vinyl cutter

How to Price Your Heat Transfer and Sign Jobs

Fair pricing is very tough in our industry.  Competition is fierce!  Shops range from a spare bedroom, to a brick and mortar storefront to a tens of thousands of square foot production facility.  Obviously not everyone will be able to offer the same prices.

Pricing your jobs should be done on a regional basis, not national.  However, people from all over the US and beyond will be reading this article, so it’s difficult for me to be able to recommend pricing and have it be applicable to everyone.  As that is the case, the best i can do is give baseline recommendations.  You will have to work to establish pricing that your local market is willing to pay!  That price may be higher or lower than the pricing I have below.

The recommended pricing I will provide is for a Single Color Shirt (Cadcut), a Digital Shirt (Solvent / Eco-Solvent Print/Cut, DTG), Banner and general Decal.  Single color and Digital Shirt pricing is based on a 4×4 left chest and a full back print.  I’m also included a $3 base garment cost.  Banner is priced per square foot and is fully finished, including Grommets and Hem Tape.  Decal pricing is also priced per square foot and is unlaminated.

Single Color – $12.80

Digital Shirt – $14.73

Banner – $6.30 / sq ft

Decal – $9.27 / sq ft

This recommended pricing is from a national survey we did for our Ultimate Pricing Calculator.  Our Pricing Calculator is a free tool we created to help our customer determine their actual costs and to help calculate profitability of various jobs.

How does this pricing look to you??

 

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What to Know Before you Buy a Vinyl Cutter

In my almost 13 years in this industry, I’ve encountered many people that are looking to start a t-shirt or vinyl cutting business.  Our industry is very friendly to anyone looking to start a business because of our very low startup costs.  Below is a list of what anyone that is considering adding a vinyl cutter to their existing business, or is looking to start a business should know before they buy.

1.  Know the difference between a Vector and a Raster image – A vinyl cutter works exclusively with Vector artwork.  A vinyl cutter essentially draws on your vinyl, only with a cutting blade and not a pen or pencil.  A vinyl cutter will follow the contours and intricacies of a graphic.  This is different from a standard printer that will move from left to right and spray ink onto a material.  Vector and Raster can be described as different languages.  A vinyl cutter only speaks Vector.  I found a very basic and easy to understand explanation of this here – The difference of vector and raster images.

If you don’t have vector graphics, don’t give up!!  Most graphics can be converted in Cadworx Live (free if you purchase your cutter from Imprintables Warehouse), a graphic software like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, or outsourced to a company like Artvark Express.

Start adding a certain keyword to your search terms.  It’s the theme of the post so far – Vector.  If you’re looking for a basketball graphic, instead of searching for “Basketball Clipart”, try searching for “Vector Basketball Clipart”.  You’ll see a big difference in your search results!!

2.  Know what you are paying for, or not paying for.  There are entry level cutters and professional grade cutters.  An entry level cutter will be the least expensive and provide you with minimal risk.  If things don’t work out, you can always try to resell it on eBay or Craig’s List and not lose too much money.  They won’t be as easy to use or set up initially, but they will certainly get the job done.  Professional grade cutters are made to last.  They are an investment that will continue to pay dividends well into the future.  Most will have premium features that will enable to you cut faster, quieter and more accurately.  I tell many of my customers that don’t have the budget for the professional grade cutters to start with the entry level, and then upgrade down the road if needed.  View our Buying Guide for an idea of the features available on each machine.

3.  Work with someone that will work with you.  If you’re going to buy a vinyl cutter, make sure you purchase from a vendor that is knowledgeable about the machine and will take the time to answer the questions you  have.  If you go after the cheapest price, you’ll get the cheapest service.  If a vinyl cutter is a new venture for you, you will need someone to lean on if you have a question on how to do a certain graphic, or what material to use on a fabric or surface.

4.  Buy a cutter that will effectively cut the materials you’re looking to work with.  If you’re looking to cut Rhinestone Templates, it will be best to purchase a cutter with sufficient force and an overcut function.  If you’re cutting very long runs, you’ll want to choose a cutter that has accurate tracking.  Going back to Number 3, the vendor you are looking to purchase from should be able to help you choose the machine that will cut what you need to cut.

5.  Consider your current set up.  Not all cutters will work with Mac computers.  If you are using a Mac, make sure you choose a cutter that has a compatible software and cutting driver.  You’ll also want to consider space requirements.  All 24″ or smaller cutters can be set up on a table.  A cutter stand is available if space is an issue and is recommended for longer cutting accuracy.  Some cutters are bundled with the stand, while they are an add-on item for other options.

6.  The software bundled with the machine will vary greatly.  Most will have plugins for Corel Draw and/or Illustrator.  Some software will outperform others with design capabilities, easy to access features and vinyl cutting specific functionality that isn’t available even on the more expensive, standalone graphic design software.  Cadworx Live will also be a great assist.  Cadworx has a lot of vector based clipart, templates and more.  There is also a very quick and easy Team Name and Number generator called Easy Teams.  Cadworx helps bridge the software gap between the entry level machines and the professional.

