Best Types Of Shirt Printing

So, you’re sitting at home thinking about making some awesome custom shirts but not sure how.

Trust me, I’ve been there and it can be overwhelming.

That’s where I come in.

Welcome to my guide to the best shirt printing methods around.

In this guide, you’ll find:

  • Printing methods I’ve actually used
  • Detailed guides on how to get started with them
  • Images of what each process actually looks like
  • Pros and cons of each method
  • My personal opinions and experiences

By the end of this list, I’m sure you will find the best t-shirt printing method for you.

Before I jump into the best printing methods though, I want to cover how I chose these for you. (hint: It’s not just research)

How I Chose These Printing Methods

If you look at other sites that write about printing you’ll see a trend.

Most of them are big companies who are ultimately trying to sell you their printing. And those that aren’t, most likely haven’t tried what they’re recommending.

The difference between those articles and mine is that I’ve tried all of these and use most of them on a regular.

I’ve been printing since I was a kid with my mom, so I’ve had the time to try all these out!

This article is full of t-shirt printing options that I actually love and enjoy. Are there other great options? Yeah, definitely. But I don’t want to recommend something that I don’t have any experience with.

As I learned about more methods and tried them out, I realized how each of them is really good at certain things.

OK, enough about me. Let’s jump into why you’re here.

What Are The Best Types Of Shirt Printing

With all the different types of printing I have tried, I can confidently tell you these are the best:

All printing styles broken down into what they are each good, okay, and bad at.

Each t-shirt printing method has its own unique set of quirks, so strap in and get ready to discover which one is perfect for your next project!

Dye Sublimation: Best For Small Orders On Anything Polyester

Guide To Dye Sublimation Printing

Dye Sublimation, a method I’m quite fond of, is a daily for me! Dye Sublimation printing is like a magician’s trick, transforming solid, dried ink into a gas and dyeing the shirts.

This process was fascinating to me when I was starting out and it’s stuck with me since. Now it’s hands down my favorite way of printing T-shirts.

What Is Dye Sublimation Printing

Dye sublimation printing is a T-shirt printing technique that uses heat to transfer dye directly into the fabric of a T-shirt. Unlike traditional inkjet or screen printing, which lays ink on top of the shirt, sublimation ink actually becomes part of the fabric.

  • The Process: You start with a special type of ink and paper. When you apply heat, the ink transforms into a gas and permeates the T-shirt fabric.
  • The Result: The design is not on the fabric; it’s in the fabric. This means you can’t feel the design when you run your hand over the shirt—it’s as smooth as the rest of the material.

So, in essence, dye sublimation printing is all about using heat to embed your design into the T-shirt fabric itself. It’s a go-to method for those who want a seamless, integrated look for their tees.

Why I Like It

  • Low startup cost
  • Easy process
  • High Quality
  • Great durability


  • Only works on polyester T-shirts (or blends)
  • Dark-colored shirts are complicated (but not impossible)

Who’s it best for (+ More About Its Benefits)

I see dye sublimation printing as the perfect beginner’s printing method.

Here are my main reasons for saying this: A moderately low startup cost, ease of use, and what I see as one of the highest-quality prints.

  • Cost? You can start dye sublimation printing for about $500. While it’s not the cheapest on this list, I see it as the best value.
  • How about ease of use? It’s crazy simple! I love how it allows you to print 1 offs without changing a thing. You could literally print 100 different designs without any changes to settings or tools.
  • Quality? Almost unmatched. Dye sublimation is literally dyeing the shirt. You won’t have to deal with it washing off or cracking. And the image itself? Super Fine lines, vibrant colors, and the option for all-over printing is hard to beat.

Dye sublimation also stands out for its ability to produce vibrant colors that truly pop, which other printing methods struggle to achieve.

In addition to all of this, sublimation is great for all-over prints. Because it actually goes into the fabric, it can be printed on parts of the shirt that move a lot and not crack.

The Not So Great (Explained)

Like any magic trick, it has its limitations: Dye sublimation only works on polyester and it’s a little complicated to print on dark-colored blanks.

