or Cricut is a must if you intend to enter the heat transfer vinyl printing business. There are plenty of cutting machines available in the market now.

There are small to industrial cutting machines. But if you’re just starting out, a 12-inch cutting machine is good enough. Bigger cutting machines like 24-inch big, are better used for wall decals. That’s why a 12-inch cutting machine is good enough for starters.

Other Supplies

There are other supplies you also need to gather if you want to start t-shirt printing at home. These supplies are:

  • Cutting mat
  • Scissors
  • Weeding tool or pen
  • Desk lamp or a light pad

Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing

What is heat transfer vinyl printing? Heat transfer vinyl printing uses specialty vinyl for fabrics. The heat transfer vinyl (HTV) has a heat-activated adhesive backing that permanently sticks to the fabric.

You use a cutting machine and its design studio to layout and cut the design. You'll love heat transfer vinyl printing because of the variety of colors, textures, and patterns of HTV available especially at TeckWrap Craft.

Not only can you custom-print on cotton shirts using heat transfer vinyl. You can print HTV on other fabrics like canvas tote bags, hoodies, sweaters, denim jackets, and activewear as well. Plus, you can create multi-colored designs with heat transfer vinyl printing.

HTV t shirt printing

TeckWrap Craft’s Puff HTV

Supplies to Gather When Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing

  • Heat transfer vinyl
  • Cutting machine (Silhouette, Brother, or Cricut)
  • Weeding tool or pen
  • Cutting mat
  • Heat press machine or EasyPress machine
  • Any kind of fabric — t-shirt, canvas bags, denim

Reasons Why You’ll Love Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing

As mentioned, one of the reasons why starters would love heat transfer vinyl printing is its low start-up cost. Other than that, using heat transfer vinyl, you can create a custom t-shirt using a variety of vinyl textures, patterns, and colors.

Here is the heat transfer vinyl you can choose from TeckWrap Craft, all available in different colors:

  • Shimmer and glitter HTV
  • Mirror chrome HTV
  • Puff HTV
  • Glow in the dark puff HTV
  • Reflective HTV
  • American flag patterned HTV
  • PU Rainbow stripes HTV
  • Colorful splash HTV
  • Galaxy GTV
  • Glitter HTV
  • Soft metallic vinyl
  • Holographic HTV
  • Chameleon HTV
  • Glow in the dark HTV
  • UV Clean color-changing HTV
  • UV Neon color-changing HTV
  • PU metallic HTV
  • Buffalo / Checkered HTV
  • PU Marble HV
  • Glossy Pearlescent Metallic HTV
  • Pastel color-changing HTV
  • Colorful Camouflage HTV
  • Snowflakes (Christmas-patterned) HTV

With the variety of options above, you can customize your own t-shirts at home anytime! As for the t-shirt design, you can download free SVGs online, purchase them, or make one of your own using the free vector images available at the library of your cutting machine’s design software studio.

Furthermore, you can print HTV regardless of the color of the fabric. Whether it’s dark, light, or white shirts, heat transfer vinyl will look great on any fabric color. Whether you’re printing on polyester or cotton t-shirts, it is compatible.

Here’s another tip — if you’ve decided to resort to the HTV printing process and invest in a cutting machine, you can create many projects too. You can custom-print stickers and personalize items like mugs, tumblers, keychain blanks, and many more.

So aside from starting up an online t-shirt business in the future with HTV printing, you can also sell much custom-printed merchandise with your cutting machine. If you want to learn how to make custom stickers, make sure to check out this guide on How to Make Your Own Stickers to Sell.

 

heat transfer vinyl shirts

TeckWrap Craft’s Patterned Heat Transfer Vinyl

How to custom shirts using heat transfer vinyl

Heat press printing is fairly easy to do. That’s why if you’re a beginner in the t-shirt business, HTV printing is the way to go. Practice makes perfect when it comes to HTV printing. Here are some easy-to-understand instructions on how to print HTV on your own shirts.

  • Cut the design: Using your cutting machine, cut the design. Don’t forget to mirror the design and test cut.
  • Weed the excess vinyl: Using your weeding tool or pen, weed the excess vinyl that you don’t want to be transferred to your garment.
  • Press the shirt: Press the design on your shirt using a heat press machine, EasyPress machine, or regular household iron. Don’t forget to pre-press the shirt before pressing the design to wick away the moisture.

TeckWrap Craft’s Ombré Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl

Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is a type of printing technique that uses dye sublimation ink and a heat press machine. With sublimation printing, you can achieve vivid, vibrant, and long-lasting prints on your t-shirts. The sublimation print won’t peel, crack or fade unlike with transfer printing (light or dark special heat transfer paper).

Originally, sublimation printing is only recommended for light shirts that are made of polyester. That is with the direct sublimation heat press method in a garment, but there’s a workaround. You can sublimate on a cotton t-shirt, even for dark shirts using heat transfer vinyl.

