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Custom printed t-shirt business plan

How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business in 2022: Everything You Need to Know

T-shirts aren’t just a staple of casual wear—they’re articles of clothing that often reflect our personalities, interests, and identities.

Because of this, selling t-shirts online has become a popular choice, especially for entrepreneurs and artists looking for a relatively inexpensive way to learn how to start a business. Plus, the global market for the custom t-shirt printing industry is expected to eclipse $10 billion by 2025.

With the growth in popularity of selling t-shirts, there’s no doubt you’ll face some stiff competition. But by building a brand for a specific target audience and creating t-shirt designs your customers want, you can find your own success.

In this guide, we’ll go through each step of how to start a shirt business online that brings in extra income month over month.

How to start an online t-shirt business, step-by-step

1. Choose a niche for your t-shirt online business

A niche will help your online shirt selling business stand out and better attract the right target audience without blowing your budget.

You hear the term “niche” tossed around a lot, but it’s important to choose one when trying to understand how to make an online t-shirt business. One of the most important parts of a successful online t-shirt business model is the ability to stand out, and one of the best ways to do that is by catering to a specific target audience or interest group.

Generally, categories like “t-shirts for people who like funny slogans” are going to be too broad to get noticed in a very developed market. You’re going to want to tighten it up a little more. An example of a more specific niche would be t-shirts with funny slogans that relate to doctors and nurses, or to dog owners, as pictured below.

Photo courtesy of: ThinkPup

There are many ways to find and evaluate a niche when you want to know how to start a t-shirt business online. Here are a few:

  • Visit your prospective niche’s subreddits and evaluate the subscriber count and level of engagement.
  • Use Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to gauge the size of your niche on the platform.
  • Scan this list of popular hobbies on Wikipedia for inspiration.
  • Consider your own interests and the communities you belong to—sometimes it’s OK to trust your gut.

Once you narrow down your niche, create a business plan for your shirt selling business that covers your goals and different opportunities to sell custom t-shirts, then figure out how you’ll execute that plan.

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2. Source quality material and t-shirt printing options

The next step of how to start an online t-shirt business is to find suppliers. Not all t-shirts are the same and not all print jobs are the same. As we mentioned above, quality is paramount to your brand and its success, so it’s important to educate yourself and choose your blank shirts wisely.

It might be tempting to sacrifice quality for higher profit margins when you start a shirt business online. But you need to consider how the quality will affect a customer’s decision to share your brand and purchase from you again.

Choosing a quality t-shirt encompasses several factors, including fit, sizing, material, softness, and weight. A great starting point for determining which blank t-shirt to use is to check out T-Shirt Magazine’s review of some of the most popular blank t-shirts for printing.

Once you narrow down your choices, it’s strongly recommended to order samples so you can make an informed final decision.

3. Create your own t-shirt designs

Next up in how to start your own online t-shirt business is to come up with the designs. Here are a few ways you can get a head start on your t-shirt business designs.

Find the best selling designs and niches

If you’re stuck for t-shirt niche ideas and designs, a great start is looking at what else is popular and currently selling well.

Below is a list of pages for some of the top graphic t-shirt marketplaces. You can use them to search the “best sellers” and “most popular” sections to help you get a better idea of your next niche or t-shirt design.

You may also want to consider checking out Google Trends to get a sense of the topics people are currently interested in for inspiration for your t-shirt online business..

Hire a designer

Once you have an idea for some t-shirt designs, you’re going to have to actually design them. If you have Adobe Photoshop or a similar program, you likely can produce some great designs by yourself. However, if you’re like most people, you’ll need to enlist some help.

There are a wide variety of tools and marketplaces you can use to find a suitable graphic designer to help you.

Design communities

Dribbble: Dribbble is a designer community with lots of unique talent. Search for the style you’re looking for and message the designers you like to see if they’re available for freelance projects.

Behance: Behance is a cool platform to check out. You can see portfolios from different creators around the world who specialize in illustrations, niches, and styles and more. If you end up liking a designer, you can reach out to them and get a quote on your custom t-shirt designs.

Freelance networks

Some other options you may want to try are the popular freelance networks like Freelancer and Upwork. You can find qualified t-shirt designers, fast, and check out their past job successes and portfolio. If you like someone, you can reach out in right in the platform and hire them on the spot.

