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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

How To Get The Best Screen Printing Results from your Art Submissions

Einstein on a tank top

When you're ready to place an order for custom screen-printed t-shirts to get the best screen printing results from your art submissions we have a check list of best practices.

Vector

We highly recommend vector based art or high-resolution images for submission. Why? Vector files can be resized to any scale without losing detail. This is because vector art is based on mathematical equations of magnitude and direction and can be lines or curves. Vector based art is also extremely clean in terms of color assignment. The artist needs to make a decision on every segment during the design process. Vector art is not a visual stylizing of the design so to simply save a file created in Photoshop with a file extension like pdf doesn't make it vector art. It's based upon the program used to create the original art. Vector programs are Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator, or Inkscape although there are others.

Raster

On the other side of the coin is raster art. If created correctly from the beginning, this file type can be used successfully for screen printing. Raster images are made up of pixels instead of lines so starting off with the correct DPI when creating your original work is paramount. If you typically design for the web, this is a step that is really easy to overlook since images for the web look great at 72 DPI. For screen printing artwork, you need a minimum of 300 DPI for the output to look crisp and clean. Ideally, you'll also create the artwork at the size you actually want it to print. Remember when creating t-shirt art if you're using bitmaps instead of vectors, you can always shrink the art but never scale up without losing clarity. Raster art is commonly created in programs like Photoshop or Gimp but there are others.

Closeups of Raster vs Vector art

If you're fascinated by the differences between vector and raster data models, here is a very scientific explanation of the two and differences for uses in applications.

For screen printing, highly defined artwork is critical to achieve a fine quality print. Sometimes when customers aren't sure of how their art will print or want to test our printing quality before ordering in bulk, they will order a single t-shirt print on our no minimum required products. However, doing this will not be a true measure of the quality of our screen printing. That is because for single prints, we use an entirely different method of printing which is direct to garment printing or digital print. It's a completely different application method. It is something to be aware of when ordering a test print since our website will automatically default to the lowest cost method of printing for our customers. Ordering a single test print using screen printing however is quite expensive. We do understand the need to evaluate our quality before committing to a large order so if you do order a test screen print, we will deduct the initial cost of the setup from the bulk order when it's placed. However, if a bulk order is not placed, the cost is the cost.

If you're stuck with art that is not ideal for screen printing, in many cases, we can recreate the art for no charge if it's relatively simple. In fact, our artists review every order submitted to ensure clarity of the image, check for unintended misspellings, and accuracy of placement so that the design elements are aligned. That service is free with every order. If your art is complex and of poor resolution, we do sometimes require a fee to recreate the art, but that is evaluated on a case by case basis.

Sometimes when art is uploaded through our t-shirt design studio, the art may not look as you expected. This can usually be attributed to limitations of the website. Some of these issues include white jagged edges outside of the art. Don't worry, we've been doing this long enough that no member of our art team would allow your design to be printed this way, in fact, if there are any issues at all with your uploaded art, our customer service team contacts you to clarify and to make sure we deliver the best printed products possible.

Other concerns we hear from users is the need for assurance that everything will be centered and lines of text evenly distributed. If you have uploaded your own graphics and don't add any print or design notes to the contrary, we always size and place the design to make the final product look like the mockup but perfected as far as centering and placement. If you create a hybrid of uploaded design and our clip art or fonts for text we do the same.

If you do create a design that is intended to be off center the best way to ensure the final printed product will adhere to your design vision is to include these specification in print and design notes which are available in the cart checkout area of our website.

What happens after you've processed your screen print order? We prepare the print files for production by creating separated layers for each color. This is required because is each color will be a different screen. Depending on the design and t-shirt product type and color, we may have an additional layer or base print which is something we do to make sure the final image is vibrant.

These screens will then be sent to a screen printer who will set up the press to apply ink to the various layers of the design using a squeegee that pushes ink through to t-shirt product. Once all layers have been applied, the pieces go through a dryer to "set" the ink.

Finally, your custom screen print order will go through our quality check team to examine each piece for print and any defect in the garment that may have been missed. They sort according to size and place in boxes to prepare for shipment.

When requesting a proof before print, understand that we have two versions of this. If you want to see what your design will look like after one of our artists reviews and cleans up any issues, this will be a mockup proof that will look almost identical to the original mockup in the design studio.

Design studio mockup

This is not a proof of the actual print before production. If you require a true proof of the screen-printed t-shirt, we can do this and it can be communicated in print notes as "photo of first shirt required." However, when requesting this, you as a customer must be available to coordinate with our customer service team as we will have an entire press setup to go with the rest of the run. If you're not available for approval at the designated time, we will need to add on additional setup costs to set the press up again at a later time.