Only polyester T-shirts?! Yes, unfortunately. While it is limiting, it’s not as bad as you might think.

Within the T-shirt realm, there are a ton of blank options. Because sublimation is so popular nowadays, there are suppliers dedicated to just sublimation blanks.

Plus, the blanks don’t have to be 100% polyester. Although higher percentages will lead to better prints.

And the color of the blanks? Only light colors? NO!

So many people get this wrong. You can actually sublimate on any color shirt you want.

It is a little tricky and a bit of a hack.

In short, you’ll basically apply vinal the shape of your print to the shirt, then sublimate it onto the vinal. Unfortunately, this will reduce the durability of the prints, but it will allow you to skip buying a new printer.

How do you get Started

To get started with sublimation you’ll only need a few supplies. The video above goes through everything you’ll need in-depth.

My preferred budget setup (which is all you’ll need if you’re just starting out) is below.

Budget Setup:

This brings the total cost for my budget setup to $514. For the price, you’re getting great tools that will set you up for success. Note that this uses a standard Epson EcoTank printer that will need to be converted. This will void its warranty, but save you over $300!

If you’d like to explore some printers that won’t void their warranty, check out some of the other best sublimation printers.

The Process
peeling away sublimation print.

Like I said earlier, it’s super easy to get started with sublimation.

Here’s a quick rundown of my exact process for dye sublimation printing:

1. Creating Designs

  1. Idea Generation: Jot down some design ideas related to your niche. Stuck? AI tools like ChatGPT can help spark creativity.
  2. Design Creation: I like to use Midjourney AI to help with design creation. Then use Canva for final touches. Make sure the background is transparent.

2. Printing The Designs

  1. Printer Check: Make sure your printer is on and connected. Rookie mistake, but it happens.
  2. Settings: Match paper size, choose “Premium Presentation Matte” for paper type, and uncheck high-speed options.
  3. Mirroring: Flip your design if it has text or a specific orientation. Save this setting so you don’t forget.

3. Applying Design to Product

  1. Preheat: Always warm up your heat press.
  2. Position & Tape: Lay your design on the product and secure it with heat-resistant tape.
  3. Press & Cool: Close the heat press, start the timer, and let it cool before doing your happy dance.

Quick Tips:

  • Test Runs: Always a good idea to avoid rookie mistakes.
  • Alignment Tools: I use a T-square to make sure everything’s straight.
  • Double-Check: Look twice, press once. Saves a lot of headaches.

And there you have it! That’s the quick and dirty on how to get started with sublimation. Trust me, once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

Now, let’s move on to my second pick, HTP.

Heat Transfer Printing: Best For High-Quality, Low Volume Printing

Guide to heat transfer priting

Heat Transfer Printing, or HTP, is one of the most budget-friendly types of shirt printing. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of T-shirt printing.

It’s versatile, easy, and doesn’t break the bank. If you’re looking for a heat press method that’s quick and straightforward, this is it.

What Is Heat Transfer Printing

Heat transfer printing is all about using a heat press to transfer a pre-printed image from special heat transfer paper onto fabric. Unlike dye sublimation, which becomes part of the fabric, heat transfer sits on top of it.

  • The Process: You print your design onto special heat transfer paper. Then, you slap that paper onto your T-shirt and use a heat press machine to make the magic happen.
  • The Result: Your design is now heat-pressed onto the shirt. It’s more like a sticker on the fabric rather than being part of it. You’ll feel it when you run your hand over the shirt.

Why I Like It

  • Low startup cost
  • Super easy
  • Works on multiple fabric types
  • Can use heat transfer vinyl for more options


  • Not as durable (due to it being on top of fabirc)
  • Weeding can be a pain (until you get a Cricut)

Who’s it best for (+ More About Its Benefits)

Heat transfer is the go-to for anyone on a tight budget or those who want to print on a variety of fabrics.

