What Equipment Do You Need for T-Shirt Printing?

Written by wilkie collins
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What Equipment Do You Need for T-Shirt Printing?
You can print striking, colourful designs on T-shirts. (Goodshoot RF/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Many retail and online companies produce T-shirts across a range of themes including bands, movies and funny text quotes. Some companies even offer custom-made facilities whereby you can have your own photo or favourite quotes imprinted onto a T-shirt of your choice. T-shirt making can also be undertaken at home, but some basic equipment (in addition to blank T-shirts) is required before you can begin.

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Heat Press

The heat press is a machine that imprints logos onto T-shirts by combining high temperatures with a strong pressing function. Heat presses differ widely both in terms of temperature and pressure levels. The Clam Type Press is a traditional style of heat press, which is relatively inexpensive and small, making it suitable for home use. Other types of heat presses include the Swing Press, which offers greater speed and accuracy than the Clam Press; and the Pneumatic Press, which offers more precise levels of heat and pressure control. Pneumatic Presses are usually used by T-shirt printing businesses.

Inkjet Printers

There are two main printer types suitable for T-shirt printing: laser and inkjet. Inkjet machines are usually much less expensive than laser printers and can make rich, clear colours for your T-shirt designs. Inkjet printers can't produce the polished finish produced commercially, however, they are much cheaper to purchase.

Laser Printers

Laser printers are usually used by large organisations that produce T-shirts for online and retail sale. They have a reputation for producing rich, concise T-shirt imprints that will last much longer than their inkjet counterparts. Laser printers, however, don't usually produce the richness and vibrancy of colour associated with inkjet printers. Printing on T-shirts with a laser printer also has little impact on the touch and quality of the fabric. The design is integrated into the material without any bobbling or threading, which can sometimes occur with inkjet printing.

Vinyl Cutter

Vinyl cutters can be very expensive and are usually only owned by T-shirt companies rather than individuals. However, some companies, such as Roland and Stika, offer low-end vinyl cutters suitable for home use. Vinyl cutters are used to create custom vinyl T-shirt images and for cutting text for imprinting on T-shirts. Vinyl cutters vary in size from those that can cut a range of 5 to 8 inches of vinyl to those that can cut up to 24 inches.

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