Buy t-shirt designs

If you’re stuck finding a designer for how to start a t-shirt business online, you can always purchase pre-made designs. Keep in mind that if you choose to go this route, there’s a high likelihood that other people are already selling whatever design you pick, making it harder for you and your online shirt selling business to stand out.

Check out the following t-shirt graphic marketplaces:

  • Designious: which sells vector packs and PNG t-shirt designs, also clip art to create your own products.
  • Tshirt Factory: which offers a variety of vector images — from old school to punk rave and urban styles — for t-shirt printing businesses.
  • Creative Market: which doesn’t focus exclusively on t-shirts, but you can find over 3 million unique fonts, graphics, themes, photos, and templates designed by independent creators from around the world.
  • Graphic River: where you can buy and sell royalty-free, Photoshop files, vectors, and icon packs for your t-shirt designs.

Keep in mind, if you want to know how to make an online t-shirt business, you may need to purchase a commercial license.

4. Mock up your t-shirts

Once you have some final designs, your next step for how to start a t-shirt business online will be to get some mockup images. Mockups are helpful so your customers can see what the final design will look like printed on a shirt.

There are a few ways you can get images of your final designs on t-shirts, including ordering samples and taking product photography yourself or, with the abundance of t-shirt mockups and templates online, opting to create a 100% digital mockup, like the one below.

Adobe Photoshop t-shirt templates are the most common types of mockup files. They allow you to quickly preview how your designs will look printed on a t-shirt. Most Photoshop templates come with multiple layers that let you change the color of the shirt and apply your own design that will blend with the shirt’s creases, folds, and contours.

Here are several resources to help you find the best mockup file for for your shirt selling business:

If Adobe Photoshop isn’t right for you, you can also use web-based mockup software that will let you do the same thing without having to download and figure out Photoshop.

Another great option for tasks like this is to enlist help from someone on Fiverr. Just search for t-shirt mockups.

5. Validate the designs for your t-shirt online business

Before you invest a lot of money on your new business idea, you should verify that there is a market for and interest in your designs. There are many ways you can go about validating the market and sell t-shirts online.

Some of the most popular and more common methods for validating your design ideas include:

Personal social networks. Post some of your designs to your Facebook profile, niche Facebook groups, Twitter, and other social networks your friends and potential customers frequent. Be careful when asking friends and family, however—their opinions are prone to kindness.

Reddit. Despite the community’s general aversion to marketing, Reddit is still one of the best places to get honest feedback on your designs (which can even translate into sales after you launch). With countless subreddits, it’s easy to find a highly targeted niche of potential customers and ask them directly for their thoughts on your designs before launching.

Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding sites have made it much easier to test, validate, and collect money upfront for your new business idea. Launching a crowdfunding campaign can be time consuming and requires a good deal of preparation. However, the benefits can be huge, including fully funding your project before you launch it. If you have a particularly novel t-shirt business idea (say, matching t-shirts for dogs and dog owners), crowdfunding might be for you.

Print on demand. Finally, with a ecommerce platform like Shopify, it’s never been easier to set up a fully functional online store (domain name included) in a matter of hours to validate your business idea. Start a 14-day free trial and integrate a print-on-demand service to validate your t-shirts by trying to sell them online.

How to Find and Source a Winning Product to Sell

In less than 40-minutes, let us walk you through how to find product ideas, how to validate them, and how to sell the product once you have an idea you want to pursue.

6. Set up your online store

Now that you have your t-shirt designs in hand, have made your mockups, and validated your idea, it’s time to build your store. This is especially important if you want to know how to start a t-shirt business online.

There are a handful of t-shirt print-on-demand services that directly integrate with your Shopify store, allowing you to start taking orders in no time. These services will print and ship your t-shirts to your customers on your behalf every time you receive an order.

There’s no need to purchase or hold any inventory upfront, making it a great way to get started. Best of all, if you want to use your design on other printable products, such as mugs and tote bags, you have that option as well.

There are a variety of t-shirts available through the following print-on-demand companies:

Once your store is set up, you’ll be ready to start selling t-shirts online.

5 considerations for starting a t-shirt business

Although the tools and technology available for designing, printing, and shipping custom t-shirts makes starting up relatively simple, the difficult part is building a brand to stand out from the competition. Combine competition with slim profit margins and building an online t-shirt company becomes a little harder than it might first appear.

