Commonly Asked Questions
What are the different ways to print t-shirts?
If you're looking to print your own t-shirts, there are a few different products and printing methods for you to consider.
One of the more common methods is screen printing, sometimes referred to as silkscreen printing. With this method, you can easily replicate designs that are identical to one another.
Screen printing uses nylon mesh to hold a stencil. You then add a waterproof material that serves to block the negative space in your design. If you're looking to print shirts that have multiple colors in their designs, this is not the best method to uses, since you can only do one color on each screen.
Another of the more common methods for t-shirt printing is heat press printing. This method can be a good choice if you won't be printing huge quantities of shirts. To use a heat press to print t-shirts, you need transfer paper.
Your design gets printed onto the transfer paper, which then moves the design to the t-shirt when heat is applied. Heat press printing is a good option to consider if you need to print designs that use multiple colors. It is not the best method if you want to print on darker fabrics, though.
You can also use a heat press to apply vinyl cut-outs to t-shirts. To use this method, you need a vinyl cutting machine to print your designs. You then layout the cutouts on the t-shirt to create your design and use the heat from the heat press to get them to adhere to the fabric.
Dye sublimation is a method you can consider if you're printing on polyester-like materials that are lighter in color. To use dye sublimation to print your shirts, you need a special liquid dye that becomes dry once it comes into contact with the polyester material. Then, you use a combination of heat and pressure to cause the sublimation to take place, leaving you with your printed t-shirt design.
Another printing method you can consider is the direct to garments method. This method uses a special kind of printer designed for use with fabrics. However, it doesn't yield designs with very high resolution and can't be used to print on darker fabrics, so it isn't used very often by professional printing companies.
How do you use a heat press to print a t-shirt?
Heat presses are relatively simple to use. Before pressing your design onto your fabric, there are a few quick steps you'll want to follow. First, turn the heat press on and set it to the correct temperature for the fabric and printing technique you'll be using.
Next, you will want to set the timer. Again, the amount of time needed will vary based on the methods and materials you are using.
After setting the timer, open up the heat press and put the blank t-shirt on it. You want to make sure the side that is facing up is the side where you want the design to appear.
Some shirts should be pre-pressed/preheated. You may want to look for information about the specific material type you're using to see if this is necessary. Pre-pressing can help ensure that there are no wrinkles or creases on the shirt that could mess up the look of the design.
Then, you need to place the transfer with your design face down on the t-shirt. Be sure that it is lined up correctly and exactly how you want it to appear, since you won't be able to make any adjustments once the design is printed.
After that, simply close the heat press and start the timer (if it doesn't already start automatically when the press is closed). After the timer has completed, open the press and remove the transfer paper from your shirt. That's it; you should be left with the design you wanted on the t-shirt.
How long does it take to press a t-shirt with a heat press?
The amount of time it will take to use a heat press to transfer a design to a t-shirt can vary based on your design/ink and the fabric you are applying it to. Some inks may transfer to the fabric in less than a minute, while others may need to sit under the heat for closer to three minutes.
How much does a t-shirt printing machine cost?
Since there are different methods you can use when printing t-shirts, there is a good amount of variation in the cost of different machines. You can find some options that may cost less than $200, while other options can cost significantly over $300. Some of the more expensive options may not be necessary for you if you are looking to print t-shirts for yourself or even start a small business.
When you're determining your budget, keep in mind that the printing machine may not be the only item you need to purchase. Depending on the method you choose, you may also need to invest in a vinyl cutting machine, which can also get a bit expensive.
How can I test my designs to see if they'll come out properly?
Testing your designs is a good idea and can prevent you from wasting money and materials. Before printing a design on a t-shirt, try printing it on a scrap of fabric. This can help you see what the design will look like when applied to a fabric and can help you make sure the colors look like you want them to.
How do I make sure a t-shirt is put in a heat press correctly?
Before pressing a design on a t-shirt, there are a few things you'll want to do to ensure the t-shirt is properly in the press. If your t-shirt is crooked, upside down, or backwards, your design will not be printed properly, so taking a few seconds to double check the placement of each t-shirt is well-worth the time.
First, you always want to make sure that the side you want the design printed on is facing up. The top of the t-shirt should be aligned with the top of the heat press. You can center the t-shirts tag and make sure it is lined up straight against the top of the press to help you make sure the design will not be crooked on the shirt.
What do I do if the transfer paper does not come off the t-shirt easily?
Sometimes if the transfer paper will not come off the paper easily, closing the press for an extra 5 or 10 seconds can help. The paper may just need to heat up a bit more before it can be removed.
Do you need to print a new transfer for every t-shirt, or can you reuse the same t-shirt?
You should not try to reuse transfer paper to print another t-shirt. While you still may see some ink left on the paper after you have printed your design, there will not be enough to print a second shirt. You will need a new piece of transfer paper with your design for each shirt you want to print.
Should you prewash a t-shirt before printing your design on it?
No, there are a few different reasons you should not prewash a t-shirt before printing on it. When you wash and dry a shirt, it will change the fabric. It may make it too rough for your design to adhere properly.
If you're selling the shirts you're printing, your customers may also be disappointed if they are prewashed. New shirts have a different feel and smell to them compared to ones that have been washed. This may cause your customer to think that the shirt you sold them is used or has something else wrong with it.
Since everyone's skin is different, prewashing the shirts you are selling or giving to other people could cause them to have a problem with allergies. If your laundry detergent contains something that your customer is allergic to, your t-shirt could cause them to break out, which would definitely not be good for business.
Finally, prewashing can also cause a shirt to shrink, which could impact how your design fits on it or how it fits the customer who purchases it.
Should I wash my t-shirts right after applying a design with a heat press?
No, t-shirts that have just come out of a heat press should not be washed in a washing machine for at least 24 hours. This will ensure the design has sufficient time to dry and make sure that it does not wash off of the t-shirt.