The main hurdle that keeps many people from bringing their T-shirt design ideas to life is figuring out how to print them onto clothes. The good news is that T-shirt printing at home is possible, and learning how to print your own T-shirts at home will show you what it takes to succeed at printing on shirts in a business environment. From there, you can decide whether you want to continue making them yourself or outsource the task.
What Do I Need to Print T-Shirts at Home?
Perhaps your goal is to just make one shirt design for your own enjoyment, or maybe you want to see how that design will work when mass-printing on shirts. Depending on the method, you will need different tools and supplies, but the methods for T-shirt printing at home all use inexpensive and easily accessible tools and materials.
5 Steps for Printing Your Own T-Shirts
If you’re curious whether you can get professional-looking results by printing yourself or if you just want to learn how to print your own T-shirts because it seems like fun, go for it! Here are five steps to help you nail the process every time:
Step 1: Choose a Design
If creating your own T-shirt graphic sounds daunting, find a reputable, experienced graphic designer to bring your ideas to life. You can also always choose from existing graphics, pictures and designs.
Step 2: Decide on a Printing Method
There’s more than one way to get images onto a shirt. All of the following methods are thoroughly tested, but you may find that one is preferable over the others:
Screen printing can be a little complex, and it requires special equipment. You’ll need a transparency sheet, a frame with an attached mesh fabric screen, photo emulsion chemicals, a squeegee and a darkroom. Here’s how the process works:
- Print your artwork onto the transparency sheet.
- Coat the screen in emulsion chemicals and leave it in the darkroom for two hours.
- Expose the image on the screen for 15 minutes.
- Wash the screen with water and dry it.
- Lay your shirt on a flat surface and put the screen on top.
- Pour ink onto the screen.
- Use the squeegee to press ink through the screen.
- Heat your oven to 400 degrees and place the shirt inside for 30 seconds.
Though the process can be messy and time-consuming, it yields truly excellent results.
For a simpler and cleaner method, you can buy printable heat transfer vinyl. Be aware, though, that vinyl is not the best option for photos or ornate designs. Here are the steps involved with vinyl graphic printing:
- Print your design via an inkjet printer.
- Trim the design from the vinyl.
- Heat an iron to 350 degrees (unless otherwise specified).
- Place the vinyl on the shirt with a protective sheet (or parchment paper) on top.
- Follow the instructions for how long to heat the vinyl with your iron.
- Wait for the protective sheet to cool, and remove it slowly.
If you’ve done it properly, the vinyl should completely adhere to the shirt, but even if the vinyl peels up, that’s OK. Put your protective sheet back on and apply some more heat.
The DTG method requires buying a specialized printer. The process plays out like this:
- Load your design on your computer and connect it to the printer.
- Pretreat your shirt with a spray gun loaded with primer (if applicable).
- Run your shirt through the printer.
- Cure the ink with a heat press or a tunnel dryer.
Be aware that learning to use a DTG printer properly can take time, which means that you may ruin some shirts while practicing. Also, note that DTG printers work best when applying designs to cotton-based garments.
Heat Press Printing
With heat presses, you can apply a variety of materials to a shirt with attractive and permanent results. They work with heat transfer vinyl graphics, emblems, patches, screen-printed transfers, precut numbers and letters and transfer paper. To apply the design to your shirt, follow these steps:
- Choose your transfer material and design.
- Print the design onto your material (or have someone print it for you).
- Place the shirt into your heat press.
- Place the design onto your shirt.
- Put a protective cover sheet over the design.
- Close the heat press to apply the design (follow your material’s instructions).
A heat press printing method can yield excellent results because it works with a variety of transfer materials, giving you a wealth of options for how to print onto clothes with either solid color numbers and letters or more intricate designs.
Dye sublimation tends to look best and last longest on polyester. You’ll need sublimation ink and paper, a sublimation printer, a lint roller, butcher paper, a protective cover sheet, heat-resistant tape and a heat press. Here’s what to do:
- Print the design on sublimation paper (mirror the image if there is writing).
- Place the butcher paper inside your shirt to prevent bleed.
- Use the lint roller on the area where the design will be.
- Put the sublimation paper on the shirt with the design facing down.
- Secure it in place with heat-resistant tape.
- Place the shirt in your heat press.
- Apply a protective cover sheet over the sublimation paper.
- Press according to the paper’s instructions.
As long as you don’t have any wrinkles on your shirt and follow the instructions, the design will look excellent and be permanent.
Step 3: Choose Your Fabric Type
Most methods work best with cotton, but some, like dye sublimation, will work best on polyester or high-percentage polyester blends. Now is also the time to choose your shirt sizes and styles.
Step 4: Select a Printing Company
To avoid the hassle of printing, you can partner with Print Bind Ship to create your shirts in batches or with print-on-demand services. We have experience in creating attractive and durable shirts for clients around the world.
Step 5: Submit Your Files to Print Bind Ship
Our designers can assist you with ensuring the design works well with the shirt types and sizes you prefer. We ship within 24 hours worldwide!
Make T-Shirt Printing Easy with Print Bind Ship
For consistent, quality results across thousands of shirts, it’s best to rely on a printing service with a proven track record. Print Bind Ship works with large and small businesses in countries around the world to bring their T-shirt designs to life, so if you’re ready to rely on our 60-plus years of experience, we’re ready to be your T-shirt printing partner. Contact us today.
A design and blank shirts are all you need. Different printing methods can require specialized equipment or chemicals, but the simplest methods simply require an inkjet printer and flat iron.
Various methods include vinyl transfers, screen printing, direct-to-garment printing, heat press printing and dye sublimation, though the simplest method would be vinyl transfer.
Some methods require special equipment like specific printers or photo development supplies, while simpler methods use inkjet printers, a transfer material and a regular flat iron.