One of the scariest parts of screen printing is turning a profit. Printers want to make a profit and stay competitive, but not price too high or too low. How do you make a profit in DIY screen printing? Let’s follow the blog “A Guide to Pricing Screen Printed Garments and Turning a Profit” and take a look at four steps to turning DIY screen printing into a profit.
STEP 1: OVERHEAD VS. SPECIFIC JOB COST
As a DIY printer, your overhead should be fairly small. Maybe you’ve got a 150 kit, which has a small press, ink, screens, squeegees, scoop coaters, an exposure bulb or small unit, and more. Let’s say you’re printing with the Riley Hopkins 150 Complete Screen Printing Kit. That brings your total to approximately $1,900 before tax and shipping.
Now, let’s factor in any other costs, like utilities. If you’re a DIY printer, those might be from your house. If you’re printing in a spare room of your house or the basement, the utility costs aren’t for your shop as much as they are for your house. Let’s add $100 per month as a utility cost for a shop in a spare room. This brings the total overhead cost to about $2,000.
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OVERHEAD COST PER SHIRT
Now take that total overhead cost and divide it by the number of shirts you print per month. Say you print 30 shirts a month. The total overhead cost ($2,000) divided by 30 is about $67. That’s your overhead cost per shirt a month.
Now it’s time to calculate the labor cost of each job.
STEP 2: LABOR COSTS
Your time is valuable, so let’s consider that when calculating the costs of shirts. If you’re a solo printer, you don’t have to worry about paying employees. Your labor cost is how much time it takes you to print a shirt for a job multiplied by the hourly cost of labor.
Choose how much you’d like to be paid doing a job like this. Since screen printing is a skilled job, it’s probably above minimum wage. Once that’s figured out, it’s time to calculate the cost of your materials for each print.
STEP 3: COST OF MATERIALS
To start calculating the cost of materials, add up the cost of the ink used in a job, the screens and emulsion used, and any other supplies you used, like cleaning chemistry or tape. These numbers won’t be set in stone. You won’t be using the entire bucket of ink or the whole roll of tape (hopefully), so make an educated guess and use a calculator to help you out.
Now that you have the total cost of materials you used for each item, it’s time to add it all up. Add the total overhead cost, labor cost, and materials cost to get the total cost per item per job.
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STEP 4: CALCULATE THE PROFIT
The goal for most screen printers is to make 20%-45% profit on the shirts printed. If you’re not sure that you’re doing it right, check out local shops and make sure you’re competitive. If you can’t keep up, consider printing something special that those shops don’t offer, like specialized ink or screen prints on wood.
Here’s a formula to help you out:
|Total cost per item per job (figured out in step 3)|
|x Percent of desired profit as a decimal (.2 or .45 as an example)|
|= Profit made per item per job|
Now add that to the total cost per item per job (again, from step 3) to get the price you should charge customers. Finally, add the profit per item to the number of items in a job. That’ll give you the total profit you’ll make on the job.
Photo by Maher Hachem.
Maher Hachem, or Munch, the printer behind Love Yourself Clothing, takes a few factors into consideration when pricing shirts. He starts by calculating the cost of overhead and labor and then does some comparison shopping. He checks out similar brands and messages friends to see how much they would be willing to pay for the shirt.
“Taking these surveys works great since you're getting a brand and consumer perspective!” Maher said.
To find the cost of the shirt, he combines the cost of t-shirts, his per-print charge — usually about $5 per print — and increases that number by a few dollars if he’s using a specialty ink. Other factors include burning the screens, adding a fixed percentage on the invoice that can cover any damaged pieces during production, and the cost of making samples for each piece.
For a 50-piece, one-color job, Maher charges the wholesale cost of the blanks, adding 15% on top of the wholesale to cover any damaged goods during production. He charges about $5 per print on each shirt depending on color and then charges $35 per screen being burned (this covers the screen, transparency, & labor of making the screen). Other variables that would affect this could be the turnaround time for the project and any specialty ink used.
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There’s a lot to consider when it comes to pricing shirts. Especially for printers starting out, pricing a print job can be a challenge. Use this guide and the blog “A Guide to Pricing Screen Printed Garments and Turning a Profit” to help you figure out how to profit as a DIY printer.