  • Low Cost? You can get started for under $300. That’s a steal!
  • Ease of use? If you can use a heat press and a printer, you can do heat transfer printing. No special skills are needed.
  • Fabric options? Cotton, polyester, blends—you name it, heat transfer can handle it.
  • Heat transfer vinyl? This is like a more durable version of heat transfer paper but has some additional costs.

The Not So Great (Explained)

Back to those pesky limitations. For heat transfer printing you’re looking at poor durability and dealing with weeding.

So, a durability issue? Yeah. While these prints can be less durable than those from the rest of this list it’s not a major deal.

When you’re just starting out you really just need to start seeing products move. Once you get the hang of that, then you can worry about quality.

Plus, you can move to using heat press vinyl printing when you feel you need to step up.

And how about that weeding process?

Well, it’s annoying, to say the least.

When you’re just starting out you’ll be using a pair of scissors, not a fancy Cricut machine. This can make the process lengthy and annoying.

The main issue here is that if you leave any white from your paper, it will show.

However. on the bright side you’ll be able to upgrade to a Cricut and it’ll be a breeze.

How to Get Started

Swing away heat press

Here’s my budget setup for heat press printing:

Budget Setup:

Total cost: $335. Not bad, right?

I do recommend taking a look into heat transfer vinyl instead of paper as it does tend to have better quality and durability. It does come with a higher price tag though.

The Process

1. Creating Designs

  • Idea Generation: Got a niche or theme? Start brainstorming designs that fit. If you’re stuck, AI tools like ChatGPT can kickstart your creativity.
  • Design Creation: Use free design software like Canva for the basics and add final touches. Remember, keep that background transparent!

2. Printing The Designs

  • Printer Check: Basic, but crucial. Make sure your printer is on and connected. You’d be surprised how often this gets overlooked.
  • Settings: Adjust your printer settings to match the paper size you’re using. For paper type, go with something like “Plain Paper” or “Other Photo Papers” depending on your printer.
  • Mirroring: If your design has text or needs to face a certain way, flip it. Save this setting so you don’t goof it up later.

3. Applying Design to Product

  • Preheat: Fire up that heat press or iron. You want it hot and ready, just like a first date.
  • Position & Tape: Place your design where you want it on the shirt. Use heat-resistant tape to keep it from playing hide and seek.
  • Press & Cool: Lockdown that heat press or apply the iron, start your timer, and then let it cool. Do a little dance, make a little love, and get down tonight!

Quick Tips:

  • Test Runs: Always, always do a test run. It’s like a dress rehearsal but for T-shirts.
  • Alignment Tools: I use a ruler or a T-square. It’s like having a GPS for where your design should go.
  • Double-Check: Look twice, press once. It’s the carpenter’s rule of T-shirt making.

So there you have it! Heat transfer printing is your budget-friendly, versatile option. It’s perfect for small projects and a variety of fabrics.

Sure, it’s not as durable as some other methods, but it’s a solid choice for anyone just getting started or on a tight budget.

Screen Printing: Best High Volume With Few Colors

Guide To Screen Printing

Ah, screen printing, my old friend. Also known as silkscreen printing, this method is like the classic rock of T-shirt printing. It’s one of the OG’s, the method that made me realize how fun shirt printing can be.

I’ve got a soft spot for it since I used to work as a screen-printer. Man, the ink stains and the smell of emulsion take me back!

What Is Screen Printing

Screen printing, or as the artsy folks call it, silk screen printing, is the art of pushing screen printing ink through a mesh screen onto fabric.

Unlike those new kids on the block like heat transfer (and others to come)—the ink sits on top of the fabric but becomes one with it (like printing on paper), thanks to the magic of pressure and ink viscosity.

  • The Process: You create a stencil, or a screen, for each color in your design. Then you layer the ink through these screens onto the fabric.
  • The Result: A vibrant, textured print that can withstand the test of time. You’ll definitely feel the design but in a good, high-quality kind of way.

Why I Like It

  • Great for bulk orders
  • Special inks make for unique designs
  • Works on various materials


  • High cost for small runs (due to making new screens)
  • Messy process (But that’s the fun)

Who’s it best for (+ More About Its Benefits)

Screen printing is the go-to for anyone who’s looking to print a small number of designs in bulk. I also love it for the process. I mean it’s messy, but definitely fun.

