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The Single Color of Money

(April 2008) posted on Thu Apr 10, 2008

The profit potential in single-color garment designs is a lot greater than you may realize. This month, Trimingham describes how to add visual impact, extra value, and a higher price tag to your one-color work.

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By Thomas Trimingham

An artist’s attention to detail helps define the difference between artwork of lower quality and artwork of high value. A graphic design intended for a high-fashion market should have an increased level of research and detail care attached to it. You can even sell very simple artwork at a higher cost when you use a design that’s researched, design-specific, and tested to be the best. The proper communication of the amount of care and development you assign to a project can increase its price.


Surprising location and technique

Successful marketing companies know that everyone loves surprises. Variety adds visual interest, and the unexpected often creates a demand where there previously was none. For example, take a heraldic crest design, distress it, and dull it so that it barely appears on the shirt. Then include a different, tribal-looking print merged across it (Figure 4). The contrast in styles creates visual tension and makes the shirt much more interesting than one that features only a simple tribal print. The added detail also ties into perceived value. For a final touch, print the design in unique location so that it wraps over the shoulder and sleeve of the shirt with the tribal image cutting across it diagonally. You now have an edgy design in an unexpected location and image clash that justifies a higher cost. Other ways to surprise and create interest with a single color are:

• repeated images that form patterns all over large areas of the shirt

• tattoo-type print locations on garments with images that collage together to form image clashes

• washed-out prints that fall off of the sides, collar, seams, or sleeves of the garment

• inks with glitters, textures, and differ- ent finishes (such as gel, suede, etc.) that contrast with the imagery or feel of the garment

• combinations of halftones and patterns to break up a single color in rhythms of different hues on the shirt


The proper mindset

Mentality is what separates the shops that consistently create high-priced, single-color prints from the bulk of other garment screen printers. They don’t believe in limitations, which creates an environment where they’re willing to reconstruct their production environment based on the needs of the print rather than always adjusting the design to fit the shop’s limitations. They make custom platens, screens, and squeegees when they need to print off of the edge of the shirt and all over one sleeve. They install washing machines and have thermally active labels produced for shirts that need custom tag prints with an enzyme wash and a grinding on the collar. And rather than adjust the art and force the print and shirt to conform, these screen printers opt for the difficult path that leads to a challenging print that’s more original.

The details of this single-color, high-price mentality may sound like a lot of artsy talk and fluff, but the customers who demand these prints are willing to pay for a higher level of service. They don’t care that the shirt is one color when they see examples and get excited about the possibilities. Not every order for single-color T-shirts pays big bucks, but if you make a priority of exciting your customers with new possibilities, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of a high-profit, one-color print.


The opinions and recommendations expressed in this column are Mr. Trimingham’s and not necessarily those of Screen Printing magazine. Thomas Trimingham has more than 16 years of experience in screen printing as an award-winning artist, separator, industry consultant, speaker, and author of more than 40 articles in industry magazines. He can be reached through his Website,








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