How to Maximize the Life of your Custom Printed T-Shirts

Laundering custom t-shirts

It’s one of the most disappointing experiences when you have a custom t-shirt printed for fun, an event, or commemoration of some occasion just to have the print fade or the shape of the garment change after an initial few washes. You’re probably pretty familiar with the concept of shrinkage when laundering clothing but apparel that’s screen printed or digitally printed needs a little extra care to make sure the design stays vibrant over time.

First of all digitally printed tees use a different type of ink application than screen printed tees. For the convenience of offering affordable prices for single or low quantity orders we offer this print method. Products available for no minimum required custom t-shirt printing are marked "no minimum" on our website. It’s also ideal for full color photograph designs. When we use this method to print custom tees, the ink is absorbed into the t-shirt product. Basically the method is much like the kind of ink application your home printer uses to print images onto paper. This method also does not require screens to be burned with a press setup therefore it’s far more affordable for small orders. With all of these benefits, there are some drawbacks when it comes to the life of the design printed on the tee which we’ll address.

Screen printed custom t-shirts offer a lot more durability because the ink used is plastisol which literally has PVC particles in it making it a tougher ink. However some designs and effects cannot be replicated using this method. The ink rests on top of the fabric which also lends to more durability over time but screen printed apparel also requires basic care to lengthen the life of the print and the garment itself.

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The first thing we recommend when you’re ready to launder your tees is to always turn the garment inside out. This will help colors stay vibrant longer and may also assist to keep abrasive surfaces like zippers and buttons from agitating against the surface of your design. This can also help to clean the inside of the tee more efficiently which is ideal since the inside is what makes contact with sweat and oils from skin.

Separate by color and fabrics. Most people are already familiar with the concept of keeping colors separated like not washing whites with red, or pigment dyed clothing with color fast clothing. When colors are transferred in the wash, it will likely be permanent. But separating by fabric types can also be beneficial. Rougher materials like denim can cause damage to softer fabrics like 100% cotton by abrasion over time.

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Always wash in cold water. This isn’t just true for custom printed t-shirts; this is true for almost any fabrics. Hot water not only introduces the possibility of shrinking the fabric, it’s more caustic to the fiber and can cause degradation of the fibers over time. Reserve washing items in warm or hot water for when the fabric is heavily soiled or if you’ve come into contact with something that requires serious sanitation. If it’s only soiled in a spot or two, use a pre-treatment but try to avoid applying this directly on any printed area.

Stay away from bleach. Bleach is caustic soda and chlorine. Besides being ruinous to adhesive applications like custom names and numbers for sports team, it also can produce deadly gases when combined with other household cleaners. Bleach and dish soap creates WWII era mustard gas. Bleach and ammonia creates deadly gas as well so beyond the safety factor, it’s not something recommended for textiles in spite of what your grandmother may say. There are other alternatives, but here again, it’s not recommended to apply any whitening agent directly to a custom printed design.

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Keep your clothes out of the dryer. Drying custom printed clothing in clothes dryers is certainly time saving and convenient but it can cause damage to both screen printed and digitally printed t-shirts. Screen printed designs can crack or peel and it degrades the vibrancy of digitally printed designs as well. Not to mention the dreaded shrinkage factor of the t-shirt overall. For the safest method of drying your clothes, either hang dry inside or lay on a flat surface after reshaping to extend the life of your printed t-shirts. Don’t hang dry outside because the sun can also have a bleaching effect on your design. Over long periods of contact with direct sunlight, the design can fade significantly.

Never iron a custom printed t-shirt. It seems like an unusual scenario for most but ironing over decorated apparel can cause sublimation of the dye used to colorize the fabric into the design itself plus it weakens the ink used to print the design.

Garment care has evolved dramatically over time primarily because we now have an excess of affordably manufactured garments and the luxury of household appliances that do most of the hard work for us. In past ages, decoration of apparel was done either by embroidery, applique of gems, beads, and lace, or through dying with pigments, and stamping with blocks. Textile designs were also created through weaving. Screen printing textiles in the modern era is most closely associated with wood block printing as different blocks would need to be created for each color used in the design like using different screens for different colors of ink.

Decorated apparel was primarily reserved for the rich as any of these methods used to customize cloth was labor intensive and thus costly. Caring for these luxury items must have given any poor wash maid anxiety when handling such delicate and expensive clothing particularly when the process of cleaning garments was basically brutal.

