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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks!

My question is really this: if I want to give screen printing the good old fashion college try, what all equipment and supplies should I get? Let's assume I have $2000 or so. If that isn't enough, then say $3500.

I only ask because I have a niche clothing brand. What I need printed vs the price I'd like to pay vs the hassle it seems to be for printers is leading me to doing the printing myself.

Yes, I really make difficult orders. 1000 shirts but split between 20 designs, ink color changes, tag printing, up to 5x shirts, men shirts, women shirts, on and on. 90% of the designs are one color, one location.

I already learned enough Illustrator and Photoshop to make my designs, so instead of being a nightmare customer I'd really like to see if screen printing is something I can learn to do well.

(Note: I've noticed people on internet forums can be mean and pushy. I'd really just like to know what equipment or reputable starter packages I should look into without having to hear "you'll probably suck at it, don't bother." Personal stories about just starting out or clothing brands/lines would be cool too.)

Thanks in advance!
and sorry Rodney if this is in the wrong spot.
 

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Hi Amarie,

Screen printing, especially single color, isn't difficult in itself. It is process and technique heavy, which means it is not something you just start doing without a little bit of practice. That said, once you get the hang of things the concern is just the time required to do each job.

Now, since I'm not a pro I can't really tell you specifically what you'll need to turn 1000 shirts in a reasonable time. I imagine it will depend on how often you plan on turning out that many shirts as to whether major equipment purchases will pay off.

The best advise I can give you is to learn the process and stay with it.
 

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I say anyone can learn to print if they want to. Now quality and ability to do high end printing will need some practice. Spend some time on you tube there is plenty of videos. There is a lot of steps learning curves. Screen printing classes can also be very helpful. In order to get a quality setup new you will need much more money. Now if you roam the classifieds here, Craigslist, digitsmith you can put together a ok setup for $3500. Of course this is just me option based on 5-6 years of printing starting out and upgrading several times and wasting a lot of money of some inferior equipment. You can DIY a lot of stuff in your handy at building stuff. Last line added for the Dr.
 

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I would never say to a new printer "you'll probably suck at it, don't bother." because I was where you are 3 years ago..... but I will say screen printing is not something you just learn in a day.....

with that said there are many variables to master in the process. you can get some decent starter equipment with $3500.00 ....first one of the top of my head is silkscreeningsupplies.com, you can get a 4 color 1 station package with everything you will need to print your own shirts.

be prepared for alot of head scratching and going back to the "valuable " videos on youtube. I say "valuable" because you will weed thru the useless videos until you find the few that are worth watching....again... Ryonet has a ton of instructional videos.

GOOD LUCK !!!!!!

Inked
 

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I am sort of in the same boat, but its a small same boat, I am still in college, but only taking a few classes, working full time as a graphic artist and wanting to start creating a life for myself. I am just getting into screen printing without knowing anything about it. When I first started looking at screen printing I really had no clue on what to do. How to burn screens, how you reuse screens, the off contact, and much, much, much more. But Now I am pretty confident in my ability to start doing simple one and 2 color prints.

What you really need to do is look into how to's from people that have been in the business. Cat Spit Productions, LLC is a extremely helpful site. jonathan teaches everything from your brand new screen to printing a full production run of shirts. Ryonet also has good videos on youtube on how to's.

I bought a simple 200 dollar "hobby press" (now they have an upgraded press for the same price that would be amazing to have had) and watched all of the dvd's that came with the press. Printed my first shirts with the water base ink, and knew this is what I wanted to do. I did attend the ISS show in Atlantic City and it was amazing with all of the different presses and processes for printing. If there is one close to you, I would strongly suggest going.

Now I am just waiting to get my upgrades to start printing for the contract for the sports shop I have all lined up.

So what I would suggest is to buy a simple press, one station, one or 2 colors, and a few other things. Ryonet has an really great starting packages for under 2 grand. Semi-Pro. If you wanted to spend the 3500, you can upgrade to a riley hopkins press and some more shop upgrades as well.

I hope that makes sense, its kind of where I started out/still starting out. If you have any questions or anything, pm me.
 

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You can DIY a lot of stuff in your handy at building stuff. Last line added for the Dr.

Hey, I thought I showed remarkable restraint this time...but thanks
.

Working with one or two colors a DIY press could work, but I would purchase the equipment for curing just because of the stated quantities being printed. If you're going to design and print you aren't going to want to waste time with sketchy curing. I can print almost as fast with my table top pick press as I could with my rotary, but the curing stage kills me time wise.
 

