Digital T-Shirt Printing

Shopping for clothes can be a challenge at times. Even if money is not an issue for you, looking for the perfect design can still take considerable time and effort unless you’re lucky enough to find something you fell in love with at first sight. Not all of us are usually that lucky, though, so that’s a bummer, right? Nope! There’s actually no reason to fret because if you don’t like the designs that your favorite retail stores or boutiques offer, you can always print your own. How? Through digital t-shirt printing. Why don’t you try to gather the following materials so we can give it a try?

Materials Needed:

  • Heat Press (you can also use a flat iron if you don’t have one)
  • Heat Transfer Paper (one for white fabrics and one for colored ones)
  • T-shirt to print on (could be old or new, it depends on you)
  • Tracing wheel/scissors/cutter (either of the three will do)
  • Pigment or dye ink
  • Printer
  • Computer
  • Teflon

Printing Your Design

Before we can start printing, we’re going to need a design first. If you have some drawing skills, you can draw your own design on paper then upload it to your computer by using a scanner. If you can draw your design directly on your computer, that would be even better. You can then color it digitally through image editing programs like MS Paint, Adobe Photoshop, or GIMP to name a few.

If you’re not very fond of drawing, you can search and buy royalty-free images at stock image libraries like ClipartOf.com or you can purchase one from our stock illustrations. :)

Also, if you’re going to use a white shirt for printing, you would need to invert the design the same way images appear on a mirror. There would be no need to change anything if you’ll be using a black one.

Once you’re done with your design, get a heat transfer paper (don’t forget to use the appropriate paper for the right color of fabric), and put it on the paper tray of the printer. Before you print your design, replace your regular ink with pigment ink first. After you’re done changing it, hit the print button and wait for your design to be printed. If you don’t have the necessary equipment for this right in your own home, you can go to a computer rental shop and ask them if they can print it for you (some shops also do image editing for customers for a fee). Just remember to bring a heat transfer paper and pigment ink with you as you cannot use ordinary paper or ink for digital t-shirt printing.

After your design has been printed on the heat transfer paper, cut around the edges of the design until no background is left. Next, peel the sticky part of the heat transfer paper from its base and stick it on your shirt. This is only applicable for colored shirts. If you’re using a white shirt, there’s no need to peel it anymore. Just press it against the cloth.

Prepare the heat press after that. If you don’t have one or you don’t know someone who does, you can use a flat iron instead. When you have your heat press ready, locate the temperature regulator and set the temperature to 180 degrees and the timer to 30 seconds. Just a note, though, this temperature is what worked for us. However, different fabrics have different resistance to heat, so you might have to experience a bit which temperature would be best for your shirt. If you don’t want to run the risk of ruining it, you can probably start with a discarded cloth first.

When the heat press is ready, put your shirt on the square piece of board in the machine, place the Teflon over it, then press down the cover of the machine with the shirt sandwiched in between. When the timer stops ticking, get your shirt out of the machine, let it cool for a couple of seconds, then slowly peel off the Teflon to check if the design stuck to the shirt. If it didn’t, repeat the same procedure for a couple more seconds until the design was finally transferred to the fabric.

You can do the same thing with a flat iron. If you don’t want any hassle, try to choose a design that’s about as big as the iron so you can transfer it in one go. However, if you want a larger design, you can still do it by pressing the iron on the design one area at a time. Different irons have different heat levels (some irons heat up at fairly low levels, while some irons heat up at higher ones) so you might also have to do a little experimenting to find out which heat level will work well with your shirt. To be on the safe side, try a lower heat level first then increase it gradually until you get the right amount of heat needed to transfer the design. If you start with a hot temperature right away and it was a little more than what you need, your fabric may end up getting burned.

When you’re done with all that, you’ll finally have your newly-designed shirt. By the way, you can also use the same technique to design other stuff like jeans, skirts, jackets, bags, and mouse pads among other things.