Sunday, November 11, 2007

Serious Changes in the t-shirt business

There are some serious changes going on with the way I am running my business. I provide a service, a product and a small bit of entertainment through the website my main website at, but I haven't finished what I've started. The entire approach to has been to try and make a comprehensive site to bring it all together, to direct information and funnel my efforts into one long-lasting manageable enterprise. In doing so I've opened the doors to several areas that I had previously closed. The time it takes to experiment with every facet of this business has limited my ability to bring a fully functional professional website to my customers, however, this drive to try everything is the fodder that should make this site worth a read if you are interested in t-shirts.

Today I played with , a transfer based t-shirt website, and uploaded some of my latest graphics and slogans to try their interface. I've bitched about the quality of transfers before, but I have to say you can't argue with the functionality of a smooth interface. Just being able to allow customers to upload jpegs, the lowest quality of printable artwork, to items as varied as mugs and license plates is impressive. In less than 5-minutes you can post an image on over a hundred products and get an idea of how your logo/design will look on various garments too. Sure, I'm jealous, but I don't want to be in the transfer business and I've stayed away from the draw of instant gratification, so far.

I posted about 7 separate sites on today (links below): - Free Benazir Bhutto T-shirt - Writers: Strike Studios: Blink T-shirt - Regime Change Starts at Work T-shirt - Regime Change Starts at School T-shirt - Be Kind, Rewind VHS Video T-shirt - Super Star T-shirts - I Hate The Environment T-shirts - Highway Star T-shirts

I can't even begin to think that I would make these types of items for people, one at a time, without going crazy. Coffee Mugs are one process, mouse pads are similar, but another. T-shirt designs fit differently on different types of shirts, dark garments require a transparent background, otherwise they have a white rectangle shape around them, which are just a few of the reasons I have stayed away from offering this type of stuff. More power to them if they can provide all of these items and make a profit, because nobody else really wants to do that. Which is why I felt I needed to embrace their talents without discarding my own skills. I figure I can post my items on their site and if someone finds it through their site and buys it then I haven't lost anything, but I may even make a few bucks at the same time.

Cafe Press has a profit/money sharing setup that allows the user to set a price for the products, above the cost/charges that Cafe Press sells the items at. Any proceeds beyond the prices charged by Cafe Press will go to The User, which in this case is me. Cafe Press's prices are practically retail, as it should be since they are making these things individually, so if you price your stuff too high you may not get many sales. Conversely if you price it at cost you won't make much when you sell items through their website. The good thing about all of this is that you don't have to touch the merchandise or deal with the customer service beyond uploading the logo to their website. Nice.

Part of approach to marketing is also offensive, in the strategic sense, because many of my design ideas in the past end up on Cafe Press and often they end up being presented in such a way that hinders my own marketing. Largely due to the fact that someone can scratch out a few lines of text and have it presented on everything from thongs to clocks with only a couple of clicks. I don't blame the people for also marketing ideas, as some of us may think alike in this low-brow kitschy world of tacky products. Therefore my approach is not to complain, but to make sure that I am there too, placing my products for sale, just like every other amateur. When you have to make money in the t-shirts business there is no pride, it's work and if this gets the job done, then I don't see why I should put my head in the sand and act like they aren't there. I couldn't make half that stuff anyway as I've got my hands full with screen printing.

Friday, November 2, 2007

T-shirt Print Size and Printing Specifications

This is a 12" design, the width is approx 8", properly prepared artwork for a one-color print, black ink on white t-shirts. Preferably we would receive this design via email in a PSD, grey scale format at 1-300dpi at the size it is to be printed. Or an EPS, scalable artwork, at the size that it is to be printed. Email artwork to or

This section is more of an instructional blog. Often I get inquiries for jobs that I move along through the printing cycle knowing that the only way to truly get a job approved is to get the sample into the hands of the customer. However, due to time constraints and shipping cost, I try using digital photo samples to get quick approvals (which often suffer color variations from lighting problems, but that is another post). The one area that always creates confusion is the size of the artwork. No matter how specific I am, this part of taking a t-shirt printing order is the most confusing, yet it is the simplest problem to solve with a little communication, a ruler and a simple draft print from an ink jet printer.
I always request from a customer that they indicate to me the size of a graphic when they email me the file, in inches, in one-direction, either the width or the height of the design. It's just that simple, but most people can't find a ruler, assume that what I see on my end is what they see on their end, or they are just lazy and figure I should "know" what size they want it by looking at the design. I recommend that the customer should print the artwork out from their end from an ink jet printer and hold it up to a shirt. Also that they should trim it along the edges and tape it on a shirt, then stand back a few feet and squint. Surprisingly the squinting really helps at eliminating the edges of the paper and this provides a pretty good sample of what a print will look like. Printing a color background around the design that is the same color as the shirt that is going to be used for the job is a good way to get a more accurate view of how the design will look on any particular shirt color. Then MEASURE THE DESIGN with a ruler and email the dimensions.

Otherwise, here's what happens, a printer often prints things to fill a page, then when the file is emailed to our art department it might open at 6 inches across instead of 10 inches across as the customer intended. Then we open the file, proceed to print a film, shoot a screen make a sample shirt, shoot a digital photo, email it to the customer, wait to hear back and the customer replies, "it's too small, can you make it bigger?" Still no mention of how big they want it though. This drives me crazy and the customer hates it too, because I usually reply, "How big do you want it, in inches?" They reply, "Just fill the front of the shirt". Oh my god. I've gotten this far without committing suicide, but this type of email thread pushes me closer to the edge than anything else. Why can't people just say how big they want a design in a measurement that I can use?

The print above is 12" high print approx 7.5" wide on a white Large Hanes T-shirt. Although it may look small on a shirt laid out flat, which is approximately 22" wide, it isn't that small on a person wearing it. Take a ruler and measure your chest and you'll see that unless you want to be a walking billboard, this size ain't so bad.

Here's the kicker, I indicate that shooting a new screen will cost $30 per color and require a new proof and setup, which will delay the order. Obviously we have their attention now, "Why?", they ask, "I indicated how big I wanted the design in the layout image that I sent to you earlier, 25,0000 emails ago". This "image" of course was a pdf layout or a jpeg of a graphic that is not usable as artwork and although it may have been an indicator of the size, every t-shirt size if different and different brands are different, MOCK-UPS are not an indicator of artwork size. This is why we suggest that a customer send the actual measurements of the design IN WRITING, preferably in inches, not a graphic rendition of how the design will look on a shirt. Don't get me wrong, these mock-ups do help, but nothing replaces an actual measurement for how large a design should be.
Lastly, one computer system opens a file at one size and another computer may open that file at a different size. I don't know why, it's preferences, programs or just random acts by God to frustrate graphic artist and destroy our economy by wasting our time, like SPAM. If God so loved the world he would smite spammers off the planet, but I digress. It just happens. It happens even when I forward files to my own print shop. The only way to double check the size of a design is to indicate how big a file is, in inches. No matter how many times we were told in school that the Metric system was going to take over our world, in the US, that hasn't happened, our rulers still show inches and we think that way in our print shop.
By the way, do they still tell children that the metric system will rule the world someday? All things change, just like the food chart. Have they added candy to the food chart?

Maximum standard print area is 10" wide X 12" high.

For Women's and Youth shirts you may not want to go larger than 9" wide.
We can turn the frames horizontally and print 12" wide, but on smaller sizes the print will not work and may go under the sleeves.