T-shirt printing has always been an interest of mine. I always had people who around me who were in the clothing industry. Up to recently, I had a buddy of mine make my custom shirts for me, but he stopped doing it. I did look in to some of the online websites, where you design your shirt on their site, and then order, however I wasn't too fond of the prices and turnaround times. Especially with next project I wanted to work on, which had me printing shirts and giving them away for free, I had to look into printing t-thirts myself.
One thing that I learned from years of business and management, is to take your time when it comes to decisions. The amount of wisdom you have on the business you are getting into, whether it is equipment, trends, knowledge, or even the business itself can make you or break you.
So naturally I put in weeks and weeks of research, before I even made my first decision on direction or technique that I wanted to go with. So I wanted to sum up how I got started and the method I am using for anyone that my be interested in something similar.
For my simple shirts, I decided to go with the Heat Transfer Vinyl, or HTV to Heat Press method. This method of simple printing has been around forever. With the quality of HTV there are available now, the quality is phenomenal. The prints don't crack after a couple washes, nor do they warp or anything like that either. One of my favorite shirts that has my web site address and the front, and the bible verse PSALM 51 on the back I have worn and washed for over a year now, and still looks good. Siser Easyweed is my choice for HTV. Really easy to work with, and quality is awesome!
Before I continue here though, I will tell you this. The quality of your t-shirt makes a big difference. I have tried several different brands and types (And continue to try) before I even gave out my first sample. Shirts are like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. I personally like the 100% cotton Hanes, or the Fruit of the loom shirts. Some of the 50/50 (Cotton/Polyester) hoodies are good too. When I tried some of the no name shirts, they were not bad for the most part when first printing. However after washing, the shirts didn't look too good. The prints are fine on any brand of shirt though. So if you are selling shirts online, or locally, I really recommend giving your customers an option of shirt brand. For example if your customer wants a few dozen shirts for a party or an event, and most of the people will not be wearing the shirt afterwards, offer them the Gildan or alternative cheaper t-shirt. However if they are printing a shirt for their company or regular wear, you should really give the option of the better shirt. You do not want your customer not coming back to you due a bad t-shirt quality.
For my graphic t-shirts and sweaters, I debated for quite a while between sublimation and transfer paper. I finally decided to go with transfer paper due to several reasons. For starters transfer paper is a lot more easier to work with, and can work with any inkjet printer. A decent inkjet printer couple with a monthly printer plan like HP's Instant Ink, makes printing so much easier, cost effective, and you never run out of ink. I will get in to HP's Instant Ink a little more later, but it breaks down to $4.99 a month for 100 pages a month, with rollover, and you never run out of ink!
Back to graphic t-shirts, sublimation you are limited to certain printers with sublimation ink, certain types of shirts only, and you are also limited to light colored shirts for best results. With transfer paper, again you can use any inkjet printer, any type of clothing, and presses easily with your heat press or clothing iron. After a LOT of research, I use 3G Opaque Transfer paper for Dark shirts. I use this one for my light shirts too, because it is less work (Doesn't require mirroring, or transfer paper) and its the same price. So using the transfer paper for light shirts is kind of pointless.
Heat Press is another item you may get stuck on, just because there are so many different ones out there now. Not only that, the prices range from hundreds, to thousands! I have seen some really nice ones while shopping around for a heat press, especially the clam shells with timed auto open, and domestic brands with included support. However for me, as someone who used a heat plate for Phone LCD repairs for years, the most important factor for me was and is even heat distribtution through out the whole plate. I actually ended up getting 2 entry level heat presses, a clam shell design and a swivel design heat press, and both work surprisingly well. I always use a laser infrared temperature gun before pressing just to make sure. Again, you get what you pay for. The swivel heat press was more expensive then the clam shell. Sure enough the swivel press takes about half the time as the clamshell one I got to heat up.
And now for the cutter. After reading and watching numerous reviews on a cutter for the vinyl, I went with the Silhouette Cameo 4. The cameo 4 looked like it was the standard when it came to vinyl. Very easy to use, the software is extemely easy to use compared to the other ones I saw. Silhouette Studio also has paid upgrades for more features and detailed use, however for what I am doing at the moment, the free version is more than enough. As much as I hate wireless technology (7 computers in 3 different rooms at my house, all wired....I don't like wireless) I do admit, having bluetooth on the Cameo 4 does come in handy =)
Now don't get me wrong, in no way am I saying the the equipment that I chose is better than another brand out there. I just want people to know that after all of my research, these are the ones that I chose to go with, and so far so good!
I will try to post a video soon of all of this in action!!