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Like any profession, you will have a long learning curve. 30 years in the biz and I learn something new everyday. You can master printing with good equipment, but you will struggle with the wrong equipment. Before you dump 3500 on equipment I'd visit a few high end print shops. You simply can't compete with an auto unless you like growing old fast. If you have a clothing line you are a merchandiser and could partner with a printer who really knows this stuff. Once you are a printer your time is consumed by, well printing. And designing your line and selling gets little time. I have done this both ways. I owned a ton of equipment, and by default a ton of overhead, and I've been a merchandiser (1 computer and capital to work with, no overhead, out of my home, which allows you creativity, lots of sales time, and when your order is due at 8 am the next day, your having a beer while your good local printer's staff is hard at work, and the money is better IMO. There is a ton of excess print capacity at print shops and often they know how to engineer the print, have a really good separator to sep your art, and get the job out on time. Partner with a printer until you have made enough to buy a shop of your own, but honestly a commercial grade shop with good autos, ovens, exposure systems are not cheap, yet just walk through the door of a good printer and you own them for the time of the print run, and not one penny more! Your margins stay intact and come winter you aren't scrambling to pay the rent on a warehouse or on equipment lease payments. If you want to be a local 2-4 color printer of groups, teams, and small companies go ahead and buy a small package, but if your goal is to start a niche clothing line, design 10 for every 1 that sells, and build a portfolio of designs and sample prints to sell from. If you have sales ability outsource, if you like being in a shop working with your hands buy a starter pack.
 

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I will say the silver press kits are not bad. I had a 6/2 for about 6 months. The newer micros that are available look 100x better than the old. They are optional and about $100 per head. If you use a flash dryer to cure I recommend making a cure station instead of using your platen. I just preferred some of the other press Ive had and having 4 or 6 stations is a must for me but I do a lot of print and flash and with 2 or 1 stations I would have to stop and let them cool down. If I am printing as fast as I can they never get hot enough to warrant stopping with the 6 station. When I started I didn't know anything about printing although worked on designs for years but not for garments. My experience is not typical but I was able to make a film burn a screen first time. I have made thousands of PCB boards and I know that help as the techniques I used to expose boards are similar to making a screen. The printing took little to get down but I printed a 3 color job as my first job and had 140 shirts to print. Wish I had known white was hard to print and a lot of the other stuff I have learned. I also wished I had found this forum 3years earlier than I did I would have progressed a lot faster.
 

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When you say partner with a company, how would I convince them that it would be a good idea to print my complicated orders at a low price?
A sample picture would help. And what you expect to pay. Quality and low price do not go hand in hand. I can tell you there will not be many printers wanting to partner if it's in the sense I think. If I did this Everytime I was contacted by a designer I would be out of business.
 

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I also recommend: Go to Utube and check out some videos for free. $2,000 - $3500 will buy a good small conveyor dryer. A flash dryer or heat gun will work but the cure is questionable sometimes and it's a slow process. Have fun, consider used equipment to get more for your money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Follow the bouncing ball:

I got 1000 shirts. 26 designs.
600 men shirts on port and company pc61 med-4x
400 women shirts on gildan 5000L sm-3x
Plus, tag printing on the inside neckline.
mostly on dark colored shirts (royal blue, red, black, dark brown).


17 of the designs were 1 color full front. 20 shirts/design

2 designs were 2 color on white shirts. 20 shirts/design

3 designs were 1 color full front. 80 shirts/design 3 ink color changes

3 designs were 1 color full front. 100 shirts/design 2 color changes

1 design was 1 color, full front and full back. 80 shirts 2 color changes

I had a company willing to do this at $5 per shirt.

I went to an event and sold all the brown shirts so I needed to get just those printed over again in a week and a half. I've got about 6 events scheduled and most require a different set of colors (fraternity and sorority specific). It get's complicated quickly.

My money is green and spends but I'm sure this type of thing is a headache most printers don't want for $5 a shirt.
 

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Amarie,

I noticed that you are located in Maryland ... have you talked to the folks at Nightmare Graphics in Columbia, MD?

Not sure if they'd agree to take this on, but they do have a fairly large operation (3 auto presses, 5 manual presses, 2 numbering presses, automatic heat presses, 29 heads of embroidery, folding, bagging and tagging area in a 25,000 square foot facility) ... and they do contract printing.

Might be worth making a call to them.

Good luck.
 

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Sam is a really cool guy to deal with. He is a friend of ours, and we do business with him. Mostly only runs over 500 shirts +. He might do the contract printing, but he is used to doing major runs. Although he does have a few manual presses, he might charge a higher price for the low number of shirts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
My current printer is in Delaware but i will check them out. I'm definitely going to check out the starter packages on ryonet though. If I take the time to learn the trade I can get exactly what I want.
 

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Yeah, I guess it would aslo depend on the time of year for him, I guess at the moment he is in his race season/baseball season. At least he was a few weeks ago. I went and toured his building and it was amazing to see what a well established screen printing operation looked like. It was inspiring really.
 

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Yeah, I guess it would aslo depend on the time of year for him, I guess at the moment he is in his race season/baseball season. At least he was a few weeks ago. I went and toured his building and it was amazing to see what a well established screen printing operation looked like. It was inspiring really.
Haha ... yep, I've done the same ... spent some time with his son Robert and took a quick tour not too long ago.

They've built quite an operation.
 
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