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Tis the season… to wonder what to get the person that seems to have everything. Well, wonder no more! You know what they don’t have? A custom-made t-shirt by you! It’s easy to make t-shirt gifts, and really affordable too. Let’s look at what you need and how to make one.
What you need to make custom t-shirt gifts
To make custom t-shirt gifts you need:
- Plain cotton or cotton blend t-shirts (can use other fabrics but these work best)
- T-shirt vinyl (not peel and stick vinyl), also known as heat transfer vinyl or HTV
- A computer/laptop
- An inkjet printer
- A heat source like a household iron or a heat press
How to make custom t-shirt gifts
After you gather your materials, you’ll start by creating a design. Think about what the person likes. It can be anything like a funny saying you two share, an animal like a cat or dog, a symbol, etc. Using any type of design software – even Word will work – lay out the design.
If you don’t have a lot of experience in working with images in Word or similar software here are some tips.
- To create sayings, choose the font and sizes from the drop-down box on the “home” ribbon bar.
- Copy and paste an image into the application, then click on it to “select” it. This will activate the image toolbar. From there you can size and manipulate the image.
- Remember, larger, blockier images and texts work best for t-shirt transfers, as do bolder colors.
After you have your design set, it’s time to print. Load your heat transfer vinyl into your inkjet printer and ensure the settings are on the highest quality. To do this, you’ll need to go into your printer settings. Access them by either using the control panel on your computer, or by selecting print from the design application. Some printer options come up with tabs. Click the tab that has the quality or color settings. From there you can adjust for vivid color and/or the highest dpi.
You’re almost there with your custom t-shirt gifts! All that is left is to follow the instructions on the back of the heat transfer vinyl box to transfer the design to the t-shirt. This means breaking out the ironing board and your household iron, or – if you have one – using a heat press.
Now, to be fair, a heat press does a pretty amazing job of setting the design the first time, but not everyone has a random heat press lying around their house. So, the majority of people making custom t-shirt gifts will be using a regular iron. This is not a problem as it runs hot enough to do a great transfer, but there are a few extra things to consider. In the next section, we’ll go over some tips and tricks on getting a great transfer using an iron.
Tips for using HTV with an iron
Choose your setting wisely. Transfer temperatures range between 250◦F and 400◦F+ with linen and cotton on the high end of the spectrum, and nylon and spandex on the low. You can get HTV formulated for dark or light fabrics. Choose the appropriate one for best results. Have an extra t-shirt and design printed out so you can do a test run, then tweak for the rest of your custom t-shirt gifts.
The transfer is done. Now what?
Once the transfer is complete it is tempting to immediately wrap up your custom t-shirt gifts and hand them out. Not so fast! Although it appears dry, your vinyl is not. It needs to dry out completely and set. Place the shirts on a flat surface and let them dry for 24 hours.
Can you wash custom t-shirts?
Yes. High quality heat transfer vinyl can go in the washer and dryer but stick to low/delicate settings and while the shirt is still warm from the dryer, lay it flat to cool down.
More help with making custom t-shirt gifts for Christmas
We have several blogs related to heat transfer vinyl on our website. For more ideas and tips check out:
Need more help? Canva has some ready-to-use templates in their design studio for making custom t-shirts. Check out: https://www.canva.com/learn/how-to-design-a-tshirt/. Also, The Kim Six Fix blog talks about how to use HTV with a Cricut®. https://www.thekimsixfix.com/2018/03/25-beautiful-htv-t-shirt-designs.html.
Custom t-shirt gifts are fun to make and can be the perfect idea for the hard-to-please person on your list. To create your own personalized t-shirts, you need basic design software (Word will do), heat transfer vinyl, a printer, and an iron or heat press. After completing the transfer, lay the shirts flat for 24 hours to dry. Enjoy surprising someone you love with a one-of-a-kind t-shirt!
Ready to have fun making custom t-shirt gifts? Royal Elements has everything you need. Our online store sells printable vinyl, adhesive vinyl, and heat transfer vinyl along with transfer tape, laminating sheets, magnetic sheets and more. We love to see the projects you make using Royal Elements products. Post your results online with the hashtag #royalelementsstickers so we can feature your designs on our social networks (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube). Visit https://www.amazon.com/royalelements to learn more.