Welcome to the 2022 Ultimate Custom T Shirt Guide. Our goal here is simple – to provide you with a comprehensive Ultimate Guide that answers all your questions regarding Custom T Shirts.
To get you started, including our TL;DR readers, here’s what you can expect out of this Ultimate Custom T-Shirt Guide:
- The most popular ways custom t-shirts are made include: screen printing, direct to garment, sublimation, direct to film transfers, vinyl.
- The different types of t-shirts that are available for custom t-shirt projects and which one is right for you.
- Should You Design Your T Shirt Online?
- What type of artwork your T Shirt Printing vendor needs to create the best prints.
- How to get the most value when you place your custom t-shirt order.
Different ways that you can get custom t shirts made
According to our friends at the WNYBAC, the history of t-shirt printing goes back a few centuries to Asia where in the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) the Chinese were using screen printing as a way to get designs onto fabric. By far the most popular form of t-shirt printing, screen printing, uses machines and humans to get ink onto garments. As the name screen printing implies, screens are used to produce images of 1 color. Ink is then pushed through these screens onto the garment. The production of the custom t shirt ends with garments being placed in heaters to dry the ink onto the shirts.
For instance, Screen printing is one of the most consistent and traditional ways to get t shirts produced, the catch however, printing 1 shirt becomes ridiculously expensive. Because screen printing uses screens for one color, multiple screens need to be set up for photos and other multi-color designs. In those scenarios each screen can cost you anywhere from $50 to $200 per screen depending on where you live. However, once the screens are made, the actual t-shirt printing process doesn’t take that long. But to get to that 1st t-shirt it takes a lot of time and resources to do so.
When should you use screen printing? Screen printing is best for t-shirt quantities of 25 shirts and above.
Sublimation printing dates back to the mid 1900’s and generally relies on chemical reactions to get inks to stick to the garment. This technique requires a special sublimation ink, a sublimation printer and garments made of polyester. When used for T Shirt printing it needs either polyester fabric or polyester coated materials for the chemical reaction to take place. Most popularly used for school uniforms and jerseys, Sublimation Printing make its easy to produce that one unit that isn’t possible with screen printing but puts a limitation on the types of garments you can use. Remember with sublimation printing you will need a Polyester based product.
Custom T-Shirt Guide Answer: Sublimation printing is best for low quantity units and variable prints. Must use polyester products.
Direct to Garment Printing
When it comes to T Shirt printing direct to garment printing is one of the newest ways of getting custom t-shirts produced. Direct to garment printing traces its roots back to the late 1990s, with the most notable commercial roll out at a tradeshow in Minneapolis in 2004. DTG printing as it’s better known, is a marriage between sublimation and screen printing. First, The process starts with a digital artwork, usually a png file. The file is ripped through a software program and then the artwork is printed onto a pre-treated t-shirt using DTG Printers (like desktop printers but bigger). The benefits of DTG printing includes, no setups, no minimums and beautiful quality printing.
Custom T-Shirt Guide Answer: Direct to garment printing isn’t ideal for long production runs, making DTG printing ideal for 1 unit to about 100 units where the economies of scale max out.
Direct to Film (DTF Transfer) Printing
Direct to Film Printing or DTF Transfer printing is one of the newest entrants into the world of t-shirt printing. Dating back to the mid-2010’s, DTF printing is created using the same types of printheads that you would see in DTG Printers. However, instead of printing onto a garment, the artwork is mirrored onto a PET Flim with water based inks. While the ink is still wet, a dry melt glue is added to it. The film is then cured at over 320 degrees. In addition, during this process the water evaporates from the ink and the hot melt glue melts to replace the water in the ink.
Finally, The film is then pressed onto the garment using a heat heat press. The ink is now a part of the garment, kind of like screen printing, but in a different way. DTF produced custom t-shirts look more like screen printing than they do direct to garment printing.
Custom T-Shirt Guide Answer: DTF Transfers are ideal for various order sizes from as low as 1 to over 500 units.
Different Types of T-Shirts
This is the one of the hardest parts of getting custom t-shirts made. Since all of our customers have different preferences we have learned that the hardest thing to do, when trying to get custom t-shirts made, is figuring out what the best type of shirt is for you. Before we get into to the types of shirts, we think it’s important for you to understand some terminology:
- Preshrunk – T-Shirts that are preshrunk from the source of manufacturing. This way when you get your t-shirts, they won’t shrink after the first wash
- Ringspun Cotton – Whenever you see the words ringspun cotton, you can safely assume that the shirt will have a softer feel to it.
- Ounces – The number of ounces a shirt is dictates how heavy a shirt is. If you prefer a boxy looking shirt, you mostly like will want a NON-Ringspun, higher ounce shirt(6 ounces). If you want the softer shirt that feels light when you wear it, you are looking for a 4.3 ounce – 5.5 ounce shirt.
- Thread Count – Did you ever get a shirt that felt see through? You guessed it, it’s about the thread count. Most manufacturers will have this information available.
Types of T-Shirts you can buy for t-shirt printing projects:
The most popular t-shirt there is. Cotton T-Shirts are as old as hills and as reliable. The ideal way to stay cool on hot days, cotton t-shirts create that perfect balance of feel and dryness.
Polyester shirts are great for various reasons. They tend to have better durability, fade less and work great for commercial shirts. Polyester shirts are best for sublimation processes. Also you will love the lack of wrinkles you get with Polyester shirts.
Cotton poly blend
Ever hear of the best of both worlds? That’s what this cotton poly blend is, usually a 50/50 split. You get the comfort of the cotton shirt with the additional durability of Polyester shirts.
Same as above but usually mixed with a bamboo, canvas or other threading to create a softer feeling T Shirt.
