October 3, 2023
T-shirt printing equipment

The Ultimate T-Shirt Printing Equipment Checklist For Beginners

There are a lot of different opportunities in the T-shirt printing industry. You can market yourself to businesses that want custom shirts with their logo, create custom T-shirts with people’s photos on, or print shirts for events like stag and hen parties. The possibilities are endless really and you can build a very profitable business from printing T-shirts. However, there is a lot of competition out there and quality is very important if you want to be successful, which is why you need to invest in the right T-shirt printing equipment. 

A lot of people that are new to T-shirt printing end up wasting money on equipment that they don’t really need and then neglect some of the most important equipment. This post will give you a breakdown of all of the most important T-shirt printing equipment so you can invest your money in the right areas and get your business off the ground. 

A Heat Press

Heat Press

A heat press is the most important piece of T-shirt printing equipment if you are using the Flock and Flex printing method. When choosing a heat press, there are two main options to consider. Most people start out with a manual heat press because they are cheaper to buy. This is a simple machine that has a heated plate that provides the heat needed to transfer your design onto the shirt. You simply lay the shirt on the bottom plate and put the transfer paper with the design on top, then push the top plate down and hold it. 

Once you are familiar with your manual heat press and your T-shirt business is starting to take off, you may want to consider investing in an electric heat press. They are more expensive but they are much quicker and easier to operate, so they can help you to increase your output.

A Printer 

Laser Printer

Once you have a heat press to put designs on your shirts, you need a printer to print the designs in the first place. Digital heat transfers are one of the most common methods for putting designs onto T-shirts, and this involves printing the design out and then using the heat press to transfer it onto the shirt. Technically, you can use any inkjet printer to print onto transfer paper, but if you want the best quality, you should invest in a more expensive one. 

You can also use a laser printer instead of an inkjet printer. They are more expensive and you should consider what kind of images you want to print when deciding between laser and inkjet. Although laser printers are adequate at printing photos, inkjet printers are better. However, laser printers are better if you are printing lots of vector based images because you don’t have to cut around the image to get rid of the background like you would with an inkjet printer.

Alternatively, you might decide to invest in a DTG printer instead. A DTG (direct to garment) printer, prints designs directly onto T-shirts. It can also be used to print onto other items, so it gives you more opportunities for making new products, which is why it’s one of the best pieces of T-shirt printing equipment out there. However, you need to choose carefully because the cheaper options will not give you a good quality product. Check out this list of the best DTG printers to help you make an informed decision. 


Screen Printing

Instead of using a heat press, you may decide to go down the route of screen printing. Before you make this decision, it’s important that you understand the differences between screen printing and DTG printing. If you have assessed the pros and cons and decided that screen printing is right for you, you need to invest in some screens. Although you can make your own screens, the quality of the finished shirts will be better if you buy professional screens. You need a separate screen for each color, so make sure that you buy enough. 



Unless you want to cut all of your designs by hand, you need a cutting machine. These machines will take an image and cut out the heat transfer for you, ready to go straight onto the T-shirt. It’s best to invest in a good quality one so you can ensure that your designs are accurate. 



Before you start screen printing, it’s important that you apply emulsion to your screens because they are very sensitive to light. Emulsion will reduce this sensitivity, and create space for the ink so your print comes out even. It’s important to apply a thick layer of emulsion to each screen, so make sure that you buy in bulk. 



The final stage of the screen printing process is the drying. A good dryer is one of the most important pieces of T-shirt printing equipment because the drying process cures the ink and sets it into the fabric. Without a good dryer, you will not be able to increase your turnover time and build your T-shirt printing business. 


Inks for printing

Good quality ink is vital for screen printing and luckily, this is one of the easiest pieces of T-shirt printing equipment to get your hands on. You can easily pick it up on Amazon for a relatively low price. If you plan to start a business, you will need a lot of different colors so you can accommodate all of your client’s requests. If you have to order ink each time you take on a job, this increases the lead time, so always buy in bulk and get a good range.  

Transfer Paper 

Transfer Paper

When novice printers are buying their T-shirt printing equipment, they often make the mistake of thinking that all transfer paper is the same. However, it’s important that you buy the right paper for your printer and consider the color of the fabric and the image that you are printing. There are different papers available for inkjet and laser printers, so make sure to check that you are buying the right one. You also need to decide between light and dark transfer papers. 

When transferring onto white or light colored shirts, you need a heat transfer paper that is specifically designed for light garments. This paper has a transparent covering, so any gaps in the design take on the color of the shirt. 

For dark garments, you need to use dark heat transfer paper. This has a white covering so any unprinted sections of paper will show up white on the shirt. It’s very important that you cut away any areas that you don’t want to be printed onto the shirt or your design will be ruined. 

This is all of the essential T-shirt printing equipment that you need to get your own T-shirt business off the ground. 

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