How Much Do Custom T-Shirts Cost?

How Much Do Custom T-Shirts Cost?

Understanding the Cost of Custom T-Shirts: A Comprehensive Guide

When we set out to make custom t-shirts, one of the first questions is always "How much is this going to cost?" It's a fair question, because prices can really vary based on the different factors that go into custom shirt printing. In this article, we'll walk through the key details that affect cost per shirt, and give you an idea of price ranges you can expect.

Basic Custom T-Shirt Printing Methods

There are a few main methods used for custom t-shirt printing, each with their own unique process and pricing considerations. The main ones are:

Screen Printing

Screen printing involves creating a stencil (called a "screen") for each color in the design. Ink is then squeezed through the screen, transferring the image onto the shirts. This is a great option for bulk orders and simple designs with 1-4 colors.

Cost per shirt: $3 - $8+

Heat Transfers

Heat transfers print the design onto special paper, which is then pressed onto the shirts using a heat press machine. This allows for full color designs, but has a texture and can crack over time. Best for small orders.

Cost per shirt: $3 - $12

Direct to Garment (DTG)

DTG printing uses a specialized printer to print the design directly onto the fabric. This allows for soft, full color prints that work on dark or light shirts. Ideal for small runs or photorealistic images.

Cost per shirt: $8 - $25

Dye Sublimation

Dye sub prints the design onto a special transfer paper using full color ink. The print is then permanently heat transferred into polyester fabrics. Provides a vibrant, all-over print look.

Cost per shirt: $10 - $30

What Impacts the Cost Per Shirt?

Many factors go into the base cost for custom shirt printing. Key details like order quantity, number of print locations/colors, and shirt type all affect the pricing.

Order Quantity

Generally, the more shirts you order, the lower the cost per shirt. This is because setup fees and screen/printer costs get spread across more shirts. For example:

  • 12 shirts may be $15 each
  • 36 shirts may be $10 each
  • 100 shirts may be $8 each
  • 500 shirts may be $5 each

So order size is a major cost factor, especially with screen printing. Heat transfers can still be fairly affordable even for smaller runs.

Number of Print Locations and Colors

When screen printing, pricing is also based on number of print locations and colors. A 1 color design on 1 location (one side of a shirt) is cheaper than a 4 color design covering the whole shirt (front, back, and sleeves).

More colors and locations require more screens and production time. So while a 1 color design may be ~$5 per shirt, a 4 color design could be $8 or more.

Shirt Type and Features

The blanks themselves also impact cost. A basic 100% cotton tee is cheaper than a performance poly-blend athletic shirt. Additional features like pockets, hoods, or cut-and-sew shapes add to the base prices as well. Expect to pay more for:

  • Performance and technical fabrics
  • Soft premium cottons
  • Outerwear like hoodies and jackets
  • Cut and sew pieces like raglans or v-necks
  • Added features like pockets or lace trims

Typical Custom T-Shirt Pricing Ranges

Taking order size, print method, and shirt type into account, here are some typical per shirt price ranges:

Basic cotton tees, small runs (<36 pieces)

  • Screen print: $15 - $18
  • Heat transfer: $12 - $15
  • DTG print: $18 - $22

Cotton tees, large bulk runs (100+ pieces)

  • Screen print: $5 - $8
  • Heat transfer: ~$5 - $8
  • DTG print: $10 - $12

Performance shirts, small runs

  • Screen print: $18 - $22
  • Heat transfer: $15 - $18
  • DTG print: $22 - $28

Hoodies and outerwear, small runs

  • Screen print: $28 - $36
  • Heat transfer: $22 - $28
  • DTG print: $28 - $36

So as you can see, pricing can really vary! Generally allow at least $15 per shirt for small orders, and under $10 for bulk orders of 100+. To get a custom quote for your order, most printers have order estimators on their websites, or you can request quotes.

Extra Costs to Keep in Mind

On top of the printing itself, there are sometimes a few additional costs to factor in:

Set-up fees: Screen printing requires burning screens, while DTG and dye sub need printer preparation. One-time set up fees of ~$30+ are common.

Film output: If providing a digital design, commercial printing often requires film output for an additional $15-$30.

Rush fees: Rush production in 3-5 days can incur express fees around 15% of order cost.

Shipping: Don't forget to factor in shipping for getting blanks and finished shirts!

Tips for Saving Money on Custom T-Shirts

If budget is a concern, you can save money on custom tees with these tips:

  • Order in bulk whenever possible to get the lowest base prices
  • Use standard cotton tees instead of premium materials
  • Stick to 1-3 ink colors and simple designs
  • Choose screen printing over DTG for cheaper printing
  • Provide print-ready designs to avoid film output fees
  • Build in standard turnaround times to avoid rush charges
  • Work with printers that offer free shipping or discounts

Quality Over Quantity Can Also Save Money

While bulk orders get the lowest base pricing, don't sacrifice too much quality to save money. A few higher priced shirts with thoughtful designs from ethical printers generally last longer and bring more value than cheap shirts that fall apart.

Prioritize social responsibility and environmental factors like water-based inks and sustainable materials. For just a few dollars more per shirt, the quality and message makes an impact.

The Final Price Depends on Your Design

Ultimately there's no single answer to "how much do custom t-shirts cost?" since it depends on order details. But generally $10-$20 per shirt is reasonable for small runs, and under $10 for bulk. Carefully weigh printing methods, order size, and shirt types to find the right balance of quality, ethics, and affordability. Focus on creating thoughtful designs, quality garments, and positive messages that make an impact.