I’ve heard “Hey, where’d you get that rad shirt?” way more than “hey, which digital agency designed your website?”
Custom screen printed t-shirts and swag bring people together and promote your brand in a profoundly personal way. What better way for your fans to show that they’re one of the select few who love your products, your band merch, or your events?
All you need is a sweet design and then you’re ready to print and distribute your custom shirts to the world, right?
Well, while your design may look incredible on a computer screen, many designers are surprised by the unanticipated costs of screen printing certain images onto wholesale custom shirts and other products. Or, maybe your design is simple and affordable to print, but you want to make sure it looks good before you order a thousand of them.
Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to ensure that you get a sweet custom shirt, poster, tote bag, etc. that doesn’t break the bank and shows off your brand to the world.
Here are the top 5 things you should know when ordering custom screen printed merchandise from a wholesale print shop.
1) Using negative space is a big positive
When creating a custom design, it can be easy to get stuck in the mindset that every element of the shirt should be printed in ink. After all, the shirt is the canvas and the image is ink, right?
In fact, some of the most compelling and original designs make use of negative space to create images. There are many impressive examples of this in the custom t-shirt world.
The best artists use the color of the shirt beneath the ink as part of the design. Not only is this approach visually interesting, letting the fabric come through is like a getting free color.
This can be a particularly useful technique for artists on a budget. Because every color must be printed separately onto your product, each color of ink that you add to your design costs you more money.
So, next time you’re doodling designs, or browsing the internet for corporate merchandise inspiration, remember that the fabric is your friend. Consider what each design might look like using negative space.
2) Know the ins and outs of quantity breaks and tiered pricing
Ordering custom screen printed products can often be a confusing process because many printers don’t make their price tiers readily available to customers. There is a simple solution, though. Ask!
The price per item will always go down as quantity increases, but it may not change at a constant rate. For example, our price for custom t-shirt printing doesn’t change between 998 and 999 shirts, but as soon as you order 1,000 custom shirts, you’ll save nearly 10% on your order.
So, knowing the quantity at which the price will drop from say $5 per shirt to $4 per shirt can save you a lot of money on large orders.
3) Keep those product and printing prices separated
Essentially, there are two separate costs involved in printing custom t-shirts or other wholesale screen printed merchandise. There’s the cost of the blank shirt, tote bag, etc. and there’s the cost of printing your design onto it.
Most printers will just combine both of these costs into one bundle price for the customer. Don’t settle for this! You should always get a detailed price breakdown from your printer. That way you can know if they’re trying to slip hidden fees in there.
Your price breakdown will include the cost of each blank item (which, remember, should be discounted if you’re ordering a large amount), the setup fee, and the printing fee for your design’s screens and films.
Make sure to ask whether you would have to pay the setup fee again if you made another order. We only charge setup fees once, but some printers will charge a setup fee for every order, even if they’ve already printed your design.
4) Try before you buy
We’ve heard of it happening so many times. A customer has a sweet custom t-shirt design. They order 1,000 wholesale custom shirts only to discover that the design doesn’t look the way they were expecting. Now they have to decide if they want to move forward with mediocre shirts or just start over completely.
Custom screen printed merchandise will always look slightly different when you’re physically holding it in your hand than it did on your computer screen. That’s why it’s always a good idea to ask for a printed sample so that you can request any necessary modifications before you pull the trigger on a giant order.
Most printers are happy to print a sample for a small fee, dramatically cheaper than the money you would spend on an order of custom screen printed products that you can’t use.
5) Thought you didn’t have ink options? Ink again
If you care about the environment or the health of the people who buy your products (and hopefully you care about both), then you should care about the type of ink your printer uses to create your custom screen printed merch.
Water based ink is much more environmentally friendly than oil based ink. It’s super soft to the touch, non-toxic, and if it’s printed correctly, the design can last for years through countless trips to the laundromat.
Always ask your printer if they can use water based inks on your design. Small decisions like, when compounded by many people, can have a huge impact on the health of your customers and the health of the planet.
All in all
Asking your printer the right questions before you buy any wholesale screen printed products is a must. Not only will it save you time and hassle, but it will lead to happier customers, better sales, a cleaner world, and of course, a happier you!