To clean clothing and household linens like sheets, and bedding, the dirt was literally beaten out of the fabric with tools that were little more than sticks. Urine and ash was used to make soap so you can imagine that while the item may have looked clean, it probably had a curious smell to it.

We’ve advanced tremendously as a society since those days however the care of custom apparel to extend the value and life of garments has not changed all that dramatically.

Bar and Bat Mitzvah Theme Ideas and Custom T-Shirt Party Favors

Bar and Bat Mitzvah Party Theme Ideas

Bar and bat mitzvahs are incredibly important events for Jewish children. Coming of age is a huge deal so it’s no wonder that families invest considerable time and money into planning and hosting these events. Bar and bat mitzvah themes provide the opportunity to personalize the special occasion and make the event memorable for all attendees.

Coming up with ideas for your party’s theme can be really fun and entertaining because a theme can be almost anything. Coming up with something really unique however can be a task if you’re the sort of person that takes uniqueness as a challenge.

Check out these unusual themes and ideas for your bar or bat mitzvah occasion along with t-shirt design ideas for party favors and giveaways.

Cosplay– This form of masquerading has gained in popularity tremendously in the last few years. Have serving staff, DJ’s, and your photographer dress up as famous characters from movies, books, and video games. You can decorate with items that are familiar to the specific characters you choose like weapons, pets, and special powers.

Legends- King Arthur and Camelot, William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Elvis Presley, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. Suess themed mitzvahs come to mind.

Magical Items– Magic carpets, the Fountain of Youth, Joshua's shofars, unicorn horns, dragon's teeth, pot of gold, Pandora’s Box, Excalibur’s sword, magic lamps, voodoo dolls, Cupid's bow, Noah’s ark, the Tree of Life and more can decorate your event with this fantasy theme. Lots of sparkling backgrounds and smoking mists can emulate the theme of magic and awe.

Atlantis- This heavily nautical theme can be pulled off with props like giant seahorses, coral, glowing jellyfish, and shells with blue and green color schemes.

Science Fiction- Giant space monsters and aliens can be party props with spaceships and robot costuming for staff.

Casino- Oversized playing cards, dice as chairs, and a roulette wheel backdrop in a red, white, and black color scheme makes this theme attractive for guests of all ages.

Outer Space- Create the Milky Way on the walls with glowing stars and the local planets. Serve guests “rocket fuel” served by staff in space suits.

Tiki- Bring Hawaii to your guests with Luau style food, Polynesian dancers, and of course, tiki torches.

Famous City- Venice, Rome, London, and Paris are very popular city themes and transport your guest for one night to exotic locations.

Mythical Creatures- Centaurs, mermaids, unicorns, werewolves, fairies, and dragons abound.

Time Traveler- Make sure to have staff wear era-specific costumes such as ancient Greek, Victorian, the Dark Ages, the Industrial Revolution, and maybe even fantasy costuming from the future.

Private Island- This party centers everything on the guest of honor.

Willy Wonka– Sugary treats will be the focus of this theme along with Oompa Loompas and golden ticket invitations.

Tim Burton- All of Tim Burton’s movies come together in this theme with dark gothic art style, black and white are the color scheme.

Butterflies– Ideal for bat mizvahs butterflies adorn table settings, flower centerpieces, cakes, invitations and party favors.

Check out these bar and bat mitzvah t-shirt designs for more inspiration for the special day or design your own online in our custom t-shirt design studio.

How to Get your Custom Designed and Printed T-shirts into Retail Stores

Retail Ready Printed Shirts

Are you up to a significant challenge? If you’ve started a t-shirt line, you’ve probably already discovered that it’s a competitive landscape for selling custom designed t-shirts online. There are lots of eCommerce business models that allow you to sell print-on-demand t-shirt designs but those same companies feature hundreds, if not thousands of other designers doing the exact same thing. This model makes it extremely difficult to make any sort of real money as an independent t-shirt designer. If you do experience some success, then it is helpful to have that proven history of your designs selling. The print-on-demand method is known in the decorated apparel industry as direct to garment printing, or DTG, and while it’s possible to print highly detailed artwork this way, the resulting image is not as long lasting or as vibrant over time as screen printing. Depending on the expertise and sophistication of the t-shirt printer used to fulfill the order, the image can even fade after the first wash. While online t-shirt sales require less effort on your part as the t-shirt designer, your brand is connected with quality of the t-shirts printed, this could have a negative impact on your brand if the t-shirt printer isn’t high quality.

