The place to buy wholesale clothing online
Lowest Prices Guaranteed!
View Basket | Checkout

You have 0 items in your basket
Total £0.00
 Product Search

PCI Compliant

Starting a T-Shirt business

Looking to buy printing equipment? Click here to view our range

 The first thing to decide is your aim. Are you ready to set up a business, or do you just want to test your T-shirt designs on the buying public, or perhaps you're raising funds for a good cause by selling customised T-shirts? Each of these has the same end result: printed T-shirts - but the way you get there can be very different.

There are three main routes to printing your own T-shirts: iron-on transfers, hand screen-printing and machine printing and the pros and cons of each method are outlined below.

Printing using iron on transfers

This is the ideal method if you:

The advantages of iron-on transfer prints

  1. You can work from your home computer or laptop.
  2. You can buy kits that contain everything you need (except the plain T-shirt, called a 'blank' in the trade) including the software to print from.
  3. You don't need extra space or equipment.

The disadvantages of iron-on transfer prints

  1. It can be very time-consuming to print each T-shirt.
  2. You need different transfer types for white T-shirts and black ones.
  3. You may need several test runs before you get a perfect result, which can mean wastage of garments.

Tips for success

Next steps from iron on transfers

Iron on Transfers Many people move straight into screen printing, but an alternative is to invest in a hand heat press and move into textile vinyl printing. This is a thin material that is heat fixed to T-shirts, caps etc. Some vinyls can be layered, one colour on another, and flock vinyl or flourescent vinyl is available too.

Hand silk screen printing

This simple printing process uses a stencil, inks and a mesh-covered frame to create a design. Most hand-printed garments use one, or at most two, colours.

This is the ideal method if you:

Advantages of manual silk-screen printing

  1. The capital cost is minimal. You can buy silk-screen printing kits or make your own frame with fine nylon mesh. All you really need is a large flat surface on which to print.
  2. Once you become experienced, you can screen print by hand swiftly and neatly.
  3. You can stencil any colour ink onto any colour T-shirt and blend inks to create custom colours.

Disadvantages of manual silk-screen printing

  1. The learning curve on hand screen printing can be time-consuming and result in damaged garments and costly wastage.
  2. You need to leave your T-shirts overnight for the ink to set completely - this means finding a large space in which to flat-dry printed clothing.
  3. Even experienced printers find it time-consuming to work with more than two colours, because of the need to dry the T-shirts between colour applications and the difficulties of aligning stencil layers on top of each other.

Tips for success

Screen printing machines

Screen Printing This is the ideal next step if:

A manual T-shirt press can cost as little as a few hundred pounds, second-hand, but make sure you see a used press in operation, as a damaged machine may produce badly aligned prints.

Setting up a full shop, rather than just a single manual machine, can cost a lot, but does allow you the option of printing non-flat items such as caps, and offers a faster turnaround than a manual system. An alternative is to invest in a machine that produces ink transfers that are then applied to the T-shirt.

Advantages of machine screen printing

  1. You can produce longer runs faster, which means you can take in printing work from other people at the same time as producing your own designs.
  2. You can establish a shop front so that your business is more visible in the marketplace and you may be eligible for business support grants, depending on your age and where you live.

Disadvantages of machine screen printing

  1. You will need somewhere with heat, light and water to install your machine, and storage space for your printed garments. All this costs money that has to be paid up-front, whether or not you have income from sales.
  2. Fulfilling outside orders can leave you less time to work on your own T-shirts which means your personal designs may suffer.

Tips for success