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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello knowledgeable t-shirt people!

I've been looking into heat transfers, and getting myself a press (probably a starter Stahls) to make shirts from my paintings. I make text-based art, and I think digitally printing and then heat pressing would let me keep the texture and detail from the original paintings that I've lost in the past when I've made art into flat digital drawings and gotten them screen printed.

You can see a few of the paintings I'd make into shirts here:
Assumption Dog - Original Watercolour Painting (apologies for the strong language)

I'd want the white backgrounds to be transparent. So since they're such intricate designs with all the text, I'd need "weedless" transfer paper, correct?

I have a large format Epson fine art printer, but it's an inkjet printer. And tho there's lots of inkjet transfer paper, transparent/weedless inkjet paper doesn't appear to exist. So would I need to invest in a laser printer as well? Does weedless transfer paper work as well as regular transfer paper anyway? Is there some other solution I'm not seeing due to being a noob?

What would you do if you wanted to keep the painterly detail, and wanted to make your own shirts instead of outsourcing?

Thank you so much!
 

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welcome aboard!
i grew up in cowtown

i would not call your art 'text-based', that might throw some people off, it is full-color art with some textual elements
and this is the rub, you want full color art on probably tee colors from white to black

and you also want the feel of a painting, laser transfers will give you a flat plasticky feeling decoration (not what you probably want)

i would recommend you look into air-brushing
they last forever, easy to learn for an artist used to paint, you can control density and depth of colors, and cheap to start with for equipment
some key selling features are eco-friendly north american water-based paints, each t-shirt is a signed original piece of art

barring that, you could get plastisol transfers from versatranz (they ship to canada)
it is pricey for full color, but if you order more the price drops dramatically and makes sense for people that have set designs (i.e. not one-offs)
although this will not give you the feeling of brush-stroke, it does have a nice acrylic paint-like texture
they will send you free samples to feel, pm our member danversatrans

i am still in canuckistan, so if you need any help with suppliers or anything else let me know
 

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Hi, nice art.

There isn't really an affordable DIY-scale retail quality and dependable non-fussy way to print that sort of thing on anything other than white polyester (dye sublimation printing). A lot of people (including me) don't like 100% poly shirts, so this often isn't a realistic option either. But if it is, all you need is an Epson EcoTank printer that prints at least as wide as the transfers you want to make, third-party sublimation ink, and a heat press. And, no, it is not even remotely practical to constantly switch back and forth between sublimation and regular inks in one printer (and using sublimation ink will likely kill the printer much sooner than normal use would have, whether used much or not).

As into the T mentioned, you could outsource the printing of transfers and then heat press them to a specific size/color/style garment as orders came in. That avoids getting stuck with a dozen Small, Men's, Blue shirts with the Assumption (I like it :cool: ) design that never sell. You still have to buy a certain quantity of a given design on a transfer to obtain a decent price point, but less costly and more flexible than holding stock of preprinted garments.

Print On Demand (POD) is another angle. You could use a POD service like Printful or Printify or Custom Cat that would print and ship (directly to your customer) each item as orders came in. However, quality tends to be variable, and out of your hands altogether.

We would all like to have the unicorn 🦄, but no confirmed sightings as of yet.
 

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I make text-based art, and I think digitally printing and then heat pressing would let me keep the texture and detail from the original paintings that I've lost in the past when I've made art into flat digital drawings and gotten them screen printed.
Preserving all these gradients can be done with screen printing but will require 8-10 colors/screens which is expensive when printing low volume.
New technology has solved this issue... more details below.

I have a large format Epson fine art printer, but it's an inkjet printer. And tho there's lots of inkjet transfer paper, transparent/weedless inkjet paper doesn't appear to exist. So would I need to invest in a laser printer as well? Does weedless transfer paper work as well as regular transfer paper anyway? Is there some other solution I'm not seeing due to being a noob?
I advise against doing this.
Using Inkjet/laser transfers will damage your reputation.


Print On Demand (POD) is another angle. You could use a POD service like Printful or Printify or Custom Cat that would print and ship (directly to your customer) each item as orders came in. However, quality tends to be variable, and out of your hands altogether.
I agree with this.
The other issue I have with drop-shipping POD shirts is the presentation/quality perception.
Poly-bag packaging looks awful and the shirts may need washing and ironing before wearing.
Some people do wash new shirts before wearing them anyway, but not everyone does, and perception/first impression is very important as well.

What would you do if you wanted to keep the painterly detail, and wanted to make your own shirts instead of outsourcing?
Screen+ digital.
Option 1: Do it yourself.
You can do this with any DTG printer, but you will have to make your own registration brackets.

