How to Start a T-Shirt Printing Business

How to Start a T-Shirt Printing Business
How to Start a T-shirt Printing Business

Printed t-shirts are a real frenzy with youngsters and there are hardly any plain or design-less tees that go with somebody’s selection while buying. Kids, grownups, and even elderly people have joined this revolution of a segment that involves machines, fabrics, dyes and, of course, creative designers that can turn the requirement into a visual reality. Interestingly, designers are the main beneficiaries of this business segment.

The imprinted T-shirt industry is a multibillion dollar industry. Almost everyone wears T-shirts and other imprinted garments. With a keen eye on the bottom line and attention to detail, it is not difficult to turn a profit in the T-shirt printing business.

Determine which type of printing you want to do. T-shirts are traditionally printed with screen printing. In recent years, digital imaging has become a popular method for printing T-shirts. Which technology will you use in your shop? Screen printing is good for one- and two-color prints and for multicolor prints on long runs. Digital imaging is good for full color short run

  • It is possible to purchase an ink-jet printer for less than $100. With this, some T-shirt transfer paper and some blank T-shirts you will be set up to create a run of T-shirts. Likewise, many art supply stores can sell basic screen printing kits for $100 or less. However, to create professional quality work, it is best to use professional tools. Consult the website Screen Printers for basic information about all things screen printing. They also sell direct-to-garment digital imaging printers, which cost close to $20,000. The more direct line to a profitable business is to set up a screen printing shop with a manual T-shirt press. One outstanding supplier is Midwest Sign. A complete screen printing shop can be set up for under $10,000. It is also possible to set up a screen print shop with basic or homemade equipment.
  • Create a business plan. Who is your target market? If you live in a university town, you may choose to focus your sales and marketing efforts on the university community. Do you live in a tourist destination? You may focus your sales efforts on selling to retailers catering to tourists. Perhaps you are aiming at schools, summer camps or some combination of target markets. Spread the word about your new business with various marketing techniques, including online listings. Create business support materials such as brochures, cards, price lists and a website.


  • Develop a price structure. Research the cost of blank T-shirts from several wholesalers. Consult with other T-shirt printers and collect sample quotes to familiarize yourself with prices. Each job will consist of the blank shirt cost, the markup on the blank shirt and a printing price. Calculate an hourly shop rate. Most T-shirt printing shops need to pull $50 to $100 profit (before fixed costs) per production hour to be profitable. Know your fixed costs such as rent, electricity and loans to determine your monthly bottom line. Determine your terms of business, such as requiring a 50-percent down payment and the rest upon delivery, with credit terms of net payment due in 30 days to credit-worthy clients.


  • Set up shop. Determine your square footage, plumbing and electrical needs. Rent your space and set up your equipment. Test your equipment on sample jobs before running a commercial job.


  • Why would you want to start a T-shirt printing business?  Why now? The short answer to these questions comes down to the following three simple words: opportunityease-of-entry, and affordability.


The printed T-shirt business is healthy, growing, and has been virtually recession-proof. Look around when you go to the mall or to a sporting event. It seems that everyone is wearing a printed or decorated T-shirt, jersey, hoodie, or sweatshirt. People love them and will keep buying them long into the future, regardless of the economy.

People who wear printed T-shirts don’t just have one — they have several, and they keep buying more. They buy new shirts when old ones become worn or outdated. School sports teams buy jerseys each new season. New schools with new names and new sports programs pop up every year. Students at college want shirts. School team spirit is is best expressed with colorful T-shirts or jerseys. Clever shirt slogans are always popular. Fads come and go. There’s always demand for printed shirts — everywhere you look.

Teenagers love expressing their individuality with printed shirts. Personal interests change; political opinions change — often to be expressed on new T-shirts. New parents love buying cute shirts, jam-jams, and onesies for the baby. Kids are so cute in cute shirts.

Many companies like for their employees to wear logo shirts. Other companies give away decorated shirts as advertising. Members of family reunions like wearing special shirts for the occasion. Printed shirts mark holidays, special events, anniversaries, and concerts. Antique car collectors want images of their cars on shirts. Motorcycle riders love biking themes and patriotic shirts.

Decorated T-shirts and other garments are everywhere and are here to stay. The demand is out there and future growth potential is amazing. T-shirt printing is a great opportunity for people who are looking to start a small company or home-based business.

What is required to set up a custom t-shirt printing business? There are two basic things that a business needs in the t-shirts segment. Firstly, a strong differentiated idea. There are enough players in the market and a lot of suppliers who just copy the designs seen on other brands. This approach is very detrimental to developing a strong identity and a sustainable business. What is needed is a sharply-defined theme on which a brand develops. In Inkfruit’s case for example, it is all about being a democratic collection of prints—where our 90,000-strong community of people at decide what gets printed in our range. This is novel and not done by any other brand and therefore differentiates Inkfruit from the rest.
Secondly, access to capital. In the initial stages this business does require infusing capital to fund inventory and the processes. Later, supply partners take on this responsibility, but in the early stages the business needs to finance the operations.

What present hurdles are there for this business? One of the hurdles in this business is that at low volumes it is difficult to find quality vendors who can provide great quality and timely delivery as per commitment. Once a good scale is achieved, then supply can be managed through long-term tie-ups with supply partners.

Another is to understand the nature of the market and adapt with changing trends. A t-shirt is a very personal piece of clothing and it is important that products offered gel with current consumer trends.

What marketing methods are adopted? In t-shirts as a category, the product itself is the biggest marketer. If the designs are great and the quality is good, it will start becoming popular.

