Selecting a screen printer to handle your clothing line can often be a tough decision. You want a good price, but you also want good quality. Should you go local so you can see the shop and preview your shirts being printed? Or can you chance going through a printer in another state to get a better deal?
Make the wrong decision and you could be holding a very big box of less than stellar quality prints, or worse yet, shirts that are printed incorrectly.
Usually the best way to find a good printer is through the recommendation of someone who’s used them before. If you don’t have that, this article should help you ask the right questions and know what to beware of when doing your research.
Generally, avoid companies who can’t print more than 6 colors per design (even if your current designs don’t have more than that)
Why? Much of the screen printing industry is still operating out of garages and small shops. If a screen printer can only do 4-6 colors, they either only have manual presses (which usually have more inconsistencies printed over the course of a run than an automatic due to differences in pressure) or they have a very small automatic press.
You also want room to grow and experiment with your art. Even if your first design is only 4 colors, why get established with a printer who can’t handle more?
Look for companies with in-house art departments.
It may seem like it doesn’t matter one way or another, but it really does! Companies who invest in an in-house art department are the ones that are producing films/screen on site and generally have more overall familiarity with the entire production process.
They also probably have been successful enough to afford artists to begin with and likely have a strong commitment to quality art and results. Plus, if there’s a mistake on one of the films, or a screen needs to be re-shot, they can do it immediately instead of waiting on an external partner.
Make sure the company will provide jpg/pdf proofs prior to printing.
Why? Even though you may send quality art to the screen printer, there’s frequently pre-press changes they need to make to your work before it’s ready to go. This is where a lot of mistakes are made. Receiving a proof from their end allows you to double check sizing, colors and confirm everything is still correct.
Watch for hidden charges.
It’s not unusual to see separate charges for films, screens or Pantone color matching. But it’s a good idea to ask if these costs are included in the per shirt price, or charged separately. If you’re comparing prices of two screen printers, make sure you take these into account.
Look for companies who have actual photos of shirts they’ve printed on their site. Bonus points if you can see details.
Why? It’s one thing to see examples of the designs a company has printed, but quite another to see photos of actual shirts they’ve printed. Especially if you’re considering a non-local printer, this may be your best opportunity to evaluate their quality before trusting them with your own design.
Find companies who are passionately committed to quality control.
Why? There’s a lot that can happen to a shirt, even in the best run shop. Shirts are generally hand loaded onto the press, and sometimes prints can wind up a little off-center or poorly aligned. Blowouts (where ink comes through the screen when it shouldn’t) happen all the time, and sometimes in the middle of an otherwise perfect run. These can be minor (outside of the design where they can be “blown out” after printing) or major (white dots that show up on the red part of your print); good shops will make it so you never even see them.
You want a printer who will catch any issues on the way off of press and clean them up or replace the shirts before they even get to you.
Look for companies who have capabilities targeted towards designer prints.
Printers who can handle oversized prints, don’t blink when you say the words “halftones” or “pantone color matching”, offer foil, and have a wide range of specialty inks like glitter, puff and gel have clearly printed more than local school and church shirts.
These are the types of companies who have probably dealt with clothing lines and artists before, and have a good grasp of the special needs of designers who are perfectionists.
Got some other good advice for people who are trying to select a screen printer? Post a comment and help some folks out!