With the right tools and knowledge, you can create graphic t-shirts easily. In this article, we’ve compiled several ways to make shirts from the comfort of your own home with varying costs associated with custom printing.
Before diving into the thriving art of t-shirt printing, you need to know the essentials and challenges you might face when adding ink to fabric. Use our list of ideas as a guide on what you need to know before starting.
How to Make Custom Shirts at Home: 8 Methods for Printing T-Shirts
Learning how to make your own t-shirts at home isn’t a simple process, but with a bit of patience, you can master a technique that best fits your artistic vision and skills in fabric design. Some methods won’t fit every fabric type and color, and some tools may require a larger budget.
With all that said, let’s check out eight accessible printing methods and learn how to make custom t-shirts at home and save money in the process.
1. Print on Demand
Industry-grade print fulfillment services have become increasingly accessible to individual producers. Now, with a print-on-demand (POD) order fulfillment method, you can create finished shirt mockups exclusively online, manufactured, and shipped on your behalf.
- Create a design:
Open an image editing program like Adobe Illustrator (or a free alternative) and create a digital design. Fabric printing uses vector graphic design software to ensure the image is sharp and doesn’t create fuzzy lines on the entire shirt fabric.
Once finished, save your design as a high-resolution JPEG, PNG, or SVG file.
- Apply to a template:
Upload your vector images on a free online t-shirt mock-up tool. Place the design on a selected t-shirt template, taking note of the available canvas dimensions and file requirements. Choose and add any available design features and save the custom t-shirt template.
- Order a custom shirt:
Place an order for your product sample through a print-on-demand platform like Printify. Select a Print Provider close to your address to limit shipping costs and keep track of the production time estimate.
2. Iron-on Transfer Paper
The iron-on transfer paper printing technique is one of the easiest and cheapest DIY t-shirt printing methods. Iron-on designs can be a fun project for families, hobbyists, and artists, producing great custom shirts with enough patience.
You’ll need an inkjet printer, an iron, a cotton underlay (you can use a cotton pillowcase), and scissors. Purchase transfer paper from stationary or craft stores. Choose between iron-on paper for light-colored shirts or dark-colored shirts. Check the product packaging to make sure you buy the right option.
Note that the iron-on printing method works best with cotton fabric shirts.
Here’s how you can make a t-shirt graphic with iron-on transfer paper:
- Print design
When printing out your design, the steps you’ll need to take will depend on whether you’re using transfer paper for darker shirts or lighter fabrics.
With light transfer paper, you’ll have to place the image face down. This reflects the image backward, so you need to mirror the design (especially if you’re working with text). Select the mirror image or reverse setting in the print options window. You can also flip the image in an editing program.
No additional action is required for dark shirts – the graphic will appear exactly as it’s shown on your screen, with the transfer paper face up.
Instead of regular printer paper, load the printer with transfer paper. Choose a high-resolution image setting, check the print preview for safety, and click Print.
- Prepare materials
Cut out your design very carefully, using sharp scissors. Any remaining blank paper will leave an imprint on your shirt, so it’s important to be thorough and patient during this step. Use a paper craft knife if needed.
Once done, place your cotton underlay on a hard, smooth surface that can withstand heat – an ironing board will not suffice. Turn on your iron and set it to a cotton setting or high temperature. Check the transfer paper packaging for any specific instructions. Place your t-shirt on the cotton underlay and start ironing to get a flat surface.
- Apply image
Now, it’s time to apply your transferred image to the shirt fabric. This step will determine whether your final results meet your expectations, so take your time to be extra precise. Measure out your dimensions and center your placement.
Light-colored fabrics – transfer paper goes face down.
Dark-colored fabrics – transfer paper goes face up.
Press the transfer paper on your shirt and start ironing with a firm hand, starting from the center and moving outward. Slide the iron swiftly to prevent burning and face the entire paper surface following the transfer paper instructions (up to a few minutes), depending on the size of the design.
- Remove the paper
Leave the t-shirt area in a well-ventilated room for a few minutes until the paper cools down. Take a corner of the image and carefully peel off the paper. If the image gets stuck, repeat the ironing process. Your design should be ready now.
The design can be fragile during washing, so use a gentle cycle and turn the shirt inside out before loading the laundry. Don’t place iron-on transfer shirts in the dryer since it can damage and peel off the design.
3. Direct-To-Garment Printing
For a more high-tech shirt design, invest in a direct-to-garment or DTG printer. A ready-made fabric printer lets you make bulk shirts without worrying about your design’s final quality and consistency.
Also called a heat transfer laser printer, direct-to-garment printing can apply images to a shirt in just a few minutes. Note that this is in no way a cheap option. DTG printers can cost from a couple of thousand dollars for personal use to well over ten thousand dollars for a professional business set-up.
