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T Shirt Printing Machine Profitability

Welcome to the world of Direct to Garment Printer Profits!

The #1 question on your mind as you search for a direct to garment printer must be

“How much can I make in the custom t shirt printing machine business?”

The custom t-shirt business is full of well established successes, which are easy to find online. Just last year the first custom t-shirt business to “go public” joined the NASDAQ, but it’s also still growing at a rate that makes finding niche and making money doing it a terrific opportunity! There are many factors that will go into that final profitability number. Some we can answer here, some we can estimate, but some are going to be up to your individual situation. Questions only you can answer include things like labor costs – are you printing custom tee shirts yourself or hiring help? – and overhead – are you renting space or working from home?

What we CAN do is give you some real numbers on production times, which depends on the t shirt printing machine you choose, custom tee shirt pricing and also share some tips on Success from our existing direct to garment printer customers. After you read through the scenarios outlined on this page, feel free to call or fill out the Contact Us form, and we’ll be happy to help you get started on making custom t-shirt printing profits!

T Shirt Printing Machine Cost Calculations

How much will it cost to make a custom t-shirt?

That’s an easy answer – it depends! There are many decisions you’ll make in setting up and running your business that will affect the cost. It’s not just running your new t shirt printing machine from ColDesi, or which one you choose, it’s also about the end product.

  • Here’s what you will need to know:
  • How much do your blank shirts cost?
  • How big or small are your designs?
  • Will you be printing on dark or colored t-shirts or just on white?
  • How many shirts/hour can your shop produce?

Let’s review each topic using our own experience to help you fill in the blanks, with the understanding that prices may vary in your area.

How Much do Blank T-Shirts Cost?

Depending on quality, quantity and the brand you choose, there’s a VERY large difference in pricing.
For example, if you buy hundreds of blank, large, men’s white t-shirts, you may get them as cheap as $1.25 each. If you buy 50 women’s medium white t-shirts with cap sleeves from a major brand, you may be at $3 or $4 each.
The average price that we will use for our calculations is $2.60 for a basic, white, 100% cotton t-shirt.
Black t-shirts, and other dark colors, are a little more expensive to buy and to print on but are also extremely popular in the retail marketplace. Just look around as you go about your day and come to your own conclusion about what the most popular colors are.
ColDesi purchased black cotton t-shirts to print onto recently and paid $2.60 each for them from a reputable, mid-market manufacturer. So, for the purposes of our calculations, we’ll use $2.60 each as a basis.

How Large are your Designs?

The size of your designs has 2 big effects on your costs; the time they take to print and the amount of ink you use.
If your market niche demands the largest, most colorful image possible, your labor/production times will be affected because it takes longer to print. Your cost of goods will be impacted by the amount of ink.
On the other hand, if you get a large job for a company that just wants a logo on the chest of their company shirts, your t shirt printing machine will output shirts faster than you can take them off the DTG printer!

We will use a center chest design that is about 8″ high and 10″ wide for our ROI calculations. This is a very common configuration for custom t-shirt printing requests.
Dark or Light Colored T-Shirt
As we saw when looking at our blank t-shirt pricing, there’s a big difference in cost depending on the color of the t-shirt you use. The DTG brand of t shirt printing machines, or DTG Printers, is famous for its amazing quality prints on dark tees in an industry where many printers cannot print on darks at all!

The way our t shirt printers print on dark shirts is by creating a white ink “underbase”. That means that is puts a white base on top of the dark shirt so the colors of your design look great. Without the white, if you put yellow ink on a green shirt, for example, you would end up with an orange looking design. The dark shirts also have to be pre-treated in order to accept that white ink base – which is all simple to do, and makes for a beautiful and profitable end result.
But printing on darks does add production time, more to print, and prep time, for pretreating.

