How to Print T-Shirt Designs & T-Shirt Printing Types for Print on Demand Business
As a team that loves everything creative like designing and printing our own t-shirts, we’ve definitely had our share of trial and error when it comes to getting the best results. So if you’re looking for the most valuable tips on how to print a t-shirt design with better results, here are a few things that we have learned over the years.
Make sure your design is high quality
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s essential to make sure your design has the proper resolution to print well. Resolution is measured in ppi (pixels per inch) when talking about images on a screen or dpi (dots per inch) when talking about printed images. By proper resolution for printing, we mean working with files set between 180-300 dpi, but keep in mind that the higher the dpi, the heavier the file will be.
If you’re completely lost on what kind of designs to use, don’t worry! We have a huge selection of cool t-shirt designs that already have the best quality so that you can use and pass them directly to your printer, as these were made with the print process in mind.
Use the right kind of transfer paper
Not all transfer papers are created equal, and using the right kind is an essential part of getting great results when printing your design onto a t-shirt. We recommend two: Inkjet transfer paper is the most common and popular type of paper for cotton and cotton blend fabrics. On the other hand, sublimation paper is a perfect solution to use for polyester, synthetic fabrics and polyester mix blends.
In any case, it’s best to ask your printer for their recommendations on which type of paper will work best for your design. And remember, always follow any specific directions provided with the transfer paper you use.
Test print first
It’s always a good idea to test print your design on a scrap piece of fabric before printing it on the t-shirt you want to customize. Doing this will allow you to check how your design looks once applied, making sure it’s exactly what you had in mind or fixing any mistakes before they’re made on the actual t-shirt.
This is if you want to see how your final design would look on the fabric. But if you just want to get an idea of the size, position or color, then we recommend you to use our huge collection of t-shirt mockups, this will be your best tool to have a preview of your design, plus you can use them as many times as you want.
By the way, we have many more mockup packages for everything you can imagine; they will come in handy!
Follow the care instructions
Once you’ve printed your design onto the t-shirt, it’s essential to follow any after-care instructions that are provided by the transfer paper manufacturer, but these are our favorite tips:
- For washing, turn the tee inside out to prevent it from rubbing against other fabrics. For drying, hang them away from direct contact with sunlight. For ironing, simply don’t! Heat is an all-around enemy to your printed tee, but if you absolutely must, use the lowest setting and iron the garment inside out. This will help ensure that your design lasts for as long as possible.
- Have fun! Designing and printing your own t-shirts can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. So, don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. With a little trial and error (and this very useful article, of course), you’ll for sure find the perfect way to print your t-shirt designs.
T-shirt printing methods
To ensure that your t-shirt is printed to perfection, you first need to know the most commonly used methods to do so. This way, by understanding how they work, you will be able to make your design work from the get-go, depending on the method you choose.
The most popular methods are screen printing, direct-to-garment or DTG printing, and heat transfer printing. Each has its own set of pros and cons, so let’s explore them one by one.
Screen printing involves transferring a stenciled design onto a flat surface using a mesh screen, ink and a squeegee. The basic method involves creating a stencil on a fine mesh screen and then pushing ink through to create an imprint of your design on the surface beneath.
This method is a good option for larger orders, as it generally has a lower per-shirt price while maintaining a great intensity of colors. However, it can be more time-consuming and has a much higher initial setup cost than other methods, making it not so suitable for producing a few units.
Direct to garment (DTG)
Direct-to-garment (DTG) digital printing uses a specialized fabric printer — a bit like an inkjet computer printer — to transfer an image directly onto a textile. Because it uses a computerized image rather than a stencil, it’s excellent for producing photographic or highly detailed designs.
DTG printing is a good option for smaller orders, as there is no setup required and the print quality is generally very high. However, DTG printers can be expensive to purchase or rent, and the per-shirt cost can be higher than other methods.
Heat transfer printing
Heat transfer printing uses the process of high pressure and heat to transfer an image created in wax to an object or garment.
It is an easy and affordable option that, when used correctly, produces good-quality results since images are durable, heat resistant, adhesive and water resistant. Although the design must be printed on special transfer paper, which adds an extra step to the process and requires specialized machinery, it’s still a pretty good option and a widely used one when customizing your own garments.
Ultimately, the best t-shirt printing method will depend on your specific needs, production quantity and budget. With a bit of research and experimentation, you will find the method that works best for your project.
Recommended t-shirt fabrics for different printing methods
Another factor to consider to get the best result on your printed t-shirt is to choose the proper printing method according to the fabric you’ll use. This will make your design look as cool as possible, just the way you want it.