If you want to design and sell t-shirts online, you have to make the right decisions from the get-go.

There are several critical elements involved in starting a successful online shirt selling business. Each of these elements needs to be considered closely before moving forward:

  1. T-shirt printing techniques. There are many different ways to print designs on a t-shirt. Choosing the right one can help you save money and make smarter business decisions.
  2. Design. The majority of people purchasing graphic tees are looking for designs, graphics, and slogans that connect with them and reflect their opinions and personality.
  3. Quality. The quality of the shirts you use and of the print job need to be top notch to build a sustainable business.
  4. Brand, A strong, interesting brand is vital in the t-shirt industry.
  5. Inventory, Will you manage your own inventory to take advantage of volume discounts or use a print-on-demand service to save time and effort.

Let’s take a deeper look at each one.

1. T-shirt printing techniques

There are three popular methods for printing when it comes to how to make an online t-shirt business. Each method has its pros and cons and deciding which one to use will partially depend on how much time you want to invest in the product creation and which printing partner you choose.

Below, we have outlined all three t-shirt printing options, to give you a better understanding of each process. Whether you invest in your own printer or use a local supplier, it’s worth knowing how each printing technique works.

Screen printing

Screen printing is an old technique that has stood the test of time for business owners who design and sell t-shirts online and in-store.

As one of the most popular methods for printing onto t-shirts, screen printing can produce durable and long-lasting results. It also lets you print on products like canvas items, mugs, hats, and other things to make and sell, if you want to expand your product line.

However, a labor-intensive initial setup means screen printing is most cost-effective when printing in bulk. Screen printing also poses issues when it comes to complex designs or designs with more than four to five colors, as each color increases costs and production time.

Pros

  • Cost effective for large batches
  • Volume discounts

Cons

  • Not cost effective for multiple colors
  • Can only print simple images and designs
Heat transfer

Heat transfers have also been around for a long time and exist in several forms. You may have seen basic heat-transfer paper at your local office supply store.

Although this method makes it easy to print designs from your home computer and transfer them with an iron, it won’t cut it when it comes to running a small business. The more advanced form of heat transfers are called “plastisol transfers” and are printed by professional printers on special, high-quality heat-transfer paper.

The advantage of heat transfers is the ability to order a stack of prints from your local printer and transfer them to your t-shirts with a commercial heat press machine as you receive orders.

Heat transfers can produce full-color images onto t-shirts relatively easily and quickly.

Pros

  • You can “print” each shirt on demand
  • More affordable for small batches
  • No limit in number of colors you can use in a print

Cons

  • Lower quality and less durable than direct-to-garment and screen printing
  • Large upfront investment in a heat press machine (from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand)
  • The do-it-yourself approach means additional time input for you
Direct-to-garment (DTG)

The direct-to-garment printing process operates much like an ink-jet printer you might have at home. It’s a common type of t-shirt printing business equipment because it prints ink directly onto the t-shirt and can produce full-color images with accuracy.

Direct-to-garment printing produces quality printing on par with screen printing and better than heat transfers. Because it operates like an ink-jet printer, there are no setup costs, unlike screen printing. This means it’s easy and cost effective to print small orders.

The major disadvantage of direct-to-garment printing online t-shirt business model is the lack of volume discount for large orders, as it takes the same amount of time to print each shirt.

Pros

  • Unlimited color options
  • High detail accuracy in printed design
  • Great for small orders or one-offs
  • No set-up costs

Cons

  • Not cost effective for large production runs
  • Generally no volume discounts

2. Design

The last thing a visitor would want is to see in your catalog is a copy of a t-shirt design found elsewhere. Your designs don’t necessarily need to be complex—in fact, many of the best-selling graphic tees are very simple. However, they do need to connect with your audience and stand out.

To ensure quality prints for your shirt selling business, your design files should generally be at least 300 pixels per inch (dpi or ppi), have a transparent background, and be large enough to cover the actual print area of the t-shirt. Just note that your exact specifications will vary depending on the printer and printing technique used (more on that later).

Photo courtesy of: Vapor95

3. Quality

The next most important factor in how to start an online t-shirt business set up for long-term success is quality. You can disappoint someone once, but they won’t let you disappoint them twice. A pattern that fades and cracks or a t-shirt that shrinks and rips won’t create raving fans that come back and repurchase.

