Everybody loves custom T-Shirts, they’re cheap, comfortable and they’re able to make a bold statement. Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to create a new business, a large format print company looking to create an additional revenue stream or someone who’s artistic and wants a great way to have fun while expressing yourself and having the ability to make money from your own unique designs.
In this post, I will look at the different ways that you can make your own custom printed T-Shirts to sell. All of the methods I will discuss below require practice if you have no experience in printing T-Shirts yourself. Costs can quickly mount up when you’re printing at home so every mistake, even if you’re using cheap T-Shirts, can soon add up and prove to be costly.
It’s important when you first start to practice on some old T-Shirts that you have at home, keep your production low and concentrate on learning the basics of printing your own T-Shirts first.
So let’s take a look at the top 10 ways to make your very own printed T-Shirts:
10. Screen printing:
This is quite possibly the most common way of creating printed T-Shirts. It’s fairly easy to pick up but if you’re looking to master the art and get it perfect every time, be prepared to spend years perfecting your ability. Using screen printing also allows you to create your own T-Shirt business in your garage. Depending on how much time you’re willing to invest, you could create anything upwards of 20+ T-Shirts a day.
For this method, you will need to build your own screen frames and you’ll need to learn how to perfectly stretch a silk mesh across the frame with the appropriate tension. It’s crucial to the printing that you create a strong and durable frame as the last thing that you’d want is to see your frame fall apart on you while you’re mid-print.
If the worst does happen and your frame falls apart, it will mean that you have to repair the frame (or build a new one) and it can also affect every T-Shirt that you’ve printed because you’ll need to recalibrate the screen and you’ll also need to ensure that every colour lines up perfectly – something which is very important if you’re creating a large run of custom T-Shirts. It is possible for you to buy pre-made screens which have the silk already applied and the frame will feature equal tension all around thanks to it being made by a machine. Creating equal tension is one of the most difficult things to master when you’re creating the screens by yourself.
Once the frame is built, you need to then transfer your design from the frame and onto the T-Shirt. as this is the process of applying your designs, it’s incredibly important that you pay close attention to what you’re doing. You’ll need to experiment with this part using photo emulsion and a lightbox to ensure that you get it right, but once you’ve nailed it – it’s just a case of practising the technique to get better and better.
When you’re using screen printing, colours can make or break your design. You need to learn and closely study how different inks and dyes work and you also need to master how to mix them to create the specific hues that you want and need. There are various different inks on the market, but to start off I would recommend using print paster and ink. The process of mixing your own inks and dyes takes a lot of time to make sure that you’re getting it right. A good eye for colour is also essential.
The actual printing part is where the fun comes into it. In order to print your designs, you need to force the ink through the mesh screen and onto your T-Shirt and the best way to do this is with a squeegee. I would recommend starting with a simple one of two colour design to start off with the ensure that you get it right and you can practice and get better at applying the ink.
Once the ink has transferred onto the T-Shirt, you then need to cure the ink. Different types of ink require different curing techniques, from air drying to flash dryers – it’s important to find out what technique works for each ink and to make sure that the design and the ink are cured correctly so that your design can stand out and it will last.
While it’s perfectly possible to achieve every part of this printing technique yourself, you can outsource this to specialists. Bear in mind, that outsourcing may cost more money but it cuts down on the time it takes to create screens and also the wastage. You might also want to consider that, if you’re printing your own T-Shirts, you’re spending less time on the designing and the administrative aspects of your own company.
9. Hand painting:
Hand painting your own T-Shirts is one of the easiest ways to create your own sellable designs. Imagine that the T-Shirt is your canvas and your imagination, creativity, hands and paints are all of your artistic tools and materials. If you’re an artist, or if you have some artistic flair, then hand painting your designs will allow you a lot of freedom when it comes to expressing yourself.
If you’re creating your own designs through hand painting then there’s nothing stopping you from using any and every available medium to create your T-Shirts and you can experiment with different inks and paints to create your designs.
The important part of this technique is ensuring that all of the paints and inks you use are colour fast and that they won’t run when the T-Shirt is being washed. The worst thing for any aspiring T-Shirt company is to have complaints that their T-Shirts ran in the wash and stained all of the other clothes!
The simplest way around this is to test-wash your hand painted T-Shirts. This could be a single wash to make sure that the colour won’t run when it’s being washed by your customers, or you can test-wash it over a period of time to get a rough idea of how long each type of paint will last as this can vary greatly depending on the technique and the brand of paint that you use.
The main advantage of hand painting is that each different T-Shirt will be completely unique. Of course, there will be imperfections but these only serve as proof to your buyers that they are getting a genuine, one-of-a-kind design which has been created by your imagination.
8. Tie dye:
Tie Dye is popular with anyone who enjoys wearing bright and bold coloured T-Shirts with unique and extraordinary patterns on them. There are loads of different ways that you can fold the T-Shirt which is then tied with string or rubber bands. When the dye is applied to the T-Shirt, the tied areas restrict the dye from penetrating the fibres of the fabric and this can result in a beautiful array of colours which all form stunning patterns.
When you’re using Tie Dye, another advantage is that no two T-Shirts will turn out the same. So if you’re looking to sell each T-Shirt as being completely unique then this is a brilliant technique to use. It’s important to practice the technique using lots of old T-Shirts because you need to understand how the printing is affected by different types of fabric. It’s also a benefit to learn the different patterns that can be created when you’re using different concentrations of dye.
7. Stencil and reverse stencil:
Stencilling is another version of screen printing, however, instead of transferring stencils onto screens, your patterns or drawings are simplified and then cut out onto paper. Once the stencil is created, you then tape this onto the T-Shirt and apply the paint onto the stencil. This will ensure that the paint will only interact with the exposed areas of the T-Shirt and this creates the image that you want to create.