Cost? It’s not cheap to start, but the per-unit cost goes down the more you print. This is mainly because of the cost of the individual screens you’ll have to make.

Another great way to bring the cost down is to use fewer colors. This also means fewer sheets and less ink.

Special inks? Yeah, you can get all fancy with glow-in-the-dark or puff inks. This is one of my favorite things about screen printing.

I really like doing a mix of specialty inks. It can really add some crazy flair to your designs.

Material options? Cotton, polyester, wood, glass—you name it, screen printing can handle it. You probably won’t be printing any wooden T-shirts, but at least you’ll know you can expand.

The Not So Great (Explained)

So, what holds screen printing back? Well, the main things are its mess, and cost for low volume runs.

Let’s talk about the mess. You’ll be pouring ink into trays and squeegeeing it across the shirts. What doesn’t sound messy about that?

I don’t think I’ve ever done a screen printing run without getting covered in ink. It’s just part of the process.

But hey, are you really an artist if you and your studio aren’t covered in ink?

Now, how about that cost? Most of this comes from the dryer but even without it, the prices are fairly high.

For each new design you make, you’ll need to make a new screen for each color in it. So the less complicated the T-shirt design, the lower your cost will be.

How to Get Started

Here’s my essential setup for screen printing:

Beginner Setup:
  • Screens: Aluminum Screens with 110 mesh count – $25 each
  • Screen Printing Inks: Plastisol Ink Starter Kit – $40
  • Squeegee: 70 Durometer Squeegee – $20
  • Press: 1-Color 1-Station Screen Printing Press – $150
  • Exposure Unit: BASELAYR X1620 – $320
  • Blanks: Budget around $100
  • Washout Booth: DIY (Non DIY are expensive) – $150
  • Dryer: Heat Press – $300 (or a conveyer dryer if you have the budget and are serious – $2000)
  • Design Software: Adobe Illustrator or Canva Pro – $20/month
  • Cleaning Supplies: Screen Printing Cleaning Kit – $50

Total cost: Around $1175 if you opt for a heat press and $2875 for a more professional setup with the conveyer.

This setup is definitely more geared towards someone who’s serious about screen printing. It’s a bit of an investment, but these are the essentials you’ll need to produce high-quality, professional prints.

It’s also possible to DIY almost this entire process to get the price down to as low as $55. However, you won’t be making anything comparable to the pro setup.

The Screen Printing Process
Screen printing porcess

1. Creating Designs

First off, you gotta have a design, right? When I was starting, I’d sketch out my ideas on paper before taking them digital. The screen printing process shines with designs that have fewer colors because each color needs its own screen.

Trust me, keep it simple, especially if you’re new to this.

2. Prepping the Screens

Ah, the smell of emulsion in the morning! You’ll coat your mesh screen with this light-sensitive goop. Then you place your film positive on the screen and expose it to light.

This is traditional screen printing at its finest, folks. You’ll really feel like you’re in a movie.

3. Mixing Inks

Before you get to printing, you’ll need to mix your screen printing ink. I remember getting all mad scientist, mixing inks to get that perfect shade of midnight blue. If you’re using special inks like glow-in-the-dark or puff inks, now’s the time to get ’em ready.

4. Setting Up Your Printing Station

Get that T-shirt press or jig ready. I’ve spent hours perfecting the alignment of each screen, and let me tell you, it’s worth it. If your screens are off, your screen-printed shirts will look like a hot mess.

5. Printing The Designs

Here comes the fun part. Slap your T-shirt on the press, smooth it out, and align your mesh screen on top. Pour some of that glorious screen printing ink at one end of the screen and squeegee away.

The feeling of pulling that squeegee and seeing your design transfer is pure magic, my friends.

6. Curing the Ink

You’ve screen-printed your masterpiece, but you’re not done yet. That ink needs to be cured.