Higher quality t-shirts might cost more to produce but can also command higher prices. The final quality of your t-shirt will depend on the material of the blank t-shirt, printing technique used, and correct preparation of your design file.

4. Brand

A strong, interesting brand is vital when you start a shirt business online. Your brand is a promise that will tie together all your choices, including your niche, designs, and quality. From your t-shirt business name to the logo you use, building a unique and likable brand is important in a high-competition industry.

When customers have more choices, it becomes extremely important for an ecommerce business to have a distinctive presence to capture their attention.

If you’ve chosen a niche for your t-shirt online business that embodies a certain lifestyle, you can incorporate it into your marketing and website to speak to these customers, like in the anime/streetwear example from Imouri, below.

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5. Inventory

When learning how to start a t-shirt business online, most people either opt to buy and hold inventory, taking advantage of bulk pricing and local printers, or use a print-on-demand service to take inventory management and shipping off your plate. You can also opt for a mix of both.

By holding your own inventory for your online shirt selling business, you can more easily sell in-person and potentially improve your profit margins, whereas with print-on-demand, you take on a lot less risk. Weigh the pros and cons before you start. If you’re unsure, print-on-demand is always one of the best low investment business ideas.

Dropshipping is an easy online t-shirt business model for small business owners to wrap their heads around. With services like Printful, it’s incredibly easy to start and test your t-shirt designs.

Of course, if you have the budget for it, you can also invest in your own printer and set up a base of operations.

Online t-shirt business success stories

Many entrepreneurs have been successful a starting shirt selling business. One in particular, Ryan McCarthy, founder of Imouri (formerly known as Sugoi Shirts), has used Shopify to run his anime-inspired t-shirt printing business since 2016.

Ryan decided to create his t-shirt business when he couldn’t find anime-style clothing that fit his personal style. He quietly launched what he thought would be a small clothing business, which has since turned into a six-figure print-on-demand apparel business selling streetwear inspired by Japanese pop culture and anime. His secret to successfully starting your own clothing line? Identifying winning designs early on by using Reddit and paid ads to test products. Hear his best t-shirt business tips on our Shopify Masters podcast.

Start your t-shirt business today

It’s never been easier to express your creativity and sell t-shirts online. Whatever niche you choose to serve or however ambitious you decide to be with your quality and designs, a t-shirt store makes for a great first online business makes for a great first ecommerce business for new entrepreneurs.

Here’s the good news: Building and launching a new t-shirt brand on Shopify is relatively inexpensive and quick. If you already have designs you want to sell, you can be up and running in as little as a few hours.

With the abundance of apps and integrations in the Shopify App Store, you can also connect your store to a t-shirt printer/dropshipper in minutes and quickly have a fully functioning store, ready to print and ship to your customers.

Illustration by Alice Mollon

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FAQ: Starting a t-shirt business

Is a t-shirt business profitable?

T-shirts are a staple for men, women, and children around the world, with global retail sales reaching $1.9 trillion in recent years. Creating an online t-shirt business is profitable and has low startup costs compared to other business opportunities. While t-shirt business profit varies depending on your niche and marketing costs, you can set up a profitable additional revenue stream in as little as 30 days.

How much does it cost to start a t-shirt business?

Starting a t-shirt business from home is an incredibly small investment compared to opening a brick-and-mortar t-shirt store and buying your own t-shirt printing business equipment and embroidery machines.

If you use print-on-demand services to manufacture and ship your products, you can keep costs extremely low since you don’t pay for products until they’re sold. That means no overhead on products, since there’s almost no risk of overstocking.

The only fees you’d need to pay would be for the use of your ecommerce platform, domain hosting, and any digital advertising campaigns you’d like to run.

How do I start a t-shirt business?

  1. Do market research and find a passionate community.
  2. Come up with a t-shirt company name.
  3. Make a business logo and set up an online shop.
  4. Create your own t-shirt designs.
  5. Set up your social media accounts.
  6. Run paid ads for your online t-shirt business site.
  7. Do blog outreach and free promotions with influencers.

How much can you make selling t-shirts?

The amount you make selling t-shirts depends on how much time you put into your business. There have been many accounts of business owners making $100,000 selling and dropshipping t-shirts online.

How can I start my own t-shirt business with no money?

