Small order Screen Printing

Small order printing

Small order screen printing is a market most screen printers will not undertake. The problem with small orders is the preparation, set up involved and clean up.


Small order challenge

Decosource has accepted this challenge by investing in two Kornit direct to garment printers. We made the decision to go this route because of the following comparisons we make before our purchase.

Set up time

For example setting up a 4 color project takes time. The art has to be completed; the screens have to be made. One screen is necessary for each color and one extra screen for the white under base. Inks have to be mixed to meet the color requirements. A press check is necessary first before the printing can start. At this point in the process the design is tweaked to make sure all colors are correct.
Once the printing is completed it is clean up time. All the screens have to be washed and made ready for the next job.

Multi color designs

Another major problem with screen printing if there are a lot of colors in the design it is might take more screens than the screen printer has in inventory. The majority of screen printers have carousals that have less than six color stations. Multi color jobs at times are lost.
Another draw down for screen printing is that the inks do contain carcinogens. There have been studies done which indicate these inks are harmful to children under the age of 12 years.

Compare DTG to Screen Print

Now let’s take a look at direct to garment printing. This is commonly referred to as DTG printing.
The process for DTG printing is first prepare good art work. This can be done and reviewed on your computer screen. Tweaking is easy using adobe illustrator or photo shop.

Ridgeline Girl's Basketball with Coach Daniel J. Helms
The ‘s Basketball Team went undefeated for the 2015-2016 Season. Coach Daniel Helms from Yelm lead the way

When art is approved it is time to point and click. All that is necessary is to click and load in the computer which drives the Direct to Garment printer.
Printing is very simple. All the hard work is done in the art department. The DTG printer can print as many colors as needed. Clean up when done is just a wipe down of the platen.

Load design in minutes

Orders can be set up and loaded in minutes which save a tremendous amount of labor. When you compare the set up for a screen print order to a DTG order it is a no brainer. The result is more money to invest in a good artist.

Purchase a Kornit

To summarize when using a DTG printer hire a good artist. Invest in a name brand printer (Kornit) and you are on your way to having a successful business.

Direct to garment sales tips

Selling Direct to Garment is easy

Selling Direct to Garment printing is so much easier than selling custom screen print apparel. The reason is that you are not limited by detail and colors. Screen printing is difficult to do if there are more than six colors in the design.23298-rollie-tavern-swGet your customers to switch

Getting your customers to switch from screen printing to digital printing can be real easy once you explain the benefits of digital printing. Rollies Tavern is a good example of a multi color design

The most important benefit is that the ink used in digital printing is not toxic. There is no cancer carrying cacogenic compounds in the ink used for digital printing. Digital apparel printing uses water based ink which is chemical free.

Digital is a clean environment

Digital print shops are clean and the air is chemical free. The work environment is pleasant.

Soft hand

Digital ink produces a softer hand or touch. Screen print ink is hard and rough to the touch. The screen print ink is not absorbed by the garment and it lies on top of the material giving a harsh feel to the garment. Women often complain of rubbing next to the skin with a screen printed garment. You will never get this with digital inks.

Art work is easier to reproduce using digital printing. There is no limit to the amount of colors you can use when going digital. Screen printing uses a spot color technique. Each color has to be printed separately. It is a slow and tedious effort to bring a screen print design to life. With digital no separations are necessary it is just scan and print.


Rush delivery

Digital set up takes less time which allows for rush orders to be done in a short span of time. Digital orders can be done in as little as one hour when necessary. We have customers bring us camera ready art and we can be printing right away.

Decosource specializes in fast turn around and small orders. We can also do fill ins as small as one piece. Try this with screen printing especially multi color jobs.

DTG pre treating in one cycle

Pre treating for digital to garment printing

There are several pre treating systems available for direct to garment printing. All work but not all are efficient. Some pretreat systems take as long as three minutes which is time spent even before the garment is run through the printer.

The basic process for Digital Printing using an inexpensive printing generally involves pre treating the garment in a solution to make the ink adhere to the garment.  There are different ways to apply the pre treatment. The simplest is a Wagner hand sprayer and applying the pretreatment solution. After giving the garment a good spray the next step is to dry tine solution by using a clam shell heat press to set the pretreatment solution.

This video tells it all.

Next step is to print the garment. This generally takes 3-5 minutes in the printer.  When done printing it is back to the clam shell heat press to set the ink and complete the cycle. Time in the clam shell 45 seconds. This completes the cycle of directly printing to the garment.

