From design to print, putting your art on shirts
Putting your art on a t-shirt isn’t as hard as you think.
I’ve had a number of people ask me over the last several weeks in coffee shops, ‘how did you do it?’ It might be a little bit easier for me in some ways because I’m a stones throw from the fashion district in Los Angeles, but, anyone can do it. No matter where, it’s easy.
There are so many different pathways you can take once you’ve decided you want to put your design on something you can wear so I’ll keep things basic.
Print on demand
Print on demand is exactly what it sounds like. You go to a site like www.printify.com, www.printful.com, or www.redbubble.com, make an account, upload your design, and print it however you like. There is usually a large selection of clothing you can print to, even on to other kinds of merchandise like mugs, pillow cases, and phone cases. How it works is that these companies have special kinds of printers that literally print on to clothing.
Print on demand is great to test out a design, print something in small quantities that has a lot of different colors, or, if you want to run a drop-shipping site and don’t want to keep an inventory. It’s a really simple process and all the sites have in-depth tutorials/FAQS if you’re not sure what to do. There is not question you have that hasn’t already been answered.
As for prices, it really depends on what you’re printing. The sites I’ve used have always been easy to understand and up front about all the costs. I think the lowest I've seen to print a shirt was $13.
The biggest thing is finding a print on demand site you like. There are plenty of reviews out there and, in my experience you really have to stray far from the beaten path to find a bad one. It’s more about what brands to print on that each site has, and what you can print on that people use to decide.
Screen printing is both simple and complex. For a lot of creatives this is the go-to if they’re looking to do medium to large runs of designs so that they can have stock to sell. Think band shirts, coffee shop stuff, artist designs like mine... Each color requires a different screen, and there are usually minimums (usually 25) on how many you have to order. But, don’t be intimidated.
There are several ways they can be printed, bunches of different kinds of inks, different types of shirts, and, well, lots of seemingly complicated stuff. You can get lost in the details if you want to, but, you don’t have to.
Trust me, it is way easier than you think, and, whomever you find to print will help take you through the process. Also, most good printers will have a lot of pages explaining everything. If you’ve got a design, money, and a desire to print, these places will be very helpful. If not, find one that is.
The cost run-down is pretty simple. They have a fee for making the screen(s), a cost for the shirt, and for printing on each shirt (you can have more than just one big piece on the front or back, and the cost to do other stuff isn’t huge). If you’re doing multiple colors they charge for color switches and for the multiple screens, but, fear not, they will take you through the whole process. It’s not crazy expensive either. That was my first hang up. For my first run of custom shirts the per/unit production cost was only like $8 (minimum 25 shirts, single color, 1 color switch, basic tee). If you plan to sell them remember to add on the cost of tax and the profit margin you want.
To find a screen printer all you have to do is Google one.
Most cities will have a number of them, but, if not, there are plenty of places you can find that will ship. I used Print Renegades here in Los Angeles and they were awesome. And, they ship.
Most screen printers do a number of different kinds of printing, but, again, don’t get stuck on that. It’s a rabbit hole I fell down for a second, but, keep your eyes on the prize and start simple; ink on cloth. Again, most printers will have reviews on Google or Yelp and you have to find a really shady place before things get bad.
Screen printing is also cool because you can learn to do it yourself, but that’s a whole different process that I haven’t attempted yet. I love that in the modern world you can get memberships to creative spaces that have all the tools you need to do stuff like this, or even do it at home for less than $50. Stay tuned for that article in the coming weeks.
What I’m getting at is, don’t be intimidated by the process.
If you’re a creative and want to see people wearing your art, dive in. Google is an amazing resource because all your questions have already been answered. Look at print on demand, look at screen printing. Those are good jump off points for everyone. And, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment.