How to get the best price on custom t-shirts

custom shmustomHands down, our most popular question is, How much do custom t-shirts cost?

If I could wish upon a star, I would wish that I had an easy answer for you. Really, I would. It would make life easier for both of us. The truth is, it depends. I know that’s slightly frustrating, because when you go to PF Chang’s or Jiffy Lube, the prices are always the same. Plus, they’re displayed right in front of you, so before you even talk to someone, you have an idea of how much you’re going to spend.

Unfortunately in the Getting Stuff Made Custom world, the prices aren’t so clearly defined. But there’s one simple answer to getting the best deal on custom printed t-shirts: communication. Yup. The more we know about what you need, the more you will save.

The thing is, we’re not a factory that employs an entire third-world country and spits out t-shirts on a 24-hour cycle. We do custom, hand-printed work. So lots of little things matter when it comes to price. For example, the quality of t-shirt you need can change the cost of your order dramatically. Whether you’re selling them or giving them away will help us advise you on a best course of action. In short, we need information to save you money.

There’s also a little-known secret to getting lower prices on custom t-shirts.

It’s called planning. Yes! Planning is your new watchword.

Planning for your t-shirt printing means that you either know what you want or are ready to answer some questions about your needs. It’s pretty simple, when you think about it.

In fact, I’ve already done some of the work for you to help you plan better. Here are some typical questions that you can be prepared to answer so you can get the best t-shirts prices possible.

Answer these questions, get better prices:

Where are your shirts going?

Are you selling your t-shirts or giving them away? The answer may not alter the price directly, but we would help you figure out how to either save the most money on give-away shirts or make the most profit on selling your shirts.

Think about it. If you’re selling your shirts at $15 each, and it costs you $6 to get them printed by us, that’s a $9 per-shirt profit margin. Not bad, right?

If you’re giving out logo shirts to employees to wear on the job or at events, that’s part of your advertising or marketing budget. Ask your tax advisor about that one, but you could potentially recoup that cost.

How many colors in your design?

This matters more than you might think. In true quality screen printing, each color equals a separate screen that needs to be produced. It’s not only the cost of the screen itself, or even the ink, but the labor involved in creating a screen. If you educate yourself about how that all works, you could save a bundle.

For example, let’s say you count 4 colors in your design. Let’s also say that one of them is blue. If you print on a blue t-shirt, you just eliminated one screen/ink color, making yours a 3-color design. Hence, saving you a little money.

So asking “How much would my t-shirts cost?” does not always net a (here comes the pun) black-and-white answer.

Click a button, get a generic price. It’s not how we roll.

How many t-shirts do you need?

The best way to lower the price you pay on t-shirts is to know up front how many t-shirts you need and in what sizes. The more you order, the lower the “per-shirt” price goes. If you only need a handful of tees, we can still help you. At least we can advise you on alternatives to screen printing, which could be better suited for one-offs or small orders. The more information we have, the better price we can give you.

People ask us all the time, “Don’t you get cheap t-shirts wholesale?”

Yes. But here’s a secret: the garment industry directly affects how much you pay for custom orders. The whole industry is set up on bulk. So if you only order one t-shirt, we have to get it from one of our wholesale vendors at a “per-shirt” cost. Which is not wholesale. And that price could be as much as twice the “case” price, which isn’t truly wholesale.

Sure, we keep some blanks in stock. But we can’t possibly anticipate 100 Shamrock Green t-shirts just for your St. Patrick’s Day Fun Run. We would quickly go out out business – and we would deserve to.

The other variable is labor. If we’re printing only one or two shirts, the time it takes for us to set up the job is more time than it takes to actually print ink on the tees. We have to do the same setup for 1,000 tees or just one.

Do you really have your design ready to go?

We don’t charge for design fees unless we actually do any designing. However, you should know what “designing” means. Yes?

We recently had a customer approach us with his design “all ready to go.” When we dug a little deeper, it turned out that he had ripped out a photo from a magazine to print on his shirt. In his mind, it was ready to print. In reality, we would have to:

  • Scan the image
  • Fix the quality (most magazine images are printed in a “dot” pattern that doesn’t translate easily)
  • Separate the colors
  • Add text and other elements

Not to mention that in this case, his image was copyrighted. That means that without written permission from the photograph copyright holder, we just won’t do it. It’s more than legal, it’s ethical for us.

In his mind, the design was all done for us. In reality, we had a couple hours’ design time to go, plus approvals and adjustments. It all counts.

What kind of t-shirts do you need?

High-end or low-end? It all depends on where your t-shirts will end up (Question #1 again).

For promotional giveaways, I would recommend t-shirts on the cheaper end. Say you’re a radio station and you’re handing out free tees at an event. Do you really want to hand out the trendiest, priciest fashion shirts that will wind up in somebody’s gym bag for all eternity? I’m guessing not.

You’d probably want a heavier jersey-style tee that is super cheap to get. Remember: in the future, some dude is going to be polishing his $1,000 steel rims with that free tee.

If you want to sell your designs as an apparel line, you’re going to want the highest quality you can afford. Ask yourself if Nordstrom will honestly take your Hanes Beefy-T for their men’s section. If Wal-Mart is your customer, you might get away with it. The point is (I can’t stress this enough) to plan for it.

How soon do you need them?

Here’s an easy pricing scale for you:

I need them sometime in the next couple weeks = Lower price

NOW! I needed them yesterday but I just thought of it NOW! HELP! = Higher price

Those are the basics on pricing custom t-shirts. Remember, your watchword is planning. The better you plan, the more you save.

What questions do you have about getting custom t-shirts done? Is it still a mystery? ask us anything, either in the comments below or email us at



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(818) 835-2585 Woodland Hills, California |

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