As a guy who got his start printing shirts in his mom’s kitchen, I understand exactly what it’s like to bootstrap a business. When you’re still running in the red, every penny counts. The temptation to cut corners or buy “just what you need” runs deep, but can cost you in the long run. Small price reductions in one area (like your supplies) can translate to big losses in another (like your production output). And it’s not just your supplies (squeegees, tapes, and screens) that you have to take into consideration—there’s also your materials. A compromise on the quality of your shirts or your ink could not only impact sales, it could cause irreparable damage to your reputation and brand.

No matter what your niche may be—your business is worth investing in good materials and supplies. When making purchasing decisions, here are a few tips that will guide you in the right direction.

  • Focus on quality, not quantity, when it comes to your end product

Would you rather sell high-end products to a smaller set of customers willing to pay a premium or compete with larger companies for volume orders with a smaller profit margin? A well-defined niche can help you capture a larger profit margin, while still maintaining a high standard of quality.

  • Buy materials at volume if you can, and consider working with a supplier

You can save a lot of money by buying your materials in bulk, and it’s not hard to do. Purchasing a 5 gallon pail of ink can save you about 60% over the price of the same amount in quarts, and plastisol ink doesn’t go bad! Shirts are a slightly different story. If you don’t have the purchasing power to get shirts in bulk, partner with a supplier like, and reap the benefits of their volume.

  • Invest in better materials and supplies, and buy a little extra just in case

Cheaper isn’t better. Better is better. Purchasing high-quality materials and supplies can not only help you differentiate your product, but it can also save you money in the long run by ensuring your production times don’t get dragged down. Making sure you have a little extra on hand to avoid delays doesn’t hurt either.

Check out this illustration of how something as simple as your choice of high-quality or low-quality tape can impact your bottom line in ways you might not have expected:

Loaded Costs of High-Quality Tape Loaded Costs of Low-Quality Tape
You purchase a high-quality tape at $5 for a 55-yard roll, or $.03 per foot. You need 7 feet to tape a 20”x24” screen off, costing you $.21.
When you take the tape off, because it is high quality and low adhesive, it takes one minute. If you are paying an employee $15 an hour, that is $.25 of labor.
You purchase cheap masking or box tape for $2.50, reducing the cost to $.10 for that same 20”x24” screen. GREAT! Imagine how that will add up!
BUT it takes your employee one extra minute to clean the screen because the tape broke, or he had to clean off some extra adhesive, for a total of $.50 of labor.
Labor + Supplies = $.46 per Screen Labor + Supplies = $.60 per Screen

Buying a better product can save you time, which often costs more than the supplies themselves do. And it’s not just your materials and supplies where you should invest. Your equipment makes a big difference too. Good equipment pays for itself in overhead and labor every time. Check out our new eBook,
Building Your Own Screen Printing Business, Part 3 :: Optimizing Your Process,for a detailed list of considerations when purchasing a press, flash dryer, conveyor dryer, exposure unit, or positive.

Ryan Moor

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