I started with a basic flash cure unit, but once I got into bulk orders, I upgraded to a conveyor dryer. Trust me, it’s a game-changer.

Quick Tips:

  • Always do a test print on scrap fabric first. I’ve ruined a good shirt or two by skipping this step, and it’s a bummer.
  • Clean your screens ASAP. Dried ink is a nightmare to get out, and I’ve got the stained screens to prove it.
  • Double-check your screen alignment. A misaligned screen can mess up your whole run, and nobody wants that.

So there you have it, a more detailed look into the conventional screen printing process, sprinkled with some of my own nostalgia and hard-earned wisdom. It’s a bit of work, but man, the results are worth it.

Note: This process took you through direct screen printing. There is also a form called indirect screen printing which I am less familiar with but is still viable.

Now let’s switch gears to the less messy (and less fun) stuff. Starting with direct-to-garment printing.

Direct To Garment (DTG): Perfect For Print-on-Demand Shirts

Guide to Direct to garment printing

DTG printing is like the Spotify of T-shirt printing: quick, digital, and perfect for the “I want it now” generation. It’s one of the T-shirt printing methods print-on-demand big shots use. It’s not just for your own line of tees but also for scaling up your operation.

This is one of my favorite types of shirt printing. Although I’ve only got to use one of these fabulous machines a handful of times, every experience was amazing.

What Is Direct-to-Garment Printing

Think of DTG printing as your personal fabric printer. It uses specialized inkjet technology to shoot water-based inks directly into the fabric, making it part of the shirt.

  • The Process: Load your shirt into the DTG printer, hit the ‘print’ button, and watch your design come to life, pixel by pixel.
  • The Result: You get a print that’s not just on the fabric but in it. The feel is super soft, and the print is incredibly detailed.

Why I Like It

  • Crazy fast turnaround
  • Insane level of detail
  • Ideal for print-on-demand setups


  • Hefty startup costs ($12,000+)
  • Not efficient for bulk orders

Who’s it best for (+ More About Its Benefits)

DTG printing is a dream come true for those who want to run a print-on-demand business or need high-detail prints.

Cost? Yeah, the initial cost is a kick in the teeth, but once you’re up and running, the cost per print is pretty reasonable.

I remember the first time I used one it made me really want my own. When I got home I looked into it and my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the price. Needless to say, I don’t have my own, unfortunately.

Speed? You can go from design to shirt faster than you can say “Direct-to-Garment.” And you can make it to print 100 different designs and it’ll do it just as fast.

Detail? This method can print complex designs and even photographs with a level of detail that’s nothing short of amazing.

The Not So Great (Explained)

The startup cost is a mountain, not a molehill. You’re looking at several thousand bucks to get started. And while it’s perfect for custom orders, it’s not the best for large quantities.

How to Get Started

Epson SureColor F2100 Direct-to-Garment Printer
Epson SureColor F2100 Direct-to-Garment Printer

Here’s my recommended setup for DTG printing:

Recommended Setup:
  • DTG Printer: Epson SureColor F2100 – $12,000 (I know, it’s a beast)
  • Inks: Epson UltraChrome DG Inks – $200
  • Heat Press: HeatPressNation Swing Away (I love this thing) – $380
  • Blanks: Budget around $100
  • Design Software: Adobe Photoshop or Canva Premium – $20/month

Total cost: Brace yourself, it’s around $12,700 to kick things off. But let me tell you, if you think that’s crazy those printers can cost well over $100,00!

If I were starting a DTG printing business, I’d probably splurge on all the best tools. I mean it’ll be hard to beat the cost of the printer.

The Process

1. Creating Designs

The sky’s the limit. DTG printing can handle all the colors and gradients you throw at it.

2. Prepping the Printer

Calibration is key. Make sure your printer is ready to rock.

3. Printing The Designs

Slide in your shirt, press ‘print,’ and watch the magic happen.

4. Press The Shirt

Take your heat press (or drying conveyer if you splurged on one) and press the shirt. This will dry the ink and make the design final.

Quick Tips:

  • Run a test print to make sure everything’s kosher.
  • High-res designs are your best friend.
  • Keep that printer clean to avoid any hiccups.

