An Equipment Checklist for T-shirt Printing Shops

The first step in running a successful t-shirt printing business is investing in the right equipment. If you’re not careful with buying supplies, you could end up wasting capital and producing low-quality products.

To help you get started, check out this list of printing essentials:

Pre-press equipment


You’ll need a fully functional computer with design software and cutting program to create high-quality graphics. You’ll also need it to process orders, monitor inventory, and track your cash flow.


Successful screen printing businesses use multiple in-house printers for different types of projects. The four common types are laser, sublimation, inkjet, and solvent printers. Solvent printers are eco-friendly. They also produce the best images, but they can be pricey for startup ventures.


Screens are used to make stencils which you’ll need to transfer ink onto your garments and produce clear designs.

Screens can be bought from your local printing supply shop, but you can also build your own using aluminum for the frame. Most standard-detail screens follow a mash count of around 110. If you have detailed designs, aim for a higher mash count. Be careful with your measurements as screens should be big enough to fit your designs. You’ll also be using separate screens for each ink color so make as many as you need.


Screens are sensitive to light. Before they’re used, they need to be coated with a liquid chemical called emulsion that hardens when exposed to UV light. You’ll also need drying racks to place your screens while the emulsion dries.

Exposure unit

If you want to produce quality screen-printed t-shirts, you need a screen exposure unit that can expose high-quality artwork and provide sufficient UV rays to cure the stencils.

You may want to invest in heavy-duty exposure units that come with advanced features, so you can produce several high-quality stencils swiftly and consistently.

Washout station

After exposure, the stenciled area must be rinsed out of the screen properly. Screens must also be washed thoroughly after every run. You can use a regular garden hose or a pressure washer to clean them.

woman modeling a shirt

Screen Printing Equipment

Press machine

Most shops begin with manual press technology and upgrade to automatic as they gain more customers. Businesses such as Insta Graphic Systems agree that manual heat press machines are great for shops just starting out as they have lower starting costs. They also offer more user involvement which can help you master applications, dwell time, and temperatures.


Inks range from traditional plastisol to water-based and discharge types. You can start with a basic ink mixing pack, along with black, white, and local school colors to get you through the usual printing jobs. Use ink scoops and plastic containers to help you prepare and transfer your ink efficiently.


Squeegees are used to transfer the ink through the screen and lay down the print. The blade needs to be rigid, yet soft to fully adapt to the screen’s contour.

Post-Press Equipment

Conveyor dryer

Good air movement prevents t-shirts from scorching. Conveyor dryers expose your ink to the right curing temperature so that prints will cure faster and last longer.

Starting a screen-printing business can seem overwhelming, but knowing which materials to use will make it easier. Having the right equipment will help you deliver excellent results, increase repeat sales, and boost your revenue.

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