T-Shirt Printing: What Do I Need to Print T-Shirts at Home


September 4, 2023


September 5, 2023


T-Shirt Printing What Do I Need to Print T-Shirts at Home

Want to bring a personalized sense of style to your wardrobe by printing your own t-shirts? Planning to start your very own t-shirt printing business? In any case, nothing beats a printed t-shirt when it comes to personalization of style.

Be it passion or business, in today’s world, you can bring even the most intricate and detailed designs to life. And the current market trend is only poised to go further up as the demand for custom-printed t-shirts skyrockets (source).

Let’s explore how you can create a custom t-shirt through one of the many printing methods you can try at home!

An Ultimate Guide to DIY T-Shirt Printing

Here’s a general guide to help you get started with printing custom t-shirts at home:

Step 1: Prepare Your Design

  1. Use design software to create a digital t-shirt design (or pick one online).
  2. Think about designs that resonate with your vision (or that of your client).
  3. If you want to sell shirts, make original designs that reflect your brand identity.
  4. Keep the designs on your computer to easily print them.
  5. If you’re a newbie, just use custom design templates.

Just a tip: you can use Canva to create detailed and visually appealing designs even if you’re not a pro.

Step 2: Choose A Printing Method

Next, you must select a t-shirt printing method that works best for you. Consider factors like design complexity, budget, and the desired outcome. We’ve discussed printing methods with their pros and cons below.

Step 3: Collect Materials

Once you’re done choosing a method, gather all the materials you need:

  1. Blank t-shirts
  2. Heat transfer paper
  3. Screen printing screens
  4. Vinyl sheets
  5. Fabric paint
  6. Bleach
  7. Stencils
  8. A heat press

Step 4: Prepare Your Workspace

Pick a well-ventilated space. Ensure access to all your tools and equipment. Use a fabric with a smooth and tightly woven texture to help the design stick correctly. Your safest bet is to use a pure cotton shirt before using the desired fabric.

Step 5: Test Print Your Design

Before actual printing run some test prints to confirm everything looks good. It will help save your material from damage. You can adjust and test different options to get the best results. If you’re certain about the fine quality of the product, move on to the real deal.

Exploring The Top DIY T-Shirt Printing Methods

You can choose from a bunch of methods for printing t-shirts at home.

Each requires specialized equipment and supplies.

Here is our rundown for the best t-shirt printing methods to create custom shirts:

Heat Transfer Printing

Iron-on printing or heat transfer printing uses heat to transfer your designs onto the fabric. It is a highly manageable and budget-friendly option. It’s ideal for complex designs with vibrant colors.

DIY Mini Guide

  1. Put the paper with the design between the hot plates of the heat press machine.
  2. Close the machine so that the hot plates push the paper on the fabric.
  3. This makes the ink on the paper turn into gas and stick to the t-shirt.
  4. After a bit, open the machine.
  5. Let the t-shirt cool down and then remove the paper.


  1. It is quite simple.
  2. This approach doesn’t require specialized skills.
  3. It is budget-friendly.


  1. The results may not be as durable.
  2. It can be a bit time-consuming.

Screen Printing

This method has deep historic roots and continues to offer high-quality and long-lasting results in present times as well (source). To screen printing, you must first form a stencil for each color in your design. Then you push the ink through the screens onto the fabric using a squeegee.

DIY Mini Guide

  1. Place the screen on top of the fabric for the print.
  2. Slowly start adding the ink to the screen.
  3. Push the ink through the screen onto the fabric.
  4. If your design has different colors, perform the same process for each color.
  5. Let each color layer dry before adding the next one so that they don’t mix.


  1. It’s best for creating vibrant and detailed prints.
  2. Durable results.


  1. It requires more tools.
  2. The setup time can be brutal sometimes.

Vinyl Cutting and Heat Press

It involves cutting the designs from vinyl sheets through a cutting machine. Next, the heat press transfers the cut vinyl onto the fabric.

It is ideal for making custom names and numbers on sportswear.