So, there you go! If you’re looking to step up your print-on-demand game or need intricate, high-quality prints, direct-to-garment printing is your golden ticket. It’s a big financial leap, but the payoff in speed and quality is huge.

Plus, it’s the method used by many print-on-demand giants.

Direct to Film (DTF): Best For Bulk Printing on Everything

Guide to Direct to Film

Ah, DTF, the method that’s kinda like the middle child of T-shirt printing. It’s got the versatility of heat transfer and the quality that’s almost up there with DTG.

This is the method I use when I’m trying to pump some stuff out. I would love to use a DTG machine instead but that’s not in the budget.

What Is Direct-to-Film Printing for T-Shirts

DTF is like cooking a three-course meal; there are a few steps, but the end result is oh-so-satisfying. You print your design onto a special film, sprinkle some magic—err, adhesive powder—on it, and then heat-press it onto your tee.

  • The Process: Print, sprinkle, press. Sounds like a dance move, right?
  • The Result: A vibrant, durable design that feels like it’s one with the fabric. It’s like the tee was born with it.

Why I Like It

  • Works on multiple T-shirt fabrics
  • High-quality, colorful prints
  • Great for intricate designs


  • Higher costs ($1,700+)
  • More steps involved

Who’s it best for (+ More About Its Benefits)

DTF is for the T-shirt printing aficionados who want a bit of everything: quality, versatility, and the ability to handle volume.

If you’re looking to print bulk orders and don’t want a messy process (screen printing) or an expensive machine(direct-to-garment printing) this is the way to go.

Cost? It’s pricier than heat transfer but cheaper than DTG. A middle-of-the-road option that doesn’t skimp on quality.

Quality? Almost as good as DTG. I’ve printed some intricate designs with DTF and they’ve come out looking sharp. Plus, they hold up a lot better than stander heat transfer printing.

Versatility? A+! This is another place it really shines. Whether it’s cotton, polyester, or a blend, DTF has got you covered. I really like to use this for printing on my oddball blanks.

The Not So Great (Explained)

It’s a bit of a process. Unlike DTG, where you just hit ‘print,’ DTF requires a bit more hands-on time. And while I love it more than heat transfer, especially for high volumes, it doesn’t quite reach the quality pinnacle that is DTG.

How to Get Started

Direct to film printer and supplies

Here’s my setup for DTF T-shirt printing:

Budget Setup:
  • DTF Printer: Epson SureColor P800 – $1,200
  • DTF Inks: Specialized DTF inks – $150
  • Heat Press: Cricut EasyPress (or a larger one if needed)- $150
  • Film: DTF Transfer Film – $50
  • Adhesive Powder: DTF-specific powder – $30
  • T-Shirt Blanks: Budget around $100
  • Design Software: Adobe Illustrator or Canva Pro– $20/month

Total cost: About $1,700 to get started. Definitely steep but you’ll be getting some high-quality prints with the added benefit of bulk being cheaper.

The Process

1. Creating Designs

The sky’s the limit. DTF can handle complex designs and a full range of colors.

2. Prepping the Printer

Calibrate your printer and make sure you’re stocked up on ink and film.

3. Printing The Designs

Print your design onto the film, sprinkle the adhesive powder, and heat-press it onto your tee.

Quick Tips:

  • Always test on a scrap piece of your T-shirt fabric first.
  • Watch your heat settings; different fabrics need different love.
  • High-res designs are your best friend here.

So, here’s the deal. DTF is like the middle child that’s super easy to love. It’s got the quality that’s almost as good as DTG, without making your wallet cry. And compared to heat transfer, it’s a champ in handling high volumes without losing quality.

If you’re serious about T-shirt printing but not ready to sell a kidney for a DTG printer, DTF is your go-to. Now go make some awesome tees!

Embroidery “Printing”: Best For Unique Long-Lasting Designs

Guide to embroidery

Embroidery is like the caviar of T-shirt “printing.” It’s not technically printing, but man, does it add a touch of class to your tees. I’ve dabbled in embroidery, and let me tell you, it’s like turning your T-shirt into a piece of art.

