Screen printing business lessons for beginners -- Part 4

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In this last article we will be discussing, testing to see if a garment is cured, ink clean up, screen reclaiming, pricing and other inks.

Testing if the Garment is cured

This is the age-old problem. Have you ever purchased a T-shirt on vacation and it looks great until the first time you washed it? Part, if not all, of the print washed out. How does one test a garment?

Curing a garment that has a plastisol print applied is a matter of correct temperature. A garment may look cured and on the surface feel cured but it can still wash out.

Here a few ways to test your garment. The best and the most expensive is to purchase a digital thermometer for your dryer or flash unit. You can put the probe at the level of the garment and check for correct temperature.

Most of us are working on low budgets and cannot afford this kind of equipment. Who knows if the digital thermometer may cost more than your entire screenprinting system?

The first way is to pull slightly on the garment. Cured plastisol is a thermoplastic and is very pliable. It will stretch and return to its original shape and design. This is not conclusive but it will give you a good idea.

The most reliable method for most of us is the “Wash Test”. As the name suggests, we wash a few test garments. Washing is hard on printed garments. After you wash it look at the print. If it still looks like the original print it is cured. Do a sample garment once in a short run and a few times in a large run.

Clean Up

Note: In the States, the environmental laws vary from state to state and internationally the environmental laws vary even more. It is important to all the screenprinters that I know that we protect our environment and our family.

With that in mind let me tell you it will cost you more to use “green” products (environmentally safe products) than mineral spirits or other toxic cleaners. You owe it to you, your family and your environment to use these products. “Franmar” produces the products I recommend.

Once you are done with your job the cleanup begins. It is a two-part cleanup: the ink, then the screen.

Plastisol ink is not hazardous but must be disposed of properly. What do you do with a worn out T-shirt? You can throw it in the trash. The same can be done with the ink, if it has been cured. Do not rinse ink down the drain. Do not dispose of uncured ink in the trash. If you have a little left over put it on an old garment, cure it, then dispose it.

To take the ink of a screen you will need an ink remover. I use “BEAN-e-doo” a soybean based, non-toxic, environmentally safe product. First scrape as much ink off the screen as you can. Plastisol is reusable so put it back in the container. Apply the BEAN-e-doo to a rag and wipe the screen clean. Let the rag dry and then dispose it.

Reclaiming the Screen

If you are new to this business you may not know that screens are reusable. If you are not going to reuse the print on the screen, reclaim it!

We use STRIP-E-DOO. It is a stripper and degreaser all in one. It is easy to use and safe. Apply it to the screen. Scrub it in and wait about a minute for it to work. Wash it off with a good pressure water hose. The emulsion will wash out.

There may be a ghost image remaining. If your screen is low mesh do not worry about it. If it is a high mesh screen, you will need to dehaze the screen. We use Franmar’s d-HAZE.

After you strip the screen it will be ready to re-apply emulsion and start again. This is fun!

There is one more solution I think is important to talk about. If nothing else, the name is note worthy: “ICKEE STICKEE UNSTUCK”. It is a multi- purpose cleaner. It will remove ink, adhesive and my single son let me know that it removes soap scum from his shower.

Pricing

This is hard to pinpoint a scale for all areas. Prices tend to be regional in scope. Here in the States, for example, in California they all wear 100% cotton shirts but where I live 50/50 blends are what we print. This will create a price difference.

The variables in pricing are:

  1. Item types, size, and color.
  2. The amount of colors the design will include.
  3. The quantity and size of the order.
  4. How difficult the print will be.
  5. The need for any special inks such as puff or suede ink.

The best thing to do for pricing is some comparative shopping. Shop your competition. Some people have problems with calling the competitor and getting their prices. To me this is a smart business decision. Do your homework. Your pricing structure will determine if you make money or not. Take it seriously and attack it as if your business life depends on it because IT MAY!

Other Inks and Oddities

Do not be afraid to try something new. This is the way we learn and expand your business. Remember “If it is flat we can print it”. Wood, metal, plastic, glass, etc. are printable.

In the garment industry there are inks and additives that will add that extra something to increase the customer’s look and your profits.

There are inks that glow in the dark, change with light and body heat, metal flake inks, puff inks, suede inks, inks with scent added. These are just a few of the specialty inks. Talk to your ink distributors on availability and application. If they do not have what you want contact me I will help you.

