T-Shirt Printing Materials Checklist for Beginners

T-Shirt Printing Materials Checklist for Beginners

The custom t shirt printing industry offers vast opportunities for building a profitable business where you can sell personalized t-shirts to bands, companies, etc.

But in order to build a base of customers, you need to ensure the best quality. Therefore, it is crucial for you to invest in the correct equipment and materials.

If you aren’t careful enough, you could waste a lot of capital money and end up with equipment that you never really needed.

It gets difficult for a lot of people to decide which equipment or item they should buy. If you are facing the same dilemma, this article got you covered!

Please continue reading to get started with our t-shirt printing materials checklist for beginners.

T-Shirt Printing Materials Checklist

Setting up a custom t shirt printing business could be as easy as a DIY project or as complicated as establishing an enterprise.

But having the right materials will help you in getting your business off the ground in no time! Below, we cover some of the most important t shirt printing business equipment and materials.

1. Heat Press Machine

Heat Press Machine

One of the most vital elements of t shirt printing machine is the heat press. Generally, heat press machines are manually operated on electricity. If you are starting out with a tight budget, you can opt for a manual heat press.

It is a simple machine consisting of a heat plate and a wide plate at the bottom for laying t-shirts.

After placing the transfer paper on a t-shirt, you’ll have to push the heat plate down and hold it for ‘transferring’ the design from the paper onto the t-shirt. This process is rigorous as it has to be repeated for each t-shirt.

But once your business starts taking off, you can consider getting an electric heat press to increase your output, i.e., the number of printed t-shirts. Although these machines are expensive, the price will pay off in the long run.

If budget is not a concern, you can invest in commercial-grade heat press machines that can print on t-shirts and mugs, plates, caps, etc.

2. Inkjet Printer

Inkjet Printer

Are you looking to go into digital heat transfers? You will then need an inkjet printer to print designs on transfer papers.

Look for a printer that supports multiple paper sizes as it will enable you to work on different designs. Although you can use an inkjet printer, the quality of the prints strongly depends on it.

Therefore, it is recommended not to cheap out when buying one. You could use a laser printer too, but inkjet printers are better at printing photos, whereas laser printers are good for vector-based images.

If budget is not a concern or your business starts booming, you could look into DTG (direct to garment) printers.

DTG printers, as the name suggests, print directly onto the fabric of garments. It can also print on other items, which allows you to expand your collection of products!

3. The Screen

If you’re thinking of t shirt screen printing, you will need a screen for creating stencils. Stencils are transferred onto t-shirts for creating a print on them.

Although the process is similar to digital heat transferring, screens are better suited for different types of printing, which we’ll address in a bit.

In screen printing, the ink merges with the fabric of the t-shirt. This makes it much more durable than heat transfer prints, where the ink sits on top of the fabric.

Furthermore, heat-transferred designs tend to crack and get damaged over time, while screen prints can last for much longer.

With that being said, screen prints are better than heat transfers as it allows you to print vivid-looking images while also offering you the freedom of using colors as you wish.

But as you’ll need a separate screen for every color, screen printing may get difficult to manage.

On the other hand, if you’re printing the same design on a large number of t-shirts, screen printing is much more cost-effective while also producing better quality prints.

As a side note, screens are very sensitive to light, so they should be handled carefully not to ruin the designs on them.

4. Emulsion

Another item needed for the screen-printing method is an emulsion. It is a liquid substance that has to be applied on screens to reduce their sensitivity to light.

The stencil is created after the emulsion hardens on a screen with exposure to light.

Applying a thick layer of emulsion allows the stencil to be deep and gives more room for the ink, enabling better transfers. You will also need a tool for applying emulsion to screens.

Either a squeegee or a scoop coater could be used, but the latter allows you to distribute the emulsion more evenly.

Using a drying rack for drying the emulsion-coated screens will prevent the ink and emulsion from mixing. As emulsion is required for every screen print, buying it in bulk should save you some time and money.

5. Ink

T-Shirt Printing link

The importance of the quality of ink cannot be understated. They’re available everywhere, and you shouldn’t have a hard time finding good ink.

There are various types of inks for printing, such as plastisol, water-based, etc. But for t-shirts, you need solvent ink.

As they come in many different colors, you should stock up according to your requirements. You can mix colors if you wish to produce a unique color, for which you would need a quart container and also a scale.

While the container will be useful for blending inks, the scale will allow you to weigh the ink for more precise results. If you aren’t sure about which colors to get, you can buy primary colors such as white, black, red, green, and blue.

6.  Exposure Unit

After the emulsion is applied on a screen, the liquid must be cured with exposure to light. It can be done by placing the screen in the exposure unit.

