start tshirt business
May 13, 2020

What Do I Need to Do to Start a T-Shirt Printing Business?

By Brennan Price

Literally, everyone owns at least a handful of t-shirts. It is something none of us can do without.

And essential to every outfit, almost everyone has a t-shirt for different occasions or purposes, be it for work, for home or for leisure. There is a pretty big market for t-shirts.

However, it is quite saturated.

That being said, the entry requirements are not that high. It is even lower now with the advent of so many e-commerce sites. You do not explicitly need a garment manufacturing plant to make and sell your own t-shirts.

Where to Begin?

Surprised with that last line? Well, what if we told you that all you really need is a good design, some marketing and branding, and the willingness to put in a few odd hours? Read right on.

Designing Your Own T-shirt

design tshirt

An overwhelming majority of these t-shirt manufacturers struggled at first to get their products across to the masses. You have guessed it right. The inadequacy or lack thereof of a proper design.

It sounds like an easy concept to grasp, and it is in most cases, but the caveat is that the absence of a proper design will increase your sales.

Of course, it is a little difficult to know which design will resonate with the masses. This is why we always recommend starting out with a niche. Do a little research. What sort of niche has the most followers? Which niche is region dependent? Identify and act based on your findings.

For example, we see a good number of people wearing food-design t-shirts around Chicago. You could cater something to that demand. Whatever you do, make sure you design your own or hiring a designer. Do not use copyrighted content on your t-shirts.

Testing Your New Design

So, you have identified your niche and built up an appropriate design or a portfolio of designs. Before proceeding any further, you must determine whether your design appeals to that niche. Thus, you find some members of that niche and ask for their feedback on your designs.

This step can also be called target group research. Remember, you do not ask just for the design. You also ask for things like the colors they would like to see, t-shirt quality, and lastly, the price they would be willing to pay for that t-shirt.

Start Writing Your Business Plant

Like we discussed earlier, the idea behind selling a t-shirt is simple enough but has its pitfalls. And thus, to overcome those pitfalls, you need a fine-tuned business plan. Without a proper business plan, you will be raking up unnecessary expenses and see dwindling profit margins.

Come up with a Business Name

Here is where the fun begins. You can all go about and start selling t-shirts. The whole process will take a few hours max. But since you plan to make it an actual source of income, you should think up a name for your business. The name reflects who you are, what you stand for, and of course, your products.

And the name should have the ability to expand your product line. You probably will start out by selling through another platform, such as a t-shirt printing company, but later down the line, you would want your own website. Thus, you need to plan ahead for a domain name as well.

Legalize Your Business

The legality of the business starts the second you decide to set up shop. Setting business structure, acquiring licenses & permits are all part of setting up your own business.

For example, applying for a sales tax permit is important if you sell t-shirts through your business website, but can be forgone if you sell through a service portal.

Copyright or Design Protection

Remember when we said to make sure that we do not use copyrighted content on our t-shirts? The same applies here. You do not want others to make your design their own without permission, so you should seek trademark or copyright protection for your logos, designs, etc.

Pricing Your T-Shirt

Now you do some research. You look up different t-shirt offerings, infer their pricing, and whatnot. You also look for options to create your own custom t-shirts. The price you pay will depend on factors such as shirt size, the number of colors, printing type, etc. These are just a few examples of what you would call your costs.

So, you price your t-shirts so that they cover all your costs, including marketing and other business-related costs, also keeping in mind what your customers would be willing to pay for the t-shirt.

Selecting Your Printer (Or Printing Store)

There is a myriad of options to choose from, both printing services and methods. For our article, we are going to take a look at the different printing methods you can employ rather than the services.

  • Screen Printing

We start off our methods with the most common, the screen printing method. This is essentially employed for more vibrant designs, which are brought to life using screens or stencils. The printers paste ink layers on your t-shirt, applying different colored inks using different stencils.

And we recommend this for bulk printing, and if your design makes use of five or fewer different colors.

  • Heat Press
best heat press machine
Getting the best heat press machine saves you time!

Now we come to a method that you can opt to do yourself, but that means investing in a printing setup. The image is printed out on a transfer paper first and is then cut out. You place the cutout on a t-shirt. And the then heat press machine presses the cutout into the t-shirt using high heat.

The transfer paper melts into the fibers of the t-shirt while the image remains intact. And the process is so simple that we recommend investing in one of these bad boys later down the line to have more control over production. has listed down some of the best heat presses you ought to look into.

  • Direct to Garment

Now we come to your cheapest option, the direct to garment method for printing. The ink is transferred directly onto your t-shirt without implementing any other medium using a specialized inkjet printer.

And the printer, using specialized ink, transfers directly onto your t-shirt. This method is recommended for small scale orders.

Marketing Your T-Shirt

You have mostly already done some market research when you searched for and identified your niche. Now it is time to sell your t-shirts. You employ marketing tactics, both online and offline (if necessary). E-commerce and social media sites are usually a good place to start.


And cut! We have reached the end of our article. And we have covered all the basics of starting a t-shirt printing business.

Remember, the market itself is very saturated and highly competitive. But the cost of entry is quite low, and to succeed, remember that you must be unique, both in design and in your business model. Happy printing!