Remember that you can make transfer with your screenprint system. Many screenprinters forget that they can produce transfers for special occasions and situations.

The End of the Class

I want to thank Johnny Duncan and the Staff of SignIndustry.com for the opportunity to write these articles. It has been a fun and rewarding experience for me.

Remember, if it is not fun, don’t do it. Do not be afraid to experiment with this business. Some of the best customers I ever had came from the fact I was willing to try something new.

Good Luck and Keep Printing!

Class is over and you all passed with flying colors.

Screen printing business lessons for beginners -- Part 2

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In the first installment of these articles I discussed the business questions that you needed to answer. I hope I did not discourage anyone because the screenprinting business is fun, easy and profitable. If you choose your equipment and direction carefully your risk is very limited. Do this before you decide to get into the screenprinting business.

Screenprinting is used to enhance a variety of products: T-shirts, jackets, hats, etc. This is only the tip of the iceberg of what you can print. Wood, metal, plastic, leather, paper and glass are a few of the substrates possible to print. The only thing different is not the process, but the type of ink that you may use to print on these items. The rule is “If it is flat you can print it!”

Screenprinting is a simple science. It has been around for over 5000 years. The Chinese invented the concept. You have to be able to do only three things to be a screenprinter: Make a screen, print a screen and dry the item.

Artwork

After five years of putting people into the screenprinting business, the biggest hurdle we must overcome is understanding artwork. Most of us are not artists and often we are computer neophytes. To me, artwork is anything I can make a photocopy of.

I am a very good screenprinter but I am a terrible artist. If I had to do the artwork I would not be in this business. I feel that I have two left hands. Here is the key to artwork: It is the customer’s responsibility to give you good artwork, and in most cases, camera-ready artwork. It is the customer’s responsibility to pay to get good artwork made if it is not usable by you, the screenprinter. Do not give your artwork away. Charge for it! Remember, if you do it for fun it is a hobby if you make a profit it is a business.

We are going to talk about spot color printing for the sake of this article. That is, each color in a design is separate and distinct. Four-color process is more for the advanced than for the beginner.

Artwork needs to be separated into its individual colors. Let’s say you have a logo and it is made of red, blue and green. You count the colors and you get three (obvious). You will need three screens to print this design. If you need three screens you will need three separate pieces of artwork to make these screens (One piece of artwork per color in the design). This is called color separations. One piece of artwork, one color, and one screen (simple math).

Most beginners get overwhelmed with the idea of artwork because they see all those shirts and designs that appear to be six to ten colors, and in some case they are six to ten colors. Do not let this cause you concern. Here are some statistics: 80% of all logos in the world are made of one color. Just look at your major companies and corporations. Another ten percent of all logos are two colors. School logos are a good example of this in that they have two colors. The final ten percent is everything else.

Chances are most of your jobs can be and will be simple in design. Start looking at logos and signs to get an idea. The more complicated they are the more they have to pay for printing.

Artwork only comes three ways: A customer gives it to you, you develop your own, or a customer asks you to develop or fix up their artwork. Either way it is a charge to the customer. Profit is not a dirty word.

U. V. Paper

After you have the separations, you need to put them on a medium that allows light (more specifically, ultra violet light) to pass through. In times not too long ago, that medium was called a film positive. It is actually a film process that is expensive and that you need special equipment for.

Now most screenprinters that I know use UV Paper (ultra violet printing paper). It is much easier to use. It can be used in most copiers or laser printers and you can draw right on the paper. It is very cost effective. If you can push the print button on a photocopier you can make artwork.

Screens

Note: for the following sections, Screens, Expose and the beginning of Wash Out you will need to be in a Safe light (Yellow Light). Coated screens are like film, if put into white light they will be exposed and rendered useless.

A screen is made up of two parts: the frame and the mesh. The mesh, in most cases, is glued to the frame. In general, the tighter the mesh is pulled (stretched) on the frame the better you can print it.

Screens are labeled by mesh counts. Different mesh counts for different jobs. The higher the mesh count, the finer the detail or line you can hold with your screen and print in your design.

After you have your screen you will need to apply emulsion onto its surface. Emulsion is a photosensitive solution that reacts to UV light. It reacts in the same way that film reacts to light when you take a picture. Emulsions can be in liquid form or in capillary film form.

