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Real Talk: Ink Cost

Our premium inks cost more than our competitors. If you didn’t know that, I was totally kidding. Ignore me. Regardless, we are often asked how we can justify the higher price to the owner or general manager. Screen printers love the ink but they often are not in charge of budgets and other financial decisions. The first thing out of my mouth in these situations is something along the lines of “do you know how awesome we are” or my personal favorite “our ink actually works”. Unfortunately, this is not good enough for everyone. It’s enough for me but I am biased. Also, I don’t believe in money. I mostly work for food.

So what do we say? How do we convince non-screen printers that our ink is worth it short of telling you that we are the coolest, best, and sexiest company in the industry? This is pretty easy. Weigh the ink. Just weigh it. Get a scale. Put the ink on the scale. Weigh it. Okay, this sounds sillier than my Halloween costume when I was 16. The point is this, you can weigh a shirt before it is screen printed and then weigh it again afterwards to figure out exactly how much ink you have used. Once you know how little ink you actually print per shirt, you can do some fun math and know for a fact how much that print cost. Spoiler alert! It is much less than you expect. It isn’t enough for you to base your ink decisions on cost. Quality should win every time. I will prove it to you.

Grab one of our empty buckets. If you don’t have an empty bucket, pour out our competitor’s ink and make it empty. Don’t worry, it probably didn’t cost you much anyway. Weigh the empty bucket. Now weigh a fresh bucket of what is hopefully our ink. If it isn’t our ink, that’s okay for now. The difference in weight is ink…all ink. Precious not-a-commodity plastisol ink. This will vary quite a bit from ink to ink as the weight is not the same from color to color or ink series to ink series. There are a lot of reasons for this but we don’t need to get into details. Some inks are just heavier.

Now that you have a weight (hopefully in grams) for a gallon of ink, you can do a little math. What is the cost per gallon of this ink? You need this number to figure the cost per gram as that is where I am taking this party. I weighed a random gold ink and came up with 4620 grams. Depending on the cost of the ink, we can determine the price per gram very easily. I will do this for a few different price points:

Ink Price #1: $70.00 per gallon – $0.01515 per gram
Ink Price #2: $100.00 per gallon – $0.02164 per gram
Ink Price #3: $130.00 per gallon – $0.02813 per gram

So, how does this number help you determine the cost per print? Get that scale back out! You have work to do. What you need is a t-shirt, uniform, jacket, or whatever you are about to print. Weigh the apparel before you print it. Weigh it again after. Hey, there seems to be a weight difference here. That number is your ink consumption. I printed a 100% polyester tee. Before printing with the gold ink it weighed 140 grams. After it was printed with the gold ink, the weight was 144 grams. Okay, let’s do some math…4 grams. Yes! That has to be right! We have 4 grams of ink on the polyester tee.


For those in a curious mood, the picture above is the print in question. It measures 6″ x 6″ with a little over a 50% fill. This is a print, flash, print with no white base. So let’s dive in…what did this actually cost me per shirt?

Cheapest Ink at $70.00 per gallon = 6.06 cents per shirt
Middle Range Ink at $100.00 per gallon = 8.66 cents per shirt
Premium Ink at $130.00 per gallon = 11.25 cents per shirt

Do you have auto insurance? I hope so. How about screen printing insurance? Never heard of it? The insurance plan is our premium ink. Whether it is our low temperature ink or one of our universal inks, our ink will prevent numerous problems which cause you hitting the redo button and paying for a bunch of fabric. What does our plan cost you? Well, looking at the per print cost, it may be 2 cents a shirt. It may be 5 cents a shirt. It depends on how much your current ink is and which of our premium ink options you choose. If I were you, I would give our low temperature ink a shot. ELT-S Series. Call me, I have stuff.

Run these numbers for yourself. Check your current ink price and check with us about the cost per gallon of a One Stroke Inks upgrade. For 2 cents a shirt, surely you can justify better prints, less problems, and no apparel replacement. Remember, replacing printed apparel costs much more than just the fabric. You must also account for the time, labor, shipping, and screens. It’s a couple of cents to not worry about these problems.