Frequently Asked Questions

What is different about printing on dark shirts?

Printing on dark colored shirts will normally require the use of an under base color (usually white.)  When printing most colors on a dark garment the color of the garment will show through the ink slightly.  For instance, yellow ink printed directly on a royal blue shirt will look dark green.  To prevent this, a thin layer of white ink is printed, then dried and the yellow then printed on top of it.  This eliminates the shirt color showing through.

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What type of art files do you prefer?

Vector is always the preferred format if the art was created in a vector program such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.  A vector file can be resized at any size without sacrificing the quality of the image because it is composed of mathematical formulas that consist of points and curves.  Vector file formats include .ai, .eps or .pdf.  Please make sure all fonts are converted to outline before sending and any linked files are either embedded into the image or the links are sent along as well in a folder called “links.”

If the image is raster (pixel based) as in a file created with Adobe Photoshop or a digital camera, then the resolution of the final image depends on the type of printing we will be doing.  If it will be screen printed, then the resolution of the final image (at final printed size) should be 600 pixels per inch for optimal results on things like type and graphic images.  Our digital printer requires only 300ppi for optimal results.  A raster file would have a file extension of .psd, .jpeg, tif or .bmp, .gif or .png.

Be aware an image that looks good on a computer screen will not necessarily print well.  Computer screens and web pages require a much lower resolution file than printing to look good.  Additionally a file that is good at a small size may be blurry or jagged when enlarged if it is not of sufficient resolution or quality.

We realize this graphics stuff can be confusing for the average customer.  If you would like to send us over your files we can have our graphics department dissect your file and let you know if it will suffice at no charge.  If the image is not good enough and our art dept. has to rebuild your file an art charge of $40 per hour will be charged.  We will not do any artwork until you understand what and why and approve of the time.

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I do not have a design. Can you help me with the graphics?

Yes, we have in house designers.  Our art time is $40 per hour.  The amount of time to do artwork varies widely with the design requested.  It would be best to talk to us about what you want before we can give you an idea of art time required.  Our graphic designer will need an email address to send digital proofs during the design process.  Nothing will be printed until you approve the art via email.

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How do I choose my ink colors?

More often then not we match color to the digital file you sent us or we built for you.  Our printers are very experienced in color mixing.  If you want very accurate color matching we can mix colors to match a specific PMS number.  You would have to have access to a PMS book for this to choose your colors.  We have one at the shop you can look at if you live locally.  PMS color matching is $20 per color.

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What is your minimum order?

Our minimum for digital printing is one shirt.  For screen printing it depends on how many colors.  24 is the minimum but as the amount of colors increases that minimum goes up, as do the printing costs.  We can more accurately answer this once we see your design.  If the design colors stay the same you can mix and match garment colors/styles to meet the minimum.  Ink color changes without screen changes are $15 each.

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What do I have to do to get a quote?

To give you a quote we will need to see your artwork (a low res file will suffice for quote purposes only.)  We will also need to know garment styles and colors and quantities.  We have price discounts at 24, 36, 48, 72, 144, 288, 600 and 1200 pieces.

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What is a screen setup charge?

As previously described screen printing requires each color to be on a separate screen.  The screen must first be coated to accept an image.  The image must be then output at size on a separate piece of film for each color and burned onto the screen with a high intensity arc light.  The coating is then washed out of the image area on the screen so ink can pressed through it with a squeegee.  After the job the screen must then be cleaned and reclaimed for reuse on another job.  This labor intensive process is why we must charge $20 per screen for each color when screen printing.  Digital printing does not require this per color setup fee and is therefore often more cost effective for small runs.

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How can I lower my costs?

