Advice needed for a t-shirt printer

by Rob-T
12 replies
Hey guys

I've been looking into starting my own T-Shirt printing business but haven't got a clue when it comes to choosing the right type of printing machine for the job.

I'm looking at making custom t-shirts, hoodies, etc but not sure how I'd go about it and how much it would cost me to get started.

The designing is not a problem as it's what I've always done, and I know I could sell items locally to start me off but I'm not sure of what to look for when it comes to printing the actual items.
#advice #needed #printer #tshirt
  • Profile picture of the author LABEShops
    You need to look for screen printing equipment. I used to do this and my father-in-law built a 4 color press for me though you can get a 1 color press to start with for usually $100 or so. You *can* cure the shirts in a regular oven, though an infrared dryer is definitely the better way to go. You also need some method to transfer the design to the screen so a darkroom (or a room you can turn into one) is necessary as well. You'll need photo emulsion, an original on acetate, and a strong lamp to create the design (you can lay it in the sun for a while, but a lamp works better).

    Depending on the type of press, dryer, and transfer system you go with, prices can vary a lot. I started up for under $500 originally buying used equipment locally.

    There was a really cool, all in one screen printing machine I drooled over at a trade show years ago though cannot remember the brand or name of it. You might do some searches and be able to find something like this. I think it was around $2000.

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  • Profile picture of the author Gambino
    It really depends on what you're trying to do. Screen printing is the most common to make the largest quantity quickly. There are direct-to-garment machines that will print just like a two outer printer put onto a t-shirt. Lower quantity but cost effective prints. They typically don't last as long as screen printing does.

    I would recommend for someone just starting out, expecting to make shirts for companies, organizations, etc, to get a screen printing machine. The entire set up - shirts, treatment, heat source, 4 color screen printer should be able to get for under $5,000.

    If you're going to be printing low quantity made-to-order or print-when-ordered from an online store, I'd look into DTG. Check out for more info.
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  • Profile picture of the author javarog
    I would suggest that you get a vinyl cutter and heat press first, the vinyl cutter is the only machine that will pay for itself fast and the learning curve is small compared to screen print or DTG.

    Now if you need to do large amounts then outsource your screen printing.. Also if you have 50 shirts or more then just have plastisol transfers made and press them on your shirts.

    And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

    Abraham Lincoln

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  • Profile picture of the author AMSM
    Why not start by loading up your toner on your laser or injet printer at home and buy the printable iron ons from Officemax? Once you get big then maybe start buying printing presses?

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    • Profile picture of the author javarog
      Originally Posted by AMSM View Post

      Why not start by loading up your toner on your laser or injet printer at home and buy the printable iron ons from Officemax? Once you get big then maybe start buying printing presses?

      That isn't the best way, the quality is crap and you will get a bad rep out of the gates. Now you could do this using a good quality transfer paper but I would still suggest a heat press

      And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

      Abraham Lincoln

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      • Profile picture of the author Karen Pottinger
        in addition to t-shirt equipment, this e-book T-Shirt Profits - the Complete Guide to Running a Successful T-Shirt Company by Andreea Ayers has really great info for marketing/wholesaling etc and she also talks about equipment

        (this is not an affiliate link)

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  • Profile picture of the author Danny Shaw
    I would go with a 4 colour silkscreen hand carousel to start with. You can pick them up cheap on eBay sometimes.
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  • Profile picture of the author drewfioravanti
    I'd recommend you go to T-Shirt Forums where people actually know what they are talking about.
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  • Profile picture of the author AceOfShirts
    Have you watched any screen printing videos on YouTube? It is a lot more difficult and time consuming than most people think, especially on multi color jobs where you have to burn multiple screens and do the micro alignments to get everything set up correctly. There is also a large space requirement for the machine, dryers, screen burners and cleaners and other things.

    You also need to take into consideration the space and money needed to keep a stock of blank shirts. That is my biggest problem, stocking every size of every color you want to offer. You can place small orders from your blanks supplier but the shipping costs will eat you up if you don't order in bulk.

    I hope you have nothing but success, but make sure you know what you are getting into.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ouroboros
    I've read this thread about a dozen times and finally feel like I maybe should say something.

    I used to work for a screen print don't have the balls to do this!

    You need a building at least the size of a two car garage...220 power, or better yet 440 for your dryer.

    screens need to be stretched with fabric, and then there's coating them with emulsion...
    you need a way to get the image onto an acetate and then project or enlarge it onto the screen...
    and then you need to wash out the screen and get it ready to register on the press...
    a 4 color press is almost a given, and then if it's not a pro press you'll spend hours lining up the screens so that when you print the first color, the next screen is still in register...
    and you need at least a 350 degree oven to cure the plastisol ink...
    and you need a shitload of shirts to print and a sticky spray for the plattens...
    Did I mention the washout sink and all the noxious chemicals that you'll need to reclaim the screens for the next job?

    Just do the designs and farm it out to someone that has a pro me!

    The fumes from the chemicals that you have to use to reclaim the screens will cause enoughh brain damage to make you doubt your decision!

    Steve (been there and done that - and have a sh*tload of shirts to prove it) !

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  • Profile picture of the author karolk

    You know what, I won't try to lead you in with fake promises and false advertising. So let me just be honest. If you're looking for some online business advice for normal people (with no hype and constant product pushing) then hop over to

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  • Profile picture of the author MattBrighton
    If you're starting off - there's lots of companies online that will screenprint your designs. I've seen lots and lots of clothing brands so it has to be really special to make sales. It's all about the branding of the range - make sure you never loose sight of your target market because then everything will never quite fit together.
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