Thrifty Screen Printing: 7 Tips & Tricks to Save Big!

Welcome to the world of screen printing, where creativity meets craftsmanship. As fun as the process is, every screen printer knows that managing costs efficiently is key to sustaining a thriving operation. Whether you're a seasoned professional or just dipping your toes into the ink of the trade, our guide is here to help you navigate the waters of cost-effectiveness.

In this blog, we'll show a few insights – 7 invaluable tips and tricks to save money while screen printing. From savvy material purchases to smart workspace organization, these strategies are designed to keep your passion project or business afloat without breaking the bank.

So, grab your squeegee, roll up your sleeves, and let's embark on a journey to not only produce stunning prints but also to do so in the most budget-friendly way possible. Let's dive into the world of economical screen printing and ensure that your artistic projects remain both vibrant and financially sustainable.


1. Cut Down on Capital Investment

The initial investment for screen printing equipment can be significantly high. A basic halogen exposure light alone will cost you around $175 to $300. This is only one cost and there are several components to think of when setting up a full screen-printing operation.

Ultimately, you should expect an initial investment anywhere between $1,000-$5,000 depending on how thirfty you are. 

Screen Print Direct offers afforadable starter equipment. Our UV LED Exposure Light is $68.99, this is very economical compared to other units on the market. We also carry a single color press for $165.99, this is the best press to get started printing now! 

We also suggest scanning facebook marketplace, offer-up or craigslist to see if you can score some good deals on equipment. There is a treasure trove of equipment out there looking for a new home!

You can DIY equipment instead of buying new or refurbished equipment to reduce these costs. You can DIY equipment such as screen printing exposure units, screen drying racks, or a DIY screen-printing press made from just hinge clamps. While you can DIY equipment we dont suggest it, instead we suggest buying afforadable equipment.


2. Using Test Pellons for Sampling

During screen printing jobs, you may have to test print your t-shirts.  The average cost of a blank t-shirt is approx. $2 to $5. While this cost may seem low, it’s still an unnecessary cost to your business. So, instead of printing on fresh t-shirts, you can use test pellons instead that cost about .48 cents each.

Test pellons are screen printing test squares used to determine how your final print will look on a t-shirt. Measuring about 15” x 15”, test pellons are inexpensive and have a similar texture to t-shirts. They are also great for setting up multi-color print jobs.


3. Recycle and Reuse Excess Ink

Many screen printers discard plastisol ink after every printing job. Typically, an 8-ounce jar of plastisol ink is sufficient to make 50 prints. So, dumping the ink after every job means you are losing ink that could be used to print several t-shirts. You can save plastisol ink after each screen-printing job and place it back in the container to save costs. Plastisol ink does not dry out quickly out of the jar and is easy and perfectly good to use for another print run.


4. Get Reseller License and Purchase in Bulk for Discounts

The best way to save on printing costs is to purchase items wholesale. Your biggest merchandise to buy at a wholesale price should be wholesale t-shirts. However, it's not always easy for just anyone to score the best prices from wholesalers. Having a reseller license allows you to buy blank t-shirts in bulk from wholesalers and this allows you to save cost.

5. Optimize Energy Consumption

Make your workspace more energy-efficient. Turn off equipment when not in use, switch to energy-efficient lighting, and regularly maintain your equipment to ensure it operates efficiently. These measures not only save money but also contribute to a more sustainable operation. 

6. Smart Design Planning

Not all customers will have precise needs, like t-shirt color, and may be open to more flexible options that help their bottom cost as well. In this case, you can have your cost-cutting stock ready. Instead of colored t-shirts, invest in a bulk of one color and style t-shirts. You will be able to purchase more volume of white t-shirts and get a better quantity break in pricing.

Like picking the merchandise, sometimes, you may have the complete freedom to control color printing. The more patterns and locations for printing you have on a t-shirt, the higher the cost becomes. You can even print many different colors on a t-shirt which takes up more costs in set-up time, reclaiming time, and supplies.

So, to lower the budget, opt for designs that take up fewer colors and ink. Additionally, apply your colors and designs in fewer areas on the t-shirt. You can even manipulate the designs by using the shirt's own color as part of the design, helping to keep the color costs low.


7. Focus on the Essential Supplies

There are so many supplies, pieces of equipment, and support items in the world of screen printing! If you are just starting out here is some awesome news, you do not need it all! Below we break down the essential items that will get you started. All items can be found at our store:

Screen Printing Ink

Screen Printing Hinge Clamps

Aluminum Screen Printing Frame

Ecotex® Textile "TEX" Red Screen Printing Emulsion

Ecotex® Screen Printing Emulsion Scoop Coater 15"

Clear Blade Wood Screen Printing Squeegee

Ecotex® Screen Printing Plastisol Chemistry Kit

Screen Print Direct also has a Screen Printing Starter Kit available. This kit uses a single color press instead of the hinge clamps above. The signle color press is more expensive than highe clamps to get started however you do save when you buy in a bundle and it is a better product for people more serious about printing. 

Screen Printing Starter Kit


By implementing these tips and tricks, you can create a more cost-effective screen printing process without compromising on the quality of your prints. Remember, small adjustments in various aspects of your workflow can add up to significant savings over time.

Happy Printing!


Let's Talk 

Remember, we are here to help! Drop a comment below or email our support team at