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Discussion Starter #1
I'm getting pretty frustrated. I have spent months now - way too long - researching the various Tshirt printing options, and have come to the conclusion that for my designs, I want to take the screenprinting path.

I have never done any screenprinting, and would prefer to stick to what interests me most - the design part - and pay a screenprinter to print the Tshirts, using my designs. I know from a couple of months of perusing the threads on this great forum that this is common in the States. However, I live in Perth, Western Australia, and after seeking quotes from all the screenprinters I can find in my city, and a couple more in Melbourne, I have realised that the situation is very different in Australia, in that screenprinters and Tshirt blanks are considerably more expensive, relatively speaking, than in the States. The cheapest screenprinter I have found has quoted an all-up price of $12.50(AUS) per Tshirt for a run of 25, not including the cost of the Tshirt - that's for 2 colours in the front design, and 1 colour on the back (referring to a particular design of mine, where there is a logo on the back of the Tshirt, and a graphic on the front).

Here, decent blanks of, say, 200gm cotton Mens style Ts are around $5 - $6 (I know some Aussies claim to be getting good blanks for less than this, but I have not been able to source any). That brings the COST PRICE of a screenprinted Tshirt to around $18 or $19AUS - and that is clearly too much, as the average retail price for a screenprinted Tshirt by an unknown in Aust is around $20. Many custom printed Ts on Ebay Aust, for instance, are advertised for as low as $15. Of course, names like Billabong and Mambo, and any known fashion labels, command far higher prices - for a startup like me, those prices are out of the question. (Some of my fellow Aussies who post on here may disagree, but I can only give my perspective based on my experience and observation).

There are three possible solutions, as I see it:

1. Dismiss the whole idea of starting a Tshirt screenprinting business on the basis that costs are too high in Australia for the beginning small-time designer to make a decent profit. Some people are doing ok, I believe, so I don't want to seriously entertain this negative conclusion. If they can do it, why can't I? (Easier asked than answered!)

2. Do the screenprinting myself to cut costs. Problem: no experience in screenprinting, no suitable space at home. To hire premises pushes the production price up again - vicious circle!

3. Find a screenprinter and source of quality blanks outside Australia, and develop a working relationship with them such that I could email them my designs, and have the printed Ts shipped back to me. Freight would be more expensive than if I was able to find a screenprinter and blanks within Australia, but if the savings on printing costs and Tshirt blanks were high enough, that would more than offset freight costs.

Of 1-3 above, I am beginning to suspect that 3 is the most viable. This being the case, I am now up against another obstacle - finding a US-based screenprinter who will work with an international designer starting on small runs of about 25 Ts per design. I have Googled many US screenprinting companies, and only a very small proportion accept overseas work. One that did (was it Dollarshirts? I forget now - maybe they only supply blanks) only did A4 sized screenprints. I need A3 sized prints on the two designs I have ready to go. Otherwise, their pricing was pretty good. The only risk, of course, would be taking on trust, untried and unseen, a screenprinter so far way. I'm not talking about them not delivering the goods so much, as quality control. I suppose I could ask for a sample initially, and pay for it, and the only downer would be the delay involved.

Well, folks, this is a long post, I know, but I have come to the point where I am seriously doubting the viability of this business for me in my location, and I suppose I'm spilling my guts in the hope that someone will have some illuminating suggestions to give me fresh hope, or point me in a positive direction. I'd very much appreciate any information/suggestions/advice from those in a position to contribute.

Cheers
Ross
 

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@Ross B: you can try the PhotoEZ products. For details use the link:
http://www.photoez.itcstore.com/default.aspx?p=87117

This is a screenprinting method that you can use at home. Do not look very complicated, is easy to obtain the stencil. The first invetment is not very big, with 200-300 $ you can buy some special paper, some colors and the tool necesary to print.

For the startup you cand use this. After your business is grow you cand change the method and try to make bigger series of thirts.

I never use this solutions but I intend do buy soon a kit to make some samples. You can try this too.
 

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3. Find a screenprinter and source of quality blanks outside Australia, and develop a working relationship with them such that I could email them my designs, and have the printed Ts shipped back to me. Freight would be more expensive than if I was able to find a screenprinter and blanks within Australia, but if the savings on printing costs and Tshirt blanks were high enough, that would more than offset freight costs.
I would say keep searching for #3. I know there are several US based screen printers that work with international customers.

