The Strategy of Making Small Initial T Shirt Orders

We frequently have customers who for various reasons may wish to place a smaller order prior to placing a much larger one. Often these customers are with clubs, schools, or other organizations that want to see physical shirts before the rest of their group orders. Other times the customer may simply want to see the quality of the print, or perhaps the way it looks on the shirt. These are certainly good reasons and we are happy for our customers to do whatever will make them most comfortable for their orders. However, there are a few specific considerations to keep in mind which can have a big impact on what should be expected from each order.


The cost of the order is actually one of the reasons customers so frequently want to do their initial smaller order. They may be concerned about spending a great deal of money on something they haven’t seen. They may also worry that the shirts will be less popular than they were expecting and may instead prefer to show people the physical shirt and get preorders for it. These are logical concerns and indeed doing an initial small order will probably cost much less total money out of pocket initially.

However, it is going to be much less cost effective in the long run. The prices are dependent, among other things, on the quantity ordered per design. Thus doing one larger order will always be a good bit more cost effective than doing multiple orders that add up to the same quantity. For instance one 200 piece order is more cost effective and cheaper in total price than two 100 piece orders, which is a good bit more cost effective than four 50 piece orders, and so on.

In fact because the quantity does so heavily impact the price, a design which may be under $10 per shirt at larger quantities could easily cost upwards of $20 or $30 per shirt at a small initial quantity. For this reason it is important to weigh these factors carefully and determine if it makes financial sense in your situation to do the smaller order and then the larger order rather than one larger order.


A desire to test the quality of the print is one of the main reasons many people prefer to place a small order first and then later a larger order. However, depending on the specifics of the order this may not be an effective strategy at all. The reason is that our smaller order for 5 or fewer pieces are printed using the digital printing process while the larger orders of 6 or more pieces are printed using the screen printing process. Thus unless you order at least 6 or more pieces you wouldn’t truly be comparing apples to apples.

An additional consideration is that with screen printing (for orders of 6 or more pieces) not only will the print be different in general due to the different technique, but it will be a much better quality too. The digital printing process is a newer technology that was created to make it cost effective to be able to do smaller orders (5 or fewer pieces), but it still has a long way to go before it reaches the quality of screen printing.

Thus, it is important to order at least 6 pieces if you are doing a smaller initial order to test quality. Otherwise doing only 1 shirt, or only a few pieces, will yield shirts that, while still a good quality, aren’t as good looking as larger order. We wish that we could do all of our orders with the higher quality screen printing, but unfortunately due to the much higher cost of materials, labor, and time, it would be prohibitively expensive to us and to the customer.


Along the same lines that we discussed above, orders of 5 or fewer pieces are printed with the digital printing process. Unfortunately there are many more limitations with this process. One of the main ones is that we are not able to accept outside artwork, such as existing logos and graphics that our customers might have. Thus if you have your own artwork that you need to use, then the minimum would be 6 or more pieces. Orders of 5 or fewer pieces would have to be designed online in our design studio.

In addition, the digital printing process only works for printing darker ink colors on lighter color shirts. Thus light ink options, and dark fabric options are not available for smaller order. The process is not ideal for heavier, thicker items such as hoodies, or for 50/50 blend, or 100% polyester fabrics. Only 100% cotton materials are available for digital printing. One last concern is that we are not able to print on non-standard areas such as the sleeve for digital printing.

The bottom line is that ordering a smaller, initial order can make sense in some circumstances; however, depending on your requirements and objectives you may still need to order at least 6 pieces to start out. It is also important to be aware of the different factors that will influence your price and other specifics. If you have any additional concerns or questions please call us or send us an email so that we can further assist you.

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