DIY Mini Guide

  1. Upload your design into the vinyl cutting machine.
  2. Load a sheet of vinyl into the vinyl cutter.
  3. The machine’s blade cuts out the design according to your instructions.
  4. Once the design is cut, carefully remove the extra vinyl.
  5. Place the leftover design on a sheet of transfer tape.
  6. Next, place the design in a heat press to transfer it to the fabric.


  1. This method is great for single-color designs or text.
  2. It is durable.
  3. Offers a clean, professional look.


  1. It restricts the complexity of multicolored designs.
  2. Challenging to cut manually.

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing

DTG printing prints a design directly onto the fabric using a specialized inkjet printer.

DIY Mini Guide

  1. Place the fabric on a smooth area.
  2. The DTG printer has special water-based inks that it sprays onto the fabric.
  3. Just upload your design and hit print.
  4. The printer adds colors layer by layer.
  5. Once the ink is applied, the shirt needs time to dry.
  6. Some DTG printers come with built-in dryers.
  7. Otherwise, you can just let your shirt air dry.


  1. Ideal for complex, detailed designs.
  2. Offers a wide range of colors.
  3. Produces high-quality prints.


  1. Shirts need to be pre-treated.
  2. These printers are costly.
  3. There is a limited area for printing.

Fabric Paint and Stencils

Want to go down the minimalistic route? You can use paint and stencils to print custom designs directly on the fabric. Simply place the stencil on a shirt and paint with a brush or sponge.

DIY Mini Guide

  1. Select the type of fabric paint you prefer.
  2. Check if the fabric is clean and dry.
  3. Carefully place the design stencil on the fabric
  4. Start applying the paint to your shirt.
  5. Let the shirt sit for some time so that the paint can dry, and then you’re done.


  1. Ideal for unique, artistic creations.


  1. You need art skills.
  2. Not as precise as other methods.

Things To Consider Before Starting A T-shirt Printing Business

In 2022, the global business for custom-printed shirts was valued at USD 4,000 million plus (source), so it’s as good a time as any to start your business from home. But before you do, check this list of the top considerations to make the process a whole lot easier.


A lot depends on the fabric. The fabric you choose can make or break a design. Always pick a printing method based on the fabric you want to use. Screen Printing is by far the most commonly used method because it offers premium results.


Not counting the required number of shirts or making counting errors can mess up your printed shirt orders. There may not be enough or too many printed T-shirts. But more importantly, it can end up inflating the total expense of your order.


The first draft can’t be enough! You can take all your time during the design phase. It will help you save money and get the best out of your printing. Do as many experiments as you like. You can start with screen printing as it offers premium prints every time.

Target Audience

While printing for your t-shirt business, you must know your target audience; based on current statistics, you’ll have a ton of clients with diverse needs. Choose the preferred printing method accordingly. After all, your goal should be to get every print right.

Top Tips for Printing on T-Shirts

Here are a few tips for printing the best custom t-shirts:

  1. Don’t rush through the design process.
  2. Make sure that you mirror the image before printing; this is best for light-colored t-shirt transfer paper.
  3. If you are using an iron, run it over a sheet of plain white paper first.
  4. And if the paper turns yellow, lower the heat to the cotton setting.
  5. For best results, use heavy pressure.
  6. Ensure that the heat is evenly distributed and reaches every part of the design.


What equipment do I need for t-shirt printing at home?

For basic screen printing, you need screens, squeegees, and ink. HTV, in contrast, requires a vinyl cutter, heat press, and vinyl sheets. For DTG printing, you’ll need a DTG printer and special inks.

Can I use my regular inkjet printer for t-shirt printing?

Regular inkjet printers don’t work as well for fabric printing. High-quality t-shirt printing requires specialized printers. Regular inkjet printers use water-based inks which are made for printing on paper. T-shirt printers are specialized for such tasks.

What type of T-shirts should I use for printing?

Before printing, you must consider the fabric composition. T-shirts made up of 100% cotton or cotton blends are ideal for printing. These shirts provide a smooth surface for inks to adhere effectively.

Can I print photographs and complex designs on t-shirts at home?

Yes, DTG printing is the best option for complex designs. It offers high-resolution printing. DTG printers use water-based inks on the fabric, which can result in detailed and vibrant prints. However, these printers can be pricey and require technical expertise.