I prefer the liquid type (personal preference), but they all work. Emulsions come in different colors, single or two-part and they all react different to light so you will need to do a timing chart (discussed later in this article) to determine your exact exposure time for your screens. There are factors that change exposure time: Do you live in a wet or dry environment? Do you live at sea level or in the mountains? How thick do you coat the screens you are going to expose?

I teach my screenprint students to coat the screens with one coat on the squeegee side (inside the screen) and one coat on the print side (bottom of the screen). Most emulsion manufacturers suggest three coats squeegee side and two coats print side. If you are doing print runs under 144 items, my way works very well. It is my belief that emulsion makers are out to sell more emulsion.

After the screens are coated they need to be put horizontal in either a yellow lighted or no light room to dry. It is a good idea to run a small fan at low speed close to the screens to aid in the drying process. After they are dry I put them into a cardboard box and seal it until I need a screen to expose.

Now we are ready to marry the artwork. That is, to join the artwork and emulsion coated screen to create an exposed screen (negative) to print.

Remember you are still operating in the yellow light. Take your artwork that has been printed onto the UV paper (or film positive) and a dry screen with emulsion and go to your exposure unit. In my system, the exposure unit is built into the printer so you will put the artwork on the exposure glass where you are going to print it, in registration. With most all other printers, you must adhere the artwork to the printside of the screen then turn on the exposure lighting system, whichever one you have. I even know of screenprinting companies that take their screens out into the sun to expose them. All these systems work. It just depends on you and your shop philosophy.

I need to back up just a small step here. If you are doing your very first screen or you have changed emulsions types or brands you must determine the correct exposure for screens. For a price, there are timing gauges and kits made to do this.

However, there is an easier and cheaper way to find your correct exposure. It is called a timing ladder. The following is an example:
Put the artwork of a big design across a screen. Put the screen on your exposure unit. Turn the exposure lights on for two minutes. After the lights turn off, cover one quarter of your screen with black paper. Turn the exposure lights on for another two minutes. Cover another quarter of the screen. Complete this process for a total of four times.

You now have a screen that has been exposed in four different sections for times of two, four, six and eight minutes. Now we will discuss Wash Out.

Wash Out

After you have exposed the screen it is time to wash out the image. While still in the yellow light take a squirt bottle filled with cool or luke warm water. Spray the screen with a mist spray on both sides then let it sit vertically for about a minute and then repeat the process.

You can know take your screen to the wash out area. It may be a designated area with sinks and tubs in your shop or it can be your bathtub or the garden hose on the side of your house. It all works. Try to keep the screen from direct light as much as possible, but it is not as critical as during exposure.

Take the screen and spray it with a water hose with a spray about the power of your shower. You will see the emulsion in the areas of the artwork begin to melt out of the screen. Continue to wash till the artwork area is clean. This is just like photography. Now you have just made a negative!

If this is your very first screen you will notice the four different areas that you had made for our timing chart. Begin by feeling the screen. If there are areas, usually in the two to four minute ranges, that feel clammy, scummy or slimy on your screen, those areas are under-developed. You want to feel a smooth and solid screen.

If you use a under-developed screen it will breakdown in a very short printing time and your print will not be good for very long.

Now look at the screen. I like to put it up to a strong light. Look for a clean and clear definition of the design in one of the areas. There is a good chance two or three of the timed areas look good. So how do you tell which is correct or the best?

After the screen is dry, set it on top of the artwork. If there is an area where the artwork is a little larger than the design area in the screen the screen is over-exposed in that time slot. If there is an area where the design area of the screen is a little larger than the artwork, the screen is under- exposed. Your exact exposure time is where the artwork and the design area of the screen are the exact same size.

If you want to be more precise in your judgment, do a second screen in smaller time increments to get a more exact time.

Let the screen dry. Tape off the edges and in the next issue we will begin to print.

 

Tips on finding some very useful websites

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Tips on finding some very useful websites:

 

THE BEST WAY TO SEND LARGE FILE ATTACHMENTS 

www.mailbigfile.com  - This is a FREE service up to 200mb 

 

CREATE PDF FILES

www.pdf995.com  - You can download software for FREE

http://convert.neevia.com  - Convert files to a useable PDF for FREE

 

 

FTP SOFTWARE

www.cuteftp.com  (PC & MAC) - Have on a trial period or purchase at a very affordable price.

