EducationQ&A

Should shops charge differently based on the type of ink used?

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You should always charge according to the cost of the ink on the shirt and how fast you can run production with that ink. Remember, you make money on completed jobs. If it’s taking you longer to finish a job because of the inks in use, then you need to charge accordingly for your shop time. This concept doesn’t change if you are running water-based inks, plastisol, silicone, solvents, etc.

So what impacts our production speeds and causes our margins to soar or plummet?

I see two main factors as having the most significant impact. First is the curing and production parameters for all inks, but especially water-based inks, whose popularity is on the rise and continues on that track. These parameters happen to be at least double that of plastisol. Even if you have a small electric dryer or a big gas dryer, your volume throughput will change between the two ink systems. Handling these ink types and the learning curve that goes with it will also impact how your shop runs and processes art, separations, screens, and manual vs. automatic printing parameters. If you are running discharge (or any inks that require a catalyst like silicone), you will also have wasted ink at the end that cannot be saved. You will need to consider that ink waste in your pricing matrix.

The second significant factor to take into consideration is the difference in applied ink costs and how the ink you buy affects your bottom line. There is a broad price range on inks of all types, and this will directly impact your cost per print. Now, the cost per impression difference between a $50 gallon of ink and a $100 gallon of ink can be as little as half a penny or as much as two cents depending on ink coverage. In the grand scheme of things-and this is going to sound strange-this variable should only come into play if you are doing high-volume contract printing where you find your profit from a one penny difference in print costs.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “But my ink costs have doubled!” I know, it sounds strange. How can paying more for my inks make me more money? Let’s go back to what we were talking about above-production throughput. If a $50 gallon of ink slows you down because you have to “finesse it more” or print through lower mesh counts to achieve a print that is bright enough to sell, is it the right choice? What if that $100 gallon of ink prints and flashes faster, and prints brighter through higher mesh counts (allowing you to lay down a thinner ink deposit), and is easier for everyone to use? Would that increase your production throughput? The answer is yes. It’s possible that expensive ink can save you money and increase how many shirts you can print. Volume throughput is king.

So to recap, be aware of how your ink choices affect your workflow and production. Although there is some really good inexpensive ink out there, buying cheap is not always better. Invest in learning how each consumable you buy impacts your workflow through each section of your shop. More jobs completed equals more money in the coffers.

Colin Huggins, Ryonet

Colin Huggins

Colin is the ink product manager at Ryonet. He has been in the screen print industry since 1996, part of shops both big and small, on press, and in the artist's chair. He spent five and a half years at QCM inks as technical sales and technical ink applications manager. His motto: Be the best at being better.

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