So have you already decided that t-shirt printing is for you? Great! It’s an exciting industry to get into. Now your next big step is deciding what printing technology is right for you and your business. When choosing a printing technique, you should take into consideration your budget, the type of designs you will be making, and the market you are after.
Your budget is a big factor. If you are starting out with $50 in your pocket, then higher end printing machines may be out of your range for now; however, that does not mean you are out of the game. A visit to your local thrift store may yield some great parts for assembling a homemade screen printer for under $50. You can even take a look at stencil printing. This simple technique of printing involves creating various stencils of your design out of cardboard, taping them to your t-shirt, and applying your designs with spray-paint. No machinery involved! On the other hand, if you have a larger budget, you can look at buying or leasing equipment. You can lease a direct-to-garment printer for as little as $250 per month.
The type of designs you want to print affects what technology you decide to go with. Are you trying to print photo-realistic designs? This will be hard to accomplish with screen printing techniques. Take a look at dye-sublimation (heat-transfer) or digital printers. They are capable of producing millions of colors at fairly high resolutions. If your designs use a manageable amount of colors, then screen or stencil printing should work for you.
Now take a look at the market you are after. Are your customers going to be ordering in bulk, or are they going to be ordering smaller customized designs? Generally, fulfilling bulk orders is more cost effective on screen printers. It does take some initial time to create all the templates required for the design, and some labor to actually produce the prints. However, you’re not using electricity and expensive sublimation ink required for heat transfer or digital printers. On the downside, if your typical order is one or two t-shirts, especially of differing designs, then screen printing may not be worth the prep-work and labor. This is an area where digital printing shines. In under a minute, you can produce a printed t-shirt with barely any work. Don’t expect to do a lot of bulk printing with digital technology though. Even though you’re going to spend a lot less time producing the printed t-shirts, you’re going to end up paying a lot more in manufacturing costs. These days, a lot of larger businesses actually use both digital printing and screen printing. Their smaller orders get printed on the digital printer, where-as their larger bulk orders get sent to the screen printers. This hybrid technique guarantees the minimum production cost for an order, whether it’s one t-shirt or a hundred. Remember these three things when choosing a printing technique – your budget, the type of design, and the market you are after, and you will be printing t-shirts in no time!