How to Get Designs Printed on T-Shirts

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Screen printing on T-shirts creates a dynamic, durable, beautiful print. Digital Imaging on T-shirts is good for short run, full color T-shirts, or for exact reproductions of photos and color illustrations. For decades, most designs have been printed on T-shirts using screen printing, but digital imaging technology has improved and is a viable alternative.

Things You'll Need

  • Graphic in a digital imaging or illustration file
  • Choose or create your design. You can use photographs, illustration and typography, or any combination thereof. If you have a drawing or photograph on paper, you can scan it into your computer and import it into the program in which you will execute your design. Designs could be a digital file created in a program such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Openoffice.org Draw and others. Photoshop is an image editing program and is capable of creating graphics. Illustrator is a vector-based illustration program.

  • Play with the layout of the elements in your design. Try sizing them in different proportions to each other until you achieve an effect that is pleasing to your eye. T-shirt designs may be sized up to about 13 inches wide by 14 inches deep. Most designs are more like 11 inches across by 11 inches deep or smaller. Save the final version of your design file. Print out your design on paper to proof it. Your design may be larger than a letter size sheet, so you can save a reduced version of your design and name it "proof." When you are finished, save the file to a disk.

  • Consider your options for printing. Will your T-shirt be printed using screen printing or digital imaging? Most one or two color designs are produced with screen printing. Full-color designs are usually screen printed on runs of more than 100 shirts. White ink, or light ink, on black shirts are usually screen printed. Small full-color runs, especially with photographs, are best produced with digital imaging. If you are doing digital imaging on black or dark shirts, be sure to see samples first as this is a cutting-edge job and some very good digital imagers can only do white or light shirts.

  • Check prices and quality with at least three shops. You will need your design, and a printout of your design. You will need to know what color shirt you plan to use, also shirt style, quantity and sizes. If you have a budget in mind, you can ask how many shirts may be printed for that amount. It is best to visit the shop in person to check the quality of the printer's work. Sometimes the low quote comes from the shop with poor quality.

  • Choose a shop and order your shirts. Most shops will want a 50 percent down payment on the shirts, with the balance due upon delivery. If you are running more than one shirt, be sure to ask to see a proof of the shirt first. Do not approve the run until you are satisfied with the quality of the print.

Tips & Warnings

  • When scanning photos or illustration elements for your design, be sure to scan at 300 pixels per inch (PPI) or higher for best results. The same is true for any existing image file you import. Lower resolution can make for interesting visual effects, and may be appropriate for some designs.
  • Do not incorporate copyrighted images into your design.

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