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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Im looking to start a t-shirt company and wanted some input on what is the highest quality process in printing onto a shirt? I have been doing research on screen printing and it seems like its the way to go? If this is right could anyone provide the best machine to get which is suitable to operate in home and in around $1000 USD? Thanks for your input!

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$1000 is a bit of a tight budget to set up from start to finish.

I'm sure others will have some decent input too, but here's a direction to start.

1) Make a DIY 1 Color 1 Station Press - Or Single Station DIY Line Press
Search those terms here to find what I'm talking about, and threads with how-to's

2) Buy a suitable screen (20"x24" is common for general use)
Wood or Aluminum, determined by type of 'press' and budget

3) You will need a light source for exposing.
I think the cheapest method is a halogen work lamp.
You will need to make a frame, and get some glass.
Look em up.. you'll see

4) You will need some means of printing your film positives.
If you don't have a suitable printer, you can hire out the work for each film. (Locally here it is $25 setup and $13 per film, even if different designs)

5) You will need chemicals and supplies:
Emulsion, Ink, Squeegee, Scoop Coater, Spray Bottles, Sponges, Etc Etc Etc

6) If working with Plastisol and most other inks, you will need some means of curing the shirts.
Cheapest (But god forsakingly slow) method is a heat gun.
It is tedious, and hard to get consistent temp, but can work.
Another reasonable method is a Flash Dryer... Used as low as $100
I highly recommend a Infrared Thermometer for checking shirt temp to ensure cure.. as cheap as $15.40 shipped to US on Amazon

I'm sure you can get all set up for $1000, but it is going to take a lot of research and hustle, and learning curve.

All the info you need can be found on this forum.

So now that you have some terminology and direction.... research research research research.

As a point of reference tho... if you watch Craigslist... in most parts of the country you can score a pretty good 4/1, 4/4, 6/1, or 6/4 for a great price... if you're patient.

I got a nice 6/1 for $450
I got a killer exposure unit with vacuum lid for $110 *Freak occurrence at that price tho)
I got a nice flash dryer for $100 (New was $450)
I got nice used aluminum frame screens, like new (Though I did have to reclaim them all) for $4 each, but I did buy 30 to get that price
I got a bunch of good used inks (About $500-600 worth) for $125
I got a bunch of cleaning chemicals for $40 (About $150 worth)
I got a great Epson R2200 inkjet printer with 14 extra cartridges, for $225
I bought a roll of film for $89
I bought a gallon of emulsion for $48

the rest was nickel and dime stuff.... probably a couple hundred bucks in stuff from spray bottles to sponges to scoop coaters to whatever.... but add up what I paid for that stuff... about $1500

So.. I would say if you are serious.... take your time setting up.... watch for deals, and get nice stuff....

That or build yourself a wicked line setup. Some dudes are doin crazy production with those.... I wouldn't dog em one bit.

Options options options.


end long intense over dramatic run on sentence rediculous post

good luck

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the "end long intense over dramatic run on sentence ridiculous post," seriously a lot of good information and your right I just need to do more research, research, research. I was just browsing on here and was looking at heat press machines and a 16 x 24, a nice epson printer, and a starter kit with some transfer paper goes for around $1000. What do you think about this route? I primarily want to put pictures that I take on tank tops/shirts. So heat press might be the way to go for this process. Thanks again for everything!

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So are you talking about inkjet printing heat transfers?
Or are you trying to screen print?

I know I will be hated and flamed for this, but even tho I am new to printing on my own... I have dealt with printed merchandise for 14 years (I know that is nothing compared to some here)... and in my experience... I have never seen a heat transfer from a laser or inkjet hold up like a screen print. Ever.

I know technology has come a long way, but still.... even the new transfers I have seen do not hold up to regular wash and dry.
(But I will say, I have no experience with vinyl transfers, so I cannot speak to those)

I have shirts I did in 2003 that have been through 100's of wash/dry cycles and they are still 100% intact. Screen printed.

Transfers work. Just depends on what you want.

You said a heat press, and a 16" x 24"... not sure what you mean by the size.... ???

A heat press can be used to cure, yes. I forgot to mention.

It is not a bad method really.... I am actually gonna grab a shirt press very soon...
I want it for a lot of things, but in doing shirts, where I can cure with my dryer... I can opt to cure with the press, and depending on what I use to top it, like a teflon sheet, or baking paper, and when I pull (hot or cold), I can get a shiny print, matte print, even an orange peel. That is some insane versatility that you can't accurately control with a dryer. Not that it is better than a dryer, just good for it's intended purpose, should it suit your purpose.

So many options.

Sounds like you have a decent handle on where to go, but when you are talking about something like this, I would say double your figure and dive in ;) it's a forever, never ending cycle of madness once you get in.

Just like automotive/hotrods/boats... women, or the crazy relationship with THAT one, music, radio control, bands, art, computers, a house, whatever the hobby... anything....

But maybe that's just my OCD

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Yes that would the way to go especially with photos. But this will limit you to white or very light colors

Screen printing photos will take a lot practice and good equipment. So now knowing your plans I'd say $1000 wouldn't come close for screen printing.

You can definitely get started hith heat transfers or under $1000.

Heat transfers won't hold up no where as good as screen printing.

I started 6 years ago with heat transfers and quickly learned this and now have a shop full of screen printing equipment

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Yes that would the way to go especially with photos. But this will limit you to white or very light colors

You've seen some of the new transfers right? (I guess I don't know HOW new they are.... new to me, but I'm just back in)

I don't know a TON about them, but from what I see, pretty much any decent standard inkjet can print them, then you trim, and THEY TRANSFER THE WHITE

The pain in the arss is trimming... Say you have an intricate design.... what a pain to cut by hand... (Unless you have a $1000+ plotter/cutter)

But doing photos.... if he's cutting rectangles.... with a good slide style manual hobby cutter (cheap).... couldn't he use those and be successful?????

Then he could transfer to black if he wanted to.


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Yes but I have a cheap US Cutter laser point won it on a bid on eBay about $300 new the software that came with it sign blazer will only work in trial and the contour cut wouldn't work. Sadly the developer has passed. I found a way around the trial and the contour works perfectly.

There is actually some good papers out there for lights and darks. I did a picture of my daughter on a dark shirt for a friend of hers that moved away 2 years ago and she sent a pic at Christmas wearing the shirt and I was actually amazed how good it looked. Every year I do a run of shirts with light transpaper on ash and a light tan shirts. So yea he could be successful with a epson WF1100 or 1400 with cobra pigment inks or other high quality pigment ink. I use a carrier sheet to contour cut my light transfers. When I first started I used hobby scissors (they have tons of diffrent sissors)to cut different borders or carefully cut around image with standard sissors. Exacto knife. I made enough money to buy most of my screen printing equipment and every day there's a new paper out that works better.
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