Decosource uses a completely different system where we combine all the above steps into one cycle.

The first step is what we call click and print. The design is entered into our DTG printer computer then we press the button to pre treat and print in one cycle.

All our pre treating is done in one cycle on our Kornit printers. The Kornit has a patented pre treat process which allows for 100% increase in productivity.  No Wagner sprayers or pretreatment tunnel.  The Kornit has a wet on wet system which allows the application of pre treatment and the actual printing in one cycle. Once the cycle is complete the garment is run through a dryer and the cycle is complete. Total time printing and pre treating is less than three minutes. Having a efficient dryer we can do up to 30 dark shirts and 60 white shirts per hour.

St. Patrick's Day Irish Pub Shirt Customized with your last name created by NW Custom Apparel. This t-shirt is 100% cotton.

To sum it up if you want speed use a printer which does the pre treatment and printing in one cycle.

DTG printing leads the way

Digital to Garment printing

Digital to Garment printing is coming to the market faster than expected. It is a whole new process for decorating apparel. The ease of entry is unreal. All the training necessary is to learn how to point and click. The design shows up on a computer screen and it is good to print.

DTG is superior

DTG is actually superior to screen printing for small orders. It still is cost effective for large orders to be done by the traditional screen printing method. Anything less than 48 pieces is a slam dunk for DTG printing.

Fast set up

The advantage of digital to garment is the set up. If good vector art is available the set up can take 30 minutes or less. If this is a re-order the time to click and go is less than a minute. check out our you tube

The more colors the better for DTG work. Comparing a six color design to screen print vs. DTG the set up for screen printing can take at least 3 hours or more. Burning a screen for each color is not economical for small orders because it will drive the cost through the roof.

Clean up time

Clean up time for digital to garment is nil. Clean up time for screen printing is about10 minutes each screen or color. A six color print will take an hour to clean up. There is essentially no clean up for DTG. It’s move on to the next order and push the print button.

Set up cost

The cost for set up is always less compared to a multi-color screen print. It is simply from the computer screen to the printer. Average cost which is one time is usually $40.00 often referred to a rip charge. There is never a charge for re-order setup. 19948-harley-ride-for-autism-sw

Small multi-color orders are best addressed by DTG printing. When time is the relevant factor the order can be in before 10 and delivered by 5 the same day.  Unreal.

Difference between Screen Printing and Digital Printing

Screen Printing

Screen printing involves using a screen which is actually a stencil. The screen is laid on top of the garment and the ink is then manually squeezed through the screen to lay out each color. It takes one screen for each color in the design. Each screen requires separate preparation and is not practical for small quantity orders.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is a brand new process and eventually will become the dominant way to print tee shirts. The process is very simple and easy to do. You can have as much detail and colors in the design as you want. The neat thing about this is that you are using a onetime set up. There is no charge for a re-order set up.

Kornit printing

Required Art Work

All that is required is a design which is 300 dpi or better. Adobe Illustrator and Corel files are preferred. The design is then converted to our printer format. This is called ripping a design for printing. When the design is ripped it is ready to print. The design is then loaded into our Kornit digital printer and the printing begins. This is a onetime operation and there will never be future set up charges on re-orders.

Simple Process

The process is so simple but patent protected. The Kornit company owns patents which effectively keep competitors out of the market. There are other digital printers but they cannot achieve the production of the Kornit.

It takes about 3 minutes to print a shirt. When printing is finished all that’s left to do is run the garment through a dryer and pack and fold.

The advantage that digital has over screen is:

  • More detail in design at less set up charges
  • Small runs with unlimited colors
  • High detail in design
  • Excellent color matching
  • Environmentally safe because the in is water based.
  • Passes all consumer protection regulations
  • Photographic quality printing

The greatest advantage is time to delivery. On super rush orders delivery can be had in hours not days. It cost more but there is a demand for one day delivery. People do forget they have events coming and DTG will save the day for them.


You must recognize your employees

Employee Recognition

How many companies realize that their most important asset never gets recognized? Employees are the most important asset any company can have. They are loyal, hard working and never complain. But so few employers’ actually say thanks. This article is to recognize the fact that people like to receive praise.1992-picture

Their contribution to the company hardly gets recognized or noticed. This is so common in most companies who think customers are the most important asset.