If you want to start a t-shirt business fast with no money, add products to your store using print-on-demand dropshippers like Printful. Go to the Shopify App Store, search for Printful, and click ‘Add app.’

Do you need a business license to sell t-shirts online?

Typically, you do not need a business license to sell t-shirts online. You may want to get a resale license to buy clothing from a distributor free from sales tax. Check with your local county revenue or finance department to learn more.

About the author

Braveen is a content creator and marketer at Shopify where he develops resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Outside of work, he enjoys writing and tinkering on side projects.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Starting An Online T-shirt Printing Business in 2022

The global t-shirt printing market is showing significant growth. In 2021, the global custom t-shirt printing market was valued at USD 3.9 billion. It is likely to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9% from 2022 to 2030. The growth indicates greater business opportunities in this sector.

When entrepreneurs and aspiring designers are introduced to the industry of printing t-shirts, they think they will be able to handle everything smoothly. But when they actually start working on the new venture, they face hurdles and get stuck.

That’s mostly because of not understanding the market or audience, or not keeping an eye on the latest trends. Although such obstacles are small, they can pop up anytime during the entire process right from designing to printing. And when you are unaware about the full particulars related to the t-shirt printing business, this is sure to happen.

We are quite aware of the fact that every designer has their own way of working and every print shop works on its own rules. But if your short term goal or dream is to start a t-shirt printing business, we have come up with a step-by-step guide which will help you to establish your business and run it successfully.

Step 1: Create a Business Plan

To become successful with any business, it is important to have a robust business plan. Now when it comes to the t-shirt printing industry, you must remember that it has a wide range of audiences based on their choice of quality, design and style.

Once a company knows what it will sell, it needs to decide whether it will have its own web store for selling printed t-shirts or it will have a business assisted by a large online company like amazon where entrepreneurs can have their own section or store. Thereafter, you need to follow these steps:

A. Identify the market niche

There are two major ways to segment the market

  1. Based on the needs of the customers
  2. Based on the age of the customers

Niche Market Ideas for Your T-shirt Store

Idea In Action

Sports and workout

Organic and eco-friendly tees

T-shirts for rare conditions

StomaStoma – T-shirt supporting people who have undergone tracheostomy

T-shirt for pet lovers

In order to identify the market niche, make sure you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will you sell printed t-shirts to infants and toddlers or youth, teens and adults?
  • Will your customers have the liberty to design their own t-shirts or you will have a fixed range of designs to choose from?
  • Will you be targeting a niche within different age groups? For eg, Printed rock band t-shirts for teens or printed sport t-shirts for adults.
  • Will the fashion and quality of the printed t-shirts meet the current market trends?

Some extra tips to identify niche:

One of the basic steps is to start keyword research. You can use Google keyword planner for that.

  • Plug in some keywords related to your niche, add targeted countries and see which words and phrases get suggested. Further, narrow down the suggestions by monthly search volume, competition level, and suggested bid.
  • For search volume, go for 1K-10K per month. Any less than this probably means there’s not much room for it.
  • With competition you get ideas about your competitors, and with suggested big you can get the idea of a high level of commercial intent.

Set up for your t-shirt store with an added USP for customization. To know more, get in touch with our industry experts to know more.

Once the industry and market research is done, you need to write the business plan. While creating a custom printed t-shirt plan you need to mull over things like:

  • The mission of your company – which can involve offering high quality printed t-shirts at cost-effective prices
  • Will you create the basic templates and design or purchase pre-made designs?
  • Things to expect from yourself, management team and other staff members
  • Know where you will obtain your raw materials from. Will you have a fixed vendor or you will be buying plain t-shirts from a particular brand?
  • Create marketing ideas based on marketing analysis by making use of events, social media, fairs, conventions etc
  • Analyze the competition and know how will you make your brand stand out from other t-shirt companies
  • Gather supporting documents like design samples, vendor agreements and statistical analysis of t-shirt printing business
  • Obtain a license applicable to your location and type of business.

B. Consider the financial aspects

Before establishing a business like this, it is very important to have an idea as to what everything will cost you. If you are an entrepreneur who thinks in a long run, your financial strategy should include the following:

  1. Projected expenses and assumptions of fixed and varying costs
  2. Costs of investment
  3. Revenues goals and revenue resources
  4. Break-even analysis
  5. Business ratios including inventory turnover, accounts payable and debt ratio
  6. Monthly profit or loss figures
  7. Annual gross margin

The main expenses that you would want to add would be:

  • Printing
  • Bagging
  • Tagging
  • Labeling
  • Packing
  • Shipping
  • Tax

You can get printing quotes from different t-shirt printing firms so that you can compare prices and give the best deal, without compromising on the quality. Once you work out on the above aspects, it will help you to decide about the prices you should quote for your t-shirts.