 

 

ADOBE READER

http://get.adobe.com/uk/reader  - Download the latest version

 

 

ADOBE FLASH PLAYER

http://get.adobe.com/uk/flashplayer  - Download the latest version

 

 

PRINT READY ARTWORK

www.pass4press.com  - For further instructions on creating PDFs for commercial print.

Screen printing business lessons for beginners -- Part 1

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These articles are designed for the novice, beginner and those who are thinking about starting a screenprinting business. Make no mistake about it, it is a business. There are a lot of people present and past that have lost their money because they forgot it was a business. We will address this issue first.

I will be talking in basic terms. I do not believe screenprinting is a hard business to get into, operate and profit from. I will not talk in mumbo-jumbo, highly technical terms to show my knowledge. I would rather talk in simple, easy to understand language.

If you are an intermediate or advanced screenprinter these articles will seem simple to you and that is fine. I want to reach the beginners in this business. If you take exception to anything that I may say in these articles please feel free to contact me.

Not to be self-serving, but I think it is important that you know who I am and how I fit into the screenprinting business. I started screenprinting ten years ago in my garage. I started along with my partner Bill Gillespie with an idea and a large equipment debt. The problem was and still exists that purchasing equipment is easy, learning to use it along with all the supplies is the hard part. Our business was started part-time because we both had full-time jobs. We knew nothing and it took us several months to get up to speed. This included learning about such things as: artwork, making screens, cleaning, pricing, delivery time, etc.

Since then our business has grown. Most people who get in this business notice how quickly it will grow. After a time we had to decide if we wanted to do this business full time or not. We decided to go full time. After a few years we decided that the industry needed a new type of machine for the home entrepreneur so we invented and patented a new All-In-One system for the beginner who wants to work at home or has limited space. This All-In-One System is what I market full time now but I still like the art of printing and the money I earn, so I still do it part time in my garage. I have come full circle.

John’s number one rule:
If you are getting into the any business in general and screenprinting specifically, it has to be fun for you. Do not leave your present job to go and purchase a business to give yourself another job. If this happens you have lost ground. To be successful in any business it first has to be fun or you will fail. Maybe not at first but ultimately you will fail when the realism of the job sets in.

If it is fun, the long hours of owning your own business do not seem as long or as hard. Make no mistake about it, there is nothing better than owning your own business and being your own boss.

Screenprinting as a Business
Most people, myself included, never thought of screenprinting from a business prospective when one first gets started. This fact soon hit me in the face in a form of licenses, forms, taxes, safety regulations, etc.

With a few years under my belt and the ability to look in hindsight, (they say hindsight is always 20 / 20), I realize the first thing you need to do before you purchase your equipment, look for an ink supplier or print a shirt, is to answer a few business questions. These questions are not intended to sway you from entering the screenprinting field. To the contrary, there is always room for more talented screenprinters. These questions are intended to help design your business plan to fit your dreams, goals and desires about this business.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” I wish I could take credit for this statement but I didn’t say it. But this is the best piece of advice I can give any beginner. Before you do anything make your plan. It should not be set in concrete because business is fluid, it changes. Your plan needs to be able to change.

Then the logical question is why, if the plan will change, do I have to make one to begin with. A plan gives you direction and goals. It helps you see things you wouldn’t have seen in the normal course of events in your busy day. When you get off course you can refer back to this plan to get back on track.

Here are few of the questions you need to ask yourself before you plan your screenprinting business. These are not the only ones. As you read and answer these questions my hope is they will stimulate your brain cells into asking yourself more questions about your business to be.