Employees like to be praised for their ongoing effort. The positive results they contribute to the company need to be recognized. General George Patton said “give me a handful of medals and I can conquer any enemy.”

NW Custom Apparel is partial to apparel as a way to recognize employees. The easiest gift is a tee shirt emblazoned with the company logo. It’s amazing how often these shirts will be worn because of how proud someone is to work for your company. It is also a way to get your brand in front of potential prospects or existing customers. If you sell the product it’s important to let your employees enjoy their own personal experience that they created for your customer.

If it works for your customer it will work for you. We at NW Custom Apparel like to give our employees what our customers are buying for their employees.

Recognition should be a day to day occurrence. Then wait for the anniversary to really say thanks with a nice winter jacket or shirt. Anniversaries are not for tee shirts they are for something really nice. Tee shirts if you are in the apparel business are great to say thanks for a job well done.Carolin Bray 30 Shirts

Employee recognition is the mechanism to keep employees motivated because they know someone cares. There is always a fundamental need to be picked out and recognized.

Carolin Bray 33 years with NW Custom Apparel

Used Embroidery Machines a real deal

Used embroidery machines

Buying a used embroidery machine is like purchasing a used car. The option of hitting a home run and getting a perfectly usable machine is risky but it is plausible. With the soft market today it is a must to look at the used machine market.

Right now the demand for used embroidery machines is soft. This makes the opportunity to purchase a solid used machine is achievable. Right now a used 4 or 5 year old machine will save the buyer at least 50%.

Since the introduction of multihead machines having color change capability the demand has been strong. Salesmen were selling machines with “a license to print money” attached to the sales pitch. Sales were strong but now the market is flooded with used equipment. Sales are definitely soft. It is a buyers market. NW Custom apparel has a 12 head on the market for $6,000.00.

You need to do marketing

The businesses who made capital investments in embroidery machines heard the sirens call of super profits which would never stop. Nobody thought that you also have to do some marketing. Once the service clubs and churches were sold it was time to go to work.

Price suffers

The first thing to suffer was product price. Machines started to appear in sewing rooms and garages which created a small company with low overhead. These outfits started the prices going downhill.

Excess Machines

The next big killer and creator of excess machines is the internet. Websites are cheaper and easier to build than a expensive storefront. Websites are now so professional that a potential customer thinks they are buying from a major corporation. Actually it is someone working out of their garage.

Getting back to buying a used machine. The best possible opportunity is to find someone who is frustrated (they are out there) and make a ridiculous offer. They might bite realizing they have made a bad business decision. These are people who should of never got into the business in the first place.

To find these opportunities you should follow these simple steps

  • Visit a chat room and make your desires known
  • Join a embroidery group on face book.
  • Surf the web for used embroidery machines
  • Check with leasing companies who have had to take them back
  • Check with distributors who have an excess of used equipment.

Finally when you make your offer you should spend a little extra and get a technician to give it an inspection. When that is done use your marketing skills and make the machine pay for itself.



Quality embroidery in Tacoma

Define Quality

How do you define quality when referring to embroidered apparel? There are no hard or fast rules it is a very subjective judgment.

Sometimes it is in the eyes of the consumer. Sometimes it is in the eyes of a techno freak. Every shop or consumer is different and sometimes depends on how well they know fabric and embroidery.

What’s the difference between elegant embroidery and shop rags? Our staff knows the difference.

Excellent Substrate

To begin we need a good substrate to embroider on. This means a quality shirt with a tight weave fabric. Some of the best embroidery substrate is Egyptian cotton. The fibers are thin and strong. But this can also change depending on the crop and growing conditions.

Man made fibers used in manufacturing produces a superior garment which will provide a constant fabric substrate. The material is made with polyester are referred to as performance fabrics. Eventually performance fabrics will become the most popular material to embroider on.

Quality Digitizing

The next step is quality digitizing. Bad digitizing we all know can ruin a beautiful design. Too many stitches will produce a embroidery which is cardboard tough. The design must be digitized to be compatible with the garment. Every wonder why companies such as Cutter & Buck have such beautiful embroidery?  It is because they control the fabric which they decorate. Very simple excellent fabric and quality digitizing.

Inexpensive apparel has a loose weave which requires heavy stitching and extra backing to produce nice embroidery. But then again you end up with a piece of cardboard on your left chest.

Heavy stitches to compensate.

