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Discussion Starter #1
Contract Screen Printing Pricing

For anyone who is curious about how contract print pricing is different from standard pricing I decided to write it down here. First off let me say that the following information is the same information that I took with me as a Print Broker when interviewing potential new contract printers I was interested in hiring to do my work before I owned my own equipment. I still to this day find printers who don’t have any real understanding why there is and should be different pricing for both.
NON qualifying customers are customers who cannot or will not follow these guidelines. I have several who want better pricing but are simply to careless or lazy to follow them and so we use standard pricing with them.

First off a contract print buyer should have to quality as a business, authorized to buy printing tax free by the state for the legal purpose of reselling it to his customers. (they should have a tax exempt number and that earns them one browny point) If they don’t your selling to an end user like it or not as far as the state is concerned.
Secondly a contract print buyer should be purchasing their own garments for you to print on, and should be delivering them to you at least 24 hours before your scheduled to print them.
If they dont, they arent allowing you time to count them and allert you to any shortages that the distributor may have caused. If your print price is based on a quantity and the order is short of that quantity becuse the distributor shorted them and you now don’t have time to rectify it because of short print turn times its really the customers fault and pricing should be re-addressed based on actual quantity. If your contract customer on the other hand delivers the goods two or more days in advance and has all ready counted the goods and provides you with accurate written documentation to boot your contract customer gets one browny point.
Thirdly If the custmer gives you excellent, clean art and in some cases clean registered film to boot that actually works like its supposed to 99 percent of the time they get one browny point. Contract print customers should not be bringing you napkin sketches made with lipstick or one inch by one inch jpgs for a large full front print without expecting an art bill of some note.
Fourth a contract customer should provide written documentation detailing all pertinent aspects of the print job to allow you to do it correctly the first time and if there is a potential for confusion, be on the premisses to provide guidance during the strike off approval stage. If they do this and do it on time and don’t hold up production they get another browny point. No printer likes a contract customer who expects miracles, and mind reading and refuses to pay for mistakes they clearly could have prevented by simply doing a better job of communicating. (Thats the Brokers Job)
Fifth Always be clear on your PO to the printer what you expect to pay for the job. Clear up any confusion about pricing BEFORE the job is printed. If your contract print customer has an understanding of your pricing and is accurate on their PO's 99 percent of the time-another browny point. If a contract print customer has issues over a bill after the job is done no one is going to be pleased regardless of the quality of work or turn around time. The Printer is responsible for addressing pricing if the PO is wrong otherwise they should be prepared to conceed to the PO.
Sixth (and Lastly) I get asked this a LOT from other printers.If a Contract print job has misprints should the printer pay for those goods? The answer is a printer should on their price list show a misprint allowance (standard is 3 or 4%) that is allowed as misprints and the printer should not charge for printing those misprints as long as they are within that allowance and should not have to replace them either.(if they exceed the allowance then they should replace the goods or creit the cost back to the buyer as time allows. A contract print broker should ALWAYS buy a few extras if the quantity is critical and ask the printer to replace misprints from thos extras if needed if the quantaties must be precise. Blank unused goods can always be returned for a refund so there is no excuse not to do this. In addition if the broker is shorted for failing to provide extras then a re-run of the job to fill in shortages should be billed as a separate job at a price relative to the quantity being re-run. Thats fair.

I hope this was helpful to anyone who may be contract printing. If you follow these 6 basic guides you will likely find a pleasant experience dealing with your printer assuming they are professionals.

If anyone wishes to know more about the littel billing issues that cause friction and how to avoid them feel free to send me a message or call me and i’ll freely give my opinions.

thanks
Dave Robison
 

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Thanks so much for taking the time to share this info, I am sure it will be very useful to others looking to start their own screen printing :)
 

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As an embroiderer, I expect to become a contract printer at some point, and this info helps those of us who wish to be "good customers" (Do these same things apply when purchasing plastisol transfers?)

So - a few questions:

"excellent, clean art" What exactly do screenprinters use? Jpg? Vector? I read terms like half-tones and spot-colors and I stick my head in the sand. What are you guys talking about?

"in some cases clean registered film" HUH? What is it and how do we provide it?

"written documentation detailing all pertinent aspects of the print job" What pertinent details do you need? Do you have a suggested form?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Well "Clean" art can be interpreted a couple of different ways.

