Can I Make Money With A Direct to Garment Printer?

man counting cash


The cost of a DTG printer can be significant. They can be great money makers for the right business. While it may seem impossible to do, you can calculate what your return on investment (ROI) will be by purchasing a DTG printer?

What is a DTG Printer?

There are many ways to decorate a shirt. One of the most common ways to decorate a shirt is through traditional screen printing. Traditional screen printing being that you apply plastisol ink to a t-shirt using a screen printing machine and selling it for a profit. Another way is with a DTG printer. A DTG printer applies a design using the same plastisol ink, but it is much less labor intensive because it is a printer. There are specific advantages to using DTG printers. They include minimal set up time, unlimited colors, plus minimal training needs. It’s just like printing on a piece of paper with a normal printer. Except in this case the paper is replaced by cloth. 

What is the cost of a DTG printer?

DTG machines can start at a whopping $15,000 and go up to $250,000. They are not as cheap as purchasing a normal printer for your home or even a screen printer for that matter. Along with the cost of purchasing a DTG printer you may have to purchase additional equipment such as a DTG pretreatment machine and a heat press. There is also the cost of the ink. 

It is possible to finance a DTG printer. Most dealers of these printers have access to finance companies that can be of help. Funding a DTG printer is possible for a number of people. Just remember that if you finance your equipment you will be out money for interest. If you can pay cash up front, it would be better. 

So How Much Can You Make With A Digital Garment Printer

This all depends on your price for a custom shirt. These costs run anywhere from $20 to $35. That may be shocking to some people, but most screen printers won’t print small orders. Which means that there is a premium on custom shirts.  Most traditional screen printers won't print small orders. So if you are looking to have a special print made as a gift it will be difficult to get unless you go to a direct to garment (DTG) printer. This means a DTG printer can charge more for a shirt. 

Also remember that with a screen printed shirt there is a limit on colors. You can only print a few colors on a traditional screen printed shirt. Otherwise the price rises exponentially. With a DTG shirt there are unlimited colors so this is an added benefit that traditional screen printers can’t offer. Therefore it is a premium. Check out our post on unlimited colors for more information. 

Plus, you can’t underestimate the quality of the shirt as well. Traditional screen printers may not offer shirts that are similar in quality to what you may offer.

All that being said, we are going to use moderate numbers in this analysis.

The Return on Investment in DTG Printing

If you sell a custom shirt for $25 and the original shirt costs to print the shirt were $10 then you will earn $15 profit. If you pay $15,000 for the printer then you only have to sell 1,000 shirts. You'll only need to sell 83 shirts/month.  The cost of the printer can be paid off in a year. 

Cashflow Can Be Calculated As Well

So when you are first starting out, you may not be as interested in how much the return on investment is. If you financed your printer at $300/month. Then you need to take the profit you make and divide it into the cost of the financing. $300/$15 = 20. 

So you will need to sell 20 shirts a month to cover the cost of your printer. What’s left is yours to keep. It is not uncommon for one order of shirts to have 20 shirts. You could finish this order in an hour. The rest is profit. That’s right profit. 

Sales Is The Answer To Your Question

Do you think that you can sell more than 20 shirts a month? If the answer is yes, then you can make a profit with a direct to garment printer. If the answer is no, then no you can’t break even. 

The costs presented in this example are simple. You may only sell t-shirts and the cost to print the shirt is very low. So you may sell your shirts for $15. In this example then $10 is profit. Now go through and perform the math again and see how many shirts you would have to sell to meet your basic needs. 

If you had to create and sell 20 shirts a month, could you do it? You could have your machine running all month long if you are good at selling and disciplined enough to run a business then owning a DTG printer makes sense for you. 

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