Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Do-it-Ourselves (DIO) T-shirt

Do team T-Shirts really improve team spirit? NO WAY!

Our dream, a custom team T-shirt was finally brought to fruition while more critical work assignments were put on the back burner. The most important task was to come up with an innovative artwork and a catchy phrase. The artist of the team (Modom) rose to the occasion to deliver a cool design. Right from the beginning we knew it was going to be a self funded project. That only meant one thing - our imaginations could run wild and uncensored:)

Off to T-shirt shopping: Everyone wanted to influence the T-Shirt color resulting in a status quo. Clearly a taxing exercise to zero in one color (true Indian spirit - unity in diversity; in our case you can say chaos). Eventually the most neutral ash color was picked. But, the shop failed to accommodate our XXL, XL, L, L, L, L and M combination. So, we had to compromise on two strikingly different colors (ash and the other one I am not sure; I am really color blind)!

Next, we had to go find a vendor in Bangalore who would show a little enthusiasm in printing our custom t-shirts (8 in number). First, we visited GK Vale, a photo-finishing vendor who was quoting 400 INR (inclusive of T-shirt cost). It was a sin to even think of spending 400 INR, when our plain branded T-shirt costed us only 200 INR.

After some more talking around, we came across two more vendors - one was located in Chennai ( and the other guy on Brigade road ( ). The Labamba offered to do an A4 (8.5 x 11) size T-shirt transfer for 125 bucks. When we tried to bargain, he insisted there was no margin for him and usually made profit by selling T-shirt fabric/cloth or whatever. He was clearly bull shitting as business for goodwill alone is like a V-I characteristics of an ideal diode. You would agree with me even if you hailed from an open source world;)

Somehow that triggered off an ROI analysis on T-shirt transfers. I am not an MBA guy, neither did I receive any formal training nor do I possess inborn abilities to fudge numbers. So you be assured about the consistency of the data below.

A typical T-shirt transfer backend comprises of
1. Color Printer (check with your printer vendor to find which ones are suitable)
2. A special paper called T-shirt transfer paper ( best thing to do is buy paper from your printer vendors like HP, Canon, Epson)
3. Iron box or a more sophisticated heat press (costs 300 - 500 USD for 15x 12)

Here is the cost calculation:
1. The ink cost per print comes to 20 INR on a higher side. I used the HP color print cost calculator for our T-Shirt design that has 30% coverage. My friend felt the tool should have been smart enough to calculate the cost realtime for the image/doc we upload.

Suprisingly li'l googling tells me that there is no extra ink cost for printing on T-Shirt Transfer paper (*dispute* me if I wasn't using the right search string)

2. T-Shirt transfer paper costs 10 USD for a 12 pack ie approx 40 INR ($0.83) per unit. Note: The transfer can be used only for white and light colors *only*! However, it is only slightly expensive for any color fabric T-shirt transfer paper!

3. Heat press at high temperatures. Your iron box would suffice; Read HP's instructions for T-shirt transfers.

A quick back of the paper calculation tells you that the cost per transfer is 70 INR ($1.5). The Labamba guy who claimed break even pricing made at least 50% (without even considering economies of scale)!

We went back to GK Vale to renegotiate the price. This time he came up with a new magical number 200 INR ($4.5) per transfer. Of course no guarantees if T-shirt got burnt or worst scenario caught fire, apparently, when heat pressed over temperatures as high as 400 deg Celsius! To better understand his pricing model, we asked a few simple questions. Here was what we came to know, they use printer/ink/paper from Epson and heating press. Some more googling; Epson transfer paper cost was comparable to that of HP's as well as Canon's. Then why the extra cost? Probably GK vale is recovering their new heat press investment (roughly about 200-250 transfers at their current premium cost).

But GK Vale had options like 4x6 (95 INR)- 8x10 (200). This is a good because its variable costing takes into consideration the ink cost. But still its exorbitant pricing is not justified.

About the Only casuals online service, it has some really cool flash interface to design T-shirts. You can either choose from their templates or you can upload your image. But the bad part is you cannot choose you favorite branded t-shirt make.

Here is a business idea; let us call it say "DIO-T shirt" online service. A typical workflow would look like -
1. Pick your t-shirt size/color/model (tie up with many vendors). We must also make baby T-shirts. Seriously, we didn't find a vendor who did custom baby t-shirts. Don't you think they deserve the cool designs most of all?
2. Choose artwork or upload your own. Ask our expert to comment or fine tune the design (free of charge). Ideal thing would be to a build a software that provides a What You See Is What You Print (WYSIWYP) interface. This is useful because heat processing on fabric has fading effect.
3. You can also share your design and get royalty for it.
4. Print your T-shirt.
5. It gets Shipped to your home

Most of the existing players in T-shirt printing market are also providing other services like print to - fabrics, mugs, mouse pads, key chains, coaster, pillows, cushions you name it!

Potential customers - Companies, T-shirt manufacturers, etc? Tell me what you think of this?


Bob said...

Kewl Idea

Check out for some better pricing on transfer paper and ink!

prasang said...

great info. looking for one. thinking of surprising my wife (and others) with our pics :-)

suggest me, where did u get the transfer papers. (am in chennai)

and steps for using my home iron too, if possible. thanks.

Anonymous said...

a good in depth look at B'lore's T-Shirt printing subculture.

I need to get my hands on some transfer papers as well (in B'lore).

Suggestions intensely needed,

Anonymous said...

cool idea dude ! if u have any requirements for t-shirt's let me know ! my mail id is

Shyam Sankaran said...

Hey, i want to print my name on a red tshirt, what kind of transfer paper should i use for it?

dinesh kumar said...