How Much Does it Cost to Make a Shirt?

Last Updated on May 29, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Whether you’re looking to start a t-shirt business or just want some custom shirts made for your own use, one of the first questions that comes up is – how much does it cost to make a t-shirt?

From designing and printing to materials and labor, the costs add up quickly. In this article, we’ll break down the major factors that impact t-shirt pricing so you can budget for your custom apparel needs.

Key Takeaways on T-Shirt Pricing

The major points to keep in mind when estimating your custom t-shirt costs:

  • Expect to pay $15 – $30 per shirt for single shirt orders.
  • Small bulk orders of 12-36 shirts run $7 – $12 per unit.
  • Medium and large orders of 48-144+ shirts can cost as low as $3 – $5 each.
  • Screen printing provides the most cost-effective option starting at around $2 per shirt for high-volume orders.
  • Factoring in design fees, shipping, and other add-ons provides a complete cost picture.

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Shirt?

For a one-off single shirt with a one color print on the front or back, expect to pay $15 to $30 with most online print shops. This assumes you provide a print-ready design file and don’t need any artwork creation. The per shirt cost is higher for single orders since it doesn’t benefit from wholesale tiered pricing and bulk discounts.

How much do custom t-shirts cost for one shirt orders?

  • Custom single t-shirt from Printful starts at $18 with one color design printed via screen printing.
  • One custom shirt from T-Shirt Elephant starts at $15 including free shipping.
  • A single custom tee from Spreadshirt has a base cost per shirt of $17.99 with screen printing.

Keep in mind pricing may be higher if you need the print shop to design artwork from scratch or if using multi-color designs.

Small Custom T-Shirt Order Costs (12-36 Shirts)

Once you move into bulk orders of say 12-36 shirts, you start seeing significant per-unit savings. Here are some examples:

  • 24 shirt orders with 1 color front screen print at Scalable Press start at $8 per shirt.
  • 12 shirt order with 4 color design at T-Shirt Wholesaler starts at $10 per shirt.
  • 36 shirt orders with 2 color back screen prints from JakPrints start at around $7 per shirt.

For small custom orders in the 12-36 shirt range, $7 – $12 per shirt is standard including free shipping within the US. This assumes basic apparel blanks and relatively simple 1-3 color designs. Again, complex multi-color prints or premium materials will increase costs.

Medium & Large Custom T-Shirt Order Costs (48-144 Shirts)

As you move into bulk orders of 48, 72, or 144+ shirts, you gain maximum savings with wholesale tiered pricing.

Here are some typical price ranges:

  • 72 shirts with 4 color front & 1 color back screen print from RushOrderTees start at $5 per shirt.
  • 100 shirt orders from Blank Shirts Direct with 1 color print prices out around $4 per shirt.
  • 144 shirt bulk order from MyLocker with 2 color design runs $3.50 per shirt. They also offer free shipping for large orders.

For medium and large custom t-shirt production runs between 48-144 pieces, $3 – $5 per shirt is standard for basic apparel and designs. However, complex multi-color and multi-location prints can still cost $6 – $8 per shirt.

You might also like our articles on the cost of pant alterations, tailoring services, or t-shirt framing.

Factors That Impact Custom T-shirt Costs

When estimating how much your t-shirt order will cost, here are the main elements that affect pricing:

  • Printing method – Screen printing, heat transfer, and embroidery have vastly different costs. Screen printing is the cheapest for bulk orders.
  • Number of print locations – The more placements and colors, the higher the cost. A front and back print is more expensive than just a front print.
  • Number of shirts – Per shirt pricing drops significantly at higher quantities due to fixed setup costs. Bulk orders can be 50-75% cheaper per shirt.
  • Shirt material and brand – Basic cotton blank shirts are cheapest. Premium materials like tri-blends increase costs. Branded shirt tags add licensing fees.
  • Number of ink colors – Jobs with complex multi-color designs cost more due to added ink and separations.
  • Print shop pricing tiers – Printers offer different bulk break points like 12, 24, 36, 72, 144 shