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Hi everyone,

First I want to say thanks to everyone who helps and contributes to those asking for help and thanks to those who set up and maintain this site. Its certainly the best one i've seen.

Secondly - Like many here - I'm thinking of starting my own T shirt biz featuring my own designs ... I'd like to produce some relatively colorful designs, photo (or ALMOST photo) like as opposed to just putting out 1,2,3,4 color shirts...

However (from what i've read) it seems that in order to get a greater range in colors for your design/picture (say 25 to 50+) you'd more than likely have to go with high quality heat transfer since they're printed out on computer printers then heat stamped on , but from what I've read they dont last as long as silk screen and tend to crack off ,"look cheap" and only last for X amount of washes ?? ... So silk screen lasts longer but limits the colors, correct??

The question i'm trying to get at is , for something like this to be silkscreened - A photo with many colors
http://www.uploadx.com/content/polyrhythmicSouL/moonanites.jpg
How much would it cost, on average from a solid screen vendor, to produce an order of 30 T shirts, do you think... All Dark shirts price VS. All Light shirts price?

Compared to something like this -
http://www.uploadx.com/content/polyrhythmicSouL/learydea.jpg
Since its less colors that means less ink and less screens which means less cost, but how much less compared to a close to or photo quality screen print?


Basically i'm starting out from my home... I'm not looking to make amazing profits...

but I am looking to put out photo (or as close to) quality designs/pictures on my shirts that ALSO last atleast 100 washes without Horrible cracking and fading to the point where you can't make out the pic ...

Would it be wiser to go with a high quality heat press set up (what type of ink ... Durabrite or Plastisol (spelling) ?) ...in order to get my quality to 100 wash ratio or professional silkscreening...

obviously the silkscreening would be more $$ so i'd either have to sell for more money (which i dont want to do) or i'd have to take a profit cut compared to investing in my own heat press set up - but how drastic are we talking ?? I dont want to put out junk quality designs that aren't very vivid and that also crack and fade after a year or so but I also dont need to put out Transnational Corporation Professional shirts... I'm trying to find the midway basically ... not cheap - halfway (atleast) professional , durable , vivid designs ...

If it seems like i'm asking alot I apologize before hand i just assumed that some of you with experience may have some ball park figures/ideas you could toss my way...

Thank you 10 times in advance for any and all constructive knowledge/advice ect...
~ATOIS
 

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I don't really know much about screenprinting, but I'm looking into plastisol transfers right now and I can tell you that it has the exact same limitations and advantages as screens since it's actually a screenprint to a transfer paper. The price sheet I'm looking at doesn't even go over 7 colors, so that may not even be an option for you.

If you're looking for near photo quality and most of your designs will be square like you posted, with no lettering that you need to have on a transparent background, then heat transfer with good quality paper and inks might work for you, especially since you're starting out in relatively small quantities. Any complicated designs with edges require you to cut along the design exactly or leave a white border, which is the carrier for the inks. This can break your knuckles since it's time-consuming, plus it just sucks if you want to do more than 25 shirts in a day.

You can achieve decent, acceptable results with a good paper, proper press pressure and temp, and durable inks. This is the hardest part for people though. There are so many variables that can affect the longevity of the product that people can vary widely in their results.

My personal experience with Durabrite inks on an Epson C86, 100% cotton clothing has been trial and error, but I've come up with a good process that creates a tee that can withstand many more washes and flexing than you would expect with transfer paper. Let me know if you go this way and I can throw a couple tips out there.

Make no mistake about it though, screening leaves a better hand and looks better longer. Anything done with transfer paper will not last as long because the inks aren't bonded to the fibers. I don't know if my own transfers would last a year or not becuase it hasn't been that long yet, but I do know that a few people who buy products like mine from retail (not everything is screened) told me they don't pay attention to the difference between the two processes and actually expect some of the designs to break down at some point in the future. I think the average is about a year but I'm not sure. That may be acceptable depending on your price point. For mine, it's not.
 

