Common Screen Printing Mistakes


Please find some links and notes from the 2 Regular Guys Podcast. We discussed some of the common screen printing mistakes in your shop that occur frequently. We’ve touched on this subject before, but this week we dug a little deeper into the mistakes and the solutions. These solutions are tried and true production friendly resolutions that will help you as a screen printer today. So put down that YouTube Video and learn from an industry Veteran, Terry Combs.

Sponsored by: Equipment Zone and Siser N.A.

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Common Screen Printing Mistakes

Last time around we talked about these common screen printing mistakes:

  1. Using the white underbase as a color in your image
  2. Using a single mesh count for all jobs in your shop
  3. Flashing between colors on a multicolor job
  4. Proper mesh tension is important
  5. Improper curing that shows up after you deliver

While the list from the earlier show was geared more toward new or small shops, but certainly not limited to this, let’s talk in this show about common screen printing mistakes in shops from the smallest to the largest.

Scheduling Mistakes – Most shops juggle orders, they don’t schedule orders.

I’ve mentioned scheduling a little bit on our show recently, but it is truly an area of concern in the majority of shops. Bottom line, most of us juggle the schedule and don’t use our understanding of capabilities and some basic math skills to actually schedule our production.

The most difficult part for owners and managers is in accepting what your current capabilities are. Wishing and hoping for better production numbers won’t help you when it comes to your schedule today.

And, there is a finite number of hours in every week that is your production time. If you have two 15 minutes breaks a day and you work 40 hour weeks, you have 37.5 production hours per printing device in your shop. If you’re a small shop where the printer spends every morning coating and burning screens, pulling and counting shirts, and taking out the trash, that time is deducted from your available production time.

Every shop has Direct Production Time and Indirect Production Time.

Indirect Production Time is preparing art, coating and burning screens, shipping boxes out the door, and everything else that does not involve directly working with a manual or automatic press.

Direct Production Time is what we’re concerned with here. This is Setup, Printing, Breakdown.

Setup is the time from reaching for the 1st screen of the day, setting up the press, and someone saying, “You’re all good, let’s print.”

Printing Time is the actual printing of the order. This is the time from getting the “start printing” thumbs up to someone at the end of the belt saying, “OK, that count is good. Break it down.”

The breakdown is the time from, “We’re done with this one, tear it down,” to reaching for the 1st screen of next order. EVERYTHING that happens during this period is Direct Production Time!

The breakdown is the time from someone at the end of the belt saying the order is complete until you reach the first screen of the next job. Everything that happens in breakdown time.

Pricing Mistakes – Keeping prices a secret

“I don’t want my competition to know what my prices are!” Anyone worthy of the title “Your Competition” knows your prices. The woman who called and asked lots of questions about a month after you opened but never ordered, she’s your competition! Most customers are not educated buyers and may be apprehensive about calling and asking. Publishing your prices will make them more at ease about a purchase decision.

Future Mistake – Complacency, not investing in the business and the future

I spoke to a gentleman once at a trade show and I was working in a booth for a broadly known company in the industry. The gentleman said, “So what do you do?” I responded with, “Are you new to the industry?” He said, “I’ve been a screen printer for 20 years.” To which I said, “So you’ve never been to a trade show before, have you?”

There’s no middle ground when you own a business. Either you’re moving forward or you’re moving backward. Not unique to our industry but I see it far too often… someone starts a company with a certain amount of money, with no plan or intention of investing into new equipment, more equipment, the latest technology. And at the same time with my gentleman who had never been to a trade show, the assumption that you know enough to get by so no need to go to a show or any other type of educational forum to make you or your business better.

Press Setup Mistakes – On the production floor, the hair pulling part of the process.

I see print operators really struggle setting up their presses. If you’re not using some type of pin registration system, here are a few setup tricks.

  1. Take a T-square and draw a vertical line down your platen.
  2. The multi-color job print and clear tape method.

Training Mistakes – Most shops do not do trains no training!

If you’ve listened to our show more than once, you know how Aaron and I both feel about this.

Employee Mistakes – A sad number of owners/managers think employees just want a paycheck.

Management creates the personality, atmosphere and work environment completely. If employees show up, go through the motions, and waste time, money and inventory as a general rule, something is amiss at the top of the chain of command, not the bottom. In my experience, most of my employees come to work and want to do a good job. And in turn, want the company to be successful. An unsuccessful company means no job in the end.

So how do we fix the problem? And this is really hard for some people.

  1. Trust your employees to do a good job. Simple enough. Assume and communicate to all your employees that you trust they’ll make good decisions… will finish the schedule… will resolve issues as they arise… will take pride in our product, our business, our relationships.
  2. Allow decision making and accept the results without criticism or insult. In other words, micromanagement will always result in employees who wait for you to tell them what to do.
  3. Ask for input from your staff. And take action. This doesn’t mean do everything your employees suggest but instead, either use the suggestion or explain why not. Taking the suggestions and letting them disappear into the black hole of your top desk drawer will make your employees assume you were just humoring them by asking.
  4. Every time there’s a problem, ask, “How would you fix this?” And if possible, try their suggestion as a first step.