If a client sends me an image on paper even if its very professional and polished, it generally still needs to be scanned into the computer and all the imperfections in the art or the scan process removed. Then that art needs to be prepared for separations if its going to be screen printed. Some printers like to bring it into a vector based program and try to convert it into vector based final art. That means it has to be traced either manually or through the program and once again manipulated to produce mathematical scaleable art that can later be printed out onto film posatives. (one for each color you want to screen print)
Another way is to work entirely in photoshop and create alpha channels, One for each color and then print those alpha channels out on film. (My prefered method)

Clean Files ready to print means we don't have to spend any time editing them at all in order to print out the film. If I have to clean up trash out of their scans or redraw their art in order for it to work and then Separate it as well before i can run film I charge for that time. Someone HAS to do it before it can go to press so there is cost involved in doing it. Many screen printers will say they don't charge for that, but they do in other ways. I charge for it up front and then discount reorders. Thats the best way to do it. If your customers start shopping around and comparing pricing it works to everyones advantage in the long run.
 

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I really appreciate this education - and I hope you are willing to stick with me until I get it. If I'm a lost cause and asking to many questions, please let me know.

I get the part about vector art being needed. If I am creating an embroidery image from a business card or design drawn on a napkin or something - I first create a vector image.

From vector art, what do screenprinters need? Color separations - correct? What does that look like? I use CorelDRAW x4. Is each color put into a separate file, or a separate page, so when they are lined up on top of each other the final design is created? If this is what you're talking about - it sounds easy - until you get to looking at colors. Clearly defined colors that don't blend can turn into something that looks like a cartoon pretty quickly. Is blending possible in screenprinting? If so, is that what's referred to has halftones? How is that created?

The vector, I assume, needs to be converted to curves? Do we include fill, or just pen outline? If we use fill, does the color need to be accurate, or just consistent (all the blue could be red - as long as all the blue is the same color and the screenprinter is told that everything that shows up as red on screen actually needs to be blue)? If we use outline, how do we identify what parts should be filled and with what colors?

What does "printed to film" mean? Does this refer to darkroom work? I'm thinking that while I might be able to be taught to do everything up to this point, I won't be able to go any further without special equipment beyond a computer and Corel?
 

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All colors should be a PMS color from the coated pallet. Also its best to use contours instead of outlines as it stay proportionate if the image needs its size changed.

You can also use Photoshop files a create a channel for each PMS color. If you can not separate them then the screen printer should charge for separations. Just don't take a 72dpi business card size and want it full back and expect it to look good. Remember that the art is the foundation for any screen print job and a good foundation is needed if you want a good product.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I just re read my post and realized I didn't share one of the most important parts. I use the "Brownie Points" as a way to determine when and If I'm willing to offer a growing client better pricing. Often I take a new client, teach them how to be a good buyer, and then move them down the pricing chart based on volume and ease to work with as time goes on. If a client gets to 6 brownie points in the first few weeks, pays on time, and shows a likely trend to grow in volume over time, I take the initiative to begin dropping their prices relative to the volume they do.
On the other hand if the client becomes more demanding of my time in order to do their work, and shows no interest in learning how to be better, faster, and more professional in the process or volume just isn't what they thought it was going to be I re think the tier pricing I have them at and in some cases go up in price. We all have to stay on top of our work, know your clients needs, help them be better, but don't waste time on them if there isn't a mutual respect for each others success.
 

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Is each color put into a separate file, or a separate page, so when they are lined up on top of each other the final design is created? If this is what you're talking about - it sounds easy - until you get to looking at colors. Clearly defined colors that don't blend can turn into something that looks like a cartoon pretty quickly. Is blending possible in screenprinting? If so, is that what's referred to has halftones? How is that created?

It depends on what they use to output the films (separations). Normally, all the colors of the design can be on the same page without issue (I'm sure most prefer it that way). But, if a company doesn't have a true postscript printer or some sort of rip software then each color can be saved in a different file or on a different page. A couple more issues can arise when doing it this way, so try to avoid it whenever possible.

If you have the need for colors to blend together, then yes that is what people refer to as halftones. In it's most basic form it is accomplished by using gradient fills in Corel.

The vector, I assume, needs to be converted to curves? Do we include fill, or just pen outline? If we use fill, does the color need to be accurate, or just consistent (all the blue could be red - as long as all the blue is the same color and the screenprinter is told that everything that shows up as red on screen actually needs to be blue)? If we use outline, how do we identify what parts should be filled and with what colors?

In Corel, you do not have to convert anything but text - that's just to make sure that the text will look the same to anyone who sees it, regardless of whether or not they have that particular font installed. Script-type fonts require that they be "welded" together to insure proper output.