7.  Have a business plan!  I’m sure there’s a reason that you decided to consider a vinyl cutter.  Whatever that reason is, create a plan around it!  If you’re looking to create you own custom t’s for online retail, consider getting your website in order.  If you’re making this investment to get involved in the popular school or sports markets, contact your local organizations to see if you have a chance at the business.  You don’t want to take any orders until you have your cutter in place and have a general idea of what to do with it.  There is no faster way to lose a customer and potential business than to overpromise and under deliver!

 

These 7 points will help you be more prepared to start your vinyl cutting venture.  If you have any other ideas, or any questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at adam@imprintables.com.

 

Creating a Distressed look with a Vinyl Cutter

How much do you incorporate fashion into your vinyl cutter business?  I covered in an earlier post some materials that can add some flair to your apparel.  Another way to make your good more fashionable is to use the latest decorating trends.  I’ve identified the Distressed look as a trend that has been around for a little while but is still very popular.

It may seem like the distressed look would be difficult but it’s really not when you use the right tools.  I sourced two fonts that will make creating the artwork the easy part for a change!  The best to use are Destroy and Gesso.  I’ve selected these two because of the ease of weeding.  There are plenty of distressed fonts available but not all will allow you to weed rather quickly.

Of the two, Gesso is the easier to weed.  Most of the lines and detail will be weeded out on the initial pull.

Destroy has a bit more detail.  Don’t get me wrong, it will take a little more time to weed this design!  However, in my opinion, the end result is the best.

The weeding process for the Gesso font took about a minute longer than it normally would.  This should be factored into your pricing.  Destroy took about 5 minutes longer.  The good news is you don’t have to get all the detail!  It’s distressed so if you leave a few spots behind that should have been weeded it actually adds to the look!

Here’s the end result:

Gesso

Destory

Simply adding a specific font to you design software can add a lot to you business!

Equipment and Materials used:

Heat Press Olympics

It’s my first official post.  It’s Olympic time.  Why not?  As I sit here trying to focus on my first post, I cant help but be distracted by the Olympic Games.  What is it about the Olympics that generates so much interest?  Is it the National Pride?  Is it the fact that it only happens every 4 years?  Maybe it’s just having the opportunity to see the best athletes in the world competing on the highest level. 

How interesting would it be to have a “Heat Press Olympics”?  Now what could be the games?  Don’t you worry, I’ve already thought about it…

Heat Press Ping Pong– A game of paddle skill.  Three separate classes will exist.  Clam Shell, Swinger, and Draw.    Curious about the game?  Read on.
 

The Clam Shell game may be considered the easiest of the three.  Since a Clam Shell Heat Press looks like well, a clam shell, all that will have to be done is to hit the Ping Pong ball off of the bottom then top platen.

An example of a Clam Shell style press, The Phoenix Phire, is pictured below. 

 

The Swing Away Press aka Swinger will be the medium level.  Given the Swinger’s upper platen moves fully to the side of the lower platen, the Ping Pong Ball will have to be played off the floor and then the upper platen.  You may be able to get a full view of the garment on the press and you wont be burning any knuckles, but the view of that little white ball will surely be blocked. 

The Hotronix Swinger

Finally, the Draw.  For those who may not know, the Draw Press gets it’s name because the lower platen comes out much like a drawer.  This makes it very easy to get to everything that you need to pre-press, but how can you possibly hit the ball between the platen and press at those angels?  Still only one bounce here folks.  Only the most talented. 

The Hotronix Draw

Alright, one game down.  What’s next?

Heat Press 50 & 150– No hurdles here. The 50 is a race to 50 completed Heat Transfers and, naturally the 150 is a race to 150 pressed Heat Transfers.

The race to 50 requires speed and agility. Using the Auto-Release Phoenix Phire pictured above in Clam Shell Ping Pong, each competitor will have 50 transfers of their choosing to press. With the Auto-Release, competitors won’t get easily tired out pressing and opening the press with each application.

The 150 may require a little more fire power. The Hotronix Air Swinger would be the Heat Press of choice here. The Air Swinger will apply the transfers and conserve energy for the competitors. All the competitors will have to do is press two buttons for the press to come down and release after the programed time! Seems easy, I know.

And Finally…

Speed Weeding – It can be said that this is a game of patience and requires a keen eye.  I say it just takes a little practice.

Speed Weeding will draw the crowds.  Seeing small pieces of Heat Applied Vinyls or Films as they (mostly) truly are fly through the air at astounding speeds is bound to draw awe from attending spectators and high ratings from the interested watching in the comfort of their home.  For those who don’t know, Weeding is the practice of taking away the “waste” material from a design cut on a Vinyl Cutter, leaving just your precisely cut Name, Number, Name & Number Combo, corporate logo, or just a really cool looking design on a Mylar backing ready to be Heat Pressed down.  For a fun, and I’m sure appreciated twist, Synchronized Speed Weeding can give you the help of a friend or even a family bonding experience. 

Now the best part about these Heat Press Olympics is that they do not have to be categorized as a Summer Or Winter Olympic Games.  Instead, these games can be enjoyed year round.  A Heat Press gives your business  opportunities no matter what time of year it is.  Tips, tricks, ideas and innovation will be coming your way.  Stay tuned!