Common Printing Misconceptions: Screen Printers Can Print Samples

One of the most common questions and misconceptions clients have when it comes to screen printing is that they will be able to get a “sample” print before their entire run is printed. While rules are made to be broken I can guarantee that almost every screen printing company in America will not print you a sample without charging you a fortune and here is why. To understand why screen printers can not print samples is to first understand the screen printing process.

First thing you must take note of is that screen printing is indeed a “process” that involves several steps before your t-shirt can come to life. While I am not going to go into deep details here are the basic steps for the screen printing process.

1. Preparing art for print

Art is separated by color into different layers. This is done because with the screen printing process each color in a design requires a separate screen. For example a five color print will require 5 different screens which layered on top of each other will form the final image.

2. Films:

While not all screen printing companies use photo emulsion, a lot of them do and here is the process. Basically the original image is transferred onto an overlay such as acetate, usually by photocopying. This is once again done for each layer in the design.

3. Screens:

Each piece of photocopied acetate is then burned onto the emulsion covered silk screen using ultraviolet light. The areas that are clear harden the emulsion. After this the screens are washed and the areas of emulsion that were not exposed to the light get washed away leaving you a negative of each layer of the artwork.

4. Printing:

Each screen is then attached to the printing press where each layer/color is laid down individually by squeegeeing ink through the screen and onto your tee. This is done for each layer until you have your final image.

5. Drying:

After all layers have been laid down on top of each other and the final image has been created, each tee is sent through a high powered dryer to cure the ink and form your final product.

As you can see even when breaking down the process to the simplest form there are a ton of steps involved in bringing a t-shirt to life. Each step requires labor, time and of course money.

The setup process is truly the most expensive part of screen printing. Once a press is setup and ready to go it really doesn’t make that much of a difference if you are running 50 tees or 500 tees. When you increase your total quantity it allows the screen printer to eat up a lot of their overhead cost. This is why you get a much better price break when going with a larger quantity of tees!

As you can see without even looking at the individual costs for screens, films, ink, labor, and the tee itself making just one t-shirt as a sample is an extremely expensive and time consuming operation to pull off! Remember it is called the “Screen Printing Process”, and it is indeed a process.

There is however a bright side when printing with Threadbird, you are provided a photo-realistic example of how your tees will turn out! While of course nothing ever beats having the real thing in hand, having a photo-realistic mock really helps a client and printer get on the same page as far as placement, size and color. Whenever you are printing make sure that your screen printer always provides you with a mock up before they go to print.

Threadbird Mock Approval Sample

So the next time your screen printer tells you that they can not print you a sample, just know that it is nothing personal it is just all apart of the process.


How to pick the right sizes for your t-shirt order

You have spent months working with your artists and designers getting your vision exactly how you want it on a t-shirt. You are all set and about to place your first t-shirt order with your screen printer (hopefully Threadbird ) and then it hits you. What size tees should I order?! I can say from experience there is really nothing worse than losing a potential customer because you do not have their size!

So what size tees should you order?

Unfortunately there is no magic answer, equation or rule to answer this question. Conventional thought is that you should order with a 1-2-2-1 ratio and honestly if you have no clue where to start it is not a bad ratio to follow. A lot of customers will be able or willing to go up a size in a tee and try to shrink it. Weighing everything more towards the middle just makes common sense with the thought that the majority of people fall somewhere in the middle and thus you will be covered most of the time.

There has to be a better way!

Although there is no magic formula and it always seems like you run out of the size you need, knowing your customer base is really the key to getting your tee order right. After several runs and releases of different lines with your company you will and should start to be able to see a pattern of what sizes are selling best. But if this is your first release I recommend trying to stereotype your customers as much as possible. Yes, stereotyping is usually not a good thing, but in this case it could really help you.

Know your customer

Really think about whom your customer is and what type of demographic they fit into. For this I’ll use a first hand example. I run a company called Pong Deck that makes a game that goes along with Beer Pong. Aside from our Pong Deck game we also sell a few t-shirts. When ordering these tees, I literally took into consideration that most beer pong players, like to drink copious amounts of beer and thus not all of them are in the most fit shape and are a bit larger than the Warped Tour emo crowd. So when placing my order I made sure to heavily weigh my ratio towards XL and 2XL shirts. On the other hand if your demographic is the emo crowd whom love skinny jeans and tight shirts you probably aren’t going to be ordering a ton of XL shirts. I know it sounds mean to stereotype your customers, but you have to be honest with who your demographic is, because you are trying to meet their needs!

