Start a Textile Screen Printing Business

Screen printing is a printing technique where a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, except in areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil. Various surfaces can be printed onto so long as the ink will adhere and the screen is able to print onto the shape. A textile screen printing business printings onto various garments such as t-shirts, hoodies, sports jerseys, shorts, tracksuit pants etc. This business usually has a high margin per print than if you were to print onto something like vinyl to make bumper stickers.

Value Proposition / Market Need

Custom printed t-shirts in an integral part of company branding, sports identities and fashion labels. Screen-printing is one of the most affordable printing techniques and most permanent with the added benefit of the ink bonding to cotton that does not cause the same sweat problems as transfers. The only caveat to this business is that it is not suited to low-quantity prints due to the laborious setup: a positive has to be made, a screen has to be coated with emulsion and dried, the positive is then “burnt” onto the screen using a light source. Every single colour requires it’s own positive and screen and will require a setup cost, that is before even a single t-shirt has been printed and paid for. To print a process colour image such as a photograph onto a dark t-shirt using screen printing will require five positives (C, M, Y, K and a white base) and each colour will be printed individually.

Business Model / Your Solution

The screen-printing business is pretty straightforward: the client brings the artwork they want to be printed onto the garment. Giving the size, colours, quantity and other instructions. A quote is then generated for the client (if labour is required on the artwork it has to be added if required or desired). Once the quote is accepted, the artwork is printed onto a positive which is exposed on a screen which is used to print the garment.

Based on budget I will recommend starting this business with a six-colour, four-station carousel machine as a minimum. This will allow you to print up to six colours in one “round” (not at once). This will also allow you to print CMYK process colour positives onto dark garments (5 colour prints).

Now as I have said before, that screen printing is not a low quantity printing business, I have worked at places that had both a minimum quantity and no minimum quantity. The logic of a no minimum quantity is that as long as people are willing to pay setup cost, they can order as little as they like, even one, which makes sense, the positive is usually kept on screen for a few months so they might need a sample to get orders, while others feel that printing say less than ten is a hassle. Nonetheless, a screen printing price list will look as follows: (prices are fictional just for illustrative purposes).

Setup cost: R100 per colour (this covers the positive and exposing the screen), and there is usually an agreement that the artwork will be kept on the screen for a certain period of time (or a period in which a setup cost is not changed again – this obviously depends on the number of screens the printer has available).

One colour print: R5 per print
Two colour print: R7.50 per print
Three colour print: R10 per print
Four colour print: R12.50 per print
Five colour print: R15 per print
Six colour print: R17.50 per print

So to print:
Ten single-colour t-shirts will be R150 (R100 for setup and R5 per print)
Ten two-colour t-shirts will be R275 (R200 for setup and R7.50 per print)
Ten three-colour t-shirts will be R400 (R300 for setup and R10 per print)
Ten four-colour t-shirts will be R525 (R400 for setup and R12.50 per print)
Ten five-colour t-shirts will be R650 (R500 for setup and R15 per print)
Ten six-colour t-shirts will be R775 (R600 for setup and R17.50 per print)

Now you can see why screen printing don’t work with low quantities, to print a six colour t-shirt will cost R617.50 why there is a gap for lower quantity image transfers.

Value chain
Equipment: printing carousel, exposing lightbox, computer with graphics software, printer to make positives (can be outsourced), flash drier, curing machine
Materials: inks, positives
Skills: artwork skills, positive making skills, exposing skills, screen printing skills

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