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Cost of Direct to Garment Printing | Dark vs Light Shirts

Comparing Actual Printing Costs on White and Black T-Shirts

We talk about printing on white shirts versus black shirts quite a bit in this marketplace.

It seems like it might be a good time to do some numbers and get the skinny on how to make money by printing both (and maybe a colored shirt in there too!).

First, let’s look at costs that are common to any shirt you print – the fixed times and costs.

Standard Cost of Printing with Direct to Garment Printers

Both white and dark shirts get pretreated, using roughly the same amount of pretreatment. And the cost of light garment and dark garment pretreatment is typically the same.

Using the G4 direct to garment printing machine and Kokak Kodacholor Inks as an example, the pretreatment needs to be set by the heat press for 45 seconds. That time is the same on both light and dark garments.

Lastly, the cure time for both light and dark garments after printing is also 45 seconds.

These times will probably vary if you’re using a different ink set or DTG printer, but the principal is the same.

You can expect pretreating to cost you between $.35 and $.40 per print, depending on the brand of pretreat and the size of the print area.

Direct to Garment Printing VARIABLE Costs

The differences comes in when you compare printing on a dark garment, which requires a white ink under base to make the colors look great, and a light garment, which does not.

When we start to look at print times and ink costs (and, potentially costs of the garment itself).

In the example we are using of the parrot print here are the breakdowns of those times and costs.

Remember, the ink cost difference is in the white ink layer!

Printing a White Shirt –
No White Ink

Ink Cost:

Print time 57 seconds

(from time load button is pressed until platen is fully ejected and shirt can be removed)

<Hover to see print time>

Printing a Black Shirt –
With White Ink

Ink Cost:

Print time 2:49

(from time load button is pressed until platen is fully ejected and shirt can be removed)

<Hover to see print time>

As you can see from these numbers – it takes almost three times as long to produce a black shirt as a white shirt and ink costs (in this case) are almost 6 times as much.

But let’s point out that there’s still a LOT of profit to be made on the dark shirts. Here are some quick numbers:

Labor cost $20/hr = $1 for labor on the dark shirt + $1.62 in ink + Pretreatment = maybe $3.00 COGS + the blank shirt.

Most DTG shirts sell for $20-$30 each.

Selling Dark and Light Custom TShirts

So what do we do with this information?