Bottom line, know your target market to the best of your abilities.
Of course there is no perfect solution when ordering sizes, just try and do your best to put yourself in the shoes of your market and if all else fails resort to the 1-2-2-1 method.

Cheers,
Adam Hendle
adam@threadbird.com
@iamthetrend


Common Misconceptions: Screen Printers Carry Stock

In this series of articles, I am going to attempt to uncover some of the most common misconceptions that customers have about screen printing. Hopefully through these articles the world of screen printing will make more sense to you and lift the veil of mystery behind how your t-shirts actually get made.

The first misconception that customers have about screen printers is that they actually stock t-shirts on their shelves. A few years ago, when I was getting shirts printed for my band, I just assumed that the screen printer had all the t-shirts on hand. Working at Threadbird has shown me that many people have the same assumption.

So lets talk a bit about the reasons, positives and negatives, why most screen printing companies don’t carry stock themselves.

Reason #1: Too many brands, styles and colors

Let’s use our most popular selling t-shirt, the American Apparel 2001 unisex tee, as an example. The AA 2001 alone (not including the AA 2001 Organic) comes in almost 60 different colors and 7 different sizes! Take a moment to envision how much warehouse space would be required to stock that inventory. Now multiply those numbers out over the 30+ styles of standard crew neck t-shirts that Threadbird offers…

Reason #2: Manufacturers, wholesalers and shipping times

There are wholesalers out there that specialize in buying stock directly from manufacturers. These companies warehouse and ship stock to screen printers within a matter of days! They have the warehouse space, buying power and shipping power and play a vital step in the success of getting your t-shirts to us, allowing us our to concentrate on our specialty, screen printing.

Reason #3: Money, money, money…

Most importantly, not stocking inventory allows us to keep costs down and keep customers happy.

Does ordering stock slow down the process?

The entire screen printing process (normally) takes around two weeks to complete and getting stock only takes a matter of days which really never effects the customer. The only times there might be an issue are if a customer changes their mind on what stock they want after an order is placed or suppliers (occasionally) run out of certain sizes or colors. Having stock run out is not very common, but can happen from time to time. In the event that certain stock does run out, Threadbird is excellent at finding you a comparable option.

How will I know if I like the feel and fit?

Threadbird will gladly order sample blanks for you so that you know exactly how the shirt will feel, fit and look. Never hesitate to ask your Threadbird rep if you have questions on blanks or if you really want a hands on approach have them order you some blanks and compare for yourself!

We hope this helps! Stay tuned for the next installment of Common Misconceptions…

Cheers,
Adam Hendle
adam@threadbird.com
@iamthetrend


Threadbird Artist Series: Walk In Love

After a shimmering, successful launch of Threadbird 2.0, we bring you back to the 4th installment of the Threadbird Artist Series! This month we’re featuring long time faves, Walk In Love Clothing. Let us introduce you to T.J. and Brooke Mousetis…

Give us a brief intro to T.J. & Brooke… why the not-so-secret love of the mustache?

Our love for the moustache began when we first started dating.  It was my first ever Moustache May and I was trying to impress Brooke with a gross dirt stache.  The fact that she stuck around through that was a pretty clear sign that we were meant to be.  On a more serious note, Brooke and I are “doers”, we are always asking the ourselves, “What will we think when we are 80?”  We don’t want to look back on our lives and feel like we didn’t live to the fullest.  We try to do everything to glorify God, whether taking photographs or designing shirts. Check out the following video to hear more about the journey of Walk In Love

We love the feel-good aesthetic we sense when we see your product line. It’s simple and well, good. Where do you draw your inspiration from for the Walk In Love line?

From early on in the life of Walk in Love I’ve always been drawn to clean, simple design.   I knew I wanted it to be simple so I would say that my main inspiration is… simplicity.

TJ, you quit your job a year ago to focus full-time on Walk In Love. This is something that a lot of entrepreneurs would love to do. Tell us about the decision. Looking back, was it a good one?

I used to work for a small gift and stationary company as a graphic designer and I would come home and tell Brooke about all the ways they wasted time.  I would spend 40 hours a week doing things that could have been done in 15, but was forced to sit through the extra 25.  It was brutal.  Brooke was already working from home and we were working toward both being home full time with Walk in Love and Brooke Courtney Photography. Once we were close financially, I knew that I would work as hard as I needed to to make it work and I have.  We knew that there was never going to be a “perfect time” to take the plunge, but we believed that God would take care of us and we went all in.  Looking back it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Three years ago, you opened a Kiosk in a mall. How did this opportunity come about? How have people responded? Give us a couple “mall stories”.

