I’ve Got This Great Idea For a T Shirt! Part Two

Having a great idea for a t shirt is just the beginning of the process. Getting it produced and marketed properly is a formidable job. Your two options are shortrun digital Direct-to-Garment (DTG) and traditional screen printing. DTG has a different look and fell than traditional screen printing and many consumers still feel screen printing is what they know and love.

For those who want the quality of traditional screen printing, there are a few things to consider. First, it takes more preparation at the front end to get the designs ready to print and on the screen. To keep your costs reasonable, you’ll need to do at least a couple of dozen shirts.

Second, before you go to all the expense of printing up a bunch of expensive samples do some basic market research to see if other people are as excited about your design as you are. Start by doing a Google Search (Your Design Idea) + T Shirt. So for instance do a search for: Michael Jackson Tribute + T Shirt and see how many other people are thinking the same thing you are.

Here’s an IMPORTANT TIP - you want competition. If you don’t find anybody who’s doing something similar, it usually means it’s a weak idea or you haven’t hit the key idea in a way others will recognize. If you find Michael Jackson Tribute T Shirts (and there will be a ton right now,) you’ll know there are other people who have gone to the trouble to develop and market a similar idea. This is a really good sign.

If you’re encouraged by what you find, it’s onto the production step next. With DTG, you pretty much go to the company website and follow their instructions. Screen printing is a bit more involved. The printers will tell you what they want you to supply and in what form.

Here’s a hint, DO NOT do your art work in Microsoft Word or Power Point. They are unacceptable formats. DO NOT do a screen capture from a web page. You’ll get horrible quality. Ask the printer for guidance on the file format and preparation.

Go the extra mile and get the art done right from the beginning. Great art is what sells shirts. When you have a great idea, you get their attention, but it’s the art that closes the deal. If you need to, get a REAL graphic designer to do the art for you. Having your cousin who has Photoshop do the art for you is like doing brain surgery on the kitchen table. Results are not going to be good.

Finally, when it comes to screen printed t shirts, NEVER use this approach: ” Give me your quantity price break on 1,200, but I only need 12 right now. We’re going to sell a ton of these.” It’s almost a sure way to get the boot. Every printer on earth has heard this line almost as many times as “I’ve got this great idea. . .”

Do this. Tell the printer you understand the set-up fees are front end costs. Ask them at what quantity the set-up is free. This becomes the point at which you can negotiate for the rebate of the set-up costs.

So if the free set-up is at 1200 pieces, negotiate a rebate of the costs when you hit this quantity. This way, the printer is covered up front AND you get the set-up fees back if you really do hit the big time. You’ll also find the printer has raised their level of respect for you because you’re sensitive to their issues, you talk the lingo, and you’ve done some homework on this project.

There is nothing that beats the excitement and satisfaction of creating a great t shirt and having it take off. Follow these guidelines and you’ll have a much better chance of being one of those successful few in hitting the big time with their great t shirt idea.


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