Part of our journey into geeky t-shirt creation was finding the right t-shirt printer. Undoubtedly the hardest and most challenging thing when brewing up a collection is getting the print absolutely perfect. Being buried by tees over the years, it’s super easy to tell a good finish from a poorly made one!
Not content with plastic-feeling and sticky-feel prints, we’ve spent a long time sourcing the right partner. Many different samples were sourced throughout the UK, with only a handful that were really the quality we were looking for!
The power of the t-shirt
The t-shirt is such a timeless wardrobe staple. We throw it on for a summer stroll through the park or hitting the local (Poké) gym. Young, old, anyone can pull off a tee, whether casual or perhaps a little more formal. What better way to celebrate geeky fandom through something that’s so easy to slip on and wear out, with pride!
Tees date back well over 100 years, with some of the earliest dating back to 1989. No video games were around back then, of course, but tees were used in the US Navy as undergarments. By the early 1920s, the world finally had a word for the humble button-less shirt, a “t-shirt”! Printed tees only really started to gain popularity in the 1960s, through protest, branding and fandom. Tees have defeated every fashion fad ever since!
Finding the right t-shirt printer for short runs
We wanted to create a collection that was more exclusive when it came to TeeChu. A set of tees that were curated through your votes on Instagram, something limited and numbered for that extra-special touch! Keeping it local, we researched all sorts of printing techniques. From classic screen-printing, to vinyl, to the more recent direct-to-garment (DTG) styles. It sounds so simple, printing onto a t-shirt, right? The main problem is getting that finish just right, and for the tee to survive being soaked in a pile of bubbles & water!
With a chunk of our designs using different tones & colours, we went about finding the right t-shirt printer for colourful looks, especially on darker fabric. By introducing black and navy tees to the mix, it proved to be an even-greater challenge!
T-shirt print quality
We’ve found with a lot of gaming merch, official ones included, that the print doesn’t quite feel right. Ever picked up a tee and felt a shiny, almost plastic, layer sitting above the fabric? That’s vinyl or iron-on transfers, where the design is printed separately and applied onto the tee with heat. That leaves an odd sticky-to-the-touch finish that feels uncomfortable to wear! After a handful of spin cycles, the tee comes off battered and bruised. Not a good look!
Instead of printing and sticking the design onto the tee, we looked to print directly into the fabric; where the design becomes part of the tee itself, sinking nice and deep into those cotton fibres. The result? A natural, high-quality finish that’s bold, colourful and – most importantly – feels super comfy to wear. The options for this were the traditional screen-print or DTG. As we’re doing limited-edition tees, we opted for DTG. It allows for the screen-print finish, but with the benefits of speed and infinite colour possibilities!
Finding the right t-shirt printer: The test of time
After printing our first prototype designs through a UK-based printer, it was time to get wearing! We wanted to really push the tees to the max; sleeping, running, gaming, cooking and even a spot of DIY. We washed, dried and ironed multiple times to make sure that they’ll last even the most extreme conditions! Tees we printed when first starting out, back in 2016, are still in tip-top shape today. Except that odd chocolate ice-cream stain. That’ll never come out!