You also need to know how long you can endure with your t-shirt printing business in case it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to.

C. Don’t make these mistakes

If you have a robust business plan, you will undergo each step of the planning process. There are times when startups or entrepreneurs handling one-man business think that there is no need to have a business plan. However, this is not the right approach. Make sure you do not make the following mistakes.

  1. Not indulging into market research or having a profit and loss projection
  2. Not branding your business enough (Will elaborate this more later in the post)
  3. Not establishing a professional brand image with logo, theme and mission
  4. Commencing business before knowing how to accept and fill shipping orders
  5. Opening an online store without integrating a web-to-print software
  6. Not having enough t-shirt design templates, colour options and cliparts
  7. Lack of knowledge about the working of web to print software and its maintenance
  8. Not checking the quality of final output (printed t-shirts)
  9. Not taking into account the challenges that any business must know how to cope with

Step 2: Decide on The eCommerce Solution for Your Web Store

The second most important thing to do is to know about the ecommerce platforms you will be using for your t-shirt printing e-store. Here, you have two options:

A. Choosing a Hosted Platform

Shopify and Bigcommerce are the biggest examples of hosted platforms. The biggest benefit of using these platforms is that they have a very low startup cost. You can purchase a store, upload the logo of your brand, pick the theme you like and start selling printed t-shirts on the platform.

Hosted platforms are ideal for start ups and will get you up and running. The only drawback with these platforms is that you can’t have an individual design of your choice and cannot add other customized elements to your store. However, you can choose out of different plans and have a great looking store.

B. Having a Self-hosted Platform

You can also have a custom developed Ecommerce solution for your business. Needless to say, it will let you have your own design, provide with the liberty of making custom edits, give limitless options pertaining to SEO and will enable you to add products and set prices at your convenience.

Expensive start up cost is a drawback here. So if you have enough funds and are confident about your business’s bright future, you can consider having a self-hosted platform.

Step 3: Purchase an Online Product Designer Tool

There is nothing better than investing into an advanced product designer tool when you are into the business of selling customized t-shirts. You can make your online store stand out from others and add a dash of personal touch by allowing your customers to design their own t-shirt.

(Feature-rich and Easy-to Use Product Design Tool By Brush Your Ideas)

Initially, you can purchase an online t-shirt design tool that fulfills the basic requirements of your customers. Thereafter, if your business is doing well, you can enhance your web-to-print software and add new features to it. As your loyal customer base would be established by then, adding new features will help you to boost your revenues.

There are several companies from which you can buy a web-to-print tool and integrate with your ecommerce store. If you have issues with configuration, the professionals also help setting up the entire store for you.

Step 4: Make your design tool feature-rich

While designing t-shirts, people love to experiment with colours, designs and templates. So make sure you add an ample amount of features to your tool and make it user-friendly. It will help you to win in the online t-shirt business.

You can provide ready-made quotes, clipart, texts and fonts of different styles, graphics etc. Features like masking effects, shadows and overlapping can also be added to make their designs look interesting.

One major thing you should not miss out on is the graphics part. Because this product is all about offering visually appealing products that your customers can easily create. Hence, whatever the budget is, make sure that your tool has the graphics your customers would love.

You can also decide whether your customers can design both the front and back of the t-shirt or not. Provide with the facility to save designs so your customers can come back and continue working on the same t-shirt design again. Moreover, having a 3D preview will help users get a clear idea of how their design looks and this will reduce the chances of purchase returns.

Step 5: Select the t-shirt printing method you will use

After you are sorted with designs, it’s time to print! There are four commonly followed ways of printing t-shirts. All the four methods have their benefits and pitfalls. So the success of production depends on the amount of time you are willing to spend on the production and the printing method you use. Let us study the 4 popular printing methods in detail along with their drawbacks.

A. Screen Printing

When it comes to printing t-shirts in bulk, screen printing is one of the most popularly used methods. It also provides consistent printing and long lasting imprints. When there are more than four or five colours involved, it gets a little complicated for screen printing machines. So in such a scenario, it might take more time to print.