Do a few more searches, maybe make a few phone calls to let them know you are serious. Your biggest obstacle will be the knee-jerk reaction some US printers will have because they are worried about international fraud orders (justified or not).
 

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Ross B said:
costs are too high in Australia for the beginning small-time designer to make a decent profit. [...] I am seriously doubting the viability of this business for me in my location
That's fair enough, except your location is "Perth, Australia" - not "Australia". I agree with you that finding good blanks for less than $5-6 is difficult/impossible, but while the rest is true for you it's strictly a Perth problem, not to be found on the east coast.
 

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How many Perth printers have you tried by the way? I know it's all the ones you've found, I'm just wondering (roughly) how many that is.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks to all for your advice. Badalou, I'll get back to you when I have more time - I'm interested in your comments on plastisol.

Solmu,
I've sought quotes from about 10 Perth screenprinters, including all the well-known ones and all who have websites or prominent Yellow Pages ads, and some who have smaller advertising presence. I've taken up all recommendations from those I know. I believe I know the situation in Perth pretty well.

I also take some issue with your "it's a Perth problem" claim, and wonder whether you're really speaking from a position of knowledge and experience. I have sought quotes from every Australian screenprinting service with websites, and most of these are based in Sydney or Melbourne - I have lost count of the actual number I have received quotes from. Further, I have sought quotes from Ounce in Melbourne on the basis of recommendations from Aussies frequenting this good forum (Ounce are utterly useless in my experience - after 3 attempts to get a response from them, and an apology from them for 'mis-filing' my previous requests followed by a broken promise that they would get back to me 'this time', I have dismissed them as unprofessional and not worth spending more time on). Yet further, I have had quotes from 2 others in Melbourne, one via a friend of mine based in St Kilda who generally ekes out the cheapest price on anything, and 3 printers in Sydney from other recommendations, and NONE of them can offer anything significantly better than the prices I have been offered in Perth. So, if you know something about cheaper screenprinters in Melbourne that I haven't uncovered in my now extensive research, please give!

Unless you can come up with the goods - and if you do know something I don't, please deliver - I am content to follow the advice of Rodney and Fluid and switch my focus to American screenprinters.

Going by earlier posts of yours, you do your screenprinting yourself, don't you? This being so, perhaps you are not as acquainted with the reality of screenprinting prices out there as you think? If, however, you are speaking from real knowledge and experience, I look forward to your sharing your knowledge of where the cheaper Australian screenprinters can be found, that can match the prices of their US counterparts. Over to you.
 

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Ross B said:
I've sought quotes from about 10 Perth screenprinters, including all the well-known ones and all who have websites or prominent Yellow Pages ads, and some who have smaller advertising presence. I've taken up all recommendations from those I know.
There are over a hundred printers listed in the yellow pages for WA, so on the one hand ten doesn't seem like many, but on the other hand 10% should give a representitive sample. I wouldn't want to contact more than ten either, but with over ninety more in the state (and probably over a thousand more in the country) you never know.

Honestly I have no idea what I'd do in your situation. It would seem crazy to keep ringing around hoping for something to change (if these ten sucked why won't the next ten, or the next), but overseas ordering really shouldn't be necessary.

Ross B said:
I also take some issue with your "it's a Perth problem" claim, and wonder whether you're really speaking from a position of knowledge and experience.
Well if it's a Perth problem it's highly likely to also be a Darwin problem, it may or may not be a problem in Adelaide and Hobart, etc. So no, I can't say it's only a Perth problem. I just know it's not a Melbourne problem, and I'd be shocked if it was a Sydney or Brisbane problem. Outside of those centres I have no idea.

(to be honest I'm really surprised it's a problem anywhere, but evidently it is)

Ross B said:
So, if you know something about cheaper screenprinters in Melbourne that I haven't uncovered in my now extensive research, please give!
The place I use for measuring median price is a suburban printer of little note (I just happen to have their price list, so it's convenient). There are more expensive printers, and there are cheaper printers.

For 2 colours front/1 colour back on 20 black shirts they charge $12.25 a shirt, including the shirt. If you order 100 that drops to $9.25. There's also a one-time $55 setup charge. By way of comparison, twenty 1 colour shirts are $8/shirt and $20 setup.

By no means brilliant, but definitely an improvement.

Ross B said:
Going by earlier posts of yours, you do your screenprinting yourself, don't you? This being so, perhaps you are not as acquainted with the reality of screenprinting prices out there as you think?
I do screenprint myself, and I am precisely as acquainted with pricing as I think I am - which is to say not very much at all, but I still know of cheaper places than those prices. You don't need to know much about Melbourne printing to know that those Perth prices can be beaten here.

