Let’s start by remembering the definition of supplies: Supplies are things that you use to build your product, but are not a direct part of the product. That means that screen printing supplies do not add any “value” to the final product. As a result, a lot of screen printers have the philosophy to buy the cheapest possible products to get the job done.

While this technically isn’t a bad way to look at buying screen printing supplies, you have to be careful not to trip over dollars to save pennies.

Here’s what I mean by that: Even if your screen printing supplies don’t directly add value to the finished product; they DO either add or take away value from the process that directly attributes to both labor costs and how many shirts your operation can print in a given period. And both of those factors mean money and are a big part of calculating profit and pricing your end product appropriately.

That means that buying cheap screen printing supplies can actually lose you money in the long run. And it’s truer for some things, more than others.

Here are two screen printing supplies you should absolutely never buy cheap:

1. Screen tape.

A lot of printers looking for the cheapest option use standard box or masking tape, which saves them about $2-$3 a roll compared to buying low adhesive screen frame tape.

That’s big, right? $2-3 a roll which could end up be a 50% savings! But let’s ask another question: What costs more, time or tape? Let’s make some assumptions and do some calculations.

Using screen tape:
If you are paying $5 for one 55 yard roll of low adhesive screen tape, then you are spending $.03 per foot. For a 20 x 24 inch screen, you need about seven feet of tape to tape off the screen. That means it costs you $.21 to tape one screen. And when you take the tape off, because it’s got a high quality low adhesive, it takes you only one minute. If you are paying an employee $15 an hour that is $.25 cents of labor. So, labor plus tape = $.46 per screen.

Using masking tape:
Now you buy cheap masking tape or box tape and pay only $2.50 for that same roll. Your cost of tape goes down to $.10. Great! But, the quality goes down, and now it takes your employee an extra minute to clean that screen because the tape broke or he has to clean off extra adhesive that’s stuck in the mesh. Calculating that in, labor plus tape = $.60 for that same screen.

2. Screen cleaning chemicals

You can buy some VERY cheap chemicals that get the job done. Sure, they stink, and they aren’t friendly to your printers or to the environment, but who cares about that if they get the job done for less money?

Not so fast. Math-time again.

Using cheap chemicals:
Your screen cleaner uses a low cost industrial screen wash, and because it is low cost, it leaves a bit little more residue on the screen, which adds about 30 seconds of extra time per screen to clean off that extra residue. That’s not a big deal on a small scale, but if your printer spends two hours cleaning screens, and each screen takes one minute and thirty seconds to clean, that printer can clean 80 screens in that time.

However, we’re forgetting something. That cheap chemical stinks. So your printer starts to slow down and can now only get about 65 done because they have to take a breathe or get rid of their headache. If you are paying them $15 an hour, then you are spending about $.46 to clean each screen + the cost of chemical which costs you about $20 a gallon and lasts about 100 screens. So, it costs $.66 to clean each screen.

Using green chemicals:
Now lets buy this same employee a non-toxic, eco-friendly high-performing screen wash that costs twice as much, at $40 per gallon. The screen wash takes less buffing because it evaporates faster plus it doesn’t stink so the employee is more productive. Lets say they get 95 screens done in that same 2 hours. Also since your printer is happier and the product works better, they are now getting 120 screens per gallon instead of 100. So the cost of labor is $60/95 = $.315, and the cost of product is $40/120 = $33, which means the cost is $.65 to clean each screen.

Hmm, but that’s pretty much the same amount you may say. Is it really?

With the eco-friendly chemical, at the end of 2 hours, you have an employee that is ready to go to the next task. He feels good about the amount of work he got done, and his head doesn’t hurt. How much more efficient is he going to be at his next task? 30% maybe vs. the employee who has a headache and is reminded how much he hates cleaning screens? Every hour for the rest of the day you will be putting an additional $5 into your efficiency and spending the same amount of money on consumables.

Which one is worth it? The moral of the story is that if you buy better screen printing supplies, you save time. And time is money.

Looking for some quality screen printing supplies? Check out our Sgreen™ Chemical line, a line of iodine and citrus based chemicals designed with your health in mind. Quality low-adhesive tape is just around the corner as well. We sell a few options depending on your preferences, all of them designed to save your printer time.

Products and educationThe business of screen printing