DIY Teacher Appreciation Gifts

Every year parents scramble to find the perfect gifts for teachers. Back to school time and the end of the year are the most popular seasons for these special gifts of gratitude, but really, they are purchased year-round.

Because not only do parents buy gifts for their kid’s teachers, PTA groups buy them in bulk, and teachers often buy themselves custom tees and accessories. 

Whether it’s t-shirts, mugs, or even badge holders and lanyards, people will spend good money on custom clothes and accessories for the school year.

Here are two of my favorite DIY teacher appreciations gifts, how to make them, and what you’ll need to get started

DIY Teacher Shirts | Triton Heat Transfer Vinyl

The first step is to create your custom design. This can be done in design programs like Adobe Photoshop or illustrator but can also be done in a more user-friendly program like Canva.

Now, not everyone has a knack for graphic design. But that’s okay! There are plenty of places to purchases artwork for t-shirts. A popular destination for custom graphics that are ready to be cut is Etsy.

Another way to get graphics created is by using a professional design service like ColDesi Graphics. The design team can turn a basic idea or freehand drawing to life. They will also prepare the art for whatever printing or cutting system you are using.

So once you have your design ready, you are ready to get to work:

Step one: load heat transfer vinyl into cutting plotter

Recommendation: We love Triton Heat Transfer Vinyl; it’s a premium vinyl that weeds easily, washes amazingly and is great for layering.

• My favorite cutting plotter is the Graphtec ce7000. It is a professional grade cutter so it’s much faster and way more accurate than hobby cutters, like Cricut.

Step two: Remove the excess vinyl from your design, also called “weeding”

Recommendation: To help remove tiny pieces of vinyl from your design, I like to use a weeding pick.

Step three: Apply your vinyl transfer to your shirt and heat press it. The triton Heat Transfer Vinyl only needs 15 seconds under the press.

Recommendation: My go-to heat press is the Hotronix Fusion IQ. It has an onboard memory so It can store my time, temperature, and pressure settings. However, we also love the Swingman Heat Press Collection by Hix.

Step four: Remove the vinyl carrier sheet

Recommendation: • Recommendation: Using a flexible finishing sheet, give your shirt a final press for a few seconds. This will give it a more textured look -like it’s part of the t-shirt.

How to Print on Mugs | Sawgrass Sublimation Printer

Whether it’s coffee in the morning and Diet Coke in the afternoon, teachers love a great re-usable cup to keep their beverages hot or cold.

The other thing teachers love is to project their own sense of style through unique custom goods.  Personalized Mugs are a great example.

This sublimation coated stainless steel travel mug from Colman and Company are affordable and super easy to decorate.

What you’ll need sublimate mugs:

There are many different sublimation printers, papers, and supplies, but here are my favorite products to use. When using premium products, you are sure to get premium results.

Sublimated Mugs Return on Investment

The best part about sublimation is how easy it is. When running a customization business, you have to take into account your time. At the end of the day, time is money.

Ultimately no matter how you decorate the mug, the retail value will be the same.

After a quick online search, personalized mugs sell anywhere from $15 to $20 on sites like Etsy.

When calculating your return on investment, it’s important to account for the time spent to produce the item. If you are paying an employee $15 an hour, you can determine that each minute of work they do costs roughly $0.25.

So since sublimation is such a quick process, each custom mug should take less than 5 minutes to produce.

Labor Costs = $1.25 (5 minutes x $0.25)

Blank Travel Mug Cost ($6.30) + Paper & Ink ($0.25) + labor ($1.25) = $7.80

To understand how quickly these mugs can be produced let’s go through the steps:

1. Print Graphic & Tape it to blank mug

2. Heat press it for 3 minutes

3. Remove from press & remove transfer

And that’s all there is to it! As you can see, if you are in full production mode, you could easily complete each mug in less than 5 minutes.

Other ways to make personalized gifts for teachers

These two customization methods are my favorite way to personalize gifts for teachers because they are both super affordable and yield a significant profit.

However, there are tons of ways to make gifts to show teachers your appreciation!

If you are looking for some more commercial customization methods for decorating t-shirts, check out:

If you are looking for more commercial ways to decorate hard surfaces, like mugs and more, check out: