How to Choose a Screen Printer

by liz on December 15, 2008

in t-shirt printing

press

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.

ink

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!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Bunny December 17, 2008 at 5:50 am

anyone knows where to find these kind of printers in the philippines?

Reply

Bunny December 17, 2008 at 5:50 am

anyone knows where to find these kind of printers in the philippines?

Reply

Bunny December 16, 2008 at 10:50 pm

anyone knows where to find these kind of printers in the philippines?

Reply

oneoftwenty December 17, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Great Article! I think that the tip about having an in-house art dept is huge. Having just recently started a clothing line, the printers we have paired up with have not only been able to make some minor changes and adjustemnts for us, but have been good about taking a look at our designs early on and recommending different placements and what wouldn’t look good once produced.

Reply

oneoftwenty December 17, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Great Article! I think that the tip about having an in-house art dept is huge. Having just recently started a clothing line, the printers we have paired up with have not only been able to make some minor changes and adjustemnts for us, but have been good about taking a look at our designs early on and recommending different placements and what wouldn’t look good once produced.

Reply

oneoftwenty December 17, 2008 at 6:09 am

Great Article! I think that the tip about having an in-house art dept is huge. Having just recently started a clothing line, the printers we have paired up with have not only been able to make some minor changes and adjustemnts for us, but have been good about taking a look at our designs early on and recommending different placements and what wouldn’t look good once produced.

Reply

Sammy December 17, 2008 at 5:20 pm

I do ALL of my printing through a company called jakprints. They run state of the art auto presses with next to zero limitations as to what they offer. The separations of their full color prints are mind blowing. Ive used them for full color discharge printing and all my crazy metal full color tshirts. They also offer tons of specialty High D printing im told.

Reply

Sammy December 17, 2008 at 5:20 pm

I do ALL of my printing through a company called jakprints. They run state of the art auto presses with next to zero limitations as to what they offer. The separations of their full color prints are mind blowing. Ive used them for full color discharge printing and all my crazy metal full color tshirts. They also offer tons of specialty High D printing im told.

Reply

Sammy December 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

I do ALL of my printing through a company called jakprints. They run state of the art auto presses with next to zero limitations as to what they offer. The separations of their full color prints are mind blowing. Ive used them for full color discharge printing and all my crazy metal full color tshirts. They also offer tons of specialty High D printing im told.

Reply

Scott February 11, 2009 at 6:48 pm

A company I use for both my apparel line is Graphic22. They are out of Indiana and All work I get done is all printed with water based inks and Discharge ink. You truly cant even feel the print after the first wash. American apparel is the only way I go, most prints are over sized and usually 5 to 6 colors each and they can work from my images I send them. Look them up, I was referred by a friend and 2 years later I am still going strong.

Reply

Scott February 11, 2009 at 6:48 pm

A company I use for both my apparel line is Graphic22. They are out of Indiana and All work I get done is all printed with water based inks and Discharge ink. You truly cant even feel the print after the first wash. American apparel is the only way I go, most prints are over sized and usually 5 to 6 colors each and they can work from my images I send them. Look them up, I was referred by a friend and 2 years later I am still going strong.

Reply

Scott February 11, 2009 at 11:48 am

A company I use for both my apparel line is Graphic22. They are out of Indiana and All work I get done is all printed with water based inks and Discharge ink. You truly cant even feel the print after the first wash. American apparel is the only way I go, most prints are over sized and usually 5 to 6 colors each and they can work from my images I send them. Look them up, I was referred by a friend and 2 years later I am still going strong.

Reply

Jumpy February 24, 2009 at 9:26 am

anyone know a good printer in Australia?

Reply

Jumpy February 24, 2009 at 9:26 am

anyone know a good printer in Australia?

Reply

Jumpy February 24, 2009 at 2:26 am

anyone know a good printer in Australia?

Reply

David July 7, 2009 at 3:04 am

If anyone is in Japan Sweatshop Union is the place to go. http://www.sweatshopunion.jp

Reply

David July 7, 2009 at 3:04 am

If anyone is in Japan Sweatshop Union is the place to go. http://www.sweatshopunion.jp

Reply

David July 6, 2009 at 8:04 pm

If anyone is in Japan Sweatshop Union is the place to go. http://www.sweatshopunion.jp

Reply

Laurice August 16, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I second Bunny,
I’m having trouble finding good printers in the Philippines. It’s really frustrating. My shirt design was printed in the wrong size without me being informed that they cannot print at my desired size.

I hope there are good printers here locally, because it’s hard to resort to international printers. Esp. if the print job is just small scale. (you know, it’s not a business scale yet)

Reply

Laurice August 16, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I second Bunny,
I’m having trouble finding good printers in the Philippines. It’s really frustrating. My shirt design was printed in the wrong size without me being informed that they cannot print at my desired size.

I hope there are good printers here locally, because it’s hard to resort to international printers. Esp. if the print job is just small scale. (you know, it’s not a business scale yet)

Reply

Laurice August 16, 2009 at 6:53 am

I second Bunny,
I’m having trouble finding good printers in the Philippines. It’s really frustrating. My shirt design was printed in the wrong size without me being informed that they cannot print at my desired size.

I hope there are good printers here locally, because it’s hard to resort to international printers. Esp. if the print job is just small scale. (you know, it’s not a business scale yet)

Reply

sticker printing January 4, 2011 at 10:46 pm

These simple steps are really helpful.
Screen printer are in fact a great tool for you business promotion and help to more attraction,

Reply

james December 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Well, your wrong about small garage shops. I have a four color, one palette press and I guarantee that I can print four colors on shirts the same every time and the quality is much better than the same thing done on an automatic. All screenprinters know that quality from a hand screen printed t is much better than a tee printed on an automatic press, Because a master printer, like myself, has more control over what is being produced.

Reply

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