Graphic Designer who wants to start her own screen printed shirt line (i know... I know). But doesn't want to get them printed on ugly looking shirts.
March 15, 2012 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I want to start my own T-shirt company (i know I know. Don't roll your eyes). I am a graphic designer and would like to create shirts that are stylish. Basic screen printed shirts with sayings etc. While I know how to screen print I think my best bet is designing and then getting them printed through, well, an online shirt printing company. The trouble is most of them are very limited and have just the tacky crew neck shirt kind of thing. I don't want to do cafe press or zazzle style printing. So, What's a good company to go with? any suggestions? For example take a look at Not crazy about her designs but her shirts are what I'm looking to print on. That urban outfitters style! Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've been very, very happy with the shirts I've ordered from spreadshirt.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:46 AM on March 15, 2012

Don't discount finding a local printing company. I had a friend looking to screen print a bunch of shirts and ended up going to a local shop because it was cheaper.
posted by royalsong at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2012

Oh, but if you're not looking to go through a company like that, there are retailer discounts available from places like American Apparel so you can buy shirts in bulk.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:48 AM on March 15, 2012

I use Threadsafe for most of our shirts - they are reasonable and carry a bunch of different styles of t-shirts, and have been pretty helpful about special-ordering other styles from the shirt manufacturers they stock. They use direct-to-garment printing, which is much nicer than a CafePress-style print. They'll also do order fulfillment, ie, they will print a shirt and ship directly to your customers rather than you having to order a bunch of shirts ahead of time to keep in stock. I've been very happy with the quality of the shirts we've ordered from them.
posted by bedhead at 10:53 AM on March 15, 2012

Browse through some blank apparel distrutors websites & see what you find.

They're all wholesalers, so if you want to order blanks from one of them directly, you'll need to go about actually setting yourself up as a business -- get a DBA & a tax id#, etc. Or you can just look through the styles to identify shirts you like, then go to your local independently operated screen printing company and tell them what blanks you're interested in. A good t-shirt printing company will maintain relationships with multiple shirt distributors, and should be able to track down the shirt you're looking for. If I knew where you were, I might be able to specifically recommend a printing company, so memail if you'd like.

If you need to use an online service, I'd order up a sample print from a few places, as quality can vary wildly. I've seen some decent 1-off direct-to-garment printing, and I've seen some god-awful transfers. The technology in the direct-to-garment business is changing rapidly, so I'd get real-time info instead of relying on out of date anecdotal evidence. Like Cafe Press used to use horrible transfers, and now they've go pretty good DTG machines. Some companies use cut vinyl, which is good for lettering & simple 1-color designs, but your color selection is limited to the colors of vinyl that are manufactured, which is in the tens. You're not going to get actual screen printing from any of the one-off places online, though. You've got to have some volume for that, & it's a whole different kind of client/vendor relationship, which is why if you want actual screen printing, you should go local if possible, as it's much easier to control if you can see physical proofs before you have them produce 100 shirts of a design.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:24 AM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've never used Y-Que for printing before, but I've always admired their selection and their designs. Another option to consider anyway.
posted by forkisbetter at 12:33 PM on March 15, 2012

Is there some reason why you don't want to go local? A typical screen print shop will have a catalog of hundreds of shirts to choose from. You'll also be able to hold the proof in your hands to inspect the fabric and print quality.
posted by PSB at 6:18 AM on March 16, 2012

Really, the only advantage of going with someone online is that you may be able to order shirts in less than a case quantity per size. Because the local place is probably going to order the shirts you specify from AA or whoever just for you, by the case or dozen, so that might be more of a money commitment up-front.
posted by smackfu at 6:41 AM on March 16, 2012

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