What Should I Look for in a Screen Printer?

The people are asking. It’s one of the questions as old as the human condition, really.

Why are we here? Are birds real? What happens after we die? What should I look for in a screen printer?

With the democratization of screen printing, you can really get anything you want printed and almost any blank garment you’ve ever wanted but not all final products will look, feel, or last the same as a professionally printed t-shirt using high quality inks, screens, and dryers. If you want a goofy one-off for an inside joke, a family member, or a momentous occasion, there’s always DIY options such as a Cricut or other forms of heat presses, but let’s say you’re the lucky soul who is in charge of an upcoming event for which you need a bulk t-shirt order.

Where do you begin? After the initial run of cold sweats and panicky Google searches, you are probably left with more questions than answers and are wondering “what should I look for in a screen printer?”

Accessibility

As Super Bowl winning head coach Bill Parcells once said, “the best ability is availability.” This is a pretty simple thing to look for in a print shop, but do they communicate with you? On my first day here, I was taught that customers come to us more often than we go and get them, so why wouldn’t we pick up the phone or answer your email?

Know Your Worth

Screen printing is a more involved process than most other service industries; with the multitiude of t-shirt types and ink colors available we need to check in pretty frequently to ensure that we are keeping the integrity of the design and are on track with what you are looking for, both in terms of final product and price. If we don’t follow up with questions about your design, color scheme, or budget then we aren’t doing our job; and if you go to a print shop that doesn’t do that then chances are you won’t be thrilled with your shirts. Some say it won’t be….good ink.

You’re Not Just an Order Number

The web-based screenprinting giants like Custom Ink are immensely convenient, there is no denying that. But what happens if you have a question after you’ve submitted payment or you need something a little more involved than their design tools offer? In operations that size, you’ll be waiting to get an answer for a fair amount of time; as cheesy as it may sound, when you call us we’ll pick up and when you e-mail us a question about your order we will respond accordingly, because you’re not just an order number. You’re a human customer who is paying us your hard-earned money, it’s the least we can do.

Price

While I haven’t done the market research on this question, I’d be willing to bet that at least two-thirds of customers seeking custom apparel will say the cost is the most important factor. When undertaking a big project like a bulk shirt order, more often than not the event organizer is new to the process and doesn’t fully know what to expect when it comes to pricing. Making it more difficult is that every print shop has different prices, and a job’s all-in price is a moving target based on garment, volume, design, and speed, so you’ll never see the same number twice. It’s important to do your homework on the print shop, both in terms of customer reviews and requesting a quote for your project. Pro-tip – rather than simply asking how much a shirt would cost, tell the shop what your budget is or what you’d like to spend per shirt!

Money Talks

On the other hand, you get what you pay for. If Shop A says they’ll get the job done for $5 a shirt and Shop B says they’ll get the same job done for $7.50 a shirt, chances are the print quality will be better from Shop B. If you’re new to screenprinting and don’t know a good final product when you see it, feel free to request a sample from us.

What Am I Paying For?

The answer to that question varies from shop to shop. Sometimes you’ll be charged for design work; either design creation (“hey man I need a t-shirt design for my kitten petting business”) or design optimization (“I took a photo of this cloud, can you put it on a t-shirt?”), sometimes you’ll be charged for screen creation, screen set-up, color mixing, shipping, or any other number of things to help a shop meet their financial goals. It sounds like a lot, but when you come to Good Ink, all we charge you for is the garments you want and our time it takes to get the ink(s) on the shirt*. We pride ourself on giving you a pre-tax “all-in” quote so when it comes time to pay, you’re not blown away by hidden fees. Otherwise we’d be called Comcast Ink.

*subject to the job at hand

Added Value Where Possible

Similar to price but more along the lines of “intangibles”, what makes going to a screenprinter worth your time and money? Do you value convenience and speed? Do you value quality and care? Do you value value? Think of it like buying an airline ticket. If you fly with Delta or United, you might pay a little more but you don’t have to take out your credit card once you buy the ticket. If you fly with Spirit or Frontier, you’re charged left and right throughout the process and although the price of the ticket itself is extremely attractive, is it worth it at the end after all the tiny charges? We’re certainly no Delta, maybe more of an Alaska Airways; budget conscious but still provide a great user experience and covered in snow half of the year. A good screen printer makes the experience worth your time and money.

What is Good Ink’s added value? Free design assistance, free shipping, a low minimum order, and the rootinest, tootinest sales team this side of the Mississippi (maybe both sides, I’m not as familiar with screen printers across the way).

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