Thinking of starting a T-Shirt Design Business
As the price of modern technology continues to fall, aspiring designers are finding it increasingly possible to produce small quantities or even individually designed printed T-shirts.
A T-shirt design business can be a part-time venture for an additional source of income. It can also be a full-time career where you’re in charge of your own work, and prosperous work at that.
But how do you ensure that your T-shirt design venture is a success? That is what we will be discussing over the course of this article.
What Types of T-shirt Printing Are Possible?
There are several methods of T-shirt printing to be considered as you evaluate your business strategy. Each has its benefits, and each is preferred for certain circumstances. Choosing the right printing method is absolutely crucial.
Heat Transfer printing is arguably the most popular choice for small businesses. The process involves heat transfer to press an existing photo or design on to a fabric. While it certainly isn’t as lasting as other methods, transfer printing is great for small quantities and is much faster than, say, screen printing.
Heat transfer provides a smooth feel when the fabric is produced. You’ll certainly notice the difference in texture, but it also has a tendency to crack more often. The machinery required is relatively small and a good option for small scaled production.
One of the most important things to remember with transfer printing is the restrictions of pressing on to coloured garments. In general, most forms of transfer printing will focus on white T-shirts. This is due to the problems which arise when you try to press certain colours on to darker garments. Transferring yellow on to a blue garment would traditionally leave a greenish tone, for example.
Thankfully, there are now options available which cater for different coloured fabric printing.
Vinyl transfers are one of those additional options. Focused primarily on offering support for colour layering, vinyl pressing allows designers to use multiple colours and produce high quality final prints.
The process is centred on embellishing a garment. To use it will require a vinyl cutter which allows you to cut out a logo or design from a specific sheet. The design is then pressed through usual heat transfer means.
The process isn’t really geared towards mass production, and is actually better suited for single print T-shirts. It’s a fairly new method, and not the cheapest, but the quality of output is high – perfect for lettering. Vinyl transfer print is suitable if you’re looking for a one-off print with distinct contrasting colours.
The third process that we’re going to look at is known as sublimation printing.
Sublimation is typically used to print on to light coloured synthetic surfaces. It’s the process of ink turning directly in to gas under heating, and this makes for a relatively improved output as opposed to traditional heat transfer printing. However due to the limited availability and demand for synthetic clothing I would advise caution when considering basing your T-shirt business on sublimation printing.
You'll find that T-shirts printed through sublimation don’t feel the same as transfer printed fabrics. This is because the toners used are applied below the surface of the substrate.
The major difference which separates sublimation printing lies in the way that the inks are sensitive to heat. To achieve the desired effect, special toners are used and a transfer sheet will be produced. This transfer sheet can be applied to a variety of different fabrics. However, if you’re going to use sublimation, you should restrict it to synthetic fabric such as polyester and acrylic.
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Choosing the Right T-shirt Printing Equipment