You may want to read my guide to printing economics if you haven’t already. Basically, it explains the differences between screen printing and digital printing, as well as the costs associated with each. It will assist you in gaining a better understanding of the following content.
Color Is Essential, a great deal
If you’re planning on placing a large order (say, 12 or more custom shirts), using less colours in your design will help keep your costs down. This is because when you place a large order, you have the option of screen printing your design onto your shirt.Learn more about them at Coding shirts.
Screen printing has low printing costs but a high setup cost that is determined by the number of colours in your design. If you only need one colour, the setup fee is low, and your shirt printing will be inexpensive.
The setup cost will be high if you have a lot of colours, and it will affect your wallet even more than a single solid colour print will.
If your design has a lot of colours (say 5 or more), the screen print setup cost is usually very high, so printers will prefer to digitally print it instead. A digital print has no setup fees and allows you to use as many colours as you like on your template, but the cost of each print is far higher than a screen print.
So, if you’re planning on buying 12 or more custom shirts, make sure your design only uses one or two solid colours to save money on printing. If you’re just making a few shirts (less than 12), go ahead and use as many gradients and colours as you want because it’ll almost certainly be a digitally printed custom t-shirt. Check out my colour advice guide to learn more about colours.
It’s also important to consider the colour of your shirt.
Dark-colored shirts usually cost more to screen print than light-colored shirts.
The rationale behind this is that an ink underlay is needed to show ink colours in their full vibrancy on dark garments. The ink underlay is applied first, followed by the true colours of your design. This method is known as “flash” by many screen printers, and it adds a small cost to each print.
If your concept calls for a digital print, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do so on a dark shirt. If your template has a lot of colours (5 or more), print it on a light-colored shirt. If you want to print it on a dark shirt, you’ll need to use screen printing, and the high setup charge will almost certainly drive up the total cost even more than if you print it on a light shirt using digital printing.
In general, printing your design on light-colored shirts is less expensive than printing your design on dark-colored shirts (as a sidenote, light coloured shirts are normally cheaper than dark coloured shirts as well).