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Custom Screen Printed Transfers & More

How Much Does It Cost to Print a T-Shirt

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Hey friends, Dave here with Transfer Express, and today, we’re going to look at how much it costs to print a t-shirt with a heat press!

We’ll look into a couple different heat transfers, designs and even some different quantities to see how much cost actually goes into printing a t-shirt. Ready? Let’s find out!

First up, before we dive too deep into costs, let’s talk about the two types of heat transfers we’ll be looking at today- coincidentally, they’re my two favorite ways to print t-shirts: plastisol screen printed transfers using our Goof Proof transfers and, direct to film, featuring our UltraColor Max™ heat transfers.

Both of these heat transfers shine for a few different reasons, which we’ll get more in-depth here in a moment. But just at a glance, the major difference is DTF is a full color digital transfer, allowing for photos, gradients or designs and logos with lots of color. They’re available with no minimum quantity and priced by the square inch - something we’ll discuss the pros and cons of soon.

Screen printed transfers are just that: screen printed! So just like typical screen printing, the cost is going to go up with each color you add to the design, but you can add just about as many as you want. Screen print transfers are sold by the sheet, so whatever designs you can fit on the page, whether they’re the same design or different, all ship for the same price as long as they're the same ink color.

These screen print transfers are available with a low minimum quantity of just 6 - because unlike a digital printing process, there’s some setup involved in producing them: burning screens, inking them up in registration and then printing. But where this is really beneficial is those bulk quantity discounts. You’ll see price breaks at 12 qty, 18, 24, 36, 48 and on and on.

We’ll start first here with direct to film. Since our pricing here with UltraColor Max™ transfers are priced by the square inch, let’s look here at a simple 3.75” x half inch logo for say a left chest. This logo here is just 18 cents to have printed as a transfer. In any quantity. Talk about super affordable!

The best part of it all, is on, in the Easy View® online designer you can not only design t-shirt artwork for free using one of the thousands of customizable t-shirt designs or pieces of clipart, but it always gives you real time pricing right here down in the bottom left with the UltraColor Max™ transfer type selected! Nifty, right?!

Here our logo printed on a garment, it looks fantastic! Just to keep things easy, we’re going to couple all of our designs here today with a Port and Company PC450 Fan Favorite cotton tee- which we can pickup right around $4.00 Blank. So for this project, our total cost in materials is just $4.18. Pretty sweet!

As we follow the same fixed pricing, back here in the online designer a 5" x 5" image prices at $1.50, or a 10" x 10” at $6. But, let’s go a little larger now, and check out this artwork printed at a larger 12.5" x 12.5” size. Priced at that 6 cents per square inch, we’re looking at a print cost of $9.42, so then we’re at $13.42 total in material costs when we add in the blank tee. Which is actually still pretty affordable right? Especially for being able to produce just one or two, and retailing these for somewhere around $25, you’ve got a fairly good profit margin.

But, let’s consider this at something like 50 quantity, where, that $9.42 in print cost is not going to see any quantity breaks, so $13 in more of a wholesale situation is going to be a little on the high side.

This is where screen printed transfers really come in. Now like I mentioned earlier, they’re not available by the image, but by the sheet. So we’re going to use something we call gang sheeting- essentially grouping artwork here all on one page, and as long as they’re printing with the same ink colors, our price does not change per sheet. So in the designer here, you can see our example is going to include some additional prints. In some cases you can even fit two of the same design on one sheet, cutting the entire number of sheets you need to purchase in half!

With this jumbo sized 12.5" x 17.5" sheet, we are only able to fit one of our 12.5 x 12.5 graphic on here, but we’re also able to fit a left chest logo, that we can use for polos or t-shirts, or even printed on promo items like a trendy hip-pack, (or fanny pack for us who remember when they first came around in the 90’s). Then, we can even fit another full front logo at 9” wide. These can be for the same customer or project like in our example here, or a completely different customer who say, maybe just needed a print in white inks- saving you tons of cost.

So here, at 50 quantity, with a two color print- blue and white, we’re at $5.49 for our cost per sheet. So almost HALF of what we had with our direct to film transfers, but once we start adjusting the quantity, say if we’re going lower, you’ll see our price per sheet start to increase. At 36, we have $6.72 per sheet. At 18 we’re at $9.43 - right back in that DTF ballpark, but with the ability to be printing all of these extra prints with our artwork, too!

Now since screen printing is priced per ink color, we can change all of these inks to just be white inks as a one-color print, and here in the designer its going to change our pricing in real time, too. So at this 18 qty, now we’re at $5.19 per sheet, even down to 12 sheets, it’s still only $6.98 per sheet, but if we go back to our original 50 quantity, we’re at just $3.12 per sheet!

All things you can see for yourself, Easy View is free to use, all you need is a Transfer Express account- which is also free, no credit card required.

So back at the original, 2 color artwork, at 50 quantity, totaling this up with a print cost of $5.49 + $4, puts at $9.49 total. That’s just the cost of the transfer with DTF! And that’s completely ignoring the benefit of other printing we have here on the sheet, so if we split the cost of the sheet amongst the other pieces, dividing the sheet by 3 pieces of art, that’s going to bring our graphic here down to just $1.83 per image on this sheet, so then we’re looking at $5.83 per shirt, printed t-shirt at 50 quantity.

If you go price that same scenario out with full service print shops online, you’ll be looking at $13 or more per shirt for the same exact project. Talk about some cost-effective printing, all with a heat press!

Before we wrap things up, I do want to mention with these screen printed transfers they apply in just 4-6 seconds, so we’re able to print shirts quickly- all with some real deal screen print quality!

And side by side, can you tell which one is a direct to film print and which one is a screen print?

But the application time really brings me to one last point: we pretty much only factored in material cost for our scenarios today, but time is money, so if you’re running a real-deal t-shirt business be sure you are factoring overhead costs like labor, equipment costs, rent, insurance, software subscriptions and more.

Of course this is just a simple snapshot of some basic pricing scenarios, but we have tons of helpful videos on our YouTube channel to help dive in a little more in-depth to some of the different transfer types we featured here today.

I did just want to show in this video how you can cost-effectively print t-shirts at any quantity, It’s just important to choose the right transfer type for the job. We have a real handy resource here in this What to Use When Chart that is primarily based on cost, breaking down the best transfer choice based on quantity and colors in your artwork, with two of the largest areas covered here by the UltraColor Max™ direct to film transfers and the Goof Proof® screen printed transfers we talked about here today.

How do your own t-shirt printing costs look? What would you price these shirts at wholesale or retail?

As always, be sure to subscribe to the Transfer Express YouTube page to stay up to date on all of the helpful t-shirt printing tips, tricks, inspiration and education that we’re dropping every single week. Until next time, I'm Dave, Happy Pressing!

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