Select Profitable Substrates for Digital Decoration

Mark Bagley is director of marketing (Industrial Products Division) at Brother International Corporation. With both a legal and business background, he has also worked with several industry suppliers in providing educational content about their products online. 

There are a variety of items beyond T-shirts that can be printed with a direct-to-garment printer. But it’s important to offer only products that are profitable based on how long they take to print and what types of items your particular customers are willing to pay for.

Consider also in the time factor, that it is more than just the actual printing time on the printer. You also have to include the time it takes to get the product ready for printing, and how long it takes to load it on the printer and position the artwork correctly. Let’s take digital-printed footwear for example: 

To prepare footwear for printing, it is necessary to mask off the areas of the footwear that should not be printed. In most cases, this means taping off the rubber soles of the footwear, but some cases call for round stickers to be applied over the eyelets of the footwear, or require a liquid masking agent that prevents the ink from building up. The time it takes to prep and apply necessary masks increases the labor cost for printing shoes. This should be factored into the selling price. 

Some printers have specialty platens that can minimize this amount of overall time, though. In this case, it's important to take into consideration what the cost of these specialty platens are and how long it will take for you to achieve ROI (return on investment) for the special equipment.

It’s important to understand that not all products result in a profit. Speak with current and prospective customers to determine if there is a need for a specific product and how much customers would be willing to pay for that particular product. This type of market analysis can help determine what products to offer customers.

—Mark E Bagley,