What is print on demand, how to start an apparel printing business?

Attiq Muzaffar


Print on demand (POD) is a business trend in which copies of books and clothes i.e., T-shirts are printed only when an order is received by the company. Many companies see POD as a way of risk reduction. It saves on the cost of storage and space. With POD it's much easier for the company to meet customer specifications hence leading to customer satisfaction.

How to start your own apparel printing business

The apparel industry has evolved as fast as we can imagine. Custom apparel gives the visibility of your brand to the community and makes it unique in style to impress your clients. Here is the process involved in starting your apparel printing business;

Find niche market

Focusing on a niche helps you in understanding your potential customers well and set's you even apart from other T-shirt printing companies. When choosing a niche focus on what trends in social media and what people are passionate about. You need to understand the taste and preference of the community.

Create unique design

Go back to your drawing board, spend more time brainstorming on what will be unique to the niche market. Come up with a different thing from that of your competitors.

Keep your work simple

To avoid turning off your potential clients, don't use excessive colors for your items or different elements at same time for same item. Simple designs will be more appealing to customers than having it exaggerated.

Consult for help

If you have apparel printing ideas but you are not confident enough in implementing or you are not sure of, don’t be afraid to consult from any available professional designer or alternatively look at freelancing sites that are available like Upwork and Dribble can be a suitable source when looking for professional designer at a friendly cost.

Come up with mockups

Create T-shirt mockups after you have established the design to use. It involves putting your design on the T-Shirt by the use of photo edit software. Mockup will be more advantageous at the time of marketing your shirt. Use Smart mockups for instance that offers many T-shirt mockups at a free cost. It offers additional details like ability to come up with a different background. Alternatively, you can come up with your own mockups by downloading it free from Adobe Photoshop.

Custom Apparel printing options

There are different options to consider on how to print your T-shirts.

Outsourcing your printing.

When it's expensive to start printing T-shirts yourself, you can opt to outsource. This can be used for those new in T-shirt business. You don't need to invest on cost involved in purchasing equipment and storage while there is a better option.

Print- On -Demand

There is variety of services in Print on Demand that makes it easy to sell your custom apparel online. For example; Zazzle and shopify. POD makes it practical in producing variety of unique products, since there is no case of a certain product sells at a slow rate or does not sell in the market at all.

T-Shirt printing methods

You need to understand different T-shirts printing methods, If you decide on using print on demand service. These include;

Screen printing

Screen printing is used to add layers of ink in custom apparel by use of a stencil. To make your custom apparel more appealing, use different stencil in every color that you will need to apply in your item. It produces very clear images and enables you to use either one or variety of colors in completing decoration for your custom. However, the process is not advisable for beginners and it can cause ink spillage which can be messy.


Embroidery involves creating a three-dimensional and a stitched design that is hand-made on your custom apparel like T-shirts and caps. It can be considered when you opt to implement also the use of labor or manual printing.

DTG (Direct-To-Garment) Printing

Also called digital printing, DTG Printing involves use of Inkjet technique in printing designs directly in your T-shirts. You will simply put a shirt to be printed in the DTG machine then it will start printing immediately unlike screen printing that needs setup process for every new item. However, it is not good for all the fabrics and it's relatively expensive. The prints are also not durable compared to screen printing.

Vinyl heat press

Vinyl heat press uses sheets that involves transfer materials which are placed at the top of garment then heat being pressed in order to apply your design. The most popular technique in this case is dye-sublimation. It uses an ink that is dye-based which when heated turns into a gas after which it turns back into solid. The ink therefore will be part of the material and not only a layer at the top. The printings are long lasting and breathable. However, it heats press is required alongside a printer.


Validate your ideas

Before you invest a lot of money in your business, test whether your ideas are valid or not. These will help you to notice were to adjust on or make necessary changes. It also gives you a go ahead in launching and start your apparel printing business.

Brand your business

Branding will help in differentiating your business from those of potential competitors. Use a strong and unique brand that will attract and make your potential clients remember you. It should also make your business to appear more professional. Various branding aspects to consider include use of a logo, color scheme, pricing and slogan.

Now market your T-shirts

Once you've started your apparel printing business, you now need to market your T-Shirts. You can consider use of social media influence or regularly attending the meetings held in the niche market.

Get Started

Now that you've understand the steps involved in starting an apparel printing business, you can easily put it into action. Nothing should hold you back as it does not involve a lot of risk.