You are correct that the colors in the artwork do not matter that much, just that they be consistent. I can't tell you how many times I've had 1 color artwork sent in by a customer that has 3 different shades of black (cmyk black, pantone black, process black). Obviously the output device will see that as 3 different colors and want to print 3 films versus the 1 that we need.

As far as outlines go, just give them a separate color like any other piece of the art. As long as you specify what color it is supposed to be, have converted and welded (if applicable) you should be fine.

What does "printed to film" mean? Does this refer to darkroom work? I'm thinking that while I might be able to be taught to do everything up to this point, I won't be able to go any further without special equipment beyond a computer and Corel?

The film is simply the media that the image is printed onto (instead of paper), and then used to expose the screen.
 

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I am a small printer that usually manages 10 to 100 piece custom orders. I have some basic equipment to pull off a 4 color job, but prefer one or two color for quality reasons. However, I do get approached by my customers for more sophisticated jobs and higher quantities that require the skills of a larger printer for quality and price reasons.

For this reason, I'd like to send some jobs to a trusted larger printer, but maintain a direct relationship with my clients, but outsource the work so that I have enough room to markup, yet still make it a sound deal for my customers. Can this model compete in a world of large custom printers that attract consumers with online, "design it yourself" tools with 6 piece minimums? Here's the kind of model that I'd love to achieve:

1) Customer gives me a JPEG for a 4-color, 1-sided tee shirt (assume white) and wants quantity of 200 in 2 week.

2) I go to a "design it yourself" site and get a quote. The quote is $7.30 per shirt with free delivery in two weeks.

3) I make a call to my trusted contract printing partner and get a quote of $5.30 per shirt. I mark each shirt up by $1 and quote the customer $6.30 per shirt. The customer checks out a "design it yourself" site to ensure they are getting the best deal, and soon discover that we offer a better value, and place an order. My value-add is that I find the lead, quote the price, place the order and manage/resolve ongoing customer support/satisfaction issues by keeping in communication with my contract printing partner.

4) The printer wins with a profit of $3/shirt, I win with a profit of $1/shirt and the customer saves $1/shirt (or $200 less) than dealing with a "design it yourself" site.

Is this scenario a pipe dream? Is it achievable the way I've described it? Are there contract printers out there that operate in this way?

I've been EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED with a few large commercial printers with online "design it" tools that simply don't have a model to support what I've just described. In most cases, they don't even know who in their own organizations I should talk to arrange a "manufacturers rep" relationship.

I'd be interested in your experiences and thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Let me say this. Don't just settle on an easy to use web site that generates quotes for you. I'm working on a site that will eventually provide Brokers like you with this ability but the scripting is complicated when you provide as many options as we do. It is worth your time to keep looking for the right contract printer to provide you with a wonderful solution. Our web site for example will allow and end user to get a quote but a broker set up with us for contract printing gets a MUCH better price from us based on volume and professional knowledge. I can teach anyone who is remotely familiar with screen printing how to quote on a job and then source a printer to provide the printing even if its not us, allthough I'd like it to be. Feel free to contact me and I'll show you how. You Really should be able to do the simpler jobs yourself, and forward your more complex ones to us in the knowledge that we will produce the printing on your garments or ours and bill you for our work. Sending the final version to your customer on your UPS account number from you to them with our name no where on the packages. At a price that you can make money on and know that your customer will still be yours when we are done.
In truth any decent contract printer should provide this service flawlessly or they just aren't that good.
(and do it with complex jobs that look fabulous too.) call me if you would like to see how we do it.

thanks
Dave Robison
770-978-2854
 

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Thanks. I checked out your site and the quote calculator. Are the prices quoted for the consumer or for a contract partner?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Those are for the end user our contract pricing can be much better depending on your volume. Can you let me know what your average yearly contract business might look like? I have three tiers of pricing that does not include the garments based on yearly volume. Obviously my biggest voume clients get the best pricing but even occasional brokers get pricing that when combined with the markup of the goods are reasonably good.
 

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Why should the client, (contract print buyer), be providing the garments?

Why can't the printer? Maybe even make something extra on it?

I'm totally confused by this rule of yours - please explain this logic to me

Thanks,

Richie
 

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Why should the client, (contract print buyer), be providing the garments?

Why can't the printer? Maybe even make something extra on it?

I'm totally confused by this rule of yours - please explain this logic to me

Thanks,

Richie
Most seasoned contract customers have accounts with all of the distributors that we do. They demand the same prices for the garments and will look for other printers if you try to "tax" them on the garment.

It is also one less step the printer has to make to complete the order. We require customers to have their garments either dropped off or shipped directly to us with the PO listed on the box.
 
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