2X Heat Presses

Believe it or not, the new direct to garment printers from ColDesi are SO fast that the production bottleneck in small custom t shirt printing businesses is often the heat press.
Here’s why:
As you can see in the video above, the DTG M2 Direct to Garment Printer will produce 2 dark shirts with large designs on them in approximately 2 1/2 minutes. That is just 1 minute and 15 seconds per shirt!

Each shirt needs to be “cured” under the heat press for 3 minutes and 20 seconds. So to finish the 2 shirts that just came off your DTG Printer it will take about 7 minutes. This makes your production capacity 2 shirts every 9 1/2 minutes = 12 shirts/ hour. With the addition of another heat press, the same 2 shirts will take just 6 minutes, which rockets your output up to 20 shirts per hour.

The Caveats

Many different factors will go into your businesses profitability that are difficult to calculate until you’re up and running and have some experience.

For example, you and/or your employees wills spend time on:

  • Working with customers
  • Receiving garments and materials in from vendors
  • Maintaining/calibrating equipment
  • Training

And you’ll need to allow for mistakes. Even with a commercial machine like the M2 or Viper2 t shirt printers you’ll have some shirts that are misaligned when you load them on the platen, or that you smudge the ink before setting with the heat press. Of course you also may lose time if you run out of shirts, mis-order blanks, run out of ink or silicon or teflon sheets. In all this, planning is key. But even when you factor in all of these extra time and monetary costs the custom t shirt business is still an incredibly profitable one that you can do from almost anywhere!

Pricing and Profits

You can calculate the cost of your end product pretty reliably. You pay a certain amount for a T-Shirt, it takes a certain amount of ink to produce the image and a relatively fixed amount of time for each shirt depending on your printer and how many heat presses you have. Just add your labor cost and overhead, and there’s your number. We keep it simple for our calculations. Here are the numbers used in our video:

White T-Shirt Cost $2.60 + Ink Cost: $.40 = $3.00 for the cost of a printed white shirt, not including labor.

The profits you make will largely be determined by how much you can get for each shirt, each order.
1. You can do a simple search online and find out how much a custom t-shirt sells for. Consumers order 1 or 5 custom tees all the time for $25 each.

Your Gross Profit = $25-$3.00=$22.00 each

In this case, if you have an M2 DTG Printer and 2 Heat presses – because remember, you’re producing 2 shirts at a time and each take more than 3 minutes to cure on a heat press so 2 saves you a lot of time – you can produce 15/Shirts per hour.

2 white shirts with images take 1:15 to print and 3:40 to heat press = 4 minutes and 55 seconds per pair. Round to 5 minutes to produce 2 shirts, and you’re at 24 shirts/hour.

24 Shirts X $22.00 Gross profit = $528/hour

Most of our customers end up selling custom tees in mid-sized or larger orders of 12 or more. Typically these will sell for closer to $15.00/Shirt. This makes your Gross Profit $15.00-$3.00 = $12.00 per shirt. So your Gross Profit numbers look like this:

24 Shirts X $12.00 Gross Profit = $288.00/hour

But as you can see, even if you only sell your shirts for $10 each, you’re still grossing $168/hour – what a great business!

if you’re producing dark or colored t-shirts, garment printer ink costs goes up. The DTG Printer prints a layer of White Ink so the colors look better on the dark tees. That costs more than a white t-shirt so it adds to the time it takes to print. But the ink costs for the DTG logo printed shirt in the video, on a black tee, was still only about $1.60! Since we paid $2.60 for the black shirts in the videos, the total materials cost is:

$2.60 for the t-shirt + $1.60 for the ink = $4.20 for a completed shirt.

The M2 DTG Printer took 3 minutes and 50 seconds to print out 2 of the DTG logo shirts on the black tees. So with the heat press time (assuming the 2 heat presses again) here are your production times: 3 minutes 40 seconds for heat press and 3 minute 50 seconds for printing means 2 shirts in 7.5 minutes = 16 Shirts per hour.

Now do your OWN calculations. Will you sell your shirts for $10? $25? $40? Only YOU can answer that for your market.

Speed = ROI