Types of T-Shirt Printing Machines

Written by justin mitchell
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Types of T-Shirt Printing Machines
Printing designs can be fun if you have the proper equipment. (angel's T-shirt image by sminx from Fotolia.com)

T-shirt printing is a popular hobby as well as a popular fashion trend. Making your own T-shirts is very simple, facilitated by a wide variety of different types of machines to make the process easier. All of the different types of machines have their own pros and cons.

Wire Mesh Method

The traditional way to make T-shirts is to use a wire mesh emblazoned with the shape you wish to see on the T-shirt. The mesh is placed on top of the T-shirt, and the ink is pressed into the mesh using a squeegee. Various types of mesh exist, as well as various types of ink. This method is labour-intensive, and can be expensive when there are not that many shirts to print.

Rotary Printing Machines

Rotary T-shirt printing machines come in manual and automatic types. The T-shirts are placed onto one of several different plates. Colour screens are rotated over the plates, and the separate colours are placed onto the T-shirts in turn. Manual rotary machines requires users to squeegee the separate colours on by hand, and then rotate the screens to repeat the process, while automatic machines perform all these tasks automatically.

Belt Printing Machines

Belt printing machines are useful because they can print anywhere on the T-shirt, whereas most traditional T-shirt printing machines can only print in a square in the front or back of the shirt. This machine uses a belt to move the T-shirt beneath the screens. These types of machines are usually extremely expensive.

All-Over Printing Machines

All-Over printing machines can also print anywhere on the surface of the T-shirt. What makes them different from a belt press is that these types of machine use one or two extremely large screens to distribute the ink all over the shirt. However, these presses require the shirts to be clamped down at the edges, and so leave an unprinted border around the ends of the shirt.

Cylinder Printing Machines

Cylinder printing machines are probably the most effective means of printing all around the surface of a T-shirt. A cylinder is placed inside the T-shirt and the shirt is rotated around as the design is printed upon it. This process is similar to the way designs are printed on mugs, cups, and glasses.


Another option is to use an ink jet or laser printer. Both have their pros and cons. Ink jet printers are inexpensive and create vibrant colours. However, the ink can be very expensive, and the texture will feel different. Laser printers produce durable, long-lasting prints. They also will leave the fabric with a natural feel, as the design will barely be felt. However, laser printers are very expensive as well.

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