Your guide for starting a Screen Printing Business

Old School Screen Printing 101

In this article we will cover everything you should know before starting a screen printing business. If you are more on the “artsy side”and you like to create things, a screen printing business may be the perfect business opportunity for you. Before we dive too deep into this topic I want to preface what I’m about to write by clarifying my terminology of “screen printing”. Screen printing is a method of applying ink onto articles of clothing. Many people confuse this method to other processes that also apply graphics onto clothing. Throughout this article we will cover the various methods that are commonly used to create custom clothing and the most common methods that are used to operate a screen printing business. Making custom clothing is not a hard skill to learn, and seeing your work and designs being worn throughout your hometown can feel really rewarding.

How much can you make with a screen printing business?

According to the American Screen Printing Association the average screen print shop owner can easily earn over $100,000 a year. There are several key factors to consider in order to successfully operate this business. Time is money. You will need an experienced screen printer in the shop making sure that you are getting jobs done in a timely manner with no mistakes. One minor mistake in design or production could really set you back on a job if you are not careful.

Where will you operate your business?

I recommend starting out of your home or garage or whatever space you have readily available to you that requires little or no additional startup cost. Keeping your overhead expenses low will enable you to put more into your business. Making equipment upgrades that makes your shop more profitable will be key for your startup.  If you are fortunate enough to have a space available outside of your home that’s great, but it won’t be a make or break if you have to start out at home.

Who will operate your business?

If you plan on operating this business on your own, you should really get a feel for your equipment and software in order to minimize your mistakes and to maximize your shop efficiency. Repeat customers will be your best friend locally, and there are many ways to boost sales with online sites like Etsy and Ebay. If you put out quality work for a decent price you will have a very lucrative business on your hands.

What you will need in order to star your screen printing business.

You will have many options in regards to equipment and start up costs, it all depends on what you want to do and how you would like to scale this venture. Bootstrapping this business can be pretty easy. Let’s look at your options. For the sake of comparison, we will consider your options for garment printing only.First off you have your old school screen print setup, which has a few moving parts to it. On the brightside there are literally hundreds of youtube videos out there that can help you learn the process! With screen printing there are three main pieces of equipment you will need getting started. You will need your screen station this is where the ink is applied to the shirt; screens, (you use these to apply the design and ink to your garment); an exposure unit in order to apply a design to your screens. Last but not least you will need a flash dryer to cure the ink onto the article of clothing. There are complete kits available on amazon. I would suggest going that route over buying it piece by piece. This is the kit I would recommend. Coming in at just under $1000, this kit has everything you will need to start screen printing.

Vinyl Transfers and the Heat Press Printing
Heat Press and Vinyl Cutter

If screen printing sounds a little too much like work then maybe you should go with vinyl transfers. Essentially, you will use a vinyl cutter and some computer software to cut out your design in a piece of vinyl and you will use a heat press to cure that design onto the article of clothing. Pretty simple! Here’s what you will need! You will need a vinyl cutter and a heat press, you will also need a computer for you vinyl cutter and for you graphic design work. You will need some vinyl material, try to find you local schools colors and you can never go wrong with black and white for starters.

DTG (Direct to Garment) and Sublimation
Sublimation Kit
Sublimation Kit

If all of that still sounds like to much there are even more options for you to choose from, you could go with sublimation or DTG Printing (Direct to Garment). In a real world shop you will want the availability of all of these options. Each of these methods have there place in the industry. DTG printing is the easiest of all methods. It’s basically a printer that you use for clothes. The prices for these units used to be really high, but continue to become less expensive and more cost effective as time goes by.

How do you get started Screen Printing?
Direct to Garment Printer
Direct to Garment Printer

In order to get this business off the ground people need to know you exist. You will have to have a social media presence. If you aren’t using social media or advertising any of your ventures you are missing out on big money. Also tell your family and friends that you are starting the business. Make them a few things for free. I know that may not sound like the best idea, but when people see that you can do the job, word of mouth advertising will be huge for your business.

Get the word out.

You will need to keep all of your social groups. Facebook and Instagram will be your best friends when you first start advertising. Reach out to all of your family, friends, and coworkers to spread the word about your business. If you will be operating the shop from your home or garage, have a custom sign made or make one yourself to let passersby know where you are located. People that see your sign frequently will oftentimes think of your business first when they need work done.

How do you grow your Business?

Once you are off and running you will likely want to scale up your operation, you may want to hire help and may want to upgrade your equipment. Before you make those moves you need to make sure your business will support it. Closely look at your book and revenue in order to make those decisions. You will always want to keep advertising your business. Advertising your business will ensure the proper growth needed to scale up your operation.

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