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How To Charge For DTG Printing:

We have a lot of options in the garment decoration business for which types of equipment suit any number of decoration needs. Direct to Garment printing is the cutting edge of garment decoration and can easily justify a successful business with a single printer. DTG is fun, exciting, creative and just cool, but to run a successful business it’s all about the money. I’m going to show you the basics of how to charge for DTG printing.

There are any number of printers on the market. As a production specialist and small business owner, my number 1 priority is having equipment that is reliable and will make money for me every time I turn it on. DTG has a troubled past but with new technology and advancements reliability has increased exponentially.

At the top of the list, and clearly the industries best most reliable printer, is the relatively new Epson Sure Color F2000. Because this printer is by far the most dominant printer in the industry, I will be using the F2000, Garment Creator (Free Epson Rip), and the cost estimator tool as a reference. Other printers and other rips offer a cost estimator tool however; it is more difficult to accurately calculate production cost if you need to spend unexpected downtime troubleshooting and throwing resources and time at equipment repairs. A unique element to the F2000 is all maintenance is scheduled, prompted, and has a fixed cost therefore; it can be calculated, it’s preventative maintenance not reactionary maintenance.

DTG pricing compared to Screen Printing:

Screen printing has a number of expenses the customer must absorb. Most T-shirt decorators are used to paying for screen printing which is calculated by number of colors in a job. This includes art separation, film positives, screens, set up, and printing cost. The more colors the printed artwork has the more time and resources are needed.

DTG is different in that there is very little if any set and breakdown time, and to print 1 or the full CMYK spectrum can be as simple as pushing a button. With DTG we don’t charge by the number of colors and that’s a selling point people often overlook. It costs you the same amount to print a 1 color picture of a tree, as a full color picture of a forest, sell the ability to print the full color forest!

With DTG we charge by size of print, which is directly related to ink consumption. Since we are using a digital printer, ink cartridges need to be replaced like on any printer and that’s the bulk of our cost. The larger the print the more ink is consumed and more ink means more cost, it’s that simple.

To measure ink consumption it’s best to have a cost estimator built into your print imaging software or driver. In the old days we used to have to weigh shirts and manually track consumption, made it extremely difficult to accurately charge, often we guessed.

The software that comes with the Epson SC-F2000 has a built in cost estimator. You can download Garment Creator and the Cost Estimator here http://www.epson.com/support/F2000 for free even if you don’t have the printer. Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zafica_DyA&feature=youtu.be this video get an understanding of how to use the cost estimator tool.

Epson F2000 Garment Creator Cost Estimate Tool

Epson F2000 Garment Creator Cost Estimate Tool

Here is a screen shot of the Cost Estimator Tool in Garment Creator. In the green box, we see that an 600ml ink cartridge is $207.00 which equals $.35/ml. This tool measures volume, the larger the print, the more milliliters of ink used. Notice the section in Yellow, Other Costs. This section is important to understand, I will explain next.

I suggest creating a reference guide for measuring ink consumption. To do this, I like to create a series of solid shapes of varying sizes.

Epson F2000 Garment Creator

Epson F2000 Garment Creator

. From here I can take each grid into Garment Creator, select my print preferences, and run the Cost Estimator. Print preferences are essentially your choice for color ink only, white ink only, or color + white and how much you want to lay down. Here is an cost breakdown of a 6×8 print on a black shirt with color + white ink.

Epson F2000 Garment Creator

Epson F2000 Garment Creator

. Not all of your customers art will fit into these sizes and you shouldn’t have to make a guide for each jobs specific dimensions. Use strategic size templates as a reference for your pricing.

The better you understand your operations cost, the more informed decisions you can make and understanding maintenance cost includes maintenance and other consumables.

Other Costs:

Ink is the bulk of the cost when printing DTG but just as important is calculating for your maintenance and other consumables.

Maintenance on a printer like the Epson F2000 is pretty easy to calculate, your cost is essentially broken down into two procedures the replacement parts for the print head cleaning kit and the cost of ink waste when doing a white ink tube flush. The print head cleaning kit is fixed, $100 every 1,000 prints or $.10 per shirt. The white ink tube flush is variable and completely dependent on time. If you were to print about 100 shirts per week for 6 weeks your cost would be about $.20 per shirt.

Other consumables are mainly pretreat solution but you can also include electricity, rent, labor, t shirt cost, anything you want to calculate to achieve a more accurate understanding of overhead. I like to leave t shirt cost out and factor after I have my machine and main consumables cost accounted for. T shirts are so variable and I often mark up around 30% above wholesale.

I should note, your DTG printer will print exactly what you see on screen. So in this case using these solid color shapes on a dark shirt, our printer will print a solid 6×8 white rectangle and solid 6×8 blue over top. This type of design will estimate the full cost of a 6×8 print area. Your customers art will not likely cover every square inch of a 6×8 print area but I always argue, it’s better to over estimate than under.

Mark Up Accordingly:

Now that we have a solid understanding of our cost, you must mark up accordingly. The 6×8 guide with other costs factored equals $2.41. From here I would factor shirt and markup and any other costs. Let’s say a shirt is $3.00, total $5.41. How would you mark this up? I suggest following my no less than 100% rule. Basically I will never take less than 100% mark up on a job. In this case we’re looking at $10.82. For 1 shirt, $10.82 is an insane deal and we both know we should be charging more.

Pricing Guideline Theory:

DTG is significantly less labor intensive than screen printing and we have the ability to produce 1 off garments quickly plus the margins can be very high. That being said, we want to charge a fair price but our time and efforts should be considered when setting a price chart.

I argue it’s best to charge a fair value for your time and expenses and discount, if needed, after the full price is quoted. By this I mean, don’t give away your services when quoting a job, SELL your services. Remember, we have a massively distinct advantage over other printed shirt techniques, we can print 1, full color, full size image on a light or dark shirt within minutes.

Some people think this should be cheap but consider the alternative. If a customer wants a picture of Little Jimmy printed on a shirt for his birthday, what are their options? Screen printing of course, but that will cost art separations, films, screens, set up, and print cost. For 1 shirt, my old shop would charge $350 minimum. The customer could do do a transfer, but those are thick, plastic, vinyl stickers, not ideal, and not necessarily cheap. DTG really is the best option and I think it’s fare to charge accordingly.

It’s better to factor all your charges up front and discount later. Using the Little Jimmy shirt as an example. If the customer needs me to do art I might have a $20 per 1/2hour art charge. I might also include a 1 time set up fee of $10 this would cover testing and adjustments. I would then reference my chart depending on the print size and ink consumption to print Little Jimmy. Let’s say the print is 6×8 with $3 shirt, we know 100% markup is $10.82 but for 1 shirt I might charge 200 or 300% markup ($16.23 or $21.64) then factor in the additional costs. A one off shirt for Jimmy might look like this:

Art at $20 / 1/2hour :$20
Set Up: $10
1 black youth large 6×8 print: $16.23
Total: $46.23

This may appear high, I think it’s fare and I think you should sell your customer on why this is a good price but if you want to mark down to get the business you can. Your customer will appreciate the favor, AND you know how far you can comfortably move. Try a 10% or 20% discount, everybody wins and everybody’s happy.

Moral of this story, do your best to understand your costs, and don’t sell yourself or your services short. DTG is fun, enjoy it, but ensure you’re making money.

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