T-shirt Printing Materials Checklist You Need

woman wearing a black and red skull shirt

T-shirts are one of the most extraordinary things around. They’re stylish and highly flexible, able to go with just about any look. 

When the American t-shirt market is expected to grow by a whopping 11% by 2022, this is one fashion statement with serious staying power. Making t-shirts is as easy as grabbing a few functional materials and letting your creative juices flow. You can also translate these skills to similarly styled creations like crewneck sweatshirts and tank tops!

What t-shirt printing materials do you need? Does it matter which ones you use? Here’s the t-shirt printing materials checklist you need to get started. 

How Popular Are T-Shirts?

Before we launch into the t-shirt printing materials checklist, let’s take a look at the enduring popularity of t-shirts. These are some of the most commonly worn items in the States and around the world

The custom t-shirt market is currently sitting at a pretty $1 billion in yearly revenue, expecting to hit three billion by 2025. This definition includes handmade t-shirts and standard printed t-shirts with unique designs. 

Not only are t-shirts comfortable and snazzy, but they’re also one of the preferred marketing choices for businesses. You heard that right! Custom t-shirts are a simple form of advertising with an extremely high ROI, thanks to being reused over and over again. 

Related: Best T-Shirt Printing Methods

Why Do You Want Shirt Printing Materials?

Before you get started on your t-shirt printing materials checklist, ask yourself one crucial question: why do you want to print t-shirts?

Your needs will look very different from someone else’s, so your checklist needs to reflect that. Do you want to print t-shirts as a main source of income? Maybe you’re considering it as a side hustle to bring in a little cash. 

For others, t-shirt printing is a fun hobby to show off their creative side. This means you won’t need quite as many materials or space as someone who’s trying to generate monthly income.

three kids wearing colorful blue, red and green graphic t-shirts


T-Shirt Printing Business Equipment

If you’re thinking of starting a t-shirt business, even a small side hustle, you’ll want the very best printing materials. Quality is essential to customers and they want a purchase that will last for years.

Memorable Illustrations and Designs

The foundation of your t-shirt printing business will be the gorgeous artwork you adorn your t-shirts with. There are a few ways to go about creating the visuals for your brand:

  • Hiring a skilled illustrator or graphic designer (remember: they’re not the same thing!)
  • Trying your hand at original designs using stock photography or stock designs
  • Creating your own portfolio and uploading your original work digitally

It’s essential to learn the difference between RGB and CMYK for printing: the latter is the default in the printing industry and provides more reliable results. Make sure you’re printing from large file size, too. Standard DPI is at least 400, though 500 to 600 is ideal.

Related: Summer Shirt Ideas Using Heat Transfer Vinyl

Inkjet Printer

You can’t create t-shirts without the prints, right? Enter the inkjet printer, the standard tool of working artists and hobbyists everywhere. 

Your t-shirt prints should be printed onto specialized inkjet transfer paper. Make sure you get a printer size that suits your heat press machine, as you don’t want to have incompatible prints that waste your hard-earned money. Epson is a famous brand among today’s commercial artists for its high-quality result and longevity. 

Heat Press Machine

This machine will be one of the most commonly used tools. The heat press machine is precisely what it says on the tin: it transfers graphics to t-shirts using heat, not unlike an ironing board. 

Unlike an ironing board, the heat press machine is simpler to use and designed to duplicate orders easily. 

Heat press machines are available in a few different models: the iron, the swing-away heat press, and the manual press. The iron is smaller and best suited to those with experience, while the manual press is excellent for multiple skill levels. The swing-away heat press is useful if you plan on doing additional merchandise like mugs or bags.

Related: How To Use Heat Transfer Vinyl [Buyer's Guide]

Heat press machines also come in multiple sizes, such as the 16x20 and the 15x15. The size you need depends on your volume of orders and the size of the clothes you’ll be altering. Heat transfer vinyl is one of many ways to get started on this fun, involving process.

Screen (Also Known As Screenprinting)

You’ve probably heard of this term before! The screenprinting industry is an old one, dating back to early Chinese dynasties. 

Screenprinting is the process of transferring designs onto fabric using a mesh-based stencil. While screenprinting was meticulously done by hand in the old days, it can now be easily achieved with more advanced tools today. Your screens will have to be unique to each design, right down to the color being used. 

Screens are defined by mesh count, which has a simple rule: simple designs can have low mesh counts, while highly detailed designs need high mesh counts.

Are you intimidated by t-shirt printing? Avance Vinyl is ready to help out hobbyists and business owners alike, offering the best in custom screenprinting supplies.

Emulsion and Ink

You can’t make a shirt without ink, right? Emulsion and ink are the backbones of making shirts, ensuring that each creation comes out high-quality and long-lasting. 

Emulsion is applied to each screen in the screening process to keep it from fading or wrinkling due to light exposure. The hardening process of emulsion is actually what creates the hard stencil that lets you outline the designs onto shirts.

Ink (also known as solvent ink) are the colors used to create your beautiful prints. If you have a background in painting, you’ll already know the answer to this next part. The primary colors and shades you need for your ink base are:

  • White
  • Black
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue

Make sure to grab plenty of emulsion remover, vinyl remover, and heat transfer papers!

Exposure Unit

You won’t want to miss this vital piece of t-shirt printing equipment. The exposure unit is used after you create a screen and layer it with emulsion, allowing the screen and the ink to stick together properly.

Nothing is more disheartening than a t-shirt that cracks when you wear it, right? Even worse are t-shirts with designs that fade and fall apart through too many washes. This is often due to cheap materials, but it can also be because of a poorly used exposure unit.

Exposure units function by using light (specifically, UV or LED) to cure the design into a firm, usable model. Vacuum exposure units are even better, using pressure to press the artwork and screen closely together. This creates much finer detail and more subtle, gradiented colors that could be lost with cheaper exposure units. 

woman with blue hair wearing black graphic t shirt

Conveyor Dryers

We’re almost done! T-shirt making supplies is a lengthy list, but that’s because the end result is absolutely worth it. 

Conveyor dryers are where you finally wrap things up: they serve the dual purpose of cleaning off your screen and strengthening the ink. This means your design won’t rub off quite as quickly and will hold up to repeated wear-and-tear. 

Ready to begin bringing all your glamorous t-shirt ideas to life? Visit Avance Vinyl to start learning the ins and outs of custom heat transfer for your next fashion line-up.

Older Post