2009 January 27

Part 2: Types of Equipment – Which Machine is Best for You?

The Heat Press:

A heat press is the most important machine in any t-shirt printing business – with an inferior model you’ll discover that final prints lack both colour and clarity. Selecting the right heat press will ensure consistency throughout your t shirts. There are three basic types of heat press you should consider.

  • Clam Type Press

The clam type is ideal for absolute beginners and those for who space is tight. It has a small frame so doesn‘t take up much room.


  • Swing Press


An evolution of the clam type, the swing press is essentially a modified design. The swing press works on the same basis as the clam type but is hinged to allow easier access to the t shirt being printed, improving both speed and accuracy.

  • Pneumatic Press

The pneumatic press is an advisable purchase if you’re looking to expand or mass produce your t shirts. It is more expensive than either of the other two variations mentioned but operates a more precise heat and pressure application.


Companies such as Target Transfers and Xpres supply a full range of heat press types and models so be sure to check out their websites for ideas on price. For a free informational video on how to operate a basic flat heat press go Here There is also a more in-depth analysis of various heat press manufacturers and models Here.

 The Printer:

Once you have the right heat press for your business the next step is to invest in suitable printer. Essentially you are presented with a basic choice: inkjet or laser?

  • Inkjet

Inkjets are cheaper than laser printers and produce bright colours with a vibrant contrast. However this is offset by the fact that ink can be expensive and the texture from these prints is noticeable different from commercially printed tees.


  • Laser

Laser printers produce prints that last longer and posses a more natural feel. However, they are more expensive and the colour output is dimmer.


Your decision will come down to whether you are willing to accept a slightly less professional texture, in exchange for a reduced set up cost and brighter colour. For either type you’ll find that the major printer brands such as HP, Canon or Epson will have a printer in their range that will meet your requirements. Note that for sublimation printing you may need to invest in a different kind of printer, along with special inks. Xpres produce their own brand of Subli-Print sublimation inks that are specifically catered for the heat sensitivity that the sublimation process requires.

The T-Shirt:

OK, not technically a machine – but the type of t-shirt you choose to print your design on to is just as crucial to the feel and look of the final product as the appliance you use to do the printing.

  • Brand

Generally speaking it’s best to stick to the products from tried and tested manufactures such as Gildan, Fruit of the Loom and Hanes, all proven distribution outlets and recognisable brands.


  • Supplier

Search the internet for ‘t-shirt’ and millions of results will be returned (145 at the last count!), of which thousands might well be your potential supplier. Choosing the perfect one for your business is a tricky task, but one that you must get right. You can opt to find an online supplier, where the convenience of ordering what you want when you want is desirable for a small business. Alternatively you can find a supplier who will deal with you over the phone during office hours.

Either way you should ensure you work with an established wholesaler or distributor you can trust to deliver the goods you want on time and in good condition. There are plenty of websites that are out to exploit the naïve start-up business but you can spot these as they usually eschew a telephone number, have poorly written content and shoddily designed site navigation. If your business is to become a success you will need a competent supplier who can provide you with a regular service. It is important not to be drawn into a snap decision when choosing your supplier; many of the larger dealers will offer competitive prices but expect regular large orders which your company might not be able to fulfil immediately. Buying in bulk may seem attractive but can offer a false economy – there is little point in getting cheaper units if most of them will lie unused on the floor. The ideal supplier will offer competitive prices without the obligation to order a minimum quantity.

With the technical aspect of printing a design onto a t shirt taken care of it is important for any fledgling designer to understand how to run their business successfully, and this is what we shall examine in Part 3.

1 Comment | Add your own
  • Allen Taylor&hellip
    January 27th, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

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