How to bypass Cafepress?
October 12, 2009 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I want to make my own t-shirts. How can I do my own personal version of Cafepress, Zazzle, etc.?

Not Cafepress in the sense that I would set up a site and take orders, but Cafepress in that I want to actually print 1-off Photoshopped images onto a shirt. I don't want to do iron-ons, screenprinting or draw anything. Is this possible without spending several thousand dollars on a Fiery or whatever? I would settle for B&W printing if there was no color option. I haven't been able to come up with much from my searches, generally it's just a bunch of Cafepress wanna-be sites.
posted by hellbient to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have a couple friends who swear by the yudu. You can find them at craft stores, or cheaper online.
posted by mikeh at 12:12 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm a bit confused by the question. You want to put images on things, but you don't want to iron-on, screenprint, or draw.

How exactly do you plan on getting the ink on the shirt?
posted by dmd at 12:16 PM on October 12, 2009

I guess by using some sort of printer connected to a computer.
posted by hellbient at 12:17 PM on October 12, 2009

The Yudu is a screenprinting machine. While there is some printable fabric and you could sew that onto a t-shirt, I would say that printing iron ons is the easiest. Avery and Staples definitely have printable iron-ons. I am pretty certain that there isn't a household available printer that will print directly onto t-shirts.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2009

Buy a cheap screen for screen printing from Utrecht art or some other art supply store. Buy the ink you want. Then draw simple designs and cut them out of thick paper. Put the paper on the shirt and the screen over the paper. Then put the ink down, use the screen squeege and presto! Better instructions are on the internet.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:29 PM on October 12, 2009

If you're doing one-offs, you can screenprint super easily.

A few years ago I got very interested in making tshirt stencils. Here's what I did.

I'd take a photo (for example, one of my golden retriever looking especially pathetic and cute.) Then I used photoshop to up contrast and switch to black and white. Then I inverted the colors.

Then I printed the resulting image on a transparency. Then I cut out the black spots with an xacto knife, making sure to leave little connecting pieces present for detail.

Then from dickblick I bought a basic screenprint set (screen, emulsion, emulsion remover, squeegee), and I went to my local Michael's to get ink.

To be honest, I never used the screen and the photo emulsion, instead I used a roller and the transparency and just rolled the ink over the transparency. Worked fine, but I was doing one-offs, not hundreds-off. Then it's just a matter of curing the screenprint ink if necessary.

Multiple colors is the same process w/ multiple overlays. LOTS of howto's available at instructables or all over the web.

I liked it because I wound up with a very-obviously one-of-a-kind image in the minimalist style I was looking for. Transparencies store well too, unlike screens, and you don't wash them clean to be able to reuse the screen.
posted by TomMelee at 12:33 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I misread. What you really want is screenprinting, since it's the path of least resistance. I don't think there's a "t-shirt printer" at a low cost which is what you're really hoping exists, although other commenters may prove me wrong.
posted by mikeh at 1:03 PM on October 12, 2009

I don't think that there is such a thing as a cheap "t-shirt printer" -- that's why services such as CafePress are able to charge how much they charge.

I know you said no screen printing but it seems like the only solution for a simple, one-off shirt design.

Using freezer-paper to screen print might be a good option for you:
  1. Print out the design you want
  2. Tape it onto freezer-paper
  3. Cut out the design
  4. Iron on the stencil to a shirt
  5. Apply paint
You aren't dealing with chemicals or hand-drawing so it might work for you. Mefimail me if you have more questions about this.
posted by carpyful at 2:01 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alternatively, if you wanted to do this outside your home, contact your local screenprinters. If you live near a college, they can get you in touch with some.

However, the price per shirt only comes down with volume, so do-it-yourself screenprinting is likely the cheaper route.
posted by bookdragoness at 2:02 PM on October 12, 2009

Thanks. I am familiar with the basics of screenprinting, but it's not where my interest lies.
posted by hellbient at 2:02 PM on October 12, 2009

On second look, I watched some of those Yudu demos and it's a bit more work than hitting print, but it looks like that could work for what I want to do. Thanks!
posted by hellbient at 3:17 PM on October 12, 2009

I used to work in a screen printing shop and I'd agree that you might start by experimenting with that. There are lots of good comments upthread.

Alternatively, you may want to look into sublimation. It's more than just an iron on and is used widely in the textile industry. The Wikipedia article says, "Alps Electric produced the first quality dye-sub printers for home consumers in the $500-$1,000 price range, bringing dye-sublimation technology within the reach of a wider audience. Now there are many dye-sublimation printers on the market starting from as low as $100 marketed by corporations such as Canon, Sony, Sagem, HiTi Digital Inc., Mitsubishi Electric and Kodak (among others), especially postcard-sized mobile photo printers."

Several years ago, we heavily researched direct to garment printing with special inkjets. I'd research "direct to garment" and see what turns up. They may be more affordable now.

Also, this forum looks amazing if you need further help: T-Shirt Forums
posted by bristolcat at 7:43 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck with with for these one-off shirt projects. It's not printed at your desk, but if you can wait 7 days for your shirt to arrive, you'd be able to have a lot of t-shirts before it got to the price point of doing these one-offs yourself.
posted by jrishel at 11:31 AM on October 13, 2009

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