How to start a printed T-Shirt Business (or other apparel)

People are starting labels all the time, we get several quote requests for clients intent on starting t-shirt brands every week.
Over this time we’ve seen a lot turn into repeat customers, and a lot never return. People are starting brands and micro-brands all of the time.

The first question you need to ask, with this in mind, is this an endeavor you want to take on? The following are our tips for how to start a t-shirt brand.

Step 1.
Decide what you represent/your target market

You will need a product, and the garment is only part of the equation.

Your brand, your designs are what will sell your apparel.
If you are reading this, you probably already have an idea or two, so next step….

Step 2.
Do some market research

How many people are doing what you are doing?
Look up your niche and see how much competition you have, what can you do different and is there room for another brand?

Do you have a social media following?
This is the easiest and cheapest market research available, if you have social clout then you probably have a market to.. well… market to.

Otherwise pick your target and look at other brands in that space. Check out the competition and see if you can fill a space in a niche.

Seek advice from others doing the same, though probably in other niches as potential direct competitors won’t be that helpful.

Step 3.
Get refining

Great, you have an idea.
You think you have a niche, or can find a spot in a market.

Now you need to get to work on your brand and your design.

We have some tips below you should follow to get the best returns and have the least returns. So please use the following tips.

You will wont some input, everyone will have different opinions so pick a handful of people to be your testers and show them your stuff. This group is important so if you do have someone doing something similar in a different niche… use them.


Start simple – Less products, less designs.
Our pricing (like all screen printers) is based on quantity per design/print colours used.

As such working on an initial design that works multiple garments and in one colour way is absolutely the best way to start.

In fact use as few colours as possible, particularly if you want to screen print.

Think about all of the applications.

You will want your logo in particular to work on shirts, hoods and other apparel, however you will probably want it to work on websites and perhaps signage and business cards


Get your artwork right from the beginning.

WORK IN VECTOR – programs such as Illustrator are best, this will save you headaches going forward.

WORK IN CMYK – as RGB is for Screens you should always work in CMYK to make sure what you are seeing is close to possible as the output will be. RGB will show colours that cannot exist in print.

USE PANTONE COLOURS – Pantone Solid Coated colours are what we match to, also offset printers and signage. This is a universal matching system.

It is best to use a designer. Check out fiverr if no one is local.

Learn about the process here.


Stock is hard to gauge!

It is easier to stock  5 Small, 5 Large, 5 XL, 5 XXL, 5 3XL of One or Two items vs Dozens.
You do not want to end up with heaps of sizes you aren’t selling.

This is why we suggest one or two styles to start with, and why unisex is great (unless your brand is entirely female or male targeted).

Step 4.
Decide what you want to start with for your t-shirt business – GET A PRICE

Our pricing calculator will give you a good idea of how much your run will cost.

Or you can fire us an email using our contact form and we can quote on your requirements.

We quote based on Your Requirements, our calculators give you an indication but every job is different, there is no one fits all Price List.

This is a really good time for us to take a look at the artwork and make sure it is all fine for a production run – before you advertise. 

Step 5.
Get your numbers together

Because you are starting out with a quality unisex garment, or at least a limited range this is going to be easy.

You can either take a stab at how many of each size you need or use Social Media to do a presale, a merch drop or whatever you want to call it.

Make it a limited time drop or an early order special.

Whatever you call it, doing presales will give you not only sales, but also an idea of what sizes you’ll be needing going forwards.

AND it will let you know if your design is going to sell. IF it doesn’t go back to the drawing board. Very few labels make it on their first design.

Step 6.
Send your order over

We’ll double check everything, proof the artwork back and get started.

Want to know more about the process and how printing works? 
Click here.

Or Want to know what shirts are best? 
Click here.

Tags, Packaging and More.

We have a page dedicated to extras here.
Neck Tags, Pips etc are easy: Labels By Shelley or Pattersons can arrange the tags. If you are using AS Colour they will do the replacement, otherwise any alterations company can help. are based in Auckland and also offer some Ribbon and Label printing.

How to Start a T-Shirt Brand | Start a T-Shirt Business

Some of the Brands we supply:

AS Colour, Freeset, Biz Corporates, James Harvest, Stormtech, Icebreaker, Team Sports, Jbs Wear, Gildan, Anvil, BMV, Biz Collection, Cloke, Syzmik, Visitec, Legend Life, Trends Collection, Maxum, The Range.

If you have a particular brand you require please specify this your contact message.

Use the form to send us a message, we’d love to hear from you!

Hours: 9am – 5pm Mon-Fri by Appointment
74 Morrin Road Panmure
PO Box 251166, Pakuranga,
Auckland 1072
09 358 1249

If you are requesting a quote or have a question please use the form to the right. You can upload images to assist in quoting.

If you wish to obtain an instant estimate and request a quote you can do so from product pages