So far the vast majority of Australian members have been from Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane, so assuming that trend continues I wouldn't want new members thinking things were that dire.

Ross B said:
If, however, you are speaking from real knowledge and experience, I look forward to your sharing your knowledge of where the cheaper Australian screenprinters can be found
Unfortunately I can't do that, as it is against the forum rules. For all you know I could work for the printer. Or my brother could own it. Not that I have a brother. Or do I?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Solmu said:
Unfortunately I can't do that, as it is against the forum rules. For all you know I could work for the printer. Or my brother could own it.
Oh, I think the precedent has been well set - including by yourself. You were one of the Australian posters who named Ounce as a possibility some time ago, so why can you not now mention another printer who you say offers cheaper prices, especially since that printer is a "suburban printer of little note"? I'm willing to risk it being your brother (especially since you don't appear to have one), or a friend, or even your employer - I take full responsibility for asking all the questions I need to before making a decision on whether to use them.

Solmu said:
For 2 colours front/1 colour back on 20 black shirts they charge $12.25 a shirt, including the shirt. If you order 100 that drops to $9.25. There's also a one-time $55 setup charge. By way of comparison, twenty 1 colour shirts are $8/shirt and $20 setup.
Hmm, on the other hand, maybe I'll withdraw that request. Let's do a bit of calculation and see how much better Melbourne printing prices really are compared with Perth's...

Solmu said:
I just know it's not a Melbourne problem, and I'd be shocked if it was a Sydney or Brisbane problem.
Prepare to be shocked, then. Add the setup charge, and a 20 shirt run comes to $15 per shirt. Do your suburban printer's prices include GST? I doubt it (most of them leave GST out of their quoted prices). So, add 10% and the per Tshirt cost price rises to $16.50 each. That's within $1 of my best Perth quote! So, I would suggest that your own figures show that it is, indeed, a Melbourne problem!

Further, I think it a very good bet that the quality of their supplied Ts is pretty ordinary, going by the general standard of Ts supplied by the printers I've contacted so far (Australia-wide). You still maintain the value is ok compared with what the US screenprinters offer? We don't come close! I'm not knocking our fair country - just talking facts! And these are facts that I've gleaned in months of research. I feel confident that I do know what I'm talking about here. Believe me, it would be far easier for me to utilise the services of an Australian screenprinter IF it was economically viable...but for me, in my situation, it clearly isn't! There's no point in affirming that black is white just because we might want it to be.
 

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Ross B said:
Oh, I think the precedent has been well set - including by yourself. You were one of the Australian posters who named Ounce as a possibility some time ago
As I said last time you brought this up, I haven't recommended them. In general I rarely name companies, and with Ounce specifically I haven't recommended them, because 1) I was initially told about them in confidence, 2) They're not actually a company I recommend using (or particularly recommend avoiding; I'm ambivilent).

Ross B said:
so why can you not now mention another printer who you say offers cheaper prices, especially since that printer is a "suburban printer of little note"?
1) Because it's Rodney's policy for us not to.
2) Because it's my policy for me not to.

I'm not correcting you for your sake, but for the sake of new Australian members who might read your post and lose hope. I could hook you up with the world's cheapest printer and you'd convince yourself it was a bad deal because I introduced you to it - we both know you're never going to take anything I say seriously. This isn't about you, it's about information posted in a public place being accurate.

As I stated the printer gives a rough idea of median values - they're the first printer to hand and they're still cheaper than your best quote.

By way of comparison, a median value for a US printer (all in USD): $3 per shirt to print, $3 per actual shirt, $45 setup = roughly AUD $11 per shirt (before shipping). Can you beat that price? Absolutely... but you can beat the other price I posted too; I'm trying to compare more typical pricing (not something you can really do since none of us has enough pricing lists to be statistically significant unfortunately, but I'll take a stab at it).

Screenprinting equipment is cheaper in the US than Australia, which probably plays a part. Yes, getting printing done is probably going to be cheaper in the US (I've never said otherwise). That doesn't mean it's still cheaper to get something printed in the US and shipped here.