- For screen printing, you’ll want to look for t-shirts made from cotton since they absorb color well and are comfortable to wear, making them perfect along with other plant-based natural fabrics, such as hemp and linen. Other options are the ones that feature a blend of natural and synthetic fibers. 100% synthetic fibers are not encouraged because they don’t absorb color as well and many of these are so stretchy that sometimes special inks need to be used.
- DTG printing is recommended for complex designs, with sharp details and multiple color variations. DTG printers use water-based inks; hence best results occur with natural fabrics, as they tend to absorb liquids. The most suitable textiles for DTG printing are cotton (organic or combed), linen and synthetic blends.
- Heat transfer printing is perfect for any type of t-shirt fabric, in every color, including cotton, polyester tees, caps, etc. It uses pigment ink and transfer paper during the printing process, so it will adhere well to all types of fabrics.
Software and hardware used for t-shirt design and printing
Now that you know your printing and fabric options, it’s time to design!
There are a few different software options that you can use for t-shirt design and printing. For design, some popular software options include Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape and Adobe Photoshop.
The first two are vector-based programs, meaning you can create high-quality designs from scratch using tools based on geometrical shapes. On the other hand, Photoshop will allow you to create image-based designs, modify existing photographs, resize them or create new compositions using different photos. If you’ve never used either one of these, make sure to check out this article about the differences between vector and bitmap images and how to optimize images in 2022 for Web Vitals.
Now, if you are deeply interested in production and would like to have your own printing presses, you’ll need a t-shirt printer or an all-in-one machine that can print t-shirts as well as other fabric items. The most popular t-shirt printing hardware options include heat presses, direct-to-garment printers (DTG), and screen printing machines.
If you are just starting in this world, we recommend you experiment with all the tools to know which one you feel comfortable with and which fits your style best. Don’t be afraid of exploring, that is the exciting part!
T-Shirt design practices for printing
There are small but significant things to keep in mind when it comes to designing for printing purposes, such as source file resolution, design size, and color mode. Let’s get more into it.
First, source file resolution. It’s essential to ensure that your source file is set to a high enough resolution to print well. Although we had already touched on this topic at the beginning of this article, let’s go into how to adjust the resolution in the two most used programs, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
As mentioned above, proper resolution for printing means working with files set between 180-300 dpi, and setting this up in the program you use is very simple. For Adobe Illustrator, when you create the file you will work on, the following menu will pop up, and in “raster effects” choose the high option (300ppi). This way, you will be working on the file in a high resolution.
For Adobe Photoshop, open the file in the program as usual. Once opened, click on the Image window, then Image Size, and the following menu will open. It’s important that before changing the resolution value, you uncheck the Resample box, and you’re done!
Second, be sure to size your design appropriately. When choosing the canvas size for your design, it’s best to err on the side of making your design too big rather than too small. Sizing down is always safer and easier than sizing up, especially if your design is a pixel-based image. This will help ensure that your design looks as intended when printed.
Sizing down is always safer and easier than sizing up, especially if your design is a pixel-based image.
Finally, make sure to use the correct color mode for t-shirt printing. In case you didn’t know (and if you did, it’s always good to get a reminder), there are two color modes in design. RGB is used for digital purposes, while CMYK is used for printing, so when choosing the color mode in the program, go for CMYK as it will produce the most accurate colors in the final product.
Following these guidelines will help you create t-shirt designs that look great and print correctly. With a bit of practice, you’ll be a pro in no time. What you can do while you get the hang of it is use one of our print-ready Vector T-Shirt Designs Bundle, this way, all you have to do is choose your favorite and get onto printing completely stress-free.
But if this is getting a bit overwhelming and if you decide that the printing process is not your cup of tea, here we have a bunch of our most useful print-ready template packs from t-shirts to stickers and even stationery; you’re welcome!
Contrast and Color Combination
When it comes to design, a general rule to get great designs that catch the eye is to generate a good contrast when combining colors. This is because t-shirt designs that are not well-contrasted or lack color variety will not pop and may even be unreadable.
You already know which printing methods generate the most vibrant colors (if you don’t remember, revisit that section), so you don’t have to worry about that. Instead, think about what colors to use in the design stage to have an eye-catching image.
For this, the best and easiest tip we have for you is to use the color wheel to your advantage. In the following image, you can see how to generate harmonies or color schemes that, from the theory, work perfectly together. BTW, the colors marked are only examples and will work with any color to which you want to apply the scheme.
Another way to make your design stand out is to experiment with colors and design techniques. Don’t be afraid to try out something new! For example, this amazing Watercolor Design Toolkit has over 480 templates, patterns, brushes and more to create original artwork.