  • Have you been in business before?
  • Was it a good or bad experience? Why?
  • In your eyes, was it a success?
  • How much time do I have to invest in my new business?
  • Is it going to be part time or full time?
  • Do I have plans for it to be full time later?
  • Do I plan on hiring employees down stream?
  • How much time can I devote to learning the business side of the business?
  • How much time can I devote to learning the production side of the business?
  • How much money do I have to invest in my business?
  • List all the equipment you will need with the price?
  • List all the supplies you will need with the price?
  • Rent factor, if you have one.
  • Licenses, fees, taxes, etc.
  • Add an extra 20% to be safe.
  • If you are going in full time then you should have 6 months of wages in reserve.
  • How much space can I rent or allocate for the business?
  • Can I or do I want to work at home?
  • Can I rent space for a fair price?
  • If I rent how much time and money is travel going to cost me?
  • Is there other overhead?
  • Heat, lights, electricity, power, water, phone, etc.?
  • Advertising (if any)?
  • Automobile expenses?
  • Salesmen (if any)?
  • How about making money?
  • Pricing for profit?
  • What is the profit percentage I need to make money?
  • What will I need every month to be in the black? Better known as making your “monthly nut”.

Making it fun?

  • #1 rule: Make it fun?
  • Owning your own business is great, but there are days when you have to invent something to make it fun?
  • In your mind, if you do not see yourself doing this business for 5 years or more, this is the wrong business for you?


What is Screenprinting?
Basically screenprinting is very, very easy. No matter what anyone tells you, there are only three things you have to be able to do to be a successful screenprinter in the printing sense:

  • Make a screen
  • Print the screen
  • Dry the item

These are the basics things you have to do.

 

How to start a printing business

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How to start a printing business

 

Starting a printing business in this day and age can be an exciting, profitable adventure. What kind of printing company you start will be largely dependant on your printing experience and your capitol. To start a large volume large format printing company you need to have previous printing experience or be able to hire it. Large printing presses sometimes cost into the 100's of thousands of dollars and require very much expensive support equipment and supplies.

 

For the scope of this article we will look at a small format or "Quickprinter." Many people will look at a town and see a "Staples" or a "Kinko's" and think "there is too much competition here." This may be the case but probably is not. A small quickprinter can offer more personalized service that customers want from this kind of business. Many people who walk into a quick print shop know what they want but not exactly how to ask for it. Many of the chain printers hire young unskilled workers whom in many cases know less about printing than the customers.

 

Having worked in the printing industry for almost 30 years, I can share some insights to help you get started in a new venture. I have worked on a 40" five color press all the way down to making copies for $.08 each. If I was going to start a new business, it would have a good high volume color copier that is capable of networking with your computer system. Speaking of your computer system you will want an IBM platform computer. I know all the graphic artists use Macs but I can tell you most customers will be working with IBM.

 

Next I would have at least two high speed black and white copiers also networked to your system. Depending on the volume you are expecting you may want to add more than that. When shopping for copiers look at leasing if at all possible. Technology changes very fast and you don't want to get stuck with an outdated copier that you can't get parts for. A service contract is a must so you don't have to pay for all the expensive parts they like to consume.

 

Talk to multiple salesmen of differing brands and look closely at what the different copiers can do. Then compare base rates and what they call "Click charges." This is what you get charged for every copy that goes through your leased machine. One tenth of a cent difference doesn't sound like much but when you are doing a million copies a month it really adds up. Don't be afraid to haggle with them. They have some leeway that will enable them to come down on the price or add in an option to close the deal.

 

Now to where you can really show up the name brand stores. Get a printing press and hire someone who knows how to run it. You will be able to take in all manner of jobs that the copy only shops have to turn away. You also will have a foot in the door for their copying even if you cost slightly more since you are printing their envelopes or invoices. Look into outside vendors for raised print business cards, rubber stamps and wedding invitations. There is a good markup for just taking an order. Things that don't seem to pay off are office supplies or ad specialties, unless you can devote someone to concentrating on that aspect of the business. You will need to get some basic bindery equipment so you can cut, fold, number, shrink wrap, perforate or score the work you produce.

 

Keep an eye on new technology. You can get free subscriptions to trade magazines and they will keep you abreast of new things to hit the market. It doesn't always pay to be the first to grab something new but don't be far behind. It is a great advertising point to be able to offer the latest and greatest. On advertising get your name out to people but don't over do it. I really dislike seeing the printing company's name in tiny type printed on everything. Radio ads work well since many businesses have a radio running while they are open. I just love hearing our ad when I am in another business. Another plus is that businesses will be your main customers so hit them while they are at work. A good size yellow page ad is also essential.

 

The key to your success will be providing a better service and gaining customer loyalty.

If you can do this, you can compete with anyone in the printing business.