T shirt printing

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Printing techniques

Pros and cons of each T-shirt printing method

Charles95405 has a few good things to contribute to this newbie discussion

Here is a forum diary of a newbie getting into the process

T-shirtforums.com is the standard place to start looking for information

The industry information bit on T-shirt Forums is where to find information on the process of printing, pressing, etc.

Heat Press/Inkjet/Laser printers

There are 2 types of paper for this:

  1. Jet-Pro Sofstretch which is limited to white / light coloured shirts with this paper. If you have white T-shirts, you can use the Sofstrech without a cutter, as the white of the paper goes into the white of the T-shirt.
  1. Jetwear IYA Iron All Dark paper which will work on dark t-shirts, but there may be problems with the supply. There is also an opaque version, but I'm not sure yet what the difference is with the normal dark.


NB this technique only works with cotton materials!

Vinyl

Unfortunately this is limited because you can only cut one colour at a time. So for multiple colours you have to cut multiple sheets of vinyl. Remember to cut the image backwards before pressing it!

It's not quite as good as Plastisol, but is high quality and has the advantage that you can use just a cutter to "print" the designs before pressing.

Plastisol

Plastisol transfers are high quality heat transfer prints. You do need a very expensive printer, so it's best to send your design to a plastisol printer and they will send you the sheets back.

Plastisol newbie guide

UnionInk information about Plastisol. Also reverse print.

The software

Most people use CorelDraw as the GCC and Roland cutters have plugins for it which makes it very easy to send the cutting information

The printer and ink

Epson seems to be the way to go. It's important you use a pigment based ink, like the Epson DURABrite Ultra line, because it's waterproof. You do have to be careful, as it will clog your printerheads if you don't use the printer often enough. However, Epson original inks are expensive, so people recommend using Cobra or any other ink that is pigment based and compatible with the printer.

The WorkForce WF-7515 seems to be the printer of choice and should be compatible with the DURABrite Ultra ink.

More info on the printer

There's also something about a CIS, which is a refillable bulk ink system. The original is made by Cobra Ink Systems and there is an alternative at inkjetcarts

The cutter

You need a cutter to cut away the stuff around the graphic or you will have a white background on the t-shirt.

The Roland GX-24 is the dog's bollocks of cutters, but very expensive ($2095,-).

The GCC 24-LX is fine to begin with and

The Roland Stika-15 is another good startup cutter.

These cutters can be used for heat transfer paper, plastisol and vinyl

It's useful if the cutter has an optical eye, so it can position itself using printed registration marks. Try to make sure your design has an edge that is the same colour as the underlying fabric - this allows the design to blend in much better.

The Heat Press

They come in several types and sizes.

5 tips: how to select which heat press to buy

How to choose the Right Heat Press to fit your needs

Best heat press under $800,-

NB make sure it has a temperature + pressure gauge

Pressing is a bit of an art. You have to experiment with pre-heating, heating temperatures and pressure settings

How to measure the proper heat pressure