Once you have it, however, the printing process is exceptionally easy. Like iron-on transfer paper, DTG initially prints on a transfer media (a thin film), which is then applied to an adhesive paper via a heat-press method. The water-based DTG inks captured by the transfer media are then manually pressed into the t-shirt.
Some advantages of DTG over iron-on transfer printing include using polyester fabric shirts under a lower heat method, better design durability with water-based inks, personalized transfer media (gloss, glitter, etc.), and a more automated application process.
4. Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing
The heat transfer vinyl (HTV) printing method can be an exceptionally durable and aesthetic option for hobbyists willing to apply their designs to multiple fabric types. You can purchase pre-cut vinyl designs or create your own through a roll of heat transfer vinyl and a cutter.
You can purchase a roll of HTV for just a couple of dollars. However, you’ll need to invest in a vinyl cutter – ranging from smaller hobby machines for a couple of hundred dollars to full-scale professional equipment.
The cutters work much like a printer – they translate your digital art into a working design file, apply it to the rolled-out vinyl, and cut it out appropriately. For the cut, you’ll also need a weeder – a metal crafting tool that evens out the HTV lines. Finally, finish off with a heat press for the final application.
- Create design: Use vector graphic software to create a design.
- Cut out the vinyl: Send the design to your cutter, following instructions and applying the appropriate machine settings.
- Weed excess area: Take off HTV material around the cutlines, using a weeder to scrape off the excess you don’t want in the final design.
- Apply heat press: Place the vinyl design on the heat press machine with the adhesive side on the shirt. Cover with wax paper or another protective coating. Press according to instructions, and gently fold off the vinyl carrier after cooling.
5. Dye Sublimation
The sublimation printing process uses special inks that, when applied to heat and pressure, completely evaporate and fully integrate into the fabric, creating one of the most durable and effective printing methods to date. This is an especially attractive option in print-on-demand printing.
Also known as all-over-printing, sublimation can only be applied to polyester shirts or other synthetic fabrics. Larger temperatures involved in the sublimation process will damage organic fabrics and not fully integrate the ink. Once applied, however, the image will be permanent – an inseparable part of your shirt.
Like DTG, you’ll need a sublimation printer with special inks and sublimation paper for the transfer process. We recommend you try sublimation printing through a print-on-demand service without spending a huge initial investment. Check out Printify’s product Catalog for all-over-print options.
Inks aren’t the only option for imprinting designs. If you’ve had good results with stitching projects, we recommend a return to classic – embroidery. This is an excellent option for simpler, quality-oriented designs that work for any fabric type.
You can automate the embroidery process with print-on-demand – check out our full embroidery guide to familiarize yourself with the topic.
7. Screen Printing
This printing technique is ideal for a custom t-shirt business that needs a simple but bright t-shirt design printed in large amounts. Screen printing is a compelling method with a vast choice of colors and vibrancy, ensuring bold, lasting, and impressive printing quality.
How to make your own t-shirts with screen printing? Let’s look at the overall process that turns your designs into quality print t-shirts.
- For starters, screen printing requires a design – like any other method. Finalize your artwork on the right transfer paper (a transparent acetate film used for the stencil).
- Place your custom shirt on the surface under the mesh screen.
- Place the stencil with your design on top of the mesh screen and press it on the shirt.
- Push the ink evenly with a squeegee (rubber blade) to access all the free areas of the shirt.
- Dry your screen-printed shirt and use an iron to heat-press the final design, making sure it lasts.
8. Fabric Paint
You can easily print t-shirts at home without a high-quality printer, heat press machine, expensive tools, or complicated equipment.
Simply use fabric paint to create your custom t-shirt design.
Here’s how it works.
- Start by washing the t-shirt and removing everything that can affect the print quality.
- Then, put a piece of cardboard inside the t-shirt, separating both sides. This will save the backside from unwanted paint and spillage. Just make sure the cardboard doesn’t stretch the t-shirt; that will impact your design.
- Start painting! Get creative with a brush or a paint roller to transfer your artwork onto the custom shirt.
- Let the paint dry, and enjoy the finished shirt with a truly one-of-a-kind design.
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How to Make Graphic Tees at Home: Tips to Consider
Whatever printing technique you choose, there are several things to consider before applying your design. From picking the right products to creating the artwork, let’s look at some tips and tricks to remember when printing t-shirts at home.
- Consider the materials. Take into account all the aspects of your t-shirts. The color, material, shape, size, stretchiness, and other factors that can affect your final design.
- Placement matters, too. Consider all the placement options for your custom-print t-shirts. Explore the latest trends or experiment with different placements to find the perfect spot for your design.
- Consider washability. When picking a printing method, make sure your chosen option can withstand multiple washes without damaging your design – or adjust the materials and equipment to guarantee durable quality.