Because of the aforementioned issues, we recommend that serious t-shirt designers go the screen printing route for the sake of longevity of the product they are selling and their brand’s reputation. Screen printing typically requires a minimum number of t-shirts to be ordered. The more ordered at one time, the less expensive each piece becomes. The quality of the print is perceived to be more professional and screen printed designs will last the life of the shirt which is what consumers expect when purchasing decorated apparel. The professional presentation of your line is extremely important when approaching retail purchasing agents and they will look to match their customers’ expectations.

Develop some meat to your brand before trying to break into retail. Take the time and effort to develop a strong social following. This takes dedication to research on the types of posts that get a strong reaction. Analyze similar brands social accounts to get an idea of what performs well for them. You’ll also need to spend time developing relationships with your followers by liking and interacting with their content. While time consuming, having the social proof of a community that follows your brand will support your case when presenting to a retail buyer.

You can try to get an influencer to endorse your line or an individual design to develop momentum to your social following. Be aware that this can be very pricey. They do not share their influence for free. When evaluating infuencers to approach, make sure they will be a right fit for your brand’s image. It doesn’t matter if they have 100K followers if those followers have no interest in the style you are selling. And the influencer likely would understand that your designs are not a right fit for their image as well.

If you live in a larger city, consider buying booth space at an event that draws a lot of people like a “Downtown Saturday Night.” You can barter with people that show interest in your t-shirt designs to give them a free sample if they’ll take a picture of themselves wearing or showing your product and post it to Instagram and tag your account. While unconventional, it might jumpstart your following and could even produce some sales for you if their followers love the design too. These kinds of posts can also demonstrate to a buyer how well liked your design is by the public.

Create a lookbook to tell a story about your brand. There are lots of software choices for developing professional lookbooks, some are even free. Check out digital lookbook builders and templates like FlipBuilder for Macs, Lucid Press, and FlipHTML5. It’s important to put in significant effort to the digital presentation of your work. In digital format, you can easily include a link in an email if that’s the only opportunity you have to connect with retail buyers. Ideally you’d want to hire models and perhaps a professional photographer. If you don’t quite have the funds for all of that, be sure to read up on photography tips for best practices and enlist friends to model your designs.

Not to discourage big expectations for your clothing brand entrepreneurship, but you may be able to gain momentum for the big time by starting small. This means approaching local boutique owners on a personal level before trying the larger retail chains. Be very respectful when doing this. Your brand’s designs may indeed be awesome sauce, but a humble and friendly approach is appreciated by busy business owners.

Retail Shopping

You may need to get creative in your strategy when trying to get face time with the buyer for a store you’re interested in. It requires relationship building. Frequent the store and maybe even make a few purchases. Become familiar with the staff and express appreciation for the types of product they are currently selling. Try to find out when the person responsible for buying products is usually in the store and see if there is time that coincides with quieter hours. This person may be more willing to give you quality time if they are not overwhelmed with paying customers that need attention. Imagine if you had a shop full of buyers that were not being attended to because some sales person was doing their presentation. You’d probably bring that meeting to a close as quickly as possible.

Make sure your custom t-shirt designs are ready to go on the shelf immediately. This means custom hang tags and packaging. If you’re not ready with a professional presentation, your buyer isn’t likely to be ready to promote your products in their professional retail store. This also means you will already have an idea of what kind of profit you’re looking to make. Being prepared in this regard will help the buyer understand if their customer will bear the cost of the final retail price.

Print your images on a quality t-shirt product. This will increase the likelihood that your design will be perceived as a valuable commodity. If you wouldn’t want to wear the t-shirt product, then why would anyone else?

Retail Store

Be prepared for a lot of rejection if your designs are not unique. It’s a saturated market so designs that are similar to what is already being carried in major retail stores are not going to be well accepted especially when mass produced printed t-shirts impacts the price. People will not pay a premium for boutique wear when they’ve seen something similar in big chains for a lower price.

Have a professional screen printer in place that can handle volume when you do land your first retail account. Should you be wildly successful, this relationship will be pivotal to your continued success. Look for a custom t-shirt printing company that has a track record of successful relationship with other clothing brands. To accomplish this, the screen printer must be able to produce the same design with quality and consistency as well as having the capacity to source t-shirt products and deliver goods in a timely manner. Your screen printer should also be able to scale with you as you grow. When just starting out, you might think that a run of 100 t-shirts is a huge order. If you get into chains, you’ll need a company that can promise to produce thousands of t-shirts in the same time-frame without causing your sales rep to blink an eye.

