Last Updated on September 4, 2021 by Ross Yamashita
Whether you’re getting shirts for employees or adding merch to your next promotional giveaway, you may be looking to buy screen printed t-shirts. The truth is, no matter how much you’re ordering, you’ll want to know these 5 insider secrets to getting custom t shirts for cheap.
- 1 Know Your Printers Quantity Price Breaks
- 2 White Or Light Shirts Will Be Cheaper
- 3 Be Mindful Of How Many Colors Are In Your Design
- 4 Your Shirt’s Material Matters
- 5 Have Good Artwork
Know Your Printers Quantity Price Breaks
Concepts of bulk stores like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club are very simple. When you buy in bulk, you get a bigger discount and pay less. This same concept applies to your custom t shirt order as well. This is one factor that will really help getting custom t shirts for cheap.
The more you buy, the cheaper the cost of each shirt will be. But don’t just think in terms of big numbers. Every t-shirt printer has quantity price breaks and you can use this to your advantage.
You May Get A Better Deal By Buying More
We’re not talking about buying more than you need. However, you need to find out from your printer where their next price break is. Let’s illustrate it for you:
Let’s say you’re planning on buying 22 shirts. But, because you’re smart, you found out the next price break is 24 shirts. It may be worth adding 2 shirts to your order (24 total) so you can take advantage of that lower price.
It may not make sense in every case. But, if it works out in your favor, be smart and take full advantage of it.
General Quantity Price Break Sheet For Custom T Shirt Printers
Every screen printing shop is different so be sure to check with your printer. Typically, quantities are bundled by the dozen so that’s a good reference to follow.
Here is an example of bulk quantity breakdowns:
After 288 shirts the quantity ranges greatly increase. Many shops will simply go to even numbers, such as:
White Or Light Shirts Will Be Cheaper
The color shirt you get may also affect your cost.
White/Light Colored Shirts Are Sometimes Cheaper Than Darker Colored Shirts
In some cases, white or very light-colored shirts cost less than darker shirts. However, don’t expect these discounts on premium brands. Most of these price breaks apply only to standard brands, such as Gildan.
Also, this usually only applies to 100% cotton t-shirts. Any type of blended shirt (cotton, polyester blend) will usually not have this discount.
Printing On White/Light Colored Shirts Is Cheaper
One factor that will always hold true is white shirts are cheaper to print on. This is because we don’t require an underbase.
An underbase is a layer of (typically) white ink that needs to be used when printing on darker garments. This is so the design will be bright and not appear dull. An underbase means you’re adding another color and screen to your job, which costs money.
To illustrate, printing black ink on a white shirt is a one-color job. However, printing white ink on a black shirt is a two color job. The two colors are a) the white underbase then b) the overlay white. We basically have to print the white ink twice so it pops on your shirt.
Be Mindful Of How Many Colors Are In Your Design
Screen printing on t-shirts requires the printer to print each color separately. So if you have a 4 color design, the printer will need 4 screens filled with 4 different ink colors. This means the more colors you have, the more costly your job will be.
Be Flexible On The Amount Of Colors In Your Design
Because it costs more with each additional color you print, be flexible. This is especially true if you’re on a budget.
The main takeaway here is if you’re on a budget, don’t be afraid to compromise. We know the design may not be perfect in your mind. But oftentimes nobody else notices except you.
In the next section, we’ll go over ways to have an awesome design while minimizing colors.
Hire A Graphic Designer To Help Minimize/Combine Colors
We’ve had clients come in with 2 different shades of blue in their design. But they wanted to lower their costs. So, we simply combined the two shades and printed 1 blue in the entire design. Would the 2 shades have come out nicer? Probably, but it was a good compromise that saved them money and no one else knew we changed anything.
Another trick we can do is use the shirt color itself as a color. Depending on your design, there may be ways to change it up a bit so you use the shirt as a color. This is a great way to make your design look like it has more colors than it does. The great thing about this method is your design will change with different shirt colors. Adding the shirt itself as a color oftentimes helps blend your design nicely with your shirt.
Avoid Color Changes
To be clear, we’re talking about the ink color and not the color of the shirt.
“Color change” in screen printing talk means changing ink colors. This means we have to stop the press, clean out one color and put in a different color. This takes time and, in return, costs you money.
An example of this is printing on both white and black shirts. Let’s say you want to do the following job:
Print black ink on white shirts
Print white ink on black shirts
This would be considered a color change where we would have to stop the press and change ink colors.
If you want to print on multiple shirt colors, that’s fine. But be aware of your design. Make sure your design will look good on the different shirt colors you want to print on. If you have a question about this, be sure to talk to your printer.
Your Shirt’s Material Matters
The fabric your shirt is made up will have an effect on your overall costs. Consider this when looking to get custom t shirts for cheap.
Cotton Will Be Your Cheapest Option
100% cotton t-shirts will be your cheapest option. As you start to add blends and other materials, the costs will go up, sometimes dramatically.
Shirts like 50/50 (50% cotton and 50% polyester) will be a little more expensive. 100% polyester (moisture wicking) will be even more expensive. You’ll then get into your premium shirts like triblends.
The Polyester Cost Factor
As previously mentioned, 100% polyester shirts cost more. But the cost of the shirt is not the only factor that makes polyester more expensive.
Printing on polyester is more expensive. Without getting too technical, printing on 100% polyester requires the printer to use special inks and slow their dryers down.
This special ink is more expensive than inks used to print on 100% cotton/cotton blends. Also, having to slow the dryer down means a slower production rate. This really slows down productivity for a custom t shirt printing shop which is why they charge more.
Have Good Artwork
This is where a lot of people fall short. And it’s not their fault. They may not have access to graphic designers. Or even if they do, they may not know what to ask for from their designers.
That’s why it’s good you’re reading our guide. Now you’ll know exactly what to get from your graphic artists.
Have Your Artwork In Vector
The bottom line is if you’re working with a graphic designer be sure to get your design in vector format. Learn more about vector format here.
Also, be sure they give you a copy of the vector artwork file. Most times you won’t be able to open the file on your computer. That’s okay. Just save the vector file on your computer so you have it. Your printer will be able to open and view the vector file.
Vector Artwork Should Be Outlined
Further, be sure your vector artwork file is outlined. Outlining your file will outline text, shapes and objects so our system can read it.
The easiest way to think of this is someone using a special font. Let’s say you use a specialized font in your design. When you send it to us, if we don’t have that specific font in our system, our program will try to substitute it with a different font. By creating outlines, it doesn’t matter what font you use. The graphics program will see it as outlined shape and we’ll see it exactly the way you designed it.
Don’t worry, your graphic designer should know what this means. But, if you’re doing your own artwork, outlining your files is simple.
Here is an article on how to outline text in Adobe Illustrator.
With these 5 insider secrets on getting custom t shirts for cheap, you’ll be able to save money, time and frustration.
Still have questions? No problem. Give Kojent Apparel a call at (702) 664-1515 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll gladly answer any questions you have and try to help you the best we can.