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A.T.O.I.S. said:
However (from what i've read) it seems that in order to get a greater range in colors for your design/picture (say 25 to 50+) you'd more than likely have to go with high quality heat transfer since they're printed out on computer printers then heat stamped on
You don't have to, but it is cheaper and easier.

A.T.O.I.S. said:
but from what I've read they dont last as long as silk screen and tend to crack off ,"look cheap" and only last for X amount of washes ?? ... So silk screen lasts longer but limits the colors, correct??
That's all correct, although the details (how long is not as long, how cheap is cheap, how many washes is X, etc.) are contentious. Also screen printing doesn't literally limit the colours, but that's certainly the practical impact (plus I'd bet some printers would refuse to do process printing - if you can afford to turn away customers it's probably not worth doing unless you enjoy the challenge).

A.T.O.I.S. said:
The question i'm trying to get at is , for something like this to be silkscreened - A photo with many colors - How much would it cost, on average from a solid screen vendor, to produce an order of 30 T shirts, do you think... All Dark shirts price VS. All Light shirts price?
I don't have enough experience to put an exact figure on it, but the answer is a lot. From what I understand it's also a lot easier to do process printing on lighter colours (especially white) than dark as you don't have to compensate for the base colour of the t-shirt. Normally colour of the t-shirt doesn't make much difference in screenprinting, but this is one case where it might cost more for dark vs. light.

A.T.O.I.S. said:
Compared to something like this b&w photo. Since its less colors that means less ink and less screens which means less cost, but how much less compared to a close to or photo quality screen print?
The B&W would likely be significantly cheaper. It's not at all unlikely that we're talking about the difference between being worth doing, and not worth doing (i.e. with a colour photo there's not enough of a profit margin in it to justify the risk, with a b&w photo there's every chance you could have a reasonable margin). This is especially true if you simplify the b&w photo (remove some half-tones, etc.).

Ink is cheap, so that's not likely to particularly influence the cost. The main thing that will drive up the cost are the extra screens (most printers charge a setup fee per screen) and the extra labour (it's a lot of extra labour, and you can expect to pay accordingly).

Full colour screenprinting is not likely to be worth it unless you have a product you are confident you can sell. Screenprinting a simple one colour design is damn cheap - you could easily get a couple of hundred high quality shirts printed for under $1000 (total cost). Full process colour I'm not sure, but if I had to put a figure on it I'd say you're looking at $12-15 per shirt (feel free to correct me anyone), as well as a much higher than usual setup fee. That is a guess though, so don't be surprised if the actual figure is different.

A.T.O.I.S. said:
Basically i'm starting out from my home... I'm not looking to make amazing profits...
Personally my belief is that anyone not in a rush to make big bucks quick should go with screenprinting. It's not expensive to start out with a screened inventory.

With heat press you can have more shirts on offer straight away, more flexibility on size and putting out new designs (less on colour choices, etc.), and in the short term more profit.

In the longterm screenprinting is cheaper and higher quality. So if you want short term gains heat press has considerable advantages, but if you are in it for the long haul and either have a lot of startup capital or can afford to be patient, then I believe screenprinting is superior.

Obviously this is all subjective stuff and people need to decide what their own way is.

A.T.O.I.S. said:
Would it be wiser to go with a high quality heat press set up (what type of ink ... Durabrite or Plastisol (spelling) ?) ...in order to get my quality to 100 wash ratio or professional silkscreening...
Plastisol transfers are screenprinted onto carrier paper to be used in a heatpress. Since they are screenprinted they are subject to all of the same limitations of the medium. They do have advantages (like not having to commit to putting the design on a certain shirt size until the customer orders it), but if you're buying a heatpress to only use Plastisol transfers... why not just go with screenprinting?

The rest of the questions I'll leave to those who know heatpress technology better than I.

A.T.O.I.S. said:
obviously the silkscreening would be more $$ so i'd either have to sell for more money (which i dont want to do) or i'd have to take a profit cut compared to investing in my own heat press set up - but how drastic are we talking ??
Very drastic in all likelihood. And I seriously doubt you could afford to increase the price on a full colour print, even if you wanted to.