Ross B said:
Believe me, it would be far easier for me to utilise the services of an Australian screenprinter IF it was economically viable...but for me, in my situation, it clearly isn't! There's no point in affirming that black is white just because we might want it to be.
I'm not saying you should buy locally - you've defined a situation for yourself, and in your situation it is indeed cheaper to buy from the US. I'm saying no-one else should make the mistake of thinking your situation is anything other than something you've made for yourself.
 

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I think the issue here isn't screenprinters, nor Australia, but making screenprinting economical on such tiny runs.

I've never really investigated such low volume, so probably can't help much. I know someone who got 25 done for about $11/per item....I'll find out where, but it will be Melbourne based.

We can produce for the same cost as the US. But that's probably impossible at your volumes.

And I would no longer recommend the Ounce. It's a long story.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
An afterthought, ML. I do realise the runs I'm looking at at the moment are small, and it won't be this way for too long, I hope. As a start-up, though, I doubt my situation is unique, in Australia or elsewhere. It makes no sense to have hundreds of Ts printed up when one has no idea how the market is going to react to one's designs. It's surely a matter of testing the water for a time, and when it is clearer what works and what doesn't, increasing the runs on the designs that sell. Believe me, the sooner I can justify ordering in the hundreds, the better - I will not be holding back. I realise that small runs are always going to cut into profit margins so savagely as to preclude the possibility of running a workable business on those margins for very long. And I realise that in start-up phase businesses of any type often burn more bucks than they make (although I must admit, understanding this doesn't make the prospect of selling Ts for very little - if any - profit any easier to contemplate).

Out of interest, you are obviously up and running as a bona fide business. What would be a typical run in terms of numbers of printed Ts, for you?
 

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I think runs of about 25 pieces with a 3 won't get you the best pricing anywhere (US, Australia or otherwise). For example, if you were using the same t-shirts that threadless uses (FOL), in the US, you'd be looking at a little over $9 USD per shirt with about $36 USD setup.

So the profit margins are possible (you can sell t-shirts for 15-20+ depending on the design), but as you noted, you will be paying higher for the smaller runs.

One way to get a few quotes would be to post over at http://boards.screenprinters.net in their classifieds section. There might be a few printers (in various locations) that may be willing to work with you and give you quotes.
 

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Ross,

Slightly swamped at the moment, but I'll post some ideas for you as soon as I can.
 

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Hello, just an FYI.

I didn't want to get stuck with inventory until I knew something would be selling okay. So I went with custom plastisol. I'd rather be stuck with blank shirts that I could sell if I needed to.

Dowling Graphics is in Florida and they were the only custom transfer company to do my oversized designs PLUS I could gang different images (most of their competitors do not let you do this).

I'm also doing "digital printing" which means printing with pigment inks onto transfer paper. I'm using Magic Jet paper (TransJetII), MiraCool paper, Magic Mix ink and Durabrite ink. It is not "screenprinting" but I am continually amazed at the results and wash tests. Certainly affordable and quick once you get past the trial/error stage.

Also, there are screenprinters that offer "wholesale" pricing so you might want to explore this. Some may even do short runs which to me is 12 - 24 shirts.

Good luck.

Susan

Ross B said:
An afterthought, ML. I do realise the runs I'm looking at at the moment are small, and it won't be this way for too long, I hope. As a start-up, though, I doubt my situation is unique, in Australia or elsewhere. It makes no sense to have hundreds of Ts printed up when one has no idea how the market is going to react to one's designs.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Hi Suzieh

I appreciate your sharing your information. Badalou also mentioned plastisol transfers as a quality alternative. Seems they are as durable and look as good as traditionally done screenprinting. Nice of you to share your preferred custom transfer company and digital printing details. Thanks a lot.

Cheers

Ross
 

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Ross, no problem. "Plastisol" is screenprinting but the ink has not cured completely. It will cure when you apply heat (heatpress). There are some very good articles at unionink.com (click on Articles).

Also, there's a thread here with list of custom transfer companies. I don't see why they wouldn't send you samples. I used dowlinggraphics.com in Florida. They create/print stock transfers besides custom. I have been very happy with the quality of my custom job and the samples sent to me.

I know I post this over and over again, BUT, Dowling was the only company to do oversized for me and let me gang DIFFERENT images on a sheet.

Cheers back, Susan:)

Ross B said:
Hi Suzieh

I appreciate your sharing your information. Badalou also mentioned plastisol transfers as a quality alternative. Seems they are as durable and look as good as traditionally done screenprinting. Nice of you to share your preferred custom transfer company and digital printing details. Thanks a lot.

Cheers

Ross
 
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