Chat Room

MarshallAtkinson: Biggest common screen printing mistakes: Incorrect information from order entry. Get it right early to drive more efficient work downstream.
AaronMontgomery: Good point Marshall. We will share that with the listeners soon.
MarshallAtkinson: Schedule from ship date and work backward
MarshallAtkinson: Schedule Mantra: Rush, Late, Today’s, Tomorrow. Push jobs to equipment the day before. You can’t add to today’s schedule. You should always have tomorrow’s stuff laid out the day before
ErichCampbell: Marshall’s right on that. Not having the information right from the get-go (or accessible to everyone who needs to see it) will cause issues at every stage.
MarshallAtkinson: Work smarter, not harder
ErichCampbell: Absolutely.
MarshallAtkinson: Sales guys can’t say no, and they shouldn’t have to. Build your production to accommodate.
AaronMontgomery: I’m not sure I have said no in my life…
ErichCampbell: The other thing I constantly hear from folks is that they *must* have room for rush jobs, that’s why they don’t schedule-I say that it’s the most critical to schedule; you can only leave room for those rush clients if you are scheduled for the possibility
MarshallAtkinson: Biggest pricing mistake: Using another shop’s schedule!!! Your pricing should be based on your costs.
ErichCampbell: Your competition will know, anyway. Someone will share, even if they don’t snoop.
MarshallAtkinson: You shouldn’t sell on price anyway. Sell on the value you bring.
ErichCampbell: Selling on price is a race to the bottom with the prize of the most fickle customers at the end.
VeeAtCentralianShop: For published pricing, do you use a flat rate for brands?
MarshallAtkinson: E-Rich for the win
MarshallAtkinson: Vee: Build pricing matrices based on context.
VeeAtCentralianShop: Gildan 2000 flat $4.00 then add color fee per location
ErichCampbell: Again! I swear. 😉
MarshallAtkinson: could be worse.
ErichCampbell: Yup. 🙂
ErichCampbell: So many shops do this; they hang on to an old way of working until disruption comes and takes them out entirely. It’s not that you jump on every trend, but you do have to keep up.
MarshallAtkinson: Got to duck out – but I wrote this about complacency –
MarshallAtkinson: Great topic!!! See you guys later.
AaronMontgomery: Marshall – Thanks for joining us. We will share.
AaronMontgomery: Erich – Absolutely.
ErichCampbell: The worst reason to do anything is ‘We’ve always done it that way.’
ErichCampbell: We all love to decorate, but not all of us love to do taxes- but you have to learn to love the latter in its own way if you want to stay in business.
ErichCampbell: Love that poster.
ErichCampbell: As an embroidering medievalist turned evangelist and community manager, I resemble that remark. 😉
ErichCampbell: I like to hear Terry rant. 🙂
ErichCampbell: Training is so important! You are so right.
AaronMontgomery: Go Terry go!
ErichCampbell: So many people don’t train.
ErichCampbell: What I love is at DecoNetwork, we train and share constantly. I just ran a training for our Client Services people to share with them how decorators do purchasing from an ‘on the floor’ perspective.
ErichCampbell: We’ll be offering more and more training resources for our licensees as well. 🙂
ErichCampbell: We want our licensees to be successful to that we are more successful; moreover, you are right, less support if you train ahead. 🙂
ErichCampbell: The way to build intrinsic motivation in people is to give them the tools they need to do their jobs, then to give them Autonomy, a chance at Mastery, and knowledge of the ooverarchingPurpose in your business.
ErichCampbell: Feedback is so critical
ErichCampbell: There’s that autonomy. 🙂
VeeAtCentralianShop: I will attend Nashville on Saturday!
ErichCampbell: I can always host if you end up stuck. . . 😉 Ha!
AaronMontgomery: Go see Terry for sure!
VeeAtCentralianShop: Will do!

Other Events

Trade Shows

  • ISS Nashville May 18 – 20
  • NBM Indianapolis – Jun 1 – 3
  • ASI Chicago – Jul 12 – 13
  • NBM Long Beach – Jul 20 – 22

Terry’s Books

Screen Printing: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Business Just $4.95 as an e-book.

Direct to Garment: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Business Just $4.95 as an e-book.

Scheduling and Estimating Production Time for Garment Screen Printing Just $2.99 as an e-book

This show is brought to you for a full hour by:

Equipment Zone, with 20 years experience selling garment printing equipment nationwide. Equipment Zone offers the new Epson F2000 SureColor direct-to-garment printer, their own VelociJet-XL DTG printer, and the all new SpeedTreater-TX automatic pretreat machine with a full 16”x24” pretreat area. Equipment Zone also carries a full line of DTG inks and supplies. Go to

Siser North America’s new and improved website! Just recently Siser NA’s website was updated with a ton of new colors, helpful tools, and fun things to read. Head over to and check out for yourself. A new great add-on to the site is the “Cutter Settings”. You will be able to get an idea of how you should have your vinyl cutter set up for each Siser material type. Then find out how each Siser product is applied, with the instructions available right there for you. Have you heard about the EasyPatterns™? There is a whole separate tab that will show all the different printed patterns Siser offers. Then while you’re at it, check out the Siser Blog. Get a great scope of all the “out of the box” ideas you can achieve with Siser HTV!

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