How to Price your Brand’s T-shirts for Retail

Pricing T-shirts for Retail

You’ve finally made some coveted retail buyer connections that are willing to feature your brand’s t-shirts in their retail shop! Congratulations, that’s a big step! But now you have to price the t-shirts to make a profit, and appeal to your buyer’s interest without crossing their purchasing limit threshold. How do you go about figuring this out so you don’t ruin this extraordinary chance? It could make or break you t-shirt brand’s future. There are a variety of ways to approach pricing your custom t-shirt brand’s designs for retail.

Before you can start thinking about how much to sell your t-shirts for, you have to have a strong grasp on how much they cost to produce. If you’re starting with a small batch as a trial run, the cost per shirt is going to be more since you assumedly did not order bulk t-shirt printing from your screen printer. This is going to be a tough start and you may have to be flexible with how much profit you make initially. If your t-shirt design and relationship with the retail shop are a success, you can order in bulk next time to make more of a profit on future sales. However, you should not overprice your tees in an attempt to make more money at the beginning, if you do this, you could be sabotaging your chances for success and you’ll never know if the lack of sales was because of your design or the price.

Make sure you understand how the cost per shirt is calculated with your t-shirt printer. Professional and established t-shirt printers typically have a structured price break depending on the number of shirts ordered. Find out where their significant price breaks occur. If you’re ordering for your first trial run, it would be a shame to have missed out on a good deal simply for lack of understanding. However, until you have become an established customer with a history of significant repeat orders, do not expect wholesale prices from your printer. As custom clothing lines are a very popular endeavor, your printer has likely had many experiences with startup brands that don’t succeed, therefore are unwilling to offer specialty pricing until a pattern of success has emerged.

Your pricing will also depend on the quality of the t-shirt product you choose to have your design printed. High end products will garner a higher sense of value from your customer but you must also evaluate the type of customers the retail store attracts. Things to consider are the location and the general pricing of other merchandise featured, and the immediate local competition.

Location matters a great deal. If the surrounding area is swanky, you may get away with a premium price if it’s a premium product. If it’s more of trendy yet dive bar trashy area, consider tempering your profits with salability. Are the other products in the $30 range? Or is $20? Don’t underestimate the difference $5 can make in the mind of your customer. If there are two choices and one is $5 cheaper, that’s a venti latte at Starbucks and coffee is non-negotiable to some people. Is there a lot of competition in the vertical of apparel immediately surrounding the shop? Take a look at the products and pricing inside these local shops. That should give you a decent indication of expectations buyers have for the area.

Converging all of this information into pricing, you should still consider the value of our product. If you’ve produced a great design printed on a high quality product, and it’s being showcased in a retail shop that can tolerate a higher price, don’t be afraid to sell it at a price its worth.

Clothing retailers need to sell a lot of merchandise to stay afloat and they typically are looking for a gross profit margin of 25-35% as well to do this. How do you calculate your price with that figure in mind? For example if your cost to have each t-shirt printed is $15.00 and you wish to make a personal profit of 40%, 100% + 40% = 140%. Multiply the $15.00 cost by 140% and you come to an asking price of $21.00. In turn, for the retail shop to get their desired profit margin of 35%, they would then calculate $21.00 x 135% coming out to a retail price of $28.35 per shirt. When calculating these margins, keep asking yourself, will the market bear it and adjust accordingly.

So you have come to price that both you and the retailer can potentially agree on, but not so fast. Pricing is an emotional venture. You have to take some tactics of marketing into consideration when pricing each shirt. People react to subtle cues when deciding on a purchase. There’s actually an entire gamut of emotions consumers experience when deciding to make a purchase. They ask themselves, do I need this? What will I lose or gain from my purchase? Does this t-shirt fit my image and will it make me look good? That last qualifier is not really even about physical fit, it’s more of an emotional fit as in will I look stupid to my family and peers for having purchased this t-shirt or will I look like a smart, stylish shopper for having purchased it.

Custom t-shirt retail pricing

If it’s possible to have 3 price points, people like to have that choice. This could come in the form of your design printed on tote bags, t-shirts, and hoodies for example. Another way to manipulate the emotional aspect of buying is offer a price break with bundled products. If you have 3 different designed tees, offer a discounted price per shirt if all three designs are purchased together. Keep actual price tag cost just below rounded numbers. Even though it’s simpler, the difference between a $20 price tag and a $19 price tag makes the perceived cost much lower in the mind of the consumer.

2017 is predicted to be another great year for the fashion industry according to a McKinsey report that suggests 2.5 to 3.5 percent overall growths. According to the same report the vertical that is predicted to see the absolute highest growth is athletic wear so that’s definitely something to consider when deciding what types of apparel products to print your design on and offer to consumers.