While I don’t have my own machine, I’ve used some of my friends and It’s something I would like to get more into.

What Is Embroidery

Embroidery is all about stitching your design directly into the fabric. It’s not ink, it’s not film; it’s actual thread that makes your design pop in a 3D kinda way.

The Process: You load your design into an embroidery machine, which then stitches it directly onto your T-shirt.

The Result: A textured, luxurious design that you can actually feel. It’s like your T-shirt is wearing a designer outfit.

Why I Like It

  • Super premium look and feel
  • Incredibly durable
  • Great for small, intricate designs


  • High startup and per-item costs (thread costs more than ink)
  • Not great for high-volume (sewing, even when automated, is slow)

Who’s it best for (+ More About Its Benefits)

Embroidery is for those who want their T-shirts to scream “high-end.”

Cost? It’s not cheap, both in terms of startup and per-item costs. But you’re paying for luxury, baby.

Quality? Unbeatable. Your design isn’t going anywhere; it’s stitched in!

Volume? It’s not the best for cranking out hundreds of shirts, but for small batches, it’s perfect.

The Not So Great (Explained)

Embroidery is a bit of a diva. It demands a high budget and doesn’t like to be rushed. If you’re looking to pump out a ton of shirts, this isn’t your method. But for small batches of super-premium tees, nothing beats it.

How to Get Started

brother pe800 embroidery machine and equipment

Here’s my setup for embroidery:

Beginner Setup:

  • Embroidery Machine: Brother PE800 – $900
  • Thread: Embroidery thread set – $50
  • Stabilizer: Tear-away stabilizer – $20
  • T-Shirt Blanks: Budget around $100
  • Design Software: Embroidery software like Embrilliance – $160

Total cost: About $1,230 to get started. A little steep, but think about all the embroidered apparel out there. These shirts and clothes are consistently priced higher. So you’re kind of working in a different market.

The Process

1. Creating Designs

Keep it simple. Embroidery is great for small, intricate designs but can get messy if you go too big or complex.

2. Prepping the Machine

Load your design into the machine and make sure your thread colors are all set.

3. Stitching The Designs

Hit start and watch as the machine turns your T-shirt into a piece of art.

Quick Tips:

  • Always do a test run on scrap fabric.
  • Keep an eye on the machine; thread can sometimes break or tangle.
  • High-res designs are key for the best results.

So, here’s the scoop. Embroidery is your go-to for turning T-shirts into wearable art. It’s not for the budget-conscious or those in a hurry, but if you want to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression, embroidery is where it’s at.

Print On Demand Suppliers: Best for hands-off printing

Guide To print on demand

Alright, let’s switch gears and talk about the ultimate hands-off approach: Print-On-Demand (POD).

I’ve been using POD companies alongside my own printing for a while now, and let me tell you, it’s like having a personal butler for your T-shirt business.

You design, and they handle the rest.

It’s the perfect sidekick when you want to focus on the business side of things.

What Is Print-On-Demand

What is Print on demand

Print-On-Demand is like the UberEats of T-shirt printing. You whip up the designs, upload ’em, and these companies print, pack, and ship ’em straight to your customers. No ink-stained hands, no late-night trips to the post office. Just pure, streamlined business.

Why I Like It

  • Zero Upfront Costs
  • Infinite Inventory (without any unsold)
  • Hands-Off Printing


  • Higher Cost Per Product (but you only pay for what you sell)
  • Less Control Over Quality (but you’ll find good suppliers)

Who’s It Best For (+ More About Its Benefits)

POD is the intro course to T-shirt selling. It’s perfect for side-hustlers, those testing the waters, or even established folks like me who want to offer more without the extra work.

Cost? Zero to start. You only pay when you make a sale. For a business model, it’s pretty low-risk.

Inventory? The sky’s the limit. I’ve expanded my product range to so many printed products since I started using POD.

Convenience? It’s like having a business on cruise control. You can focus on growing your brand, not packing boxes.

