4 Steps To Simplify Your Screen Printing Experience (and make it more affordable)

Posted by David Plaza on


Betty wanted shirts for the volunteers at her Derby Days Festival so she contacted her local screen printer and ordered shirts. When asked how many shirts she would need for the event, Betty guessed she need around one-hundred as she expected to have a large amount of volunteers but she didn't have an exact number yet.


When the printer inquired as to what art she wanted on her shirts, Betty told him that she didn't have a particular design in mind-she just wanted something “eye catching and cool”. She said the printer was the expert and she would leave the designing in his capable hands and only asked that the Derby Days logo be included somewhere in the graphic. After turning down mockups for three design ideas, and delaying the printing process by three days, Betty finally chose a logo she was happy with.


Betty also did not know what brand or type of shirt she wanted. She just wanted something “nice” and that was comfortable to wear.


The day her shirts arrived, Betty was thrilled with the feel of the shirts and her design looked fantastic...then she read the invoice: “Graphic Designing fees of $75.00 an hour for four hours! Set up fees of $25.00 per color on a six color design! Nike brand shirt charge of $25.00 per shirt! The printing costs are double what he quoted because only half the number of shirts I thought we needed were actually required?? Shouldn't it be the other way around? This guy is ripping me off!!”


Needless to say, Betty was not a happy customer.


The good news is, Betty could have simplified, sped up the process and made her screen printing experience much more affordable (and enjoyable) if she had the information to make her purchase a pleasant one.


  1. Have an accurate number for the amount of shirts you want printed.


When contacting your printer, have an accurate number of how many shirts you need printed. If you are unable to do that, provide an estimate as close as possible to what you think you'll need.


The number of shirts printed will affect how much each printed shirt costs. For example, the cost for printing five shirts is going to be more expensive, per shirt, than it would be to print fifty or five hundred. If you get a quote off of a guess of one-hundred shirts, but only end up needing fifty, the price per shirt will be higher than what was originally quoted. Of course, your printer should explain that to you but if you go in with a good solid number, there shouldn't be a price change to begin with.


  1. Know how many colors are in your design


The cost for printing on your garment is separate from the cost of the item itself and is dependent on how many colors are in the design. A one color design will be much more affordable than a six color design.


The number of colors also affects the set up fee costs. While some printers do not charge any set up fees, many do. The average set up fee ranges from $15.00-$30.00 per color needed in the design. This fee is to account for the printer's cost in supplies and time needed to replicate each color of the design onto its own specific screen, set up or register the screens so all of the colors line up perfectly and then print the design onto the substrate (or garment). If you have a six color design, and the printer has a set up fee of $15.00 per color/screen, you can potentially be looking at a set up fee of approximately $90.00 in addition to the cost of the shirts and ink.


By knowing how many colors are in your design, you can avoid this sticker shock up-front by asking what your printer charges for set up fees (if any) and reevaluate your design if need be.


  1. Have your design ready and in the proper format.


Betty found out the hard way that it can be costly not to have a design ready to go. If you leave it to the printer to create a design for you, or if they need to recreate the one you have because it's not in the proper format, that can end up costing you in graphic design fees. If the printer has to work on multiple designs before they come up with one you like, the cost can be substantial. Just because you end up not using a design, doesn't mean you will not be charged for the time the printer had to use to create that design. 


In general, having your design ready in a .CDL, SVG, PNP or AI format should work fine and be ready for screen generation. If the design is pretty basic, even PDF or JPG files can be accepted since the tracing needed to reproduce basic designs is pretty simple and not very time consuming. More complex or detailed, PDF or JPG files will require more image reconstruction on the printer's end which means the time spent cleaning up the file could end up costing you more than it would have if you had provided the image in the right format at the start.


Another thing to consider, if providing a .jpg file image, is the DPI (dots per inch) of your image. In general, your image should be at least 300 dpi in order to get a good trace from it. Images with more detail should have an even higher dpi.


Ask your printer what format they prefer to help streamline the process.


  1. Have a good grasp on what brand or type of shirt you want.


Like Betty found out, a “nice” shirt is subjective and the price will reflect that. If you have a brand you prefer to use for your project, let the printer know. Even the best medical insurance available has yet to offer psychic pills so do not assume your printer knows what you consider to be a nice or acceptable shirt.


If you don't know what brand you want to use, do not be shy about telling your printer how much you are willing to spend on a shirt. No one is going to judge you and it will help the printer offer options on garments that can meet your price point and help avoid any surprises later.


You should also let your printer know what kind of feel you're wanting for your shirt. Do you prefer a thicker feel shirt or one that is soft? Do you need moisture-wicking technology? Would you like a moisture wicking shirt but don't like the feel of 100% polyester? There are shirts to meet all of those needs but unless you let your printer know what you're wanting-chances are you won't get it.


Ordering custom printed clothing through a screen printer should be an easy and enjoyable process not something to dread with the expectation of “hidden fees” or surprises later. By following these four steps, your next screen printing experience should go smoothly and be much more cost efficient and satisfying for both you and your printer of choice.


About Fire Pigs Designs

Fire Pigs Designs was established in 2015 and is owned/operated by a Marine Corps veteran and former law enforcement officer. Fire Pigs Designs is committed to providing affordable, quality merchandise and fast, friendly customer service and support. 

You can contact Fire Pigs Designs at customerservice@firepigs.com


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