A Guide for Starting a Screen Printing Business

This article will cover everything you should know before starting a screen-printing business. If you are more on the “artsy side” and you like to create things, a screen-printing company may be the perfect business opportunity for you. Before we dive too deep into this topic, I want to preface what I’m about to write by clarifying my “screen printing” terminology. Screen printing is a method of applying ink onto articles of clothing. Many people confuse this method with other processes that also apply graphics to apparel. Throughout this article, we will cover the various techniques commonly used to create custom clothing and the most common methods used to operate a screen-printing business. Making custom clothing is not a complex skill to learn, and seeing your work and designs being worn throughout your hometown can feel rewarding.

How Much Can You Make With a Screen-printing Business?

According to the American Screen Printing Association, the average screen print shop owner can easily earn over $100,000 a year. There are several key factors to consider to operate this business successfully. Time is money. You will need an experienced screen printer in the shop, ensuring that you are getting jobs done promptly with no mistakes. One minor error in design or production could set you back on a job if you are not careful.

Where Will You Operate Your Business?

I recommend starting your home or garage or whatever space you have readily available that requires little or no additional startup cost. Keeping your overhead expenses low will enable you to put more into your business. Making equipment upgrades that make your shop more profitable will be critical for your startup. If you are fortunate enough to have a space outside of your home, it won’t be a make or break if you have to start at home.

Who Will Operate Your Business?

If you plan on operating this business on your own, you should get a feel for your equipment and software to minimize your mistakes and maximize your shop efficiency. Repeat customers will be your best friend locally, and there are many ways to boost sales with online sites like Etsy and eBay. If you put out quality work for a reasonable price, you will have a very lucrative business on your hands.

What You Will Need to Start Your Screen Printing Business

You will have many options regarding equipment and startup costs; it all depends on what you want to do and how you would like to scale this venture. Bootstrapping this business can be pretty straightforward. Let’s look at your options. For the sake of comparison, we will consider your options for garment printing only. First off, you have your old-school screenprint setup, which has a few moving parts. On the bright side, there are hundreds of youtube videos out there that can help you learn the process!

There are four main pieces of equipment you will need to get started with screen printing:

  1. Screens
  2. Screen station
  3. An exposure unit
  4. Flash dryer

You will need your screen station. This is where the ink is applied to the shirt; screens (you use these to apply the design and ink to your garment), an exposure unit to apply a design to your screens.

Last but not least, you will need a flash dryer to cure the ink onto the article of clothing. There are complete kits available on amazon. I would suggest going that route over buying it piece by piece. This is the kit I would recommend. Coming in at just under $1000, this kit has everything you will need to start screen printing.

Vinyl Transfers and the Heat Press and Vinyl Cutter

If screen printing sounds a little too much like work, then maybe you should go with vinyl transfers. Essentially, you will use a vinyl cutter and some computer software to cut out your design in a piece of vinyl, and you will use a heat press to cure that design onto the article of clothing. Pretty simple! Here’s what you will need! You will need a vinyl cutter and a heat press. You will also need a computer for your vinyl cutter and graphic design work. You will need some vinyl material, try to find your local school’s colors, and you can never go wrong with black and white, for starters.

DTG (Direct to Garment) and Sublimation Kit

If all of that still sounds like too much, there are even more options for you to choose from. You could go with sublimation or DTG Printing (Direct to Garment). In a real-world shop, you will want the availability of all of these options. Each of these methods has there a place in the industry. DTG printing is the easiest of all methods. It’s a printer that you use for clothes. The prices for these units used to be high but continue to become less expensive and more cost-effective as time goes by.

How Do You Get Started With Screen Printing? Direct to Garment Printer

People need to know you exist to get this business off the ground. You will have to have a social media presence. If you aren’t using social media or advertising any of your ventures, you are missing out on big money. Also, tell your family and friends that you are starting the business. Make them a few things for free. I know that may not sound like the best idea, but word-of-mouth advertising will be massive for your business when people see that you can do the job.

You will need to keep all of your social groups. Facebook and Instagram will be your best friends when you first start advertising. Reach out to all of your family, friends, and coworkers to spread the word about your business. If you are operating the shop from your home or garage, have a custom sign made or make one yourself to let passersby know where you are located. People that see your sign will often think of your business first when they need work done.

How Do You Grow Your Business?

Once you are off and running, you will likely want to scale up your operation. You may want to hire help and may want to upgrade your equipment. Before making those moves, you need to ensure your business will support them. Closely look at your book and revenue to make those decisions. You will always want to keep advertising your business. Promoting your business will ensure the proper growth needed to scale your operation.