In this brand new blog, Rob Brown, senior manager business development, Industry Print at OKI Europe, discusses how transfer media printing technology can help PSPs turn personalised garments and merchandise into profit.

Making T-shirt and merchandise printing profitable

Rob Brown joined OKI’s UK business in 2007

The global custom t-shirt printing market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.7% from 2021 to 20281 but fulfilling the demand for short-run customised or personalised products can be a challenge for print service providers (PSPs). There are, however, new printing methods, such as transfer media printing, that can offer cost-efficiency and profitability with short lead times, allowing PSPs to diversify their services and offer t-shirt and merchandise printing.

Shifting the approach

Historically, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, screen printing and embroidery have always been the go-to methods for garment and merchandise decoration because of their promise of durability, scalability and versatility. However, such approaches have limitations, can be time-consuming to set up, complex and cost-inefficient. The problem is to be financially viable or to deliver within acceptable lead times, they require a minimum order, making it difficult for PSPs to fulfil personalisation requests or customised orders.

To make garment and merchandise printing profitable, many PSPs are starting to shift their approach and invest in technology, such as transfer media printing, that offers more flexibility, removes the high costs of short-run printing and enables them to add product customisation to their service portfolio. Plus, with many substrates to personalise, including textiles, acrylic, ceramics and glass, plastics, metals and wood, the opportunities to create merchandise and unique gifts are endless.

Realising the benefits of transfer media printing

As the name suggests, transfer media printing prints the design onto transfer media, which is then heat-pressed onto the desired substrate, making it possible to personalise almost any item, such as t-shirts, bags, coasters, mugs and bottles, to name a few. It requires no specialist skills or setup costs and the upfront investment is small, with the printer itself taking up very little space.

The biggest benefits, however, are speed and cost, which traditional methods cannot offer. With transfer media printing, PSPs can fulfil short-run orders quickly and do so affordably, without compromising on quality. They don’t have to wait to reach a certain number of orders, meaning they can easily profit from adding t-shirt and merchandise printing to their service portfolio. Furthermore, with no cutting or weeding required, further costs and time are saved.

Promart Design2, is one PSP to have directly benefitted from adding transfer media printing to its portfolio.  Using OKI’s Digital Transfer Media printers, the company can now offer services for smaller more customised orders, on a variety of materials and products – something previously impossible with other technologies.

Adding the wow-factor
Transfer media printers also allow PSPs to easily print complex and detailed designs onto a wide range of materials. Through innovative colour technologies, stand out designs can be produced with the most vibrant colours printed on diverse light, dark and transparent backgrounds. Pioneering LED and white toner technologies can deliver high density white designs or a white backing layer on clear and coloured substrates. With CMYK+W or CMY+W transfer printing, PSPs can offer solid, sharp and bright white designs on the darkest coloured garments and materials, truly standing out amongst the competition.

While moving away from traditional processes, such as screen printing, can appear daunting, the benefits will far outweigh the risks. One-stop garment shop, Sweet Tees & more3, found that while initially customers were uneasy with moving away from the screen-printing, they were soon won over by quality, shorter lead times and lower costs.

Turning the tide

Unlike traditional DTG, screen printing or embroidery, transfer media printing delivers on its promise of cost-efficiencies, easy setup, flexibility and scalability. PSPs wanting to expand their services to include t-shirt and merchandise printing can now easily do so with the right transfer media technology. They can meet the demands of individual and corporate customers by delivering both small and large orders speedily and affordably.


  1. Grand View Research


  1. Promart Design Case Study


  1. Sweet Tees & more Case Study