How Much Does Screen Printing Cost Per Shirt? A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to printing custom designs on t-shirts, screen printing is a popular and cost-effective option. However, before diving into any project, one of the most frequently asked questions is: “How much does screen printing cost per shirt?” To find the answer to this question, we need to consider several factors that can affect the cost. In this article, we’ll break down the costs associated with screen printing and provide you with a better understanding of how to budget for your next t-shirt printing project.

Check: Are Giclee Prints Worth It?

What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing also known as silk screening, is a printing technique where a mesh screen is used to transfer ink onto a surface. Each color in the design requires a separate screen, and the ink is pressed through openings on the screen to create the desired image or text. This process is repeated for each color until the final design is achieved.

Screen Printing Cost Per Shirt
Screen Printing Cost Per Shirt

Factors That Affect Screen Printing Costs

1. Quantity

The more t-shirts you order, the lower the cost per shirt will be. This is because screen printing is most cost-effective when producing a large quantity of t-shirts. The setup process for screen printing remains the same regardless of the number of shirts, so ordering in bulk will save you money.

2. Number of Colors

As mentioned earlier, each color in the design requires a separate screen. Therefore, the more colors in your design, the more screens are needed, which will increase the cost. To keep the cost down, it’s best to limit your design to a maximum of 3-4 colors.

3. Type of Garment

The type of garment or t-shirt you choose will also affect the cost. T-shirts made from premium materials, such as organic cotton or blended fabrics, will be more expensive than standard 100% cotton t-shirts. Additionally, specialty garments, such as hoodies or tank tops, will also cost more due to the additional labor and setup required for printing on these items.

4. Complexity of Design

The complexity and size of your design can also impact the cost. More intricate designs with fine details or a lot of text will require more time and effort, which can increase the cost. On the other hand, simple designs will cost less.

Typical Cost Breakdown for Screen Printing

Now that we have identified the factors that affect screen printing costs, let’s look at a typical breakdown of costs for a basic design with a quantity of 50 t-shirts:

  • Screen Setup Fee: there are typically no additional setup fees for reorders, making it more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Cost per Screen: with each color requiring a new screen. For a design with 3 colors, the cost would be $75 for a quantity of 50 shirts ($25 per screen x 3 colors).
  • T-Shirt Cost:  for a basic 100% cotton t-shirt, bringing the total cost to $250 ($5 x 50 shirts).
  • Printing Cost:  Depending on the number of colors and complexity of the design, the average cost for screen printing is $3-$5 per shirt. For a 3-color design, the printing cost would be $150.
  • Final Cost: Adding up the screen setup fee, screen cost, t-shirt cost, and printing cost, the total cost for 50 t-shirts with a 3-color design would be around $475, resulting in a cost of $9.50 per shirt.

Frequently Asked Questions

 Can I mix different t-shirt sizes to reach the minimum quantity for a bulk order?
As the setup process remains the same for each size, you will be charged for the minimum quantity per size.

Is there a difference in cost if I provide my own t-shirts?
Most screen printing companies will charge the same for printing on their t-shirts or ones provided by the customer. However, some may offer discounts for providing your own t-shirts.

Are there any additional costs for larger sizes?
Some screen printing companies may charge extra for sizes above XL due to the additional material needed for printing. It’s best to inquire about this beforehand.


Screen printing is an affordable and versatile option for printing custom designs on t-shirts. The cost per shirt will vary depending on factors such as quantity, number of colors, type of garment, and complexity of the design. By understanding these factors, you can make informed decisions and budget accordingly for your next screen printing project.

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