The printable areas of a design are completely black, and it will block light from exposing the emulsion. Areas that aren’t exposed to light will dissolve with water.

Exposure units come in many different sizes but using a medium-sized machine should serve your purpose just fine.

Although the process can be done under the sun, an overexposed screen won’t give sufficient room to the ink when printing, while an underexposed screen means too much ink being thrown on the print.

7. Washout Station

Washout Station

After curing an emulsion-coated screen, the uncured emulsion must be washed off. If it is not done, the design will get damaged with excess cure, and the results will be foggy.

Therefore, both sides of the screen have to be rinsed to wash out the extra emulsion. This is where a washout station comes into use.

You could build one yourself or buy one professionally made washout sink. As the water keeps running and rinsing through the screen, the emulsion eventually washes out,

leaving you with a developed image of the design on the screen. Make sure nothing comes in contact with the screen when it is taken out.

8. Conveyor Dryer

Conveyor Dryer

For the final step of screen printing, a conveyor dryer is needed. After washing the screen, it has to be placed in the dryer. It dries the screen and cures the ink to be set onto the fabric.

They can also heat the ink on t-shirts, ensuring that the print does not come off easily.

The conveyor dryer is one of the vital t-shirt screen printing equipment as the final stage cannot be carried out without it. A good dryer can help increase your turnover time while also boosting your business!

9. Artwork

Apart from the hassle of printing, the most important part for your business is to have a collection of artworks. It is important because based on the quality of your designs, customers will be attracted to your t-shirts.

You can either create designs by yourself or purchase designs from a professional when it comes to artworks.

If you feel creative enough, you could get started with a simple pen and paper drawing or use full-fledged software on your computer to design more complicated arts.

But one thing to note is that the designs have to be made by keeping the texture of the t-shirts in mind.

10. Transfer Paper

Transfer Paper

You can use a heat transfer vinyl or transfer paper for the digital heat transfer method. With heat transfer vinyl, you would have to cut colored pieces and place them on the t-shirt before putting them in a heat press.

On a transfer paper, you would have to print the design before using a heat press.

Transfer papers are available in various sizes and types. If you are using an inkjet printer, you would need inkjet transfer paper.

For laser printers, you would need laser transfer paper. It is crucial to use the correct paper type for the best results.

Additional t-shirt Screen Printing Equipment

After you get all the required equipment and materials, there are some other items that can make your work easier.

Although these aren’t necessary, they can prove very useful in the long run. Some additional materials that you may need are –

1. Emulsion Remover

Emulsion Remover

As screens can be reused, an emulsion remover can eliminate the residual emulsion.

2. Tape Gun

It can be used to cover certain parts of a t-shirt where ink is not needed, resulting in neater prints.

3. Degreaser

Useful for cleaning a screen’s surface before the emulsion is applied.

4. Brushes

Brushes with soft bristles can come in handy for cleaning off stains or using chemical substances such as emulsion remover, curable reducer, etc.

5. Spotting Gun

It can be used for removing ink stains and fingerprints from the print of a t-shirt.

Other additional items include a curable reducer, flash cure unit, flash dryer, spray adhesive, film output device, and much more.

Frequently Asked Question

1. Do I need a heat press for screen printing?

As the screen-printing method does not require heat and pressure, you do not need a heat press for screen printing.

2. How can I make a t-shirt design?

There are two options for this. You could create a design yourself or hire somebody else to do it for you. If you choose to do it by yourself, you need a computer and editing software such as Adobe Illustrator to design custom t-shirt designs.

3. Which printing method is best for t-shirts?

It depends on the type of job at hand. If you have to print just a few t-shirts, DTG (direct to garment) printing would be the easiest as you would have to load blank shirts into the printing machine. Other methods such as digital heat transfer and screen printing have multiple steps and can be rigorous.

4. How long does DTG printing last?

DTG printing directly prints onto the fabric and is usually more durable than other forms of t-shirt printing. A t-shirt with a DTG print can go through at least 50 washes before the print starts fading or cracking.

5. Why is my heat transfer cracking?

If moisture is trapped below a transfer paper before it is put into a heat press, it could create issues that may not be seen immediately. It would cause the print to crack very quickly within a few washes.

Final Words

Before you start investing in equipment and materials, you should consider the type of prints you will do most.

But with all of the above being said, you may have noticed that printing t-shirts are not a difficult task. The key is to have the right equipment and materials, with which you can get started anytime!

We hope to have helped you in making more informed decisions with our t-shirt printing materials checklist for beginners. Best of luck!