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When I was a kid I used to love t-shirt shops. I’d spend hours pondering which humourous slogan or motto I wanted to represent my 12-year-old personality. My fashion sense has never really recovered. Imagine my excitement when I heard that Xanté now has a printer that is designed especially for t-shirt printing.
The printer is a modified colour laser unit that uses a special toner that actually bonds to the fabric, rather than just sit on top of it like the plastic transfers of old. Simply print your image onto paper, then run the page through the printer a second time after inserting the clear cartridge. Then you can take your image and, using a heat press, transfer it to a t-shirt of any fabric. The results are instant and impressive. At first the image is a bit crisp, but after a wash the clear toner is gone leaving a soft, screen-printed look.
Screen-printing is the usual way of getting an image on shirts, but the setup costs mean that runs of under a couple of hundred aren’t economical. With the Xanté printer, one-off shirts are no trouble at all.
Another way of printing shirts using the plastic transfers is possible, but these aren’t ironable, and are great for wear-once promotional items. If you want to wear them more than once, you’ll get cracking and peeling.
There are some advantages to the plastic or screen-printing method of getting your design on a shirt. For a start, you can print on any colour shirt. The Xanté is limited to white or pastel shirts. This is because the printing inks are CMYK – there’s no white, so any colours over black will look muddy. If you print on pastel coloured shirts, any white areas will be the colour of the shirt. So it isn’t ideal for every situation.
There are plenty of situations that the t-shirt printer is ideal for, though. There’s a market for short-run shirts almost everywhere you turn. Whether for pubs, clubs, sports teams or companies, everybody likes a good-quality t-shirt. Unlike the plastic transfers, you can print onto 100 per cent cotton shirts, instead of the more expensive and less snuggly poly-cotton mixed shirts.
There are endless possibilities, without even considering the regular fashion angle. When you think about it, adding a design to a shirt that costs only a pound or two can easily increase its value by 1,000 per cent or more. It’s like a licence to print money if you get it right.
Of course, getting in on a deal that allows you to print money is never cheap – and nor is this printer. The printer costs £4,999, and if bought with the t-shirt printing starter kit, goes up to £6,999 – plus VAT. Then add another grand for the heat press (if you don’t already have one), and the cost of the shirts (from as little as £1 each if you buy in bulk). That all adds up to something like £10,000 all-in, including VAT. So how on earth could you make your money? Well, that’s enough to make at 1,000-1,500 shirts. If you can sell your shirts for £10 or more, you’ll have made your money back with your first batch. So all you have to do now is figure out how to sell 1,000 t-shirts. How hard can that be?
In the right hands, this printer could be the start of a great business. The initial outlay is large, but once that’s paid for, you’re looking at costs of around £2.50 per shirt (not including the shirt). It’s an ideal addition to any print shop or any company making promotional items – or even just a designer with a dream. Either way, this is the first printer to feature this capability, and is bound to make a big impact in the screen-printing industry. So now would be an appropriate time to jump on the bandwagon, before it’s moving too fast.