Perfect for simple designs

Can prove to be expensive for printing multiple colours

Much More durable as compared to other methods

Takes more time with complicated designs

B. Heat transfer printing

This type of printing has been around for several years. Photocopy machines and laser printers work really well on the heat transfer phenomenon. It involves printing designs from your PC and transferring them with iron.

Heat transfer might prove to be a traditional method for handling a t-shirt printing business. This is because you have to print fast and in larger quantities.

Here’s a little brief about laser printers:

Laser printers are quite popular for providing prints that are quite long lasting and don’t get affected by wash. Also, the fabric retains its natural feel after it is printed. It doesn’t look like a design has been unnaturally embossed or printed on t-shirts.

If you want to have t-shirts that look professional and attractive, investing into a Laser printer would be a good thing to do. Plastisol transfer is the latest form of heat transfer. This kind of printing is implemented on high quality heat transfer paper.

You can order stacks or prints from a printer and apply them on the t-shirts as and when you receive orders for t-shirt printing. Through heat transfer, you will be able to print images quite quickly.

Easy to use even for those with no prior experience

Asks for a lot of time and undivided attention from the printer

Allows variety of colors and placements on a garment

Less durable as compared to screen printing and needs a lot of investment

C. Direct-to-garment printing

This printer works like an inkjet printer and that is why there are no additional costs involved. It can print multiple coloured images directly on the t-shirts with perfection.

The results obtained from direct-to-garment printing are as good as the ones obtained from screen printing. Needless to say, it is way better than the quality produced by heat transfers.

Here’s a little brief about Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are quite cost-effective as compared to laser printers. Also, they give a bright and vibrant output. If you can accept a little less professional edge for low costs and brighter colour, Inkjet printer might be your way to go. The only drawback of this kind of printer is that their ink is a little expensive.

Quick Turnaround time

Not advisable for bulk production

Gives vibrant and intricate designs

Difficult to give volume discounts

D. Embroidered printing

It is an ancient printing technique whose origins go back to the 5th century BC. Embroidered printing is one of the most unconventional ways of printing. This is because unlike other printing methods, it uses a sewing machine that sews the design in the t-shirt.

Lots of polo t-shirts are printed using this method. Embroidery printing is also used to create corporate t-shirts.

This kind of printing is still preferred by many as the design looks quite original, professional and elegant when printed on the t-shirt. It also lasts quite long and doesn’t come off easily.

Screen printing is durable

Difficult to learn, and requires additional labour for large volumes

Gives a professional finish

Difficult to implement the embroidery of intricate and minute design

Need help in setting up your store with a t-shirt designer tool? Visit the tool page to know more about it. You can also get in touch with our technical team to know everything about it.

Step 6: Select the right t-shirt supplier

Once you have decided to venture into the T-shirt printing business, you need to buy blank T-shirts for printing. Do a little bit of research and find out about a manufacturer who can provide you with good quality blank t-shirts for printing.

Garment distributors also help the new business owners to go through different T-shirt options to find the t-shirts within their price range. After a couple of orders and production, you will be able to decide on the price points and other factors for your t-shirts.

Here are a couple of things you should remember:

  • The quality of the product. If a pattern fades or cracks, or a t- shirt shrinks, or rips, fans won’t come back for repurchase.
  • Focus on the material of the blanket-shirt, printing technique, and prepare your design file.

Make sure you maintain a good relationship with your supplier as you lose time and money from your production schedule with every imperfect shirt.

Think about the physical characteristics of the material you will use to print. T-shirt designs have to be printed on one of the three sizes. (Small, medium and large).

The design should be such that it fits to the centre of the t-shirts and should not cross to the collar, sleeves or hem. So if the design is created at different places on the t-shirt, it should remain abstract and not get affected by these variables.

There is a huge variety of ink available in the market. These include high density ink (meant for textured and dimensional look), gel ink (which is thick and rubbery) and foil ink (meant for shiny embossing). You can choose the one which is most compatible with your fabric and goes with your customer requirements.

Step 7. Set Up The Printing Infrastructure

Once you are done deciding the type of printing method and t-shirt printing material, you need to set up a printing infrastructure or a facility wherein printing can take place without any glitches.