If you want to keep costs down here are some tips:

  • Have your artwork submitted in usable quality as described in the “What type of art do you prefer” section of this FAQ.
  • If screen printing use less colors.  This will not only cut down on your screen setup fees but it will also lower your printing costs.
  • Go with a different less expensive garment.  Our staff can give you options on price vs quality depending on your needs.
  • Order more.  The costs per shirt of setting up a 3 color design on 24 shirts will be far less than doing the same design on 72 shirts not only because we have printing price breaks at larger quantities but also your setup charges (ie 3 screens at $20 each = $60) will be divided by 72 shirts rather than 24.
  • For embroidery keep the design smaller.  Embroidery is charged by stitches for both digitizing and embroidering.  The simpler, smaller the design, the less cost to you.

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What choices do I have for garments?

There are many many styles of garments and colors to choose from.  In addition to the traditional T-shirt we do sweats, totes, jackets, aprons, blouses, caps, jackets, outer wear, fleece…  If we can’t print on it we can probably embroider on it.  If you are local you can drop by to look at catalogs and samples.  If not, we can send you email links to garments after we get a feel for what you are looking for.

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Can I buy my garments and bring them in?

This is called contract printing.  Most often because of our industry pricing you will get a better deal by buying the garment through us included in the printing price.

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Can I see a proof of my design on a shirt before printing?

We can do digital mock ups of a design on a t-shirt image in the color you request before going to press.  Once on the press we can email a picture of a printed piece before doing the full run if requested.  If you are local then we can arrange for you to come down for a press check when we are printing your job.  We cannot hold jobs on the press so timing is very important if a proofing is important to you.

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What is the turn around time to print my shirts?

We can usually have your shirts printed within 7-10 business days depending on the complexity of your artwork.  We can more accurately project that after seeing the artwork and understanding the details and quantities of your order.

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Can you ship me my shirts?

We can ship anywhere.  We even ship shirts to Kuwait!  If you are local of course you can pick you shirts up at our shop in San Luis Obispo, CA.  We use UPS ground for our shipping unless another method is requested.

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How do I place an order?

You will need to call our front office or email us to initiate an order.  805-541-2566 or 800-377-3256  We will need your contact info (billing and shipping) as well as your credit card info (Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express)  Cash is fine too of course.  All orders must be paid for at the time of shipping or pickup.  Credit can be requested if you are a business but you will need to fill out our credit application and go through our credit review process so we ask that first orders be paid up front until we can complete that review.

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What types of printing do you do?

We do three different types of printing:  screen printing, digital printing and embroidery.

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What is the difference between the methods of printing?

  • Screen printing is a process through which ink is mechanically applied to a t-shirt with the use of a fine mesh fabric screen and a squeegee.  Each color of the design requires a separate screen and so we must make “separations” of the design so each color can be output onto a separate piece of film to make the screens.
  • Digital printing is relatively new to t-shirt printing.  It works very similar to a desktop ink jet printer but it is made to print special inks onto t-shirts which are then cured though a belt dryer.  The advantage of digital printing is you do not have to pay a setup charge per screen as you do in screen printing.  You also do not have to separate the artwork.  Color is unlimited and there are no minimums.  The image has a very soft hand.  The limitation of the digital is that it must be done on very light shirts because the inks are transparent so the shirt color will show through into the design.  If you want a design on dark shirts you must screen print.
  • Embroidery is appropriate for smaller designs only.  The image is first digitized for output with thread and sewn directly onto the garment using a state of the art multi head embroidery machine.  There are many garments that can be embroidered that cannot be screen printed onto such as hats, jackets, fleece and dress shirts etc…  Embroidery adds another dimension to your printing options.  Some designs digitize better than others so it would be good to get input from us regarding this when sending in your artwork for a quote.

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How many colors can you screen print in a design?

One of our presses has 14 heads so we can print up to 14 colors on light colors.  On dark colored shirts we can print up to 11 colors.

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What kind of presses do you have?

We have three high tech automatic presses and one manual press for screen printing and a digital printer for CMYK printing on light colored shirts only.  We heat cure our printed items on a conveyor oven which bonds the ink to the garment giving it durability in both washing and wearing.

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How much experience do you have screen printing?

Dolphin Shirt Company has been printing shirts here on the Central Coast of California for over 32 years.  With over 64 years of combined experience we get the job done right the first time.  We have many customers who have been with us for decades.

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