Finally, when creating t-shirt designs, it’s important to consider things like text color and size to create designs that stand out and are easy to read. Whether you’re working with bold, bright colors or muted pastels, a good t-shirt design will always have contrast and variety in color.
Design placement and size
This is another aspect to take into account, and maybe one of the most important. Depending on the design, T-shirts that are not placed or sized correctly will probably not look good and may even be unreadable. You need to consider this when deciding on placement and size: the design itself, t-shirt size and t-shirt printer or all-in-one machine.
For t-shirt designs, keep in mind the image resolution and text size when deciding the size and place of the design. This is making sure that the image won’t be pixelated (the same principle we saw above regarding file resolution applies here) and that the text is big enough to be readable. You can also try out different fonts that fit the design style and at the same time are legible, for this we have many options of creative and eye-catching fonts.
For t-shirt size, it’s essential to look into the dimensions of the garment you’ll be customizing. This means avoiding any areas that don’t hold enough space for the final design, so if you want to print a detailed and intricate design, it’s best to choose a size with enough space to hold it and place it in a large area of the t-shirt.
As for t-shirt printers or all-in-one machines, the type of machine you use will also affect design placement and size. For example, some printers have restrictions on where to place designs, depending on the required machinery, which also applies to the size. For example, DTG printers generally have smaller print areas than screen printing machines, so you’ll get a smaller printed area.
Mockups are your best option to ensure that your t-shirt looks great when printed without spending money on production. In this Bulk Mockup Tool for Photoshop Pack we have for you, you will not only find options for different garment types but also access to technological device templates that you may need ahead.
Finishing touches: Heat transfers vs direct-to-garment printing
Among the 3 printing methods explained above, heat transfer and direct-to-garment printing are the two most popular methods. But which of the two is better? Let’s see.
Heat transfers are a great option if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to print t-shirts. This method is also relatively inexpensive, making it a good choice for businesses or organizations on a budget.
On the other hand, direct-to-garment printing provides higher quality results and allows you to print full-color designs with great accuracy. However, this method can be more expensive and time-consuming than heat transfers.
the t-shirt finishing touches that you choose will fully depend on your individual needs and preferences
At the end of the day, the t-shirt finishing touches that you choose will fully depend on your individual needs and preferences, so we can’t say that one is better than the other; they are simply different options for you to explore. With a bit of experimenting, you can find the t-shirt printing method that is right for you.
T-Shirt Printing End-to-End Considerations
We’ve already touched on many important points for printing your own t-shirts; now it’s time to go over the last considerations to make your printing and customization experience the best possible.
- We already talked about fabrics, but it doesn’t hurt to bring it up again, better safe than sorry! Different fabrics will absorb ink differently, so it’s essential to consider this to ensure your design turns out how you want it to.
- If you’re using multiple colors in your design and decide to go for screen printing, make sure to use a color separator tool. This will help ensure that each color is printed evenly and correctly.
- When printing, use a high-quality setting on your printer. This will help prevent smudging or bleeding of the ink.
- Ironing your t-shirt after printing can help set the ink and prevent it from fading or bleeding over time. Remember: don’t do it directly on the garment, place a cloth between the newly printed shirt and the iron.
- Test the design before printing on a large, commercial scale. Either print the design onto a smaller piece of fabric or use transfer paper to print out a small version of the design onto a blank t-shirt to identify any potential issues, such as bleeding or smudging, and make any necessary adjustments before printing on a larger scale.
- Follow any care instructions included with the transfer paper or the t-shirt itself. This might consist of washing your shirt on a gentle cycle, using a mild detergent, and avoiding harsh chemicals or fabric softeners when cleaning or caring for your shirt.
Printing your own t-shirt designs can be a fun and rewarding experience, so be sure to have fun with it. Experiment with different design ideas, like our abstract shapes and patterns collection, with hundreds of designs that you can add to your collection of design elements. Or try out new printing techniques and don’t be afraid to make mistakes; after all, the best way to learn and improve is by getting out there and trying new things!
Promote with us
Finally, when it comes to t-shirt design and printing, the possibilities are endless, and the best place for you to find options that are sure to impress your customers is our T-Shirt Designs collection, a directory of curated t-shirt design packs brought to you by our team at unbeatable prices!
The wide variety of designs means you’re guaranteed to find the ideal design styles to meet your business needs. Whether you’re looking to print t-shirts for a business, an event, or just for fun, we’ve got everything you need to get great results. So look no further and explore our T-Shirt Designs to find the perfect t-shirt design for your next project!
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