If you’re just starting your screen printing journey, you might be a little overwhelmed. With the sheer amount of equipment options available, there’s a lot to decide. Choosing which press to buy is the first and most important step of getting started. But which press should you buy? Let’s compare two beginner presses: the DIY press and the Riley Hopkins 150.
HOBBY OR SIDE-HUSTLE?
Before you put money down on a press, ask yourself one important question: why are you choosing to screen print? For many printers, screen printing starts as a fun hobby, then turns to something bigger when people see that you’ve printed your own rad shirts. They ask you to make some shirts for them, and pretty soon you have a side hustle.
Some printers want to stay strictly DIY. If you’re a screen printing hobbyist and not looking to take your hobby further, a DIY press is perfect for you. If you’re looking to turn screen printing into a money-making endeavor, consider investing in a screen printing press that will work as hard as you do to make your dreams a reality.
Whichever press you choose, make sure it matches your level of investment in the trade. Let’s compare two beginner presses: the Riley Hopkins 150 1 Color 1 Station Screen Printing Press and the DIY Print Shop Original 1 Color Screen Printing Press.
THE RILEY HOPKINS 150
For more than 40 years, Riley Hopkins has developed high-quality, economical equipment that has jumpstarted thousands of printers’ careers. The Riley Hopkins 150 press brings more printers into the industry.
If you’re looking to make screen printing your side gig or need a press for live printing, the Riley 150 will do the trick. Stronger than a DIY press yet simpler than a Riley Hopkins 250 Press, the Riley 150 will produce stellar prints without hurting your wallet.
One of the coolest features of the press is the ability to change out platens. Having access to various platens means you can print youth apparel, neck labels, chest prints, etc. Whether you’re starting an Etsy shop, printing for a local business, or live printing, the Riley 150’s durability and versatility will give you a strong foothold in the industry and the opportunity to expand your brand.
The Riley Hopkins 1X1 provides top quality prints in a small footprint. Photo by Salt & Pine Co.
THE DIY PRESS
If you’re a hobbyist in the screen printing game, the DIY press might be for you. Built with solid steel and aluminum, this printing machine will allow you to learn the basics of screen printing.
The DIY press is designed for smaller print outputs. If you’re looking to print shirts for a family vacation, rec team, or reunion, the DIY press can handle it. The press comes with a 14”X14” square platen, meant for smaller prints.
The DIY press is perfect for learning the basics and starting a hobby.
WHEN TO UPGRADE FROM A DIY PRESS
If your hobby is turning into a side hustle, it might be time to upgrade from a DIY press. Take Amanda Dunigan, owner of Salt & Pine Co., for instance.
Amanda started her screen printing journey when she realized that the traditional 9-5 grind wasn’t cutting it for her. She dabbled in many professions, including bartending and woodworking, until she found garment decorating. Amanda began by selling shirts on Etsy, but soon the orders piled up. She couldn’t get orders out fast enough.
That’s when she turned to screen printing. Putting her woodworking skills to use, Amanda built her own press out of 2X4s. As her business continued to grow, she needed a sturdier press to keep up. She jumped in and got a Riley 150 1X1 press.
Amanda Dunigan’s DIY printing setup. Photo by Amanda Dunigan.
"I have been looking for a reputable press for some time now to not only use myself, but to suggest to others that are diving into the process as well!" Amanda said. "It was incredibly easy to put together, takes up much less space, and has truly helped me become even more efficient."
If you’re struggling to keep up with orders on a DIY press, it’s time to upgrade. The Riley 150 is sturdy, reliable, and easy on the wallet.
SHOULD I BUY A KIT?
The best way to dive into screen printing is to purchase a screen printing kit. Equipment and supplies can be expensive. To start screen printing, you’ll need a few things besides a press: emulsion, squeegees, screens, ink, an exposure unit, and chemicals, to name a few. Buying everything separately can get pricey. With a kit, you can save money and know that you’re not forgetting anything for your shop.
But which kit should you buy? Again, it comes down to what you want to accomplish with screen printing. If you’re a hobbyist, the DIY kit will serve you well. If you want to make screen printing your side hustle or main gig, starting off with a Riley Hopkins kit will get your shop off the ground. Let’s dive a little deeper.
THE DIY KIT
The DIY PRINT SHOP Original T-Shirt Screen Printing Kit has all the essentials for hobby screen printers. The kit includes a DIY press, an instructional manual designed to teach you how to print like a pro, plastisol and water-based ink, eco-friendly cleaners, and a perfectly sized squeegee to push ink smoothly across the durable pre-stretched screen. The kit also comes with an exposure bulb and two sheets of 16”x24” parchment paper for curing shirts with an iron.
This kit, designed with hobbyist printers in mind, gives you the essentials you’ll need to give screen printing a try without breaking the bank.
THE RILEY HOPKINS KIT
The Semi-Pro 4 Color Screen Printing Kit provides new printers with everything you need. Coming with the essential equipment and supplies you need to jump right into printing, you can rest assured that you'll be able to bring your brand to life as soon as the kit arrives at your door. The kit includes a Riley Hopkins 4 color 1 station screen printing press, so you can print more colors right away. It’s a big step up from the DIY Press.
Along with the press, you’ll get everything you’ll need to start up shop. From a RyoFlash Dryer and Baselayr LED exposure unit to chemicals, squeegees, and tape, you’ll be set from the very beginning. The Semi-Pro kit is more of an investment than the DIY kit. If you’re ready to jump into a screen printing side hustle, set your shop up right with a kit full of top-notch equipment.
The Riley Hopkins 4X1 allows you to print multi-color jobs with ease. Photo by Heritage Press Print Shop.
BUYING USED EQUIPMENT
Used screen printing equipment is everywhere. If you’re thinking about starting up a shop, but don’t have the budget for brand-new equipment, look for good-condition used equipment sold by people you trust. Think of it like buying a used car. If you know what you’re getting, it’s a great investment. Used equipment is usually less expensive, and you can typically pay cash for it.
You can get used screen printing equipment in a variety of places: on forums, Ebay, Craigslist, and other groups on social media, like the Rogue Printers Facebook Group. Press or Dye, for example, was given a used Riley Hopkins press and an exposure unit. Joey Avila from Avila Design Co. upgraded to an used Riley Hopkins WIN series. If you buy quality, buying used is worth the potential risk.
The best products to buy used are those without a lot of moving parts, like a washout booth or exposure unit (not a DIY unit). If you can get your hands on a full shop setup, take it. That way, you’ll ensure that most—if not all—the equipment was working, because the previous printer used the equipment recently.
Photo by Thirteen Supply Co.
Screen printing is a great way to create something that will last. Whether you’re starting a business or printing as a hobby, finding the press that’s right for you makes a big difference. Once you get started, you’ll be able to print like a pro in no time.