How to Make Your Own Shirts at Home With Printify
“How do I make my own t-shirt without breaking the bank?”
Believe it or not, this is a question many people ask. Brace yourselves because we have the answer – with Printify.
If you want to print t-shirts for yourself, family, or friends, you can have your custom artwork finished, printed, and shipped to your doorstep in four simple steps.
Use your Google Account for a quick sign-up, or register with a different email address and gain access to our free and convenient print-on-demand platform. Explore our offers, processes, products, and different features that are beginner-friendly and easy to use.
Our Catalog stores hundreds of t-shirts for every occasion, shape, taste, and style. Filter them by the printing technique, Print Providers and their location, print type, material, and other features to make the best choice for your next wardrobe staple.
Once you pick a shirt that ticks all the boxes on your checklist, it’s time to get creative. Click Start designing and customize your artwork on our Mockup Generator.
If you already have the perfect design ready, upload it to the product and make some adjustments with scaling, cropping, and other handy features.
If you’re missing some design elements, use the Mockup Generator to finalize the art.
- Add emojis
- Text in different fonts, colors, and languages
- Create patterns with our Pattern Tool
- Remove the background if necessary
- Or add different elements from our Free Graphics Library.
Once you’re done, click the Preview button to see how the design will look in real-life settings, and click Save once fully satisfied.
Go to the My products section and find the magic green button on the top-right corner that says Create order. Pick the manual option to order your custom shirt and enjoy your design in all its glory.
How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business
If you want the world to enjoy your epic designs – sell them online!
In 2023, the global t-shirt market has already reached $43.94 billion in revenue and is constantly growing. It’s the one piece of apparel that is evergreen, versatile, and beloved worldwide – so why not join a billion-dollar market with your own designs?
Pick a Niche and Design Your Shirts
A niche is the main aspect of your business. Without one, you’ll be lost in endless competitor stores and designs. The key to success is narrowing down your niche to a market segment that is interested in something specific, like orange cats, cheese, or sky-diving.
Once your niche is loud and clear, get creative with your designs.
Connect a Sales Channel
Pick an eCommerce marketplace like Etsy and eBay, a platform like Shopify, or build your own website from scratch. Whatever you choose, Printify integrates with all the leading sales channels, ensuring a quick and easy process for creating and managing listings.
Set Prices and Product Details
The My products page allows you to easily set prices and profit margins for your products. And our Bulk Editing Tool ensures a quick update for all or selected product variants regarding the price, colors, sizes, and other important features.
Make sure to adjust your product details and images for more traffic and customer appreciation. Use proper keywords in titles and descriptions, take your own photos, or customize the mockups to attract attention and raise credibility as a seller.
Customize Your Storefront
Don’t forget to personalize your store aesthetic to match your brand, values, and designs. But don’t go overboard with splashy colors, annoying pop-ups, and other elements that can lead to a bad user experience.
Make sure to add About You and Contact pages to make your business look professional and trustworthy, state clear customer and return policies, divide products into comprehensible categories, and ensure your store page is easy to understand and navigate.
Market Your T-Shirt Business
No matter how good your products look and feel, people won’t find them easily without proper marketing efforts. Here are some ways you can boost traffic and spread the word about your brand to a global audience.
- Try paid ads. Dedicate some money to paid advertising, ensuring your offers land directly in front of your target customers.
- Do social media marketing. Create business accounts on the most popular social media channels like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to reach more people. Shorts, reels, carousels, and fun videos are an excellent and effective way to display your products, designs, and unique offers.
- Try offline marketing. Be your own brand ambassador and participate in fairs, pop-ups, and other events where people can get to know your brand and product up close and personal.
FAQ: How to Make Shirts at Home
The necessary materials and equipment depend on each different printing technique. For each separate method, you’ll need blended, polyester, or cotton t-shirts, special inks, light or dark transfer paper, a heat-press machine, sublimation paper, and other tools.
If you choose to make shirts with Print on Demand, all you’ll need is a computer with an internet connection, a bit of time, and some creativity.
The easiest and least expensive way is with Print on Demand and Printify. Our platform is free, easy to use, and beginner-friendly. You can choose from a variety of shirts, customize your design, and let the Print Provider take over – printing, packaging, and shipping your shirts worldwide.
If the intent is to sell – Print on Demand. You don’t need an upfront investment, inventory, or designer skills. You list your designs online and pay for fulfillment only after an order is made.
Make your own custom t-shirts at home. Select your preferred printing method from iron-on, direct-to-garment printing, sublimation, heat transfer vinyl, and embroidery techniques.
Invest in quality t-shirt printing tools that can produce an excellent design straight from home. Alternatively, with a few clicks of a button, fulfill your t-shirt design dreams with print on demand.
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