We started the kiosk in 2008, only open for 3 days in December.  It was probably the riskiest thing we’ve done, but we made our money back and came back in 2009 for the whole month of December.  We did well again so we came back in 2010 in a big way, with a bigger space and a bigger line… and it was awesome.  The response was great, people were really encouraging and supportive and loved the new line.  We are now working toward a full time retail space, which we hope to open in 2011.

The mall is a funny place to be.  We were having an ugly Christmas sweater party this year and I saw someone walk by wearing the sweater I was wearing for the party!  We used to have a sign outside of our kiosk and over 50 people ran into… we kept a tally.

You guys have a lot going on. Take a moment to do some shameless promotion for any/all of it so that our readers know just how far your creative tentacles can stretch.

Brooke and I love doing as much as we can without going crazy… we are full time natural light wedding and portrait photographers, Brooke Courtney Photography… we do design work, wedding invitations, identity and branding, Sixtysevensouth…  Brooke writes a blog devoted to home decor, Tiny Anchors… I have a personal blog and am designing prints while going through the Bible, www.tjmousetis.com… I also hope to release a rap album called “stachetastic”…just kidding…but seriously.

Brooke, your photography/video work is gorgeous. Threadbird wants you to come take pictures of us… How did you get started with photography?

I started taking photos of friends in college at Liberty University and they would post them to Facebook and more friends would ask.  Then, I started charging for mini-shoots and fell in love with it.  Liberty University didn’t offer a photo degree so I moved home and got my Associates in Photography.  TJ and I went to the same church growing up and when he saw my photos on Facebook he asked if I wanted to do a photo shoot for Walk in Love. I said yes and was won over by his moustache…

We love the “Secret Message” shirt. Where did the inspiration for this idea come from?

I love t-shirts and I always wished there was a way to give t-shirts to the people I loved to tell them that, with out being super cheesy with “i love you” written across the chest.  The secret message shirt was birthed out of that non cheesy need.

Your packaging shows that you take pride in the details. Seems like other companies could learn a lesson or two from you. Why do you give such attention to detail?

It took time to get there.  Brooke has such an attention for detail and she loves it when companies go the extra mile to package things nicely.  When we go shopping she points out the little things that I never really noticed, like tags and packaging, so we started incorporating all the things she was pointing out into our packaging, while trying to stay true to our brand.  Now that we are trying to open a store we are noticing displays and fixtures!

We always ask a few desert island questions… you can both answer. If you could only take one of each, what would they be: 1) Book 2) Music 3) Something Random?

I am not much of a reader, I would take the Bible. For music, I would take “Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons.  Something random: my iPad, is there WIFI on the island!?  Since I’m taking the Bible, Brooke said she would take a blank journal to write her own book.  For music, she would take Mat Kearney. Something random: a volleyball…..WILSON!!!

Is there a featured product right now, or something that you’d like us to highlight?

We are featuring our Hearts Tee and our new Secret Message Tee. The Hearts Tee is on sale for $17.

Is there a sale going on or a possible coupon code we can give out with the feature?

We can do a 15% off coupon code for April & May… just enter discount code “threadbird”!

And… come visit our brand new retail store opening April 30, 2011 in Park City Mall in Lancaster, PA!!


Introducing the All-New Threadbird!

What’s New?

More Products: Whoever Said We Just Printed T-shirts?

Threadbird now offers a wide array of products and services. Looking for Business Cards, Postcards, Brochures and other Offset Services?… You’ve come to the right place. How about quality vinyl stickers of all shapes and sizes?… Don’t move an inch. Buttons for your next political campaign?… We can do it. Got a killer concert coming up in need of a killer screen printed poster?… Boom Goes the Dynamite!

More Information: Photos, Colors & Prices For All Products

Looking for Ash Sea Foam Green in American Apparel 2001? Want see what other colors come in that style? Curious what brands we carry in Zipper hoodies? Considering a Raglan, but not sure what color sleeves to get? Find it all right on the website. Get updated pricing sheets for all of our products right next to all the rest of the information.

Order Online: An Easy Form For An Easy Quote

Tired of the back and forth emails? Submit a quote request on our brand new, easy-to-use Quote Request form and we’ll gather up the estimate for everything you are looking for and get back to you within 24 business hours.

Tell Your Friends!

Check out our Original Announcement Email and Like It on Facebook or Tweet It to your friends and colleagues!


Climbing Cotton

Rising Prices of Cotton

We know that many of you have been just as concerned about the rising prices of cotton as we have. Yesterday’s article on Inc takes a look at what is going on and how some companies are approaching the reality of rising prices.

Read the Article