A.T.O.I.S. said:
I dont want to put out junk quality designs that aren't very vivid and that also crack and fade after a year or so but I also dont need to put out Transnational Corporation Professional shirts... I'm trying to find the midway basically ... not cheap - halfway (atleast) professional , durable , vivid designs ...
Off the top of my head I can currently think of three options:

1) Top quality screenprint that gives you everything you want, and costs a fortune.
2) Drop the amount of colours and screenprint at a more affordable rate.
3) Heat press, sacrificing some quality but gaining a more competitive profit margin

Much as it pains me to say it I don't think option one is a realistic option.

I think option two is the best halfway/midground option. It's surprising how few colours are really needed to print a decent image. It's not easy to create a great colour image using only 4-6 colours, but it can be done. The best option is to learn to do it. Best, but by no means easiest.

Option three - Heat press is easy and cost effective. Personally I think it's unsuitable for a large professional t-shirt company, but it seems to suit smaller outfits. Even I must admit that in a lot of ways it's your best option (and since you're posting here you will get a lot of people advocating that option).

There are other options (dye sublimation, etc.) but they tend to have disadvantages of their own (including very high equipment costs if you don't want to outsource the printing) and personally I don't see them as viable for small business.
 

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rabid said:
I do know that a few people who buy products like mine from retail (not everything is screened) told me they don't pay attention to the difference between the two processes and actually expect some of the designs to break down at some point in the future.
There is definitely a (financially significant) segment of the market that view t-shirts as very disposable. You buy something because it's funny and cool, and by the time it wears out (even if that's only after six weeks of intense wear) you're sick of the joke, or the look, or it's no longer fashionable. This group tends to think of everything as disposable (including their money) so they're easier to convince to part with their cash; if you make a satisfying product they'll also come back looking for the New Thing when the old one is no longer wanted.

Depending on your demographic this can work in your favour. Part of the problem is that the disposable tee portion of your demographic will most likely never make up your entire market, so you run the risk of still annoying a large number of your customers.

It's also worth noting that a lot of people don't bother washing their tees properly, and if you don't wash a screenprinted shirt properly it might as well have been a heat transfer - either one will look like crap if you abuse it in the wash.
 
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Discussion Starter #5
Awesome reply's guys... Thanks a million for the info and opinions, its truely appreciated...

After reading all that I guess I'm going Heat Transfer at first, I figure if later on things happen to pick up then i'll probably go with screening for basic couple color designs like logo shirts ect...

The next question would be about getting that Ratio between highest quality to wash durability (any tips rabid??) ... I mean obviously the shirt design doesn't have to GLOW and look like it was painted on but general resolution and definition of designs and colors is huge ... to start its mostly going to be photos transferred onto my shirts ...

Thanks again guys for your help and time and also apologies for posting in the wrong forum - i'll give myself a quick smack for that one ...
 

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A.T.O.I.S. said:
Awesome reply's guys... Thanks a million for the info and opinions, its truely appreciated...

After reading all that I guess I'm going Heat Transfer at first, I figure if later on things happen to pick up then i'll probably go with screening for basic couple color designs like logo shirts ect...

The next question would be about getting that Ratio between highest quality to wash durability (any tips rabid??) ... I mean obviously the shirt design doesn't have to GLOW and look like it was painted on but general resolution and definition of designs and colors is huge ... to start its mostly going to be photos transferred onto my shirts ...

Thanks again guys for your help and time and also apologies for posting in the wrong forum - i'll give myself a quick smack for that one ...
If you're going cheap cheap cheap and want max durability:

Good ink. Epson C86 printer or equivalent, you can get it for around $80 and sometimes $50 with rebates. The OEM Durabrite inks are some of the best OEM inks. If you think you'll be doing runs of more than 10 shirts frequently, consider a printer with a bulk ink system. You can probably find this stuff on ebay and I'd probably stay with Epson. As for the ink, Magic Mix has been mentioned here before, which also sells cartridges. Try both.

