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The 5 Best T-Shirt Printing Machines For Small Businesses

by Winnie Li Posted on November 06, 2023

Custom T-shirts serve as personal statements and marketing tools. They’re gifts, they’re billboards, and they’re unity at events. Ever noticed a crew at a conference wearing the same logoed tee? That’s brand power. Individuals do like shirts with quirky designs.

Are you also intrigued by this trend and considering starting your own T-shirt business? But unsure of which machine to use. Rest assured, we’re here to help.

In the following article, we will navigate through the best T-shirt printing machines for small businesses. Alongside, we will offer insights on how to select these machines and determine the most suitable printing method for your specific needs.

In This Article

  • Factors To Consider When Choosing A T-Shirt Printing Machine For Small Business
  • Top T-Shirt Printing Machines For Small Business
  • Conclusion

Factors To Consider When Choosing A T-Shirt Printing Machine For Small Business

When buying a new machine, you need to be aware of the all technology options and methods available. Once you’ve gone through all options then making a decision becomes easier.

We have listed down some factors that will influence the buying decision of a t-shirt printing machine:

Printing Method

The printing method you choose is crucial, as there are about a dozen methods to print T-shirts, each with its benefits and needs. The popular methods include vinyl heat transfer, screen printing, heat transfer, sublimation, and direct-to-garment (DTG).

Vinyl heat transfer involves cutting out designs from vinyl and then heat-pressing them onto the T-shirt. It is an excellent option for custom, one-off items. Screen printing is ideal for producing many T-shirts with the same design. This makes it ideal for small businesses.

xtool t-shirt screen printing machine for small businessxtool screen printer

Heat transfer is akin to the vinyl technique, but instead of cutting out designs, entire images are pressed onto the shirt. Sublimation is a step beyond heat transfer, where the design is first printed on special paper and then transferred onto the fabric, which allows the ink to penetrate the material. DTG operates similarly to a paper printer but on fabric, offering high-quality prints at a higher cost.

Machine Design

In most t-shirt printing methods heat press is used. And that press comes in three distinct designs:

Swing-Away: This heat press has a top plate that lifts and swings to the side. This way heat remains away from you, reducing burn risks. It is safe but requires more workspace since the top swings out.

Clamshell: These open upwards like a clam and are great for large items. They need more space and caution during use to avoid burns. Choose this for a larger volume of standard T-shirts, keeping in mind it’s not suited for thick materials.

Draw: Similar to clamshells, draw heat presses have a bottom plate that pulls out, allowing you to work away from the heat. They offer a smaller work area and are a good compromise between swing-away and clamshell design. Opt for this when working with a mix of T-shirt sizes and materials.

Weight and Space

Your workspace size will also dictate the type of heat press you can accommodate. For instance, swing-away presses require room for the top plate to move. Similarly, DTG printers are typically larger and less mobile.

If you need something compact, vinyl cutters are an option but may need an additional heat press. Traditional screen printers do occupy some space, but the xTool screen printer is from a different league, occupying much less space.

xtool t-shirt screen printing machine for small business

Operation and Maintenance Costs

The quality of the print matters and so does the cost. When choosing a printing method, balance the quality you want with the costs of operation and maintenance. 

Heat transfer vinyl and screen printing are cost-effective to start. Heat presses and vinyl cutters generally require minimal upkeep. However, DTG printers, while offering high quality, come with higher ink and machine costs.

Platen Size (Printing Area)

The platen area, or printing area, determines the maximum size of your T-shirt designs. Before purchasing a machine, decide on the design sizes you aim to offer. Ensure the machine’s platen is large enough for these designs, as you will be restrained to printing within this area.

Top T-Shirt Printing Machines For Small Business

Now, after careful consideration and based on common printing methods, we have made a list of the top 5 printing machines on the market. From screen printers and vinyl cutters to sublimation and digital printing, the list has something for everyone.

1. xTool Screen Printer

The xTool Screen Printer is a game-changer for those looking to escape the long, traditional screen printing process. It is the world’s first screen printer to employ a laser-engraved stencil for creating designs.

This compact innovation cuts down the time you'd typically spend on stencil preparation, thanks to its ready-to-use double-coated screens. Simply insert the screen into a laser engraver like the xTool D1 Pro, and it swiftly engraves your design at 400mm/s; it’s just a 3-step screen printing process.

the process of t shirt printing with xtool screen printer

Durability meets design with this printer’s robust metallic build. It is equipped with a quick-release clamp that lets you switch screen frames and meshes with ease, catering to a variety of printing dimensions. The printer’s adaptability allows one to manage multi-color prints on both small and large items from one workbench.

With an 11.5 x 16-inch platen, the printer is well-sized for all standard T-shirts printing jobs. It is compatible with most laser engravers on the market, including the xTool D1 Pro and S1.

To ensure that the screen remains uniformly stretched, xTool’s advanced stretch frame integrates 4 tensioning bars and 6 quick tensioning wrenches.

Height adjustments are simple with the z-axis press; you don’t need to open it up every time the printing object is replaced. The printer also boasts 3-axis micro calibration for precise screen positioning. This is crucial for accurate multi-color printing and more complex designs.

