Creating t-shirts is an activity that sounds reasonably simple. It looks like a ton of fun, and for this reason, a lot of people adopt it as a side business thinking it will be a rather easy gig to run.
What often comes as a shock, however, is how easy it is to make mistakes in t-shirt printing which can bring your custom t-shirt enterprise to a screeching halt. So, we are here to help you out by highlighting seven common mistakes that you will do well to avoid. If you’re aware of these from the outset, it can help you save money and prevent unnecessary headaches along the way!
1. Know Your Customers
Mistakes are easily made. The biggest being when we think we know what our customers will want without doing any research. Think clearly about WHO will be wearing the t-shirts you create, and be sure to ask or survey people from this market directly.
Also, find out more information about the issues that matter to them. What TV shows do they watch? What celebrities do they follow? Do they have a particular way of speaking - are there specific phrases they relate to?
What imagery suits this market segment? Which colours will work most favourably for them, which fonts will work best? Consider current fashion trends and take note.
All of this information will help you understand the segment you serve and how to proceed with your t-shirt design and printing.
2. Fabric Selection
When choosing the fabric, be sure to have quality earmarked as a priority. You can have a stellar design, yet if the material is of low quality, your customers may go elsewhere. Ensure your fabric is reasonably shrink-resistant and that it will maintain shape and form following a few washes.
Also, explore different fabrics in use and do the necessary research to uncover where these are sourced. It can help to keep a spreadsheet of fabric types, where it’s sourced from and associated costs.
Costs are a central discussion point, and when poorly thought out, it’s easy for people to spend too much at the outset. Do your homework with fabric choice, suppliers and costs and this will help you build a solid foundation for the business.
3. Artwork Packaging
Long gone are the days of manual processes. Today’s t-shirt printing industry is entirely digital. This being the case, attention to detail is required when it comes to knowing how to correctly package file types, fonts, images and colours for print.
Here are a few ground rules to help you safeguard the process:
- Artwork files should be supplied in PNG format. If there are any transparent layers in the image check with the printer what file format is most suitable
- Image files should be provided in a high resolution of 300 to 600 dots per inch (dpi), or the result could be pixelated or look washed-out when printed
- Depending on the format you receive artwork in, it could have pixelated edges which you will need to smooth out. If you don’t your printed result will look a whole lot less than fabulous
- Often it can help to supply logos as vector files which allow an image to be resized without any loss of quality and the edges are also kept sharp
- Remember too to package the font file as a zipped folder and supply this to the printer. Not all fonts are standard and automatically available on a printer’s system.
- Always check image size and the image’s dots-per-inch status before selecting a picture from an online source
- Be aware that printing on dark coloured fabric has a slightly different process to that of printing on a light-coloured fabric. When printing images on dark fabric, chances are you’ll need to print across that area with white ink first.
4. Flexible Printing Platform
When you choose a printer for your custom t-shirt production, ideally, you’ll want to find one which offers sufficient flexibility and is outfitted with the design tools required for a polished finished product.
Seek out a platform that will allow you to have flexible minimum orders and provide different options for ordering and selling your shirts online.
Some companies will give you the option of keeping the stock with them, and they will ship directly to your customer. Essentially, the more options and choices they can make available to you, the better.
5. Choices of Apparel
While t-shirts may instinctively be where your focus first lies, make sure you consider other apparel types too. Seasonal changes and preferred style choices can make different clothing varieties attractive to your target market.
It can help to keep this in mind. You could expand your printing to include V-neck, crew-neck and polo t-shirts; sweatshirts, hoodies and long-sleeve t-shirts for cooler temperatures.
6. Rushing the Design
Don’t rush ahead with the first draft of your design. Many newbie screen printing enthusiasts have later regretted doing this very thing!
Be sure to investigate existing designs which have had success before finalising your final design version.
Minimalist designs, unique fonts and cleverly colour-matched graphics tend to be popular, and it’s best not to venture too far from this track with your designs.
Of course, you can always tailor and tweak things as you go, but don’t forget that with every print-run a significant expense is incurred.
7. Proper Proofreading
Before printing, you’ll have a proof delivered to you for checking. Smart advice to follow is to allow three sets of eyes to take a look over this proof. Many a spelling error has slipped past the keenest of eyes.
Receiving an order of t-shirts or other apparel complete with a misspelled tagline is a horrible feeling, so have someone look over the image and graphics before they go to the printers.
These seven tips should have you smiling with success at your first custom t-shirt printing exercise and for all those print-runs to follow. Adopt these into your standard operating procedures, and you’ll be well on your way as you grow your t-shirt printing business.