Anyone own or work for a company that sells shirts with their own designs? I'm curious as to how larger companies that sell their own designs on a large variety of shirts/colors go about it. Do they screenprint them on hot peel transfers and then press as required? Print on demand? Print a shitload of shirts and hope they sell?
yep, it's the latter. they print a ton of shirts but pay very little per piece. most shirt printers need work to keep their presses running so it's not uncommon for a client to score huge deals because of volume.
I have the anti Bush (how trite!) design that I made for myself, got comments on everywhere I went, and decided to make about 50 and offered them to shop in Indy, Chicago, St. Louis, etc. Had no trouble getting rid of them. If you have something hot, you might try to take some pre orders, and if you get enough, front the cash, get them printed, and make your returns within the month. That's if you can afford to front the money. For me, it was cost of shirts, which were all American Apparel, but I made at least double after selling them.
Keeping hot split transfers works well too, if you're concerned that you may be sitting on a design for awhile.
Do a little research, make friends with a few record stores and resale shops, and go from there.
It's easy once you have a few places that like your work and buy from you consistently.
Hot split transfers, if done correctly, will look and feel like a direct print. But to do them right, you need transfer inks, transfer paper, a powder glue (not necessary for cotton shirts, but it's a good safety net), and most importantly, a heat press. Whereas with some cold peel transfers you can just use an iron, though it takes a really long time to make sure it adheres properly. They are usually used for athletic lettering on split front jerseys, and other hard to print apparel. The opacity is excellent.
Cold peel transfers are easier to work with. You can use standard plastisol inks, you don't need a heat press, though it helps if you think you're going to be doing high volume transfering. You can use a paper for hot split or cold peel applications. And you can be sure that if the consumer buys a transfer from you and decides to iron it on themselves, as long as you include accurate directions, they will have good results. The problem is that they look like a transfer. Very smooth, resting right on top of the fabric. The tend to hold up well, but with so many variables, it's easy for them to start peeling off if something isn't done right. If you do printing and you have a conveyer oven, it helps to run them through after they're printed. It helps them re-melt to the shirt, and gives them a bit more of a direct printed look.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.