Q&A: “What Do I Need To Print Shirts At Home?”

Sarah asks, “What do I need to print shirts at home to sell online?

Well, there are actually a few ways to make custom shirts at home. The method you choose will depend on what you want to print, how many shirts you want to print, and your price range. What kind of printing are you doing?

Heat press, screenprint, or digital home t-shirt printing?

machine for printing t shirts
Heat Press MethodDigital Printing MethodScreen Printing Method
Most affordableMost expensiveMore expensive
Okay print durabilityGreat print durabilityBest print durability
No color limitsNo color limitsColors are limited
Can print photosCan print photosCan’t print photos
Foil, glitter, crystals, patchesNo specialty printingNo specialty printing
Best for one-off ordersBest for one-off ordersBest for bulk orders

For the heat press method…

Heat press machine

A heat press is the most affordable way to start printing on shirts at home. These machines can be had for very low prices compared to digital printing, and it’s easy for anyone to quickly make a design. Ricoma’s multifunction press is a high-quality heat press that can make shirts, mugs, hats, and even plates!

Heat transfer vinyl

You’ll also need heat transfer vinyl. There are endless varieties, colors, and types out there but if you want to do custom photo shirts you’ll need to find a printable variety you can use with your home printer.

Blank T-Shirts

Heat presses work fine for most shirts but be wary of your temperature! 100% cotton shirts will need to be extra hot, but polyester shirts or blends may be more delicate.

Teflon sheets

Teflon sheets are placed between the press and your shirt and graphics in order to keep the press from scorching anything. These are reusable. Just make sure you don’t accidentally move any of your design when you lay it down! Oops.

For the screen printing method…

Screen printing kit

While screen printing is a lot more labor-intensive, it does make the highest quality shirts! AND it’s actually super cheap to get started, with a beginner kit running just $100. everything you need is included, and a kit like this will let you quickly start making 1-3 color designs. This one comes with black, red, white, and blue inks.

Blank shirts

It’s best to use 100% cotton or 50% cotton blends here. While you can print on 100% polyester shirts it requires special inks and additional additives which won’t be in the starter kit.

For the digital printing method…

Digital Printer

While a digital printer is the most expensive way to go for home printing, it does have some advantages. It’s less labor-intensive than screen printing, but it also allows you to print photo-realistic designs in higher quality than with a heat press. If you’ve got a few thousand laying around, this DTG printer is a bargain compared to commercial DTG printers, which start at $15,000.

Blank shirts

Again, 100% cotton to 50% cotton blends will work well with the printer. You can print 100% polyester shirts but the results may not be as intended and you’ll likely need to use a special pre-treatment to do it.