Good quality transfer paper, a little over a dollar per sheet for opaque transfers. You need one kind of paper to do lights, and one to do darks. I buy Double Green Line and Alpha Dark from Alpha Supply. Others say Transjet II is the best. Follow the directions that come with them but with variables like different humidity, inaccuracies in temp guages, and no pressure guidelines, you need to work out the optimal process for your setup.

If using 100% cotton, moisture is your enemy. Always press the shirt itself for about 5 seconds before doing anything, letting it cool before pressing a transfer. This has the added effect of flattening the layer underneath (back of the shirt) where the image will go and removing moisture. Wrinkles and seams can screw with your print on the front.

With ribbed shirts, right after pressing (in either process) stretch the shirt gently from every direction, only deflecting the shirt about 1", to allow the image to "settle" into the ribs and fabric. This helps prevent cracking when the garment is naturally stretched when worn, like over boobies.

Remember to adjust press pressure slightly for different weights of shirts.

Let the inks dry on the printed transfer before trying to cut around the image and press it.

I've heard of a tip to get the right pressure for shirts: place a dollar bill half-on the bottom platen and close the press. The pressure is optimal right when you can't pull it out by hand easily. Haven't tried this one yet...

If your images brown then too much heat, if the image is not completely coming off of the paper when peeling then not enough pressure or heat or press time. :D

Search this forum for many more informed opinions.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head from work. Hope it helps.

- Oh, forgot to add THE most important thing, and it's one you can't control! Following proper washing methods and instructions will be most important to the longevity of your product so the best you can do is include them with every order.
 
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I wasn't thinking SUPER cheap ... Isn't the press the most expensive part ?? I'd like to start with a 15x15 press but I'm not sure that'll happen unless i have tons of extra cash ... As far as inks go in the mid range to expensive you got any suggestions ??
 

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I made a typo up there. When talking about pressure you generally don't need to adjust for different weights of shirts, I was talking like going from shirts to hoodies. I usually adjust a touch for that, but my press is cheap and backs off every once in a while so I'm always fiddling with it.

Anyway, yeah the press is the most expensive part. I didn't shop for too long or do heavy research but I ended up with a new swing-arm press for around $300. This would be a "hobby" press for light production with minimal features and at best, a 1 year warranty. This is as cheap as you can get.

I think a decent 15X15 goes for around $600? Check out Hix.

From there if your business demands it, you can move up. I think the next price range is like $600 - $1000 there. I'll be picking up a decent press ASAP after doing some research. I bought the cheapest to learn on, try out my designs on different shirts, wash 'em, and sell a few to even out the costs.

As far as ink. I've not used anything other than Durabrite (Epson OEM) because it came with my printer, I could buy them anywhere for refill, and after doing research I found that a lot of people achieved good results. I printed some shirts about a year ago and have washed them a million times and the image still looks great. The shirt I used actually seems worse for wear than the transfer. The only problem I had was one of them cracked in the middle because I didn't stretch it after pressing and my placement was a little off.

I'd suggest trying Durabrite first since they come with the printer and then maybe grab a cartridge of Magic Mix to compare, or go full-bore bulk/continuous system. I'd also ask for some sample packs of different papers and try them. TLM Supply sells Transjet II paper and Magic Mix inks.
 

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Some very good advice, i started a few months back Epson 1280 (b/c i wanted to print on 11 by 17 paper), Geo Knight 16 by 20 press, magic mix bulk system, transjet II paper. Love it, I sold only on ebay to start. Got a 165 positive feedback, and 0 negative in the 4 months that i was selling. I would say that about 50% left feedback, so i probably sold around 300-350 shirts. I stopped selling a week before christmas because i was so busy and up all night making tees (i also have a fulltime job). I haven't reposted any tees yet because i need a little break. I will be back up and running in a month or so. To me the biggest pain was getting the bulk ink system to work, but once i did, it was smooth sailing. I made a total of around 400 tees and have not had to buy more ink yet and some of the tees i was printing were front and back.
 
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