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Taking Your Shop On The Road

It’s a new year with new possibilities. Screen printing may seem like a fixed medium with the screens, exposure, washout, and curing, but quite the contrary can hold true. Screen printing on-site at events, festivals and other types of gatherings can provide a great opportunity to show and sell your products and your company. Approaches range from printing garments for souvenirs and/or demonstrating the process and equipment to letting buyers to do their own decorating.

Sales can be made directly to attendees with you reaping majority of profit or a portion of it, or they can be to the sponsoring organization, which uses them as promotional giveaways or fundraisers. They also can be an advertising vehicle for your company, depending on the situation.

Typically, on-site printing makes use of a smaller manual press that can easily be broken down for transport. It’s common for this to be a four-color, one-station machine, on which only one or two colors are used. There also needs to be some sort of base on which to put the press. This can be a screen cart or even a homemade stand using the crate in which the press is shipped.

The other main piece of equipment for this type of work is something with which to cure the shirt. This can be a flash cure unit or possibly a heat transfer press, depending on the ink being used. The key is being able to cure the print quickly, in, say, about 40 seconds with the flash cure or 10-15 seconds at 320 degrees F with the heat press (using a silicone cover sheet).

It can help to have a thinner ink deposit; so you might consider more of a fashionable sheer look when choosing your garments, if it works for the individuals you’re selling to. Go with a higher 230-280 mesh with reduced ink. Plastisol is most commonly used in this setting; but I know people who used water base with good results. Screens should be prepared in advance, of course.

It’s very important to find out in advance what electrical voltage is available where you’ll be printing and to ensure that whatever equipment you take is compatible with it. It’s optimal to standardize your power needs, usually with a 120-volt draw, as trying to find 240-volt on-site can be difficult.

The number, style and sizes of blank garments you take is another consideration. In general, it’s smart to stick with one style; a unisex or men’s T-shirt is usually a good choice. Similarly, you want to keep to pretty much a standard range of sizes, like small through extra-large. The type of event and typical attendees should factor into your selection. For instance, if you’re printing for a hair stylists’ convention, you’d probably want to go with more of a fashion shirt and maybe more smalls or mediums. Quantity should be based on projected attendance. You might also preprint some shirts to reduce lines and wait times, although this has to be weighed against the risk of winding up with leftover, event-specific inventory. (these can double as examples/decorations at your stand)

In terms of the designs being printed, one- and two-color graphics are typical, and two or three versions may be offered. Depending on the number of colors, a four-color/four-station press can be set up to print a different single-color design at each station.

The most important thing to remember is to plan ahead with respect to equipment, supplies, garments and power and be prepared. If you’re letting people print their own shirts, give them the direction/help they need to keep the work flowing. Hold-ups can happen fast at busy events.

Think ahead about what you can do to keep your booth in motion. If it’s going to be a big festival or show, you might bring multiple presses, or presses with multiple printing heads – with enough curing units, or maybe even a small 120-volt conveyor dryer to accommodate them.

Even considering all of these variables, on-site printing can be one of the most fun and rewarding ways to utilize your talents as a screen printer. Find out what festivals and events are coming near your town this year and start planning ahead!

Thanks for reading,
Nick Wood
Technical Sales

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