Make money in your spare time by selling t shirts

James Newhouse
Content Writer
Self Employed
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Starting your own clothing range couldn’t be easier these days, and with the ever increasing indie / scene kid market dying to get their hands on the latest and greatest fashions, it would be silly not to capitalise on this trend by producing new and exciting t shirts in short runs.

The first stage is getting your designs together. These days, designs have to be transferred to digital, either scanned or photographed and touched up in some high end photo editing or design software. Solidify colours, neaten lines and sharpen finer details. Once this is done, save the image at high resolution.

The next stage where you really take a gamble, you have to commit to having your t shirts printed, and investing in the items you’ll need to do this with. There are a few options at this point:

1)      Buy in the T shirts wholesale and outsource the printing to another company

2)      Outsource the printing and buy the t shirts from the same company

3)      Buy the T shirts wholesale and print on them at home

Usually, you’ll find that the cheapest way is to buy the blank t shirts wholesale first, and then either print at home or take them to a printer to have the artwork applied to them. Wholesale suppliers of t shirts, and both men's and ladies polo shirts have a wide range of garments suitable for all manner of different printing methods.

If you’re printing at home, you’ll have to decide on one of a few different printing methods.

  • 1)      Screen Printing
  • 2)      Thermosetting Ink and Stencil Printing
  • 3)      Transfer Printing

Screen Printing is expensive and difficult to set up, but once you have the equipment ready, you are able to print t shirts in vast numbers, relatively quickly.

Using thermosetting ink and plastic stencils is great for very short runs, but the quality isn’t as good as screen printed t shirts.

Firstly, print your design out onto paper and attach it to a craft mat or cutting board, using drafting ‘magic’ tape. On top of this you’ll need to tape a sheet of acetate, OHT, or other clear plastic sheet. Cut out the design through the plastic sheet using a sharp scalpel, making sure to leave ‘bridges’ between sections to maintain structural integrity of the sheet. Each colour, and detailed sections will need to be prepared on different sheets, just like screen printing.

Stretch your t shirt out and put a wooden board or cardboard inside it. Put your completed stencil over the top and use an ink roller to run thermosetting ink over the stencil. Leave to dry for a while and when dry remove the stencil carefully. Place a sheet of baking parchment over the design and iron to thermo set the ink.

Another method using Thermo Setting ink involved creating a stencil out of freezer paper and ironing this onto a t shirt. The sticky side of the freezer paper lightly adheres to the t shirt, which is great for preventing, overloading, blow out and ink creeping under the stencil. The downside to this is that it is difficult to perfect, and not always easy to get a hold of quality freezer paper.

Transfer printing involves using iron on transfers that you can print using an inkjet printer. These can look really bad if you don’t have a quality image and some good effects applied to the transfer. Experimentation is really the key to getting this right. Avoid overly glossy images; use duller than normal colours and you’ll have a great t shirt. Also experiment with cutting sections out of the middle of transfers, and using multiple sheets to build up your image.

Now you’ve got your t shirts, it’s time to start promoting them. Grab a website, you could use Godaddy or any other domain registration and hosting service and get building. Buying a domain is better than a free one because there’s a degree of trust that goes with owning a proper website (especially for brand names).

Get some good photos of your shirts, using a real camera and not a camera phone and set up an easy ecommerce system. If this is out of your depth, you can just set up an eBay shop and point people towards that.

Create some flyers and give these out at relevant events that your target audience attend. These flyers don’t need to be great, just cheap photocopies of something that you’ve done on the computer or hand drawn. Photocopies have that ‘DIY’ feel that suits the scene oh so well.

The cost of materials is minimal compared to the money you can bring in, so t shirt printing is a great little home business, and something that can bring in the extra pennies in your spare time. Work out your cost price per unit and you can easily sell each t shirt for more than double that.

Lastly, best of luck, whichever route you’ve chosen to go down.

Produced in partnership with, the online custom clothing company.


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