After a long dry season of posts here on blog.kanojo.de i proudly announce yet another garage-tinkering-tutorial: How to print t-shirts yourself. While this may not sound special or new at all, the technique we've chosen required a lot of fine tuning to yield *PROFESSIONAL* (and by that i mean really really REALLY good) results. So i considered it worth sharing.
While i must admit that i make a equipment-assumption that may not be the case for most, you can work your way around it. What i'm talking about is that recently a cutting plotter moved into this household. A cutting-plotter is almost like a normal plotter - except that it doesn't paint or print the paths (read: vector-files) you give it, but cuts. For those who don't know what a plotter is - imagine a printer that is able to print on a infinitely long roll of paper and doesn't print per line, but prints a arbitrary path (e.g. a sphere, bezier curve, etc.) at a time.
This allows to scrounge off so-called "flex film/foil" from professional shirt shops (they always seem to have some oddments to give away) or buy it really kinda cheap on ebay. This can then be cut using that cutting plotter given a nice vector-file you did before (inkscape is great once you learn how to use it by the way!). The trick with cutting plotters is that the foil you use comes on another foil, the "medium". This medium is not cut, but only the "useable" film on top of it. So after cutting you need to take away the excess outset and inset foil.
And this is the point where i like to stress that you can, in fact, do this even without having a cutting machine like this handy! If you have some patience (and we had before we had that machine) you could just print out your motif, trace it to the foil and then cut it by hand using a scalpel or hobby knife. Just be careful only to cut the useable film, not the medium foil!
But it's only after this that the real work begins - everything before was done by machine (or, by hand, in that case that was the most work :P). The film needs to be pressed on using quite some force, a defined (short!) time and a defined temperature. For this purpose professionals use "transfer-presses", machines likeseen here on the right...
So, what do we do at home? We hack! After some datasheet reading and one Shirt full of little bits and pieces to try around we've found out how to properly do it. What you'll need is found in (almost) any household:
- a hard, smooth piece of wood
- a regular electric iron
- baking paper
- a stopwatch
- a frind who's doing body-building also comes in handy
Make sure the iron is set to around 170°C (thats ~338°F). The press time is roughly 8 seconds *per point on the film*. As you have to move the iron around you need to guess how long each point was pressed on around 8-12 seconds... but for the pics! And the further explaination of course - it'll be under the pics as always...
With this technique you can achieve a almost professional result from everyday home-use items (except for the cutting plotter maybe...). Some professionals may cry out because of this tutorial - but it really works. Washable too, the first test-shirt didn't break down yet...
I hope you had fun with this tutorial and are now put up to try it yourself. Really, even with hand-cutting easy motifs aren't too bad to make... As always, feel free to ask!
Also look out for our post with tons of vectors for T-Shirt printing :).