Beyond T-shirts, the xTool Screen Printer’s versatility allows it to work on various materials like fabric, leather, and even branded cards, making it a valuable tool for a range of creative projects.

screen printed projects of xtool screen printer

Standout Features

  • Makes screen printing 6 times quicker than the traditional process
  • World’s first machine to use laser-engraved stencils
  • A large 11.5 x 16-inch platen area
  • 3-axis micro calibration for multi-color printing
  • Advanced stretch frame with tension bars and wrenches

2. xTool M1 Vinyl Cutter

xTool M1 is the most versatile vinyl cutter you will find in the market. It’s basically a desktop laser cutting and engraving machine with a dedicated vinyl cutter. This means you can tackle both vinyl-cutting patterns and laser-cutting tasks with one device.

Vinyl is not suitable for laser cutting as it brings off toxic fumes so a blade cutter is added. With the M1, you print your designs on vinyl, cut them out, and then heat-press them onto T-shirts.

vinyl heat transfer t shirt printing with xtool m1

Its standout feature is a smart camera system that scans the material and adjusts cutting settings automatically. It also offers a preview function to ensure design placement is precise, minimizing waste and saving time.

Arriving fully assembled, the M1 is ready to use right out of the box. Its ease of use is enhanced by a single-button start and the XCS software, which you can operate from any device, streamlining the cutting process.

The xTool M1 is an excellent choice for cutting vinyl stickers or T-shirt designs and is equally suited for various DIY projects.

Standout Features

  • Hybrid Cutter: Laser + blade cutting
  • 16MP camera for auto adjustments and preview
  • Cuts up to 1.5mm thickness with the blade cutter
  • Comes fully assembled

3. VEVOR Heat Press

vevor heat press

Next, we have a VEVOR’s heat press, specially designed for sublimation printing on T-shirts and other flat surfaces. It features precise control with an LCD screen display and easy-to-operate buttons; users can set the desired time and temperature. An audible alarm sounds when the transfer is complete, and the heating element stops immediately to prevent overheating.

This machine is built with quality in mind; comes with a Teflon-coated platen that prevents sticking and minimizes scorching. Plus, the thermal insulation cotton and a thermostable sponge improve the transfer effect.

The 360° swing-away design of the arm allows the heating element to move aside, reducing the risk of burns and providing a full view of the layout. The pressure can be adjusted evenly across the plate thanks to the round-shaped spring plate.

It has a 12x10-inch platen, which makes it suitable for a variety of items, including T-shirts, garments, bags, mats, and jigsaw puzzles. It's a versatile tool for those looking to apply letters, numbers, and patterns onto shirts.

Standout Features

  • Teflon-coated based to prevent sticking
  • Alarm to alert when job’s done
  • Swing design minimizes the burn risks
  • Large 12 x10-inch platen size

4. Cricut EasyPress 3

Cricut EasyPress 3 heat press

Cricut EasyPress 3 is a compact and portable heat press that could be ideal for your at-home printing business. You can use it with heat transfer vinyl (HTV) or sublimation products.

Its key highlights are its tech features. The Bluetooth® technology allows for a seamless connection to the Cricut Heat app. You can control the temperatures and timing, right from your gadget.

The heat plate is ceramic-coated and heats up quickly to 400℉ (205°C). For safety, it includes an insulated base and an auto-off feature. Furthermore, it has a 9x9-inch processing area, a size perfect for a wide range of heat transfer projects, from custom t-shirts to tote bags.

Standout Features

  • Most Portable Heat Press
  • Can be controlled via Bluetooth
  • Can heat up to 400℉

5. HRM Automatic T-Shirt Printing Machine

HRM Automatic T-Shirt Printing Machine

For people who have the budget and are a fan of direct printing, here comes a DTG printer. With the HRM Automatic Printing machine, you can directly print on the t-shirt.

As you know, DTG printing isn’t well suited for synthetic fabric, so this machine follows suit; it’s great for natural fabric like cotton. Apart from cotton t-shirts, its versatility extends to other items such as socks, sweatshirts, jeans, and even bags.

With a generous printing area of 329mm x 500mm, the HRM A3 ensures that designs maintain their impact on garments of all sizes, including large-sized T-shirts.

It also supports white ink, a boon for those printing on dark fabrics. Plus, it a a viable option for those who might otherwise consider sublimation.

In terms of speed, the HRM Automatic A3 performs impressively, completing light-colored T-shirt prints in 3 to 5 minutes. Darker garments require more time, about 6 to 8 minutes, due to the additional layers needed for a solid color display on dark backgrounds.

We have included this machine for small businesses that are interested in DTG printing. But, remember it’s much more expensive than the other options.

Standout Features

  • Supports white ink printing
  • Works well on cotton shirts
  • Large printing area, 12.95-inch x 19.7 inches

Conclusion

T-shirt printing is a flourishing industry, and the most enticing aspect is its accessibility; even with a modest investment, you can initiate a business right from the comfort of your home. We have guided you about the t-shirt printing machine technicalities and some of the top machines available in the market.

Among the listed options, the xTool M1 and the xTool Screen Printer stand out as economical and versatile choices. These machines not only cater to the demands of an emerging business but also serve the interests of DIY enthusiasts.

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