That’s why if you’re a beginner in the t-shirt printing industry, sublimation and HTV printing are a great combination. If you’re working on darker shirts with a simple design, you can go for HTV printing. But if you’re working on a dark t-shirt with intricate designs, you can print HTV and sublimate over it. Perfect combination!

siblimation printing

Supplies to Gather When Sublimation Printing

  • Sublimation paper
  • Inkjet printer with dye sublimation ink
  • Thermal tape
  • Scissors
  • Heat press machine

Reasons Why You’ll Love Sublimation Printing

There are plenty of reasons why you’ll love sublimation printing. You can make your own custom t-shirt with vivid designs at home anytime you want! Here are the many reasons why you’ll love sublimation printing:

  • Not only can you sublimate on a t-shirt, but on mugs, pillowcases, canvas tote bags, and many more.
  • Low overhead cost on the dye ink and sublimation paper.
  • Sublimation printing is faster. From the printing to the actual method of pressing, it can be done in under 10 minutes.
  • Sublimation printing produces vibrant colors
  • Sublimation printing is perfect for multi-colored designs

How to custom print t-shirts using the sublimation method

Custom printing shirts using the sublimation method is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is print the sublimation printer, cut the excess part of the paper then press. That is if you directly sublimate on a garment.

If you’re working on a 100% cotton t-shirt, or dark-colored shirts, then you need to heat press the HTV first before sublimating over it. Just a tip when it comes to sublimation inkjet printing, avoid using a mini heat press machine as this will cause ghosting.

When sublimating directly on a garment:

  • Print the sublimation paper. Don’t forget to mirror the image.
  • Let the print dry for several minutes
  • Cut out the excess part of the sublimation paper
  • Heat press the design
  • Make sure to use thermal tape before pressing the design to keep it from moving

When sublimating on 100% cotton shirts or dark-colored fabrics:

  • Cut the vinyl using your cutting machine
  • Print the design on your sublimation paper
  • The vinyl and sublimation paper should be of the same size
  • Press the heat transfer vinyl. Pre-pressing the fabric for 5 to 10 seconds to wick away the moisture.
  • Sublimate over the heat transfer vinyl

Take note when choosing a heat transfer vinyl to sublimate in, it is better to choose white regular or glitter HTV. Also, when printing on the sublimation paper, choose the best printing quality of your printer (found on the print options window of your printer). You want a high-quality image printed on the transferred image.

Tips When Printing Shirts at Home

Now you’re aware of the machine and supplies you need to print t-shirts at home, of course, you need to be aware of some t-shirt printing tips. Whether you want to print on t-shirts as a hobby or intend to make this your extra source of income, here are several tips you should remember:

  • Set up your workstation at home and keep it organized.
  • Ensure proper lighting in your workspace. Crafters should have good lighting in their workspace.
  • When choosing a design for your shirt, it is best to make your own designs or purchase an SVG.
  • Choose a niche for your t-shirt designs. Make it interesting, hip, and unique.
  • For sublimation printing, it pays if you invest in a high-quality printer.
  • If you’re using a cutting machine, always do a test cut.
  • Before you heat press, make sure to pre-press the garment for 5 to 10 seconds to wick away the moisture from the shirt.
  • When sublimating, use thermal tape to keep the design in place. If you don’t use thermal tape, there’s a possibility of the print to ‘ghost’, thus may ruin the print on the merchandise.
  • Choose the best materials available. As for heat transfer vinyl and sublimation sheets, make sure to check out TeckWrap Craft.

 

t shirt and canvas printing

TeckWrap Craft’s Reflective Heat Transfer Vinyl

Frequently Asked Questions

What material do I need to print T-shirts at home?

The materials you need to print t-shirts at home are a cutting machine, a heat press machine, and a printer. Furthermore, you’ll be needing other tools like a weeding pen, transfer papers, cutting mat, and scissors.

Do you need a special printer for t-shirts?

No, you don’t need a special printer when printing on t-shirts. For instance, for sublimation printers, you can use a regular inkjet printer with dye sublimation ink on it. There are direct-to-garment printers as well. This is a special type of printer that directly prints on the garment.

How do big brands print their shirts?

Typically, big brands print their shirts using dye sublimation. Sublimation printing has a low overhead cost, plus the colors on the finished product are brilliantly vivid.

Concluding Thoughts

To conclude it all, if you want to start printing shirts at home, you can start exploring with heat transfer vinyl and sublimation printing. The main three machines you need to invest in are a heat press machine, a cutting machine, and a printer.

For your heat transfer vinyl and sublimation paper needs, make sure to check out the collection at TeckWrap Craft. Aside from that, TeckWrap Craft also offers other crafting supplies like a weeding pen, cutting mat, and even a squeegee.

After you’ve mastered the t-shirt printing business, you can try out making stickers as well. You can make custom stickers using the adhesive vinyl collection of TeckWrap Craft as well. That’s what’s great about the custom-printing industry, there are plenty of projects you can create. Of course, a lot of money to make if you intend to turn it into a business.

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