So does everyone else in the world! You may not have realized it until just now, but there are a lot of t-shirts out there in the world today and just about all of them have some kind of print on them – but where did they come from? Obviously we all can get a printed shirt from the mall or a department store, but where do the department stores get their printed shirts from, and where can someone like me get shirts printed for an event, activity, club or organization? All the information you need on how to get your shirt printed is right here! We’ll step you through conception of an idea, design, placement on the shirt, and selecting a screen printer.
Conception of a T-Shirt Printing Idea
Before you do anything you must decide on what you need the shirts for. This may sound foolish because you obviously have an idea of what you need t-shirts for or you wouldn’t be reading this article! Nonetheless this decision may effect whether or not you are able to skip some steps in the process. For example: If you are a leader of a Cub Scouts pack and need shirts to hand out to the members and are not making any profit on the shirts, you’ll need to come up with at least an idea of a design for the shirts you need printed. However, if you’re a softball coach seeking to make money to pay for your teams uniforms, maybe you’ll opt for a screen printers apparel fundraising programs (which many screen printers do offer).
Fundraising programs allow the customer (you) to give the screen printer a general idea of what you’d like to see in the design of a print (or prints) and what types of garment you’d like to see offered. This type of program puts the burden of design on the screen printer and keeps you from getting too involved in the details. In many cases the screen printers provide the flyers and order forms needed for the salespeople so all you have to do is pass them out and make a profit! Be sure to ask the printer you select about these programs as they may not specifically advertise it.
Now that we know what we’re printing the t-shirts for, we’re ready to design the print for the shirts. There are two options when considering your t-shirt design:
The screen printer can design your artwork.
You can design your artwork.
While you may choose the first option, it is still important to be informed on the design of you shirt for a couple of reasons:
-Screen Printers may charge you for designing the artwork.
-Not just anything can be printed, there are a few limitations.
-You need to decide what design elements you’d like your artwork to have (destroyed look, contemporary, traditional/conservative, classic).
-You need to decide where you’d like the design(s) printed on the shirt.
First of all when designing the artwork for your shirts, you are going to want to decide on the basics:
-What’s the primary message that I want to get across with my shirts?
Do I want to simply put a logo on my t-shirts to identify members of a group with my organization or am I not looking to advertise a business, organization, etc.?
-Do I need to include specifics?
Do I need to include a date for the event, a phone number of a business, a number of a troop or pack.
This is an important one – as a screen printer I constantly have to ask businesses if they want their phone number and address included on their shirts – some businesses do not include this information but they almost always do.
-What type design elements or theme do you want to use?
-You should know whether your shirts need a more conservative look (for businesses usually), a contemporary look (for bands, youth organizations), a classic look (high schools and universities usually fall in this category) – just to name a few.
-You should decide on a graphic to use for your shirts (if any). It’s often wise to see what your screen printer has to offer as they can more easily provide a higher quality image. Many screen printers either have talented graphic designers in-house, or have a membership to an artwork club where they can download graphics from the internet for a discounted rate.
-Where do I want my design printed on the shirts?
In some circles there are only a few known print locations on t-shirt: left chest print, full back, and full front prints. However, as people have become more experimental, more print locations are now offered by many screen printers. While the t-shirt printer should work with you and print wherever you like on the shirt, here are a few interesting print locations I’ve seen:
-Right or Left Side Print
-Right or Left High Chest Print
-Small Print Between Shoulders
-Lower Back Print
The purpose of your shirt usually determines where you decide to locate the prints on you shirts. Usually you wouldn’t see a plumber with a side print – businesses most often opt for a conservative print on the left chest and back. However, if you’re a senior in high school you might want a side print with a destroyed look for your class shirts, probably not a left chest. My best advice is to look around at other people’s shirts and see what print styles/locations you like and dislike.
-Is My Artwork Good Enough?
This is a very important question to ask because if you aren’t starting out with good, clean looking artwork your t-shirts or apparel will inevitably come out looking differently than you had envisioned in your mind. When screen printers print shirts they use the artwork that is given them (or created by themselves) as a master which they can use to make films which get used to make the screens for printing (read more about the screen printing process here). Knowing this, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when designing artwork to be screen printed.
– Draw your artwork with clean, black lines
In general if you are hand drawing your artwork do it with a black, felt tip pen or some other type of marker to create thick, clean lines. Use some sort of guide if you have to in order to get straight lines.
– Do not shade or color in areas on the artwork
Instead give the screen printer more than one copy of the artwork – one with only black outlines and another colored in or with the color name written in.
Keeping these in mind will save your screen printer from having to do extensive work on your artwork which should, in turn, save you from having to pay extra in artwork fees. It’ll probably surprise and impress the screen printer too!
Selecting a Screen Printer
Now for the big question: How do I select a screen printer to print my shirts? Obviously this is one of the most important steps because as you’ve read from the article the screen printer can play an integral part in designing the artwork and consulting you on your design before it’s printed. Therefore, it’s usually good to pick a good printer that you feel comfortable with that you can quickly call with your printing questions. Use some or all of the following steps if you can to help in your decision of selecting a screen printer:
– Look for Local Printers
I can’t stress this enough! Contrary to what you might believe, there is most definitely a screen printer in your vicinity! Many people believe that you have to pay a premium to order shirts online because there isn’t a printer near them (myself included before I got into the business) – but it’s simply not true! The town that I live in (yes its a town – not even big enough for a city!) has 3 screen printers!! I guarantee you that there is one near you.
Local screen printers will most likely be your best option because they will work with you the best. They may even know more about the group or organization your getting your shirts printed for than some one you found online in another state would ever know. If a screen printer is more knowledgeable about what your needs are for the shirt, the more likely they will be to offer good, solid suggestions for the design and style of the shirt – which in turn helps you!
Local screen printers may not have the cheapest prices, but many of them are extremely competitive considering the fact that they are a small business. Your best bet for pricing is to look the printers up in the phone book, give them a quick call, quickly explain what you want to them and ask for a quote (they should give you one on the spot).
-Look At Their Portfolio
An ordinary screen printer probably doesn’t have an actual book filled with the previous jobs they’ve done. But the probably DO have a lot of their previous work hanging around their shop. If you’re worried about a screen printers quality then pay a visit to their shop and take a look around. A quick visit can tell you a lot about a screen printers equipment and their capability.
-Look At Their Price
While I think you should seek a local screen printer to do your work for you, I don’t want you to get taken advantage of. In general, the cost of a plain jane t-shirt, such as the one Gildan makes, is right around the $2 mark. Anything more than that is what the screen printer is making in profit. There are other costs like equipment and ink for the screen printer, but in general this rule works. Before you start badgering the screen printer for how much profit he’s making consider how many pieces you’re asking to be printed and how complex the design is – there can be a fair amount of time an effort put in to setting up a job and it has to be worth the screen printers while to do so.
Hopefully these tips will be of some help as you go through the selection process. There are definitely more things to consider, but they aren’t as significant as the few that I chose to highlight.
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Getting your very own design printed on your shirts can be very fun and exciting – who doesn’t want the feeling of designing something yourself and then being able to proudly wear it around for everyone else to see? Good screen printers have a similar feeling – the pride of making others happy and giving them a good quality product. Hopefully these tips will help you achieve a high quality print and screen printer you are completely satisfied with!