5 Handy hints to help you design & make your own t-shirts at home

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Whether you are doing it as part of a new business venture, a side income or just for a bit of fun, making t-shirts at home is a fun and incredibly creative activity. It’s now easier than ever to get involved in the process as you can use printable transfer paper, iron-on applique, heat-transfer vinyl or compact screen printers to turn your design into something you can wear.

Photo of a purple t-shirt with contrasting applique pocket hanging on a coat hanger

As easy as it is to print t-shirts from home, making great t-shirts from home that people will want to buy and wear is a different matter! To do it well it takes a degree of creativity and skill. So, to help you out, here are 5 handy tips to help make your t-shirt printing project as successful as possible…

CHOOSE YOUR MATERIALS

I’m not just talking about the fabric (although starting with a pure cotton t-shirt certainly helps!) I’m talking about the method and materials you’ll need to transfer your design onto a piece of clothing. Using printer paper that can be transferred by ironing onto the fabric is a low-cost solution, but it’s less pro-looking than other methods. Have a look at my blog post on how to print your own tropical fabric to see how I got on when I tried this technique.

Iron-on transfer paper printed with a tropical design, being cut out around the leaves.

Screen printing machines have improved and evolved in the last couple of decades and are now a lot more affordable, easier to use and in many cases, much smaller in design for at-home crafters. The same goes for cutting machines for cutting out designs in heat-transfer vinyl. However, because of these developments there are lot more to choose from! Therefore, when trying to find the best screen printing machine you need to shop around and don’t just buy the first one you come across. Look at customer reviews because the last thing you want to do is spend too much for a machine that has a bunch of features you don’t need.

Photo of a stylus being used to select a t-shirt design on an electronic cutting machine.

PLAN THE DESIGN

Before transferring any designs to t-shirts, take some time to think and plan out your creation. Sketch out your ideas and make a number of alternatives, so you have something to compare and contrast with. Consider sleeping on it or at least taking a break so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. It is much better to spend a long time in the planning stages of your clothing design, because once you start printing you can’t correct or redo it, so any mistakes or aspects that you are not happy with could make the process a whole lot more expensive.

Photo of tropical iron-on transfer designs being positioned onto fabric.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Although detail in a design is obviously very important, the best and most memorable t-shirts are the ones that have very simplistic designs, such as slogans or icons. I’m not suggesting for one minute that you should avoid showing your artistic flair when it comes to your creations however, it is often the case that less is more – especially if you can get the message you are trying to convey across in the simplest form.

Photo of heat-transfer vinyl being applied to a top

MAKE IT A SIDE-HUSTLE

Unless you are just making your own t-shirts as a way of saving on store prices (my reason!) why don’t begin selling your designs as a side hustle? (My husband’s reason!) In this case, you’ll need to target a specific audience with your creations. Knowing who you are actually going to make clothing for can make a whole difference on everything from the design itself to the choice of blank t-shirts.

Photo of heat-transfer vinyl stars being applied to a hoody

What age group is going to want to wear your t-shirts? Are they gender-specific or more unisex? The best way to pinpoint the target market is to write a profile of the type of person or people you envision wearing your designs. Write down who they are, what brands they are interested in, what they like and what they dislike.

Iron-on transfer backing paper being peeled away from a transferred image

So what do you think? Fancy having a go at making your own t-shirts to save money? Or would you like to start up a business on the side to make a little extra money? Let me know your plans in the comments below.



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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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