How to Print DIY Custom Shirts for Family Reunions and More

Do you and your loved ones have an upcoming family reunion marked on your calendar? Custom t-shirts bring a cohesive element to any family reunion or group event. Not only do these custom shirts make it easy to identify who belongs in your group, but they also act as a wonderful memento that memorializes days of family fun. Not to mention, the unity of color-coordinated custom shirts will make for amazing family photos you can download or store in your scrapbooks.

While it may seem appealing to gift every family reunion attendee with a custom shirt, purchasing custom shirts from a company can be expensive. If you’re looking for a fun, creative, and affordable alternative, consider creating your own DIY custom t-shirt.

Here are four DIY custom shirt printing methods you can execute from the comfort of your own home.

Before you get started

The key to producing your own custom t-shirts that are sure to wow even the pickiest family members is purchasing quality t-shirts at an affordable price. A good quality t-shirt should rank at the top of your priorities, above any of these other DIY tips and tricks.

Once you’ve located a reliable t-shirt distributor, most sites will give you discounts for bulk orders. ShirtSpace has a huge selection of affordable t-shirts in a variety of colors and fabrics, which makes it a great place for all your DIY t-shirt needs. Note that if your reunion or other event is relatively small, these discounts might not apply to you.

After you’ve ordered and received your shipment, you’ll also want to check washing instructions for any paint or ink purchased for these DIY t-shirt methods. This way you can avoid washing away all of your hard work after a single wear.

Use transfer paper

Creating your design and printing it onto transfer paper is one of the easiest ways to make custom t-shirts. Although it can take some time to create large batches, this is a perfect method for a small group or a project with multiple people involved in the creation.

Once you’ve assembled your team of custom-shirt designers, simply buy transfer paper from your local office supply store, and design the image you want to put on your shirts. Then, print the image from any inkjet printer. Unlike professional custom printing, you don’t need any other special tools.

According to these heat press tips and tricks, it’s important to choose the correct color paper. Use light transfer paper for white or pastel shirts. This paper is placed face down on your fabric, so make sure to reverse your image before printing.

For darker-colored fabrics, you’ll want to purchase a set of dark transfer paper. No need to reverse the image in this case, since the image is placed face up.

As the last step, you’ll want to follow the package instructions for heat transfer. In most cases, all you’ll need a standard iron on a low to medium setting.

Get crafty

Not all custom t-shirts need to look professional. For family reunions and other celebrations with your loved ones, why not take a more creative route?

Offering a spread of glitter glue, sequins, and stencils will keep young attendees engaged in the process when they can apply their own personal touch to their work-of-art. With your own unique flair, you’ll be sure to stand out in your family photos.

You can buy supplies at your local craft store and have everyone make their own t-shirt at the event or in advance. Designing the shirts at the time of the event will keep your guests entertained for the entirety of the family reunion.

A few supplies you might consider are:

  • Puff Paint
  • Fabric Paint
  • Fabric Glue
  • Pom Poms
  • Tie-Dye
  • Letter and Number Stencils
  • Iron-on Patches
  • Fabric Markers
  • Glitter
  • Ribbon
  • Scrap Fabric

If you want to keep a consistent theme to the shirts, only purchase certain colors of each item. For example, for a Mardi Gras theme, you’d stick to yellow, purple, and green. If your family crest colors are red and blue, only purchase red and blue items. It’s that simple and such a fun addition to any event.

If you’re making a shirt for personal use or a memorial, consider a gorgeous, painted portrait for your t-shirt design. Slummy Single Mommy has a great tutorial for this fun project.

Invest in a screen printer

If you find yourself tasked with ordering custom t-shirts for groups often, it might be a good idea to invest in a screen-printer. You can purchase a standard model for around $200.

It can take some time to get used to the process, so make sure you purchase extra ink and fabric for your test-runs. Old t-shirts are great for these practice sessions. For beginners, there are a plethora of Youtube channels with helpful instructions that will make the learning process much easier.

Once you get the hang of things, you’ll be churning out t-shirts for all of your family reunions and other events. You can even start selling some of your designs locally for an extra boost to your income. These custom shirts will also make a creative gift for a loved one.

Utilize Stencils

Stencils can be fun to use for your more crafty custom shirts, but they’re also great for creating a professional look on a budget. You can pre-purchase a variety of stencils from most craft stores.

An ample variety of fonts and sizes are available for letters and numbers, as well as stock shapes and designs. You can also purchase more unique or custom stencils from sites like Etsy.

For an affordable method, Instructables suggests you tape the stencil snuggly to the t-shirt. Then, use fabric paint to fill in the design. Let dry before removing.

If you want to invest a little more time and money into your shirts, you can create a more professional set-up. Kit Kraft suggests Speedball brand printing ink, a screen printing frame, and squeegee. The frame holds your fabric and stencil taught, while the printing ink gives your design a vibrant touch while leaving a long-lasting impression on your guests.

Final thoughts

Help your family reunion stand out from the crowd by printing DIY custom shirts for your loved ones. For long-lasting memories, invest the time and energy into designing custom shirts that will capture the essence of your year as a family unit.


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