Heavy stitches don’t need a good substrate. The substrate is the backing and the shirt is not part of the designing process. It is important to know and learn what fabrics will produce beautiful embroidery. Decosource always produces their digitizing to match the type of garment to be embroidered. Because we always use the same thread we never have thread problems.

Manmade fabrics

Most manmade fabrics or performance fabrics are excellent substrates to embroider on. Deco source always advises its clients as to what shirts will deliver the best results. Deco source has over 40 years experience doing beautiful embroidery. We know fabric and substrate.

Use the correct thread.robison-anton-polyester

Always use the same thread in your product. Do not change thread manufactures because you will eventually be getting results which were designed for the original thread. Northwest Custom Apparel has used the same thread supplier for over 40 years. All our designs are digitized with this in mind. We always have beautiful embroidery


Beautiful embroidery starts with a good substrate, excellent digitizing, and quality thread and ends with a beautiful design.  For advice you can call Decosource or visit us on the web for professional advice.




$4.00 embroidered caps

Caps $4.00 each includes embroidery. 48 minimum

How I remember those days when we could sell caps for $4.00 each. It was fun, it was 1985.

dsc01647In 1985 Northwest Custom Apparel (Northwest Embroidery) installed the first cap embroidery machines in the Pacific Northwest. They didn’t have automatic trimmers. We had to trim all our caps by hand. We devised interesting ways to digitize (we called it punching in those days) the designs to minimize thread jumps. We made jump stitches nice and long so we could trim with an embroidery scissors.


Northwest Embroidery offered screen printed caps for $13.50 per dozen. Can you imagine caps retailing for $1.25 each. This same cap retails for more than $20.00 today. Can you even find a screen printed cap today?

We offered polo shirts which were good quality for $7.50 each including embroidery. We offered blank polo shirts for $4.75 each.

Remember the minimum wage was $3.35 an hour in those days. If a operator could do 24 pieces an hour our cost was 14 cents for the embroidery. Caps we imported for 95 cents each. Total cost to make a cap was less than $1.50 with embroidery. We were actually competitive with the Asian manufacturers.

What changed everything was communication. In 1985 we purchased a new piece of office equipment called a fax machine. We threw out our telex and were now connected to the world. We could send a one page fax for $3.47 to Taiwan. We learned how to make that 8 x 11 piece of paper hold a lot of information. We used the fax machine to process emblem orders.

Taiwan rules

It was so much easier to write up an order and send to Taiwan for manufacturing. We were ahead of the game with our fax machine. Communication was king.

Our story continues but I just wanted to muse about the good old days. Northwest Custom Apparel will reach 40 years in business this year. We are learning to adapt and change with this new crazy environment. No more fax machines everything is high speed internet. Orders being completed in days rather than weeks. Transportation delivering directly from the factory floor to the consumer.  The distributor or middleman is a dying breed.


Self test for apparel decorators to grade your management style

Decorated Apparel Companies Management self-test

Take this 13 part test to measure your company’s effectiveness in day to day management of your and company and employees.  It’ fun to take this test and the results are strictly for you a decorated apparel company owner.

  1. Is each employee told how well they are performing on a regular basis?
  2. Does each employee know what is expected of them?
  3. Does each employee have a chance for advancement?
  4. What objectives do your managers use in evaluating employee performance?
  5. What does the company do to help each employee improve their performance?
  6. Does the company inform employees of any upcoming changes?
  7. Does each employee know how to improve their performance?
  8. Does the company conduct effective meetings where employees are informed of the company’s goals and future agenda
  9. Does each employee have a real opportunity for input or are all decisions made from the top down?
  10. Within reason does the company make educational and training opportunities available to their employees? Will company subsidize educational opportunities for their employees?
  11. Does the company have an effective employee manual that clearly states it policies? If the company has no manual you should create one.
  12. Are there specified means where employees can qualify for raises? Or are raises awarded strictly on an ad hoc basis contingent of the mood of the boss? Does your supervisors show favoritism in supervising employees?
  13. If I were the employee would I want to work here?

Time management

The major of problem small decorated apparel company owners have is that they don’t have the time to think about managing their company. They started generally as a one person enterprise that has grown and now hires additional employees. The tension exists and the owner is frustrated. Employees are trained on the fly and really don’t know what is expected of them. if you review the 13 steps you might have some luck.

The key is to set back, take a breath and review the 13 steps to see how healthy your company is? This 13 point survey is used by Decosource located in Milton, Waa.