The Not So Great (Explained)

A higher cost per shirt means you’ve got to be smart with pricing. You don’t want to cut into your profits too much.

Plus, you won’t be paying for anything until it sells. That means no unsold inventory.

And quality? Well, you’re rolling the dice unless you pick a top-notch POD company. I’ve sampled products from different providers to find the best fit for my brand.

How To Get Started

  1. Choose Your POD Partner: My personal favorites for T-shirt printing are Printful and Printify. There are so many others depending on your needs. I’ve used them all at some point.
  2. Upload Your Designs: Make sure they’re high-res. Nothing worse than a pixelated print.
  3. Set Your Prices: Remember, higher cost per product, so price smartly.
  4. Market Like Crazy: Now that you’re freed from printing duties, use that time to market your printed products.

While these steps seem simple, starting a print-on-demand business is still a lot of work. It requires a lot of print-on-demand tools beyond just the shirts and products because, after all, it’s a business model.

Quick Tips:

  • Order samples. Seriously, do it. You want to know what you’re selling.
  • Read reviews. If customers are griping about quality, take note.
  • Keep an eye on those margins. The cost per shirt is higher, so make sure you’re still making a decent profit.

So there you have it, the lowdown on using Print-On-Demand companies. It’s the most hands-off you can get in this business, and if you’re all about focusing on the brand and less on the nitty-gritty, POD is your golden ticket.

Best Printing Methods: Final Thoughts

Choosing your printing method

So there you have it – a detailed overview of the top t-shirt printing methods available today. With so many options, it can be tricky to decide which method is right for your specific needs and goals.

If I had to choose the top 3 overall best methods based on the pros and cons laid out, I’d go with:

  1. Screen Printing – Best for bulk orders of simple designs. Provides great durability at a reasonable cost once you’re set up.
  2. Dye Sublimation – Best for small orders of polyester fabrics. Offers superb print quality with low startup costs. (my personal favorite all round)
  3. Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing – Best for on-demand custom designs. Unmatched detail and quick turnaround times.

No single method is the “best” for everyone, alright? Your choice depends on your budget, time, and what you’re aiming for with your T-shirt biz. Wanna test the waters? Go with POD. After something premium? Try embroidery.

Do your research, get some samples, and start small. You’ll figure out what fits your vibe. Now, stop reading and start creating. The world needs your awesome designs, so go print T-shirts!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What’s the easiest t-shirt printing method for beginners to start with?

A: For beginners, heat transfer printing is one of the easiest methods to start with. All you need is a basic inkjet printer, transfer paper, a heat press or iron, and some cotton T-shirts. It allows you to print designs at home without a big upfront investment.

Q: How many t-shirt printing methods allow you to print all-over designs?

A: Dye sublimation and direct-to-garment (DTG) printing are two methods that excel at printing all-over t-shirt designs. With dye sublimation, the ink bonds directly with polyester fabrics for full coverage. DTG uses specialized printers to print directly onto the garment.

Q: Is screen printing good for printing complex or photographic designs?

A: Screen printing can work for complex designs, but it really shines with simpler, graphic-style designs with block colors. For complex or photographic prints, digital methods like DTG give you better detail and image quality.

Q: What’s better for t-shirt printing – using an inkjet printer or laser printer?

A: For most t-shirt printing methods, you’ll want to use an inkjet printer rather than a laser printer. Inkjet allows printing directly onto transfer paper or garments. Laser printers don’t work as well for printing onto fabrics.

Q: How many t-shirts can you print in an hour with direct-to-garment (DTG) printing?

A: With a DTG printer, experienced operators can print around 30-50 light-colored t-shirts per hour. Speed will vary based on factors like image complexity. DTG is very fast for on-demand printing compared to other methods.

Q: What should I look for when buying blank t-shirts for printing?

A: Opt for high-quality cotton or polyester/cotton blend blanks that are preshrunk. Darker fabrics can be tricky for some printing methods, so start with white or light colors. Soft, ring-spun tees give the best printing surface.

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