Essential T-Shirt Printing Equipment for a Custom Shirt Business

The T-shirt printing business is booming right now, so it’s no wonder that you want to get in on the action. If you wish to produce your own products instead of working with a POD platform, then you’re probably on the lookout for the right t-shirt printing equipment. 

Sooner than later, you’ll be receiving orders for shirts with company logos, personal photos, and custom designs for special events like bachelor parties and baby showers.

People value those personal touches, and that’s why a t-shirt printing business can be lucrative. 

The question is: what equipment do you need to invest in?

To make sure you’re able to meet your incoming demand and blow your competition out of the water, I recommend that you spend on quality equipment that I’m going to list below. 

t shirt printing equipment

Some folks who are new to the shirt printing business make the mistake of wasting money on equipment they don’t need.

I commend you for doing your research, so you don’t end up neglecting the most necessary equipment your business needs.

So what do you need to get your business off the ground? Let’s get to it! 

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1. A heat press

If you intend to use the flock and flex printing process, an essential piece of T-shirt printing equipment is a good old heat press

You have two main options to choose from when buying a heat press.

The majority of folks go with a manual heat press because they’re less expensive.

A manual heat press is a straightforward machine.

It has a heated plate that generates the heat needed to transfer designs onto fabric. 

To use a manual heat-press, you have to put the shirt on the bottom plate, top it with transfer paper with a custom design, and then press the top plate down. 

You may then want to consider investing in an electric heat press once you’ve mastered manual heat pressing.

This may also be a necessary upgrade when your t-shirt printing company takes off.

Of course, an electric press is more costly, but they are faster and easier to use, allowing you to pump out more products. 

2. A printer 

Before you can use a heat press to place designs on shirts, you’ll need a printer to print the designs, to begin with.

One of the most common techniques for putting designs on shirts is digital heat transferring.

It involves printing the template and then pressing it onto a shirt with a heat press. 

You can technically print onto transfer paper with any inkjet printer.

However, if you want the highest possible output for equipment, it’s best to invest in a costly one. 

Instead of an inkjet printer, you could also opt for a laser printer.

To choose between inkjet and laser, you have to think about the kind of images you’ll be printing.

Inkjet printers are superior to laser printers when it comes to producing images. 

If you’re going to print a lot of vector-based images, laser printers would be the better option because you don’t have to cut around the image to remove the background as you would for the alternative.

Keep in mind, though, that laser printers are more expensive. 

You can also go for a DTG printer instead. With a DTG (direct-to-garment) printer, designs can be printed directly onto the fabric.

It can also be used to print on other things, giving you more options for creating new merchandise. 

A DTG printer will be the best option if you want to sell more than printed tees.

However, you have to choose your model wisely and note that the less expensive options often yield low-quality products. 

3. Screens 

If you can’t or don’t want to use a heat press, you could try screen printing instead.

First, it’s vital to consider the distinctions between screen printing and DTG printing before making this decision. 

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and are determined the screen printing is suitable for you, you’ll need to buy some screens, of course.

While you can make your own screens, your finished products would be of higher quality if you use professional screens. 

The key is to buy enough screens for every color you might need because each color requires its own screen. 

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4. Cutter

You’ll need a cutting machine if you don’t want to cut out all your designs by hand. Cutters can take images and cut out the necessary heat transfer to be immediately applied to a shirt. 

I suggest you go for a good quality cutter to make sure your printed designs are as accurate as possible. 

5. Emulsion 

Since screens are light-sensitive, it’s crucial to add emulsion to them before you start printing.

An emulsion can reduce this sensitivity to make for ink, resulting in more uniform prints.

I recommend that you buy in bulk to add thick layers of emulsion to every screen that you use. 

6. Dryer 

The drying stage is the last step in the screen printing process.

During the drying process, the ink is cured, and it sets onto the cloth, so an efficient dryer is one of the most valuable pieces of T-shirt printing equipment. 

You won’t be able to improve your turnaround time and boost your shirt printing company without a decent dryer, that’s for sure. 

7. Inks

High-quality prints need high-quality ink, which is, fortunately, one of the most accessible pieces of t-shirt printing equipment. It’s conveniently available on places like Amazon for reasonable prices. 

If you want to start a small company, you’ll need many different colors to meet all of your future customers’ demands. If you have to order ink every time someone places an order, your lead time will be longer, so buy in bulk and get a decent selection of colors. 

8. Transfer paper 

First-time print business owners often make the mistake of assuming that all transfer papers are the same.

When choosing the right paper, you have to take the color of the fabric and prints into account. 

Different papers are required for inkjet and laser printers, too, so double-check if you’re using the correct one.

Plus, you have to choose between lighter and darker sheets for transferring. 

You’ll need heat transfer paper specifically tailored for light fabrics if you’re printing on white or light-colored tops.

Since the paper is transparent, any holes in the design will take on the color of the f. 

You’ll need dark heat transfer paper for darker garments.

Any unprinted sections of the paper will show up white on the shirt because of the white covering.

It’s vital to take away any part of the design that you don’t want to be printed onto the fabric; otherwise, you’ll have to start over. 

Related Reading: All About Sublimation Printing

Final Thoughts

There you have it, all the essential t-shirt printing equipment you need to start a printing business! This business idea could really take off because everyone wants custom stuff these days. As long as you provide excellent quality products, you’ll have no difficulty in gathering glowing reviews from your customers and making serious profits.

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Brooks Conkle

Brooks is an entrepreneur, father, husband, & follower of the golden rule. He has over 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur after graduating with a Finance degree from Auburn University. Addicted to starting new business projects, he believes in creating multiple income streams and a life of flexibility. Business should work around your life, not the other way around. He creates content on his website, sharing his projects to help other hustlers in marketing, personal finance, and online business.