Reverse stencilling is the process of reversing this technique and your stencil will block the main image from being painted as opposed to exposing the main image for the ink to create the design.
Hand produced stencils can save you a lot of money and they also produce a slightly rough edge which gives the design an artistic and unique look. The disadvantages are that it’s an incredibly time-consuming method and that each stencil can only be used for a limited number of prints before the stencil deteriorates which then affects the quality of the print and the image itself.
Bleaching is the reverse of screen printing. Instead of applying the dye onto your T-Shirt, bleaching will remove the dye pigments from the garment by applying bleach or discharge paste onto the opening of a stencil. If you don’t want to use a stencil, you can also paint the bleach directly onto the T-Shirt but this is a risky method and mistakes can, and probably will, happen.
5. Airbrushing and spraying:
This is similar to hand painting your T-Shirt designs but it takes a fair degree of skill and experience to make sure that each design turns out correctly.
The benefits of this technique are that it creates a truly stunning, unique design which allows your customers to claim that the T-Shirt they have bought is completely one of a kind. Also, if you manage to perfect the art and market your designs correctly, you can earn a fair bit of money using this technique.
You can learn the basics of airbrushing fairly quickly but if you want to experiment with techniques such as colour blending and getting your designs perfect in every aspect then it can take years to make sure that you get it right.
If you’ve never airbrushed before, it’s advisable to take a course in this technique to ensure that you’re getting it right each time and you’re not wasting money by ruining countless T-Shirts while you’re perfectly your own technique. You can also study ‘How To’ videos on YouTube to get some advice on how to airbrush correctly.
I’m pretty sure that everyone has had experience with stamping at some point or another – albeit probably never on a T-Shirt. Out of all of the printing techniques, I’ll highlight here, this is probably the most basic as it’s simply the process of using an object with a flat surface which can then be applied to your T-Shirt with ink or a dye – effectively turning the object into a stamp.
For this technique, you can literally use anything – cut fruit or veg, leaves, rubber stamp, your hands – literally anything that can produce a nearly flat surface. Simply dip your stamp into fabric dye and then stamp out the pattern you want onto the T-Shirt.
This process is so easy that you could even get your children to help you to create limited edition designs. The only real drawback of the technique is that it can go wrong and you’ll end up with a messy print job but practising this technique first will ensure that your design looks perfect – you could even start introducing a personalised stamp service with you could stamp the buyer’s name onto the T-Shirt to create customised clothing which your customers will love.
3. Iron on transfers:
All you need for this is iron-on transfer paper and a printer so you can create your designs and then you can heat press them onto the T-Shirts using an iron. This technique is easy to produce and if you’re skilled in graphic design – you already have an advantage over most.
For this technique, you don’t need sewing skills and you don’t need to learn other skills which are involved with techniques such as screen printing.
It’s important to remember that these time of iron-on transfers have a short lifespan if the T-Shirts are exposed to regular wearing and washing. You also need to buy the iron-on paper quite regularly so be prepared for the regular expense. However, the technique of printing your designs and ironing them onto the T-Shirt means that you can focus more of your attention on creation the designs. You could even just send the transfers to your customers so they’re able to create the T-Shirts themselves – saving you more time and money by removing the need for you to buy the T-Shirts.
Remember that if you’re sending out the transfers to your customers, you also need to include instructions on how to apply the transfer and make them aware of how long each design will last otherwise you could end up with a mountain of complaints.
This technique is neither the most cost-effective or the quickest technique that you could use. The art of hand-stitching your designs can, and will, take you time. These days it’s far more common to use an embroidery machine to stitch logos and small designs onto T-Shirts for corporate identity.
The good thing about this technique is that it opens up the door to create other forms of clothing such as hats, jumpers, hoodies, bags and more. The biggest drawback here is the cost as you’d need to spend a fair bit of money on purchasing an embroidery machine or heavy duty sewing machine and then you’d need to familiarise yourself with the machine before you’re able to create any embroidered clothing.
Let us do it for you:
Thanks to the beauty of the internet and advances in modern technology, there’s now a way to print your own T-Shirts without actually having to touch a T-Shirt or having to learn any of the above printing techniques.
At Garment Printing, we offer a service which we call ‘On Demand’ and with this service, we’ll create an online store for you, create visual mockups of your designs and then, when you receive an order, we’ll print your designs and send it directly to your customer in clean, unbranded packaging.
The advantages of using this service are that it completely takes away the expense of having bulk t-shirt printing and preparing your designs and printing techniques for each order. You can focus solely on your designs and, when they’re ready, send them to us to create the visual mockup and upload them onto your store. With our On Demand service, we’ll take care of all of the back-end processes and we will give you the online store you need to sell your designs.
This means that you’re free to focus on marketing and creating new designs to sell to your customers. Like any business, if you’re willing to put the time and effort into marketing your products and create the best T-Shirt designs possible then it can be very profitable for you and you could soon find yourself in the world of custom designs T-Shirts quickly.
It’s important to remember that, before you create custom T-Shirts, you need to have somewhere to sell your designs, whether you create an On Demand T-Shirt printing store through us, or if you use one of the above-mentioned techniques, creating your own designs is one thing but you also need somewhere to showcase your designs so that you can sell them to your customers.
At Garment Printing, we’re experts in all types of custom t-shirt printing methods, some which aren’t included in this list. So if you have any queries about how you can create your own T-Shirt printing company then get in contact with us now and we’ll be happy to provide you with our expert advice.