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The only guide you'll need to print T-shirts

Posted by informationblogs on November 25th, 2019

Is it even possible before the t-shirt existed? It seems unlikely that without Seinfeld's "golden boy" there could be a fact. But this American fashion icon did not appear until the early 1900s when a clever seamstress decided to segment the standard union suit, and voila — the top half became not just clothing, yet outerwear. Lore has it that in the early 1900s, the t-shirt first saw daylight on stevedore and naval officers— surely a shocking sight. The t-shirt's acceptance was slow but steady, but by 1955, when James Dean wore a plain white tee in Rebel Without a Cause, America was sold.

A whole movement co-opted the centuries-old style of tie-dying in the 1960s, establishing a uniform for Free Love generation. T shirt printing became readily available, giving major corporations like Coca-Cola and rock bands like the Rolling Stones an unparalleled influence on style. In the 1980s, heat-sensitive dyes gave us the Hypercolor phenomenon; the t-shirt even black-tie when Sharon Stone wore Gap to the Oscars throughout 1996. We like to think we made our t-shirt history in 2000 when we launched CustomInk.com — the first website you could design and order online custom t-shirts.

Over the past 50 years, the t-shirt has become a vehicle to broadcast our beliefs, our music taste, our sense of humour, our beverage or athletic team preferences. T-shirts are a personal billboard, a place where we can promote our Twitter profile or professional resumés, a way for a team to express their group pride. More than any clothing item, t-shirts became a means of personal expression and comfort. We'll bet that if you open your dresser right now, you'll find a loved stack of custom-printed, well-used, and exclusive t-shirts. What's your next dream t-shirt?

T-shirt design and printing methods

Screen Printing:

A screen printer burns a stencil of your design on mesh screens (one screen for each design colour), sets the screens in a printing press, and pushes the stencil ink onto your blank product. Custom Ink's speciality is screen printing.

Digital Printing:

Digital printing works like a bigger, stronger version of the inkjet printer you may have on paper at home. Semi-opaque "phase" inks blend into a wide range of colours on your shirt. Custom Ink uses this process for low-quantity orders and some full-colour models if we determine the best performance for digital printing.

Dye Sublimation:

Dye-sublimation printers use heat to transfer dye to polyester-like fabrics. On transfer paper, a reverse of your design is printed, and then a heat press is used to transfer the dye to the fabric fibres. Dye sublimation isn't widely used to print t-shirts, so Custom Ink doesn't sell it.

Heat Transfers:

Heat transfer is created by printing your design on special transfer paper and ironing the design onto your product. Heat transfers aren't as durable as other decoration methods, so Custom Ink doesn't offer it.

Air Brush:

Airbrushing is a decoration technique that uses a small spray gun to paint fabric. This technique produces a graffiti effect and is repeated in several fonts (like Acidic). Airbrushing is a customised service offered by Custom Ink.

T-shirt How-To:

A collection of t-shirt basics follows: how to find a t-shirt that flatters your body type, how to take care of it, and how to make and sell your t-shirts.

How to find the best t-shirts:

For t-shirts, a flattering fit makes all the difference. If you're searching for your next favourite shirt, focus on finding the right brand, style, and size. A good starting point is in your closet — check your favourite tee's brand and size and look for more. We suggest checking the dimensions before buying a new one, particularly if your closet favourite is years old — manufacturers can change their size without notice.

If you're open to trying a brand and style of a new t-shirt, make sure you find one that flatters your body shape and does what you want. Ask this question: Do I want a form-fitting t-shirt, or hanging loose? A sizing guide, like our Sizing Line-Up, is a great way to see specific sizing information together with real people (and their actual measurements) modelling each size. Tools like these make it easy for you to feel how a shirt fits your body type.

Another factor is fabric — make sure that your 100% cotton t-shirt is pre-shrunk before you purchase it, or order size and accommodate some shrinkage if your t-shirt is not pre-shrunk. Especially when washed in high heat, cotton will shrink, and you want your shirt to match your body after washing.

How to Take Care of Your T-Shirts:

T-shirts are easy to look after — just read the tag to see what water temperature and cycle strength to use. Wash with lights, dark with dark. Turn your custom tees inside to protect your model. Most tees are pre-shrunk (check your tag!) and can be thrown into the dryer, but some styles like American Apparel should be dry instead.

Sell The T-Shirts:

So maybe you've got an idea for an awesome t-shirt that would sell millions, or maybe you've got a stack of said awesome t-shirts in your living room you're eager to sell — where do you start?

Why not try a one-two offline/online approach punch?

Offline first:

Note a t-shirt advertises when you wear it. There's something irresistible about custom tees — if somebody's t-shirt has text or cool design, we'll check it out. Read the words, see images. So a successful first offline move is to give away some of your t-shirts and ask them to wear it. When you know a social butterfly, make sure you get one. You want to create a real-world buzz.

If you're willing to spend some money and it makes sense for your design/audience, consider advertising your design in relevant magazines or on city boards. And don't be afraid to think small— local newsletters so small-distribution publications that allow you to free advertise your t-shirt design, which is a big plus when you start.

And the solution online

Spread the word using social and professional networks. Upload your concept picture to your Facebook page; email contacts; set up a website to sell t-shirts. Please consider your audience— like your professional contacts, and you probably don't want to share a racy or off-colour picture.

You have so many options online, but you may need to jump through some hoops to become a legitimate, trustworthy online merchant. It takes time, but if you want to turn your t-shirt hobby into a significant revenue stream, it's worth it.

Designing Your T-Shirts:

Great t-shirt design starts with a great idea. Look at Custom Ink's project hints, concepts and videos for some inspiration. Online service like Custom Ink or software programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator can bring your design idea to life. You could even make a drawing to your nearest screen printer and change it for printing. You can print it locally or online when your project is ready to go, or you can print it yourself using transfer paper and iron-on process (note: this method is less robust than screen printing). Whatever form you choose, make sure the world loves your creative idea!

Also See: T Shirts, T Shirt, Custom Ink, Transfer Paper, Shirts, Shirt, Printing

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