Should You Design Your T Shirt Online?
If you’re wondering how to get creative design done for your shirt you have one of three options for that:
- Buy royalty free artwork
- Hire a designer from site like fiverr or Upwork to create a custom design
- Design your t-shirt online, yourself.
Each option has its own benefits and timelines associated with them.
Buying Royalty Free Artwork For Your Custom T-Shirt Printing Project
Here at WDFA Custom Tees, we have talked about the benefits of royalty free artwork before. But to put this into perspective, buying royalty free artwork is your fastest and easiest way to get artwork for your t-shirt printing project. There are websites like istock.com, vectorstock.com and storyblocks.com that you can use to find the best artwork for your project. And you aren’t just limited to the sites we have mentioned, a google search for royalty free artwork for sale will give you many more options for artwork sources.
What is royalty free artwork?
Royalty free artwork is artwork that is pre-created under various themes. Just like you would use Google’s search bar, you would go to a royalty free artwork site and search for what you’re looking for, for example a search for “Family Cruise Artwork” will show you artwork that you can buy and get printed(example here).
The benefits of using royalty free artwork site are:
- The file is ready to go. Most sites will allow you to change the colors of certain artwork. Once you’re done with your customizations you can pay and download the artwork.
- The artwork that you will get after you pay, is usually vector or the highest resolution that you will be able to get for that artwork. So regardless of what type of vendor you use, you will never have a blurry or lacking print.
Hiring A Designer To Create Your Artwork
Hiring a designer to create something custom for you is the best way to create that one of kind print you are looking for. While royalty free artwork provides artwork that you may or may not like, hiring a designer will get you exactly what you want. Truly the most custom way to get your artwork done. Graphic Design can cost anywhere from $25-$100 an hour based on the experience of your designer. Most single side projects do require anywhere from 2-3 hours to be created. So your budget for custom artwork should be anywhere from $75-$300.
Websites such as fiverr and Upwork have a database of graphic designers that you can hire on a freelance basis. Another option for custom artwork is to ask your t-shirt printing shop if they have a graphic designer on their team. Some custom t-shirt shops have a graphic designer that they work with get designs done for their customers.
Design Your Custom T Shirt Online
Companies like WDFA Custom Tees offer online t-shirt design software for customers to use to design their shirts as their being ordered. This is the fastest way to get your custom t-shirt design done.
If the custom t-shirt just requires text or you’re printing photos that you took from your cell phone, you are able to do both of those easily using the custom t-shirt design tool. When you need some special artwork, these online tools have designs that you can choose from. By using the online t-shirt design tool that is offered by companies like WDFA Custom Tees, you have the peace of mind knowing your print will come out at the highest quality. And that’s the official statement from this Custom T-Shirt Guide.
The Type of Artwork Your T Shirt Printing Shop Needs
If you’re not in the printing business, all images are the same. But that isn’t true. There are different types of images and they are used for many different purposes. Just because you see an image on a website, it doesn’t mean that image is something you can print on custom t-shirts with. Here’s a quick glossary you should know before we get into the different types of artwork your T-Shirt printing shop needs:
- DPI – Short for dots per inch. In the printing world this is important because most items are printed at 300DPI. Any artwork that is lower than 300DPI will either be blurry or dull.
- Image Size – When you download an image you are usually given an idea of the dimensions of your image. So if you download an image that is 96 pixels by 96 pixels, and you want to print your image 5 inch x 5 inch, your image would come out blurry. Why? Because 96 pixels is 1 inch.
Types of files your T-Shirt Printing Shop needs to print your job
The perfect file type is:
- The native file the artwork was created in (Illustrator, Photoshop, Corel, Etc.)
- IS NOT flattened, what this means is that it has layers, paths and points
- Are made to scale. If you need a 5” x 5” print, your artwork should be set to those dimensions as well.
It’s important for you to know that images that you find on the web are usually compressed and set to 72-96 dpi. They also come in various file formats. Here are the different types:
- PNG files – these are files without backgrounds
- JPG or JPEG – these files have a white background behind the image
- PDF – these are files that are exported through native files and can be used for print most times.
Now, we understand and acknowledge that we live in an imperfect world. So if you can’t get your hands on the natives here is the absolute bare minimum type of file you should get:
- PDF, PNG or JPG file type
- Set to scale
- CMYK color profile
- Trimmed to only included printed artwork
How to get the most value when you place your custom t-shirt order?
So you have made it this far in our 2022 Ultimate Custom T-Shirt Guide, so you must be wondering, is that it? No that’s not it 😉
To get the most out of your custom t-shirt order, here are 3 things you should remember:
- The type of artwork you use, makes a HUGE difference. Work with only high quality art.
- T-shirt printing process that you use is important. Please know what you’re buying when placing your order.
- Give it time. Don’t rush your t-shirt printing shop. Good things take time.
We have seen different types of people ordering custom t-shirts from us and the one common theme amongst all of them, people only print custom t-shirts when it really matters. Most t-shirt printing shops understand this and want to create the highest quality product for you. Trust the experts as we have printed a custom t-shirt or two and we know how to get the most out of your project.
Whatever your reason for coming to this custom t-shirt guide, we are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to drop us a line here, and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
More About WDFA Custom Tees T Shirt Printing Service
WDFA Custom Tees is a East Bay, CA t shirt printing company and serves the following communities:
Local Custom T Shirts Hayward
We can help you with your Custom T Shirts Palo Alto!
Whatever your t-shirt printing needs maybe, we are happy to be your local custom t-shirt printing shop. If you have any questions regarding our t shirt printing services or if you have some custom t shirt ideas that you want to run by us, feel free to contact us!
Check out our 2022 Ultimate Custom T-Shirt Guide!
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