Tag Archives: digital t-shirt printing

Recent T-Shirt Technology Means No More Minimum Orders

Up until recently, custom t-shirt printing companies required all orders to have a certain minimum number of t-shirts. You couldn’t order, say, just one t-shirt for yourself saying, “Today’s My Birthday.” You would have to order ten t-shirts, or maybe twelve. This would severely cut down on the number of occasions for which you could design your own t-shirt in a cost effective way, without wasting. For instance, you would have to have a group of ten people who wanted t-shirts to even consider making an order.

This minimum order rule was necessary for t-shirt printing companies because of the way they made custom t-shirts. The method is called “screen printing,” and involves something like a better version of the iron-on printing you can do at home. The design is actually attached to the shirt. Because screen printing requires an expensive setup before the printing even begins, the t-shirt companies have to charge high setup fees in addition to whatever they charge for the actual t-shirts and the service.

So, it is impossible for the t-shirt printing companies to make a profit if they went through the expensive setup for just one t-shirt. It is also a much too expensive proposition for the client, to pay a large setup fee for one t-shirt. It makes much more sense to order fifteen t-shirts with one design, so that the one setup fee will be divided amongst all fifteen of the shirts. Then, if you have people contributing to shirts, they will each pay a small portion of the setup fee instead of you paying the entire thing just for your one “Today’s My Birthday” t-shirt.

Now, however, new technology allows t-shirt companies to inexpensively print one design on just one t-shirt. Thus we have the new “No Minimum Order” promise from companies. The new technology is digital printing. It prints the design directly onto the garment, which is why it is sometimes called “Direct To Garment” printing. This type of printing requires no setup, and is very high quality. The design is directly on the fabric, so it feels very soft—not rigid or shiny like the old iron-on type of transfer.

In addition to the new digital technology, many t-shirt printing companies still offer screen printing and embroidery—they just require a minimum order for those types of printing. So you can still do bulk ordering and get the discounts that many companies offer with large quantities—but you also have the option of ordering just one t-shirt with one design.

So, think of all the possibilities there are for single t-shirt designs! You can get personalized t-shirts for each person in your club, or for yourself or your loved ones. You could ask someone out on a t-shirt, or propose marriage, or say congratulations. You could also make custom t-shirts for special occasions like weddings or birthdays with different messages on each one. Personalize your t-shirts by putting different people’s pictures on the front, or different names on the back, or messages to each other on the front or back. Use your imagination!

Alternatives to Heat Transfers for Custom T-Shirts

When creating a custom t-shirt for yourself or your group–be it a youth group, volleyball team, school club, corporate event or family reunion–there are many options to mull over. There are four obvious choices–embroidery, silk screening, heat transfers and Direct-to-Garment (DTG)–each come with their own rules and regulations but in the end we believe Direct to Garment is the way to go and is how we do the majority of our printing.

Embroidery is a classic option that uses minimalist principals to create a clean end product but you can’t just get one single t-shirt unless you pay a premium. Silk screening has the same issue but is an increasingly versatile method that employs fabric stencils and special ink and different screens can be used to create a layered, multi-colored image. Then there is heat transferring, which moves the image from the paper to the cloth using special transfer paper and an iron or heated transferring machine.

Heat transfers allow a direct reassignment of an image from the page to the fabric and unlike embroidery and silk-screening where the image must be examined and often altered by the t-shirt artist in order to match the abilities of the equipment at hand, heat transfers offer a direct design approach for the customer. In general there are two types of heat transfers: professional and at-home. Whether you choose to complete your shirts yourself or to have them professionally done, the process is very much the same. First, an image must be created. This is most often done on a computer. Programs such as Printshop or Photoshop can make creating an at-home transfer design easy. These programs allow the customer to combine text and images — including photos–in their design. If you choose to have transfers done professionally, the t-shirt artist will use comparable programs to help you create a unique design. Once the design is created, the design must be printed it on special t-shirt transfer paper and ironed onto the shirt.

The problems with heat transfer are that it’s not a very good print compared to other options. Many times you can see a film on the shirt around the graphic. Heat transfers can look cheap and homemade.

The last alternative is (and best choice) is Direct to Garment (DTG) printing instead of the heat press, embroidery or screen printing. Direct to Garment technology has really improved making it possible to just print one t-shirt and get a high quality and professional look. Silk screening is a great option if you need to print hundreds of shirts but if you want to create a custom t-shirt for a reasonable cost, little waiting time, and a professional appearance we strongly recommend that you choose a service with Direct to Garment printing.