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Screenprinting 101, Part I

Basics for beginners or those considering entering into screen printing

By John Benedetto

These articles are designed for the novice, beginner and those who are thinking about starting a screenprinting business. Make no mistake about it, it is a business. There are a lot of people present and past that have lost their money because they forgot it was a business. We will address this issue first.

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  • I will be talking in basic terms. I do not believe screenprinting is a hard business to get into, operate and profit from. I will not talk in mumbo-jumbo, highly technical terms to show my knowledge. I would rather talk in simple, easy to understand language.

    If you are an intermediate or advanced screenprinter these articles will seem simple to you and that is fine. I want to reach the beginners in this business. If you take exception to anything that I may say in these articles please feel free to contact me.

    Not to be self-serving, but I think it is important that you know who I am and how I fit into the screenprinting business. I started screenprinting ten years ago in my garage. I started along with my partner Bill Gillespie with an idea and a large equipment debt. The problem was and still exists that purchasing equipment is easy, learning to use it along with all the supplies is the hard part. Our business was started part-time because we both had full-time jobs. We knew nothing and it took us several months to get up to speed. This included learning about such things as: artwork, making screens, cleaning, pricing, delivery time, etc.

    Since then our business has grown. Most people who get in this business notice how quickly it will grow. After a time we had to decide if we wanted to do this business full time or not. We decided to go full time. After a few years we decided that the industry needed a new type of machine for the home entrepreneur so we invented and patented a new All-In-One system for the beginner who wants to work at home or has limited space. This All-In-One System is what I market full time now but I still like the art of printing and the money I earn, so I still do it part time in my garage. I have come full circle.

    John’s number one rule:
    If you are getting into the any business in general and screenprinting specifically, it has to be fun for you. Do not leave your present job to go and purchase a business to give yourself another job. If this happens you have lost ground. To be successful in any business it first has to be fun or you will fail. Maybe not at first but ultimately you will fail when the realism of the job sets in.

    If it is fun, the long hours of owning your own business do not seem as long or as hard. Make no mistake about it, there is nothing better than owning your own business and being your own boss.

    Screenprinting as a Business
    Most people, myself included, never thought of screenprinting from a business prospective when one first gets started. This fact soon hit me in the face in a form of licenses, forms, taxes, safety regulations, etc.

    With a few years under my belt and the ability to look in hindsight, (they say hindsight is always 20 / 20), I realize the first thing you need to do before you purchase your equipment, look for an ink supplier or print a shirt, is to answer a few business questions. These questions are not intended to sway you from entering the screenprinting field. To the contrary, there is always room for more talented screenprinters. These questions are intended to help design your business plan to fit your dreams, goals and desires about this business.

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    “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” I wish I could take credit for this statement but I didn’t say it. But this is the best piece of advice I can give any beginner. Before you do anything make your plan. It should not be set in concrete because business is fluid, it changes. Your plan needs to be able to change.

    Then the logical question is why, if the plan will change, do I have to make one to begin with. A plan gives you direction and goals. It helps you see things you wouldn’t have seen in the normal course of events in your busy day. When you get off course you can refer back to this plan to get back on track.

    Here are few of the questions you need to ask yourself before you plan your screenprinting business. These are not the only ones. As you read and answer these questions my hope is they will stimulate your brain cells into asking yourself more questions about your business to be.

    • Have you been in business before?
    • Was it a good or bad experience? Why?
    • In your eyes, was it a success?
    • How much time do I have to invest in my new business?
    • Is it going to be part time or full time?
    • Do I have plans for it to be full time later?
    • Do I plan on hiring employees down stream?
    • How much time can I devote to learning the business side of the business?
    • How much time can I devote to learning the production side of the business?
    • How much money do I have to invest in my business?
    • List all the equipment you will need with the price?
    • List all the supplies you will need with the price?
    • Rent factor, if you have one.
    • Licenses, fees, taxes, etc.
    • Add an extra 20% to be safe.
    • If you are going in full time then you should have 6 months of wages in reserve.
    • How much space can I rent or allocate for the business?
    • Can I or do I want to work at home?
    • Can I rent space for a fair price?
    • If I rent how much time and money is travel going to cost me?
    • Is there other overhead?
    • Heat, lights, electricity, power, water, phone, etc.?
    • Advertising (if any)?
    • Automobile expenses?
    • Salesmen (if any)?
    • How about making money?
    • Pricing for profit?
    • What is the profit percentage I need to make money?
    • What will I need every month to be in the black? Better known as making your “monthly nut”.
    Making it fun?
    • #1 rule: Make it fun?
    • Owning your own business is great, but there are days when you have to invent something to make it fun?
    • In your mind, if you do not see yourself doing this business for 5 years or more, this is the wrong business for you?

    What is Screenprinting?
    Basically screenprinting is very, very easy. No matter what anyone tells you, there are only three things you have to be able to do to be a successful screenprinter in the printing sense:
    • Make a screen
    • Print the screen
    • Dry the item

    These are the basics things you have to do. In the next article, “Screenprinting 101, Part II” I will give you all these basics.

    If you have any questions, comments or discussion feel free to contact me at the following:

    John Benedetto
    Universal Screenprinting Systems, Inc.
    8812 Eastview Ave.
    Everett, WA. 98208
    Phone: 425-337-3439
    Fax : 425-337-4294
    E Mail:
    “Yankee Printer at Large”

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