Option 2: Outsource it.
Same method but with automated industrial equipment
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
i would recommend you look into air-brushing
they last forever, easy to learn for an artist used to paint, you can control density and depth of colors, and cheap to start with for equipment
some key selling features are eco-friendly north american water-based paints, each t-shirt is a signed original piece of art
Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! I've never thought about airbrushing, and was hoping to offer a reproduction with a low price point. But something to think about down the road.


barring that, you could get plastisol transfers from versatranz (they ship to canada)
it is pricey for full color, but if you order more the price drops dramatically and makes sense for people that have set designs (i.e. not one-offs)
although this will not give you the feeling of brush-stroke, it does have a nice acrylic paint-like texture
they will send you free samples to feel, pm our member danversatrans
Yeah, I definitely want the freedom to make super small runs of some shirts, large runs of others, like having my own fine art printer allows me to do with prints. I think the versatranz transfers would price the shirts too high overall at the quantities I'd likely be doing for most shirts. But I'll still be bookmarking that site just in case!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hi, nice art.

There isn't really an affordable DIY-scale retail quality and dependable non-fussy way to print that sort of thing on anything other than white polyester (dye sublimation printing). A lot of people (including me) don't like 100% poly shirts, so this often isn't a realistic option either. But if it is, all you need is an Epson EcoTank printer that prints at least as wide as the transfers you want to make, third-party sublimation ink, and a heat press. And, no, it is not even remotely practical to constantly switch back and forth between sublimation and regular inks in one printer (and using sublimation ink will likely kill the printer much sooner than normal use would have, whether used much or not).
Thanks for your response! Lots to think about. My existing printer is already large format and could totally do this, but I'm right there with you on the polyester for sublimation. Just too cringe, as the kids say.


Print On Demand (POD) is another angle. You could use a POD service like Printful or Printify or Custom Cat that would print and ship (directly to your customer) each item as orders came in. However, quality tends to be variable, and out of your hands altogether.
I've messed with a bit of POD, and the margins are soooooo low for the potentially janky quality, and lack of personal touches in shipments. I think POD would be my last choice, tho some of the different models like Everpress are compelling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I advise against doing this.
Using Inkjet/laser transfers will damage your reputation.
Thanks so much for this reply! I'm not toooo worried about my reputation? I make fairly scrappy art, so a scrappy t-shirt isn't the biggest deal.

For comparison, I've been looking at shirts like these, among others:


And it's kind of the vibe I'm going for. I'm not sure what technique they're using, but to me it has the feel of something quick and easy? But maybe I'm way off, which could be the case. I mean my fine art prints are high quality and fully archival, and they are completely ridiculous, so I guess you never know.


I agree with this.
The other issue I have with drop-shipping POD shirts is the presentation/quality perception.
Poly-bag packaging looks awful and the shirts may need washing and ironing before wearing.
Some people do wash new shirts before wearing them anyway, but not everyone does, and perception/first impression is very important as well.
Yeah, 100% with you on the POD presentation. Plus I like being able to throw in free items, something with my website and social media on it (not Society 6 or whatever) and a personal note with my orders, along with being able to quality control items.


Screen+ digital.
Option 1: Do it yourself.
You can do this with any DTG printer, but you will have to make your own registration brackets.

Option 2: Outsource it.
Same method but with automated industrial equipment
Ok these are miles above my pay grade, but frikkin fascinating to learn about! Thank you for sharing!
 

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Thanks so much for this reply! I'm not toooo worried about my reputation? I make fairly scrappy art, so a scrappy t-shirt isn't the biggest deal.
You should, because reputation is valuable.


I'm not sure what technique they're using, but to me it has the feel of something quick and easy?
Outerwear Textile Sleeve Cartoon Font

This looks like screen-printing or DTG to me. Most likely the latter.


Ok these are miles above my pay grade, but frikkin fascinating to learn about! Thank you for sharing!
You don't have to do it yourself.
You just have to find a print shop with this type of equipment.
 

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Direct to Film (DTF) printing is the answer. You could make a DIY printer conversion from an epson printer (at least 6 ink cartridges), or purchase prints from one of the commercial printers printing and selling transfers. I have made t-shirts from some of mopey grand children’s art as well as printed some digital art for clients. I would shy away from laser, it’s quite expensive for equipment and may not last as long. DTG, as mentioned would work, when I had a DTG printer I printed shirts for a local artist, but have since transitioned to DTF.
order some test prints (but you will need a decent heat press. DTF transfers can be applied to any fabric, any color, as well as koozies, mouse pads, bags, leather, blue jeans, hats, etc.
 
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