Inkfruit as an organization has stayed away from any above-the-line marketing campaigns. Awareness about our model has largely grown through word-of-mouth, where people who know about Inkfruit and designers whose designs get printed on Inkfruit, talk about it to their friends. We focus very strongly on keeping our members happy—for example our designers get their name on every t-shirt sold and feel very proud of this. Secondly, we focus very strongly on the quality of our products and ensure a great experience every time. Thirdly, we keep innovating and launch new products—like recently we launched color changing t-shirts, which change color when a person walks in the sun. Together all of these things create positive word-of-mouth for a business in this space.

The second method involves a community where a design contest or similar activity is followed to pick designs. It is very conducive for designers who want to make it big in the market.

Inkfruit, Myntra, Pring00, and Picsquare are some names in this sector following single or dual models of designs.

Marketing and innovation

To market your segment, you need to surprise. Youngsters are key focus for custom t-shirt printing and they can be moody and choosy. There is virtually no limit to this. Tantra started the concept of printed t-shirts carrying varied and funky messages but it does not cater to the custom design printing option.

There are many different T-Shirt printing machines available and you would pick the one suited to the type of work you would be doing, but I’m going to be giving one example.. the easiest. Screen printing is easy enough to get the hang of. You can do it yourself from home and afterwards explore other avenues best suited to your needs.

It might be easier designing your T-shirts with some sort of software program like photoshop or one of the many other ways you can design a T-shirt and take then take your T-shirts to be printed. This would save you a lot of time and hassle, but you wouldn’t get nearly as much profit as you would as hoped for. It is not a major science learning to screen print from home.

Once someone has made your frame and you have learnt all there is to know you are able to make your T-shirts as professional looking as the printers make them. You could even make more profits by making your own frames, but at this stage learn one thing and then you could move ahead.



Screen print t-shirts from home

Here is a small project that anyone can start from home and you don’t need any sort of t-shirt printing machine for. If you want to go bigger it’s easy to get a bigger frame, but it’s always best to start small when taking on a big project just to get the idea then you don’t end up tearing your hair out in frustration.

Things you will need

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Matte Glue, a good make is Hod Podge
  • Pencil
  • Various size brushes
  • Scissors
  • Nylon Fabric to fit between the embroidery hoop. The hoop will act as the screen printing mesh.
  • A squeegee, which you can get from any craft store that supplies screen printing supplies.
  • Some ink, you can buy special printing ink for fabric, but as you go you should shop around to see what is the cheapest and most economical for your business. Buy in bulk from a wholesaler.

Split the embroidery hoop in two and place the nylon material over one of the hoops. Place the other hoop on top. The material should be tight. Cut the remaining material away. Glue the sides of the hoop so that the hoop is more secure. Allow an hour for it to dry.

Find a design that you like and trace it onto the screen with your pencil. You can draw over the design with a marking pen if it is too faint.
After you have done that take the glue and paint with the brushes where ever you don’t want the ink to go on your shirt. In essence this will block out anything, allowing only your design to show through. Let this set for 24 hours.
When you are ready to print on to your T-shirt make sure you have a sheet of newspaper handy that you can slip in between the front and the back so that the ink doesn’t run through to the back.
If it’s easier you could use a stiff piece of cardboard instead of a squeegee. Just place a blob of paint on the screen and move it down in one action, making sure everything is covered.
Wash the screen in cold water.

Other Types of T-shirt Printing Machines

T-Shirt silk screen printing machine
When it comes to creating T-shirts with more than 2 colors it becomes a little more complicated and when it goes as far as six colors you will definitely need a machine to help you. These are in the shape of a carousel and you will still have your screens to insert into the carousel. You can also find a used T-shirt printing machine that would still be in good condition.
Heat Transfer Printing
A type of screen printing machine. This is a lot quicker than screen printing, although some say it doesn’t last as long. It comes in the form of a machine where heat is transferred to press a photo or design on the T-Shirt.

Vinyl Printers
This is not popular with mass production because of the cost, but is used because of their support for colour layering and the quality is good

Sublimation printing
Ink turns into gas directly during the heating process, but should be restricted to certain fabrics because the toners used in the printing give the fabric a different texture.

Digital T-shirt Printing Machine

Are you an entrepreneur? Have you found the latest niche market for custom t-shirts? Or are you considering becoming a supplier for organisations that regularly have a need for work done on a digital t-shirt printing machine? Then yes, you can make money with a digital t-shirt printing machine. It will of course be an investment at first, but your investment will quickly be recouped if you know just where to market your new services. Schools are excellent sources of business for custom t-shirt design. From school organisations to the student body and teachers, there are events, groups and clubs that like to proclaim loud and proud their association with one another. Churches and civic organisations also often have t-shirts printed when there is a special event going on. In addition to this, there are many local clubs, groups and businesses that will want to have their logos embossed on garments using a digital t-shirt printing machine. It is good for their business, and if you have reasonable pricing, it will be good for your business as well. Perhaps your niche market can be servicing the needs of organisations and businesses that only require a small run of garment printing versus a large run. Getting into the business can be challenging, but so is starting any new venture. Take a chance, and you will see that if you market yourself correctly, your business will take off in no time. Once you have a few customers, and they are satisfied, your name will be spread via word of mouth, and you might find yourself with more work than you can handle in very short order.



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We will conduct feasibility study highlighting every important detail you need to know about this business; and present it to you in a comprehensible format at a negligible cost. CLICK HERE TO SEND US A MESSAGE.

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