It is advisable to have a printing studio which is equipped with well-maintained printers along with a coating and a finishing unit.

Also, the printer should be able to print a number of designs on different quality fabrics. This is because the customers who demand for printed t-shirts also might demand for customized caps, bags, jerseys etc. Here’s how you should go about the printing process:

  • Decide on the colour schemes: If you decide on your color palette first, you can take care of the details which are overlooked by the time it is too late. When working on an apparel order from scratch, it doesn’t matter whether you pick the garment first or the ink. But there definitely is a link between the two which will be visible in the final print. So you can simulate different inks and check garment color combinations by making mock-ups designs.
  • Save a copy for yourself and another for print: Once you have received the final design from your customers, you need to save an editable file for yourself, so that changes can be made later if need be. If there are issues in your printer due to the size or resolution of the file, you might have to go back and make changes or ask your customer to do the same. In a worst case scenario, they might have to start from scratch.
  • Print the t-shirt: Last but not the least, you can print the t-shirt using whichever method you are comfortable with using the printer of your choice. It is better to hire professionals to do the job if you are not comfortable with the printing process. After printing the t-shirt you have to cure the garment and set the ink in the tshirts to ensure maximum washability.

Step 8: Set Up Logistics Infrastructure

Once the t-shirt order is placed by your customers, it has to be delivered to them on time. You can ensure a smooth delivery process in 3 ways:

  1. You can take care of your orders independently with the help of your team and labour force.
  2. Sell your product through the drop-shipper who can take care of your orders.
  3. Liaise with a logistics company that can take care of your warehousing and fulfillment.

There are several advantages of packing and shipping your own t-shirt orders as it is cost-effective and flexible. So the companies that have just started with their business often choose to take care of their own logistics.

However, if your business flourishes and you have money to outsource, you can opt for third-party warehousing. You will be able to find several companies who will take care of storage, packing and shipping of your orders.

Step 9: Launch Your Store

Last but not the least, you can finally start selling some t-shirts! Invite your customers to unleash their creativity and encourage them to draw the designs to the best of their abilities. Ensure that the designer tool is user friendly and the checkout process is simple. This will lessen the number of cart abandonments. Print the right designs on the right t-shirts and bring a satisfactory smile on the face of your customers.

If you are serious about setting up an online t-shirt printing store, you don’t have to have the knowledge of programming or coding. All you need as an artistic streak and a good sense of fashion. Also, with a business like this, you can start with limited supplies, funding and equipment. There are several companies out there that can provide you with a ready made set up for your online t-shirt printing business. Are you ready to print?

Step 10: Marketing Your Store

Start marketing about your upcoming businesses through flyers, pamphlets and business cards. Hand them out to nearest organizations, businesses and schools.

  • Word of mouth promotion is also very important if you want the message about your printing business to spread amongst the locals.
  • The right branding can establish your business as a trustworthy leader in your space. For that your logo and website will often be the first thing new customers browse for T-shirts. Hence, make sure to make a good impression.
  • Wear your merchandise and step out. Click pictures, talk to people and put them on instagram. It makes a lot of difference.
  • You can also give away printed t-shirts bearing the logo of your company. Don’t be hesitant to sponsor events, give online ads and use other paid marketing tactics.
  • Conduct online polls and surveys on these channels and post consistently to get people to follow you.

Enable t-shirt customization in your store to attract and engage your customers for 2X business growth! Understand how it works for your business here.

To Conclude

According to the latest statistics, eCommerce sales are likely to surpass $740 billion by 2023. With more businesses getting online, competition is getting stiffer.

Even though following the above steps will ensure you are doing everything right with your t-shirt business. But they do not guarantee success.

To stay ahead of others, you have to take all your business constraints into consideration – get the right vendors for web-to-print software, printing machines and t-shirts. You will also have to figure out the most cost effective way to get the t-shirts printed and delivered to your customers. And once all those are in place you have to figure out a winning marketing strategy to get more traffic. But if you do all these right, then there’s no stopping you from achieving success.

All product and company names are trademarks™, registered® or copyright© trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

Maulik Shah

After the huge success of Biztech’s other products, founder Maulik Shah ventured out to make a web-to-print software solution, and thus, Brush Your Ideas was born. His visionary ideas and innovative power have always been the cornerstone of the success of the company at every step. Maulik enjoys bird watching, playing cricket and is an avid reader.