One of the most frequent inquiries we encounter is, “I want to start from scratch with t-shirt transfer printing, what equipment should I purchase?” Although providing an immediate answer is challenging, by asking a few counter questions, we can guide you towards the ideal combination of devices for you 🙂 Primarily, we’ll divide this article into two parts. The introductory section will cover the transfer printing techniques essential for starting t-shirt printing, followed by advice on selecting machines based on your budget.

We recommend two different techniques for beginning with t-shirt printing: DTF and Textile Foil

Even though we have presented various techniques in our previous videos or articles, at this point in technology’s evolution, we focus exclusively on two distinct techniques. The first is DTF printing technique. With DTF, you can produce incredibly high-quality images. The second technique employs textile foil for transfer printing. Although you cannot print pictures with foil, using different foils allows you to create unique textures and effects with vector printing. Let us delve a bit deeper into these two techniques for you.

What is DTF Transfer Printing Technique?

We already have an article solely dedicated to DTF. You can read this article by clicking here. Let us briefly summarize this technique for you once more here. DTF stands for “direct to film”. Using a DTF printer, you first print on a special DTF film, then powder and cure the film before transferring it onto a t-shirt or fabric. You need a transfer press for the transfer process. The printers we offer for DTF printing are capable of producing very high-quality photographic prints, thus allowing for incredibly detailed and high-quality image printing. Whether it’s photos or tiny, highly detailed logos, DTF can handle it without any issues. However, DTF’s only two shortcomings are its inability to print special textures (like velvet texture, metallic, glossy, etc.) and a somewhat high investment cost if you’re starting with a low budget.

What is Textile Foil (Flex/Flock) Transfer Printing?

Textile foil, unlike regular foils, contains a special “hotmelt” adhesive that activates with heat. These foils are cut using a cutter plotter device, then transferred to the fabric or t-shirt using a transfer press. The hotmelt layer melts under heat and pressure, integrates into the fabric’s texture, and becomes durable for washing once cooled. Our YouTube channel hosts several videos related to textile foil. We’ve gathered them in a playlist for you, which you can view by clicking here.

Generally, using textile foil is quite straightforward. The main challenge with this technique is that it cannot directly print images. Textile foils come in various colors and textures. For example, if you wish to print a red velvet textured Printec logo on a black t-shirt, you would place the red flock textile foil in the plotter device and have the Printec logo cut out. After cutting, you weed out the excess parts, flip it, and then transfer it onto fabric using a press. For high volumes, weeding can be labor-intensive and time-consuming, factoring into the cost calculation.

However, when you want to transfer images, indirect printing on textile foils is also possible. With a technique known as print and cut, after printing on the foils, the surroundings are cut out with a cutter plotter, leaving the opaque part to be transferred onto the fabric with a carrier. There are different print and cut textile foils for various printers, but none can match the quality and outcome of DTF.

How should I select machines for t-shirt printing according to my budget?

Several criteria determine this selection. Firstly, of course, your budget, and secondly, the types of jobs you want to undertake. If you’re starting with a very low budget, you might decide to postpone picture printing and start with just foil. Or even if your budget is high, if you’re not planning to print images, you could begin with foil without using DTF. We’ve prepared a few examples by dividing budgets into Low, Medium, and High categories.

How to start a t-shirt printing business with a low budget?

If you have a low budget, as previously mentioned, we recommend a combination of a cutting plotter device and a transfer press. Of course, plotters have different models, but with a limited budget, we specifically recommend these two models:

Printec CRAFT is a small, fast, and practical desktop cutting plotter device. Textile foils typically come in 50cm widths, so you can’t directly feed them into the CRAFT. However, by manually slicing and, for example, cutting them into sheets of 30cm x 50cm, you can still use it. Alternatively, by paying a little more, you can also opt for a standing roll cutter that can more efficiently cut roll textile foils.

Printec standing cutters are sold in two series, with or without cameras, and in three different sizes. The most cost-effective 74cm model should adequately serve your needs for textile foil. The wider 130cm and 160cm models are more commonly used in the outdoor advertising industry.

For the transfer press, if you’re on a tight budget, we immediately recommend the Printec Economic Transfer Press. With a 29cm x 38cm resistance size, you can handle nearly all t-shirt prints in one go.

What devices are needed for starting a t-shirt transfer printing business with a medium-sized budget?

If you have a slightly higher budget and your initial production volumes are not very high, we suggest acquiring three devices. Firstly, a ProDESK or ProDESK Mini desktop DTF Printer for photo prints or prints that require weeding would be a wise choice.

The second device, a 74cm standing cutter plotter, allows you to cut any type of textile foil.

And of course, a transfer press is indispensable. If you can afford it and your volumes are not very high, the Printec Premium Transfer Press would be ideal for you.

What equipment is required to start a t-shirt transfer printing business with a high budget?

If you’re not limited by resources and seek fast, high-quality equipment for long-term use, we have three device recommendations for you. Our first suggestion is the Pro60 standing 60cm roll dtf printer. You can combine this printer with the ProShaker60 automatic powdering and curing unit. This combination results in ready-to-transfer printed, powdered, and cured roll material for direct t-shirt transfer printing. You can watch our introduction video for these two devices below:

Our second recommendation is the Printec DUO laser + blade dual-headed roll cutter plotter, which can easily handle cutting all types of textile foils and also dewebsp printed roll DTF film. The laser cutting feature of this device makes cutting detailed and fine flok (flock) velvet textured textile foils or 3D rubber textile foils a breeze. You can find our introduction video for this device below:

And for the must-have transfer press in starting t-shirt printing, we recommend the Printec Pneumatic series. While it requires a higher initial investment, you get a very fast, durable, and industrial transfer press. The Pneumatic series operates with a compressor, applying pressure at your set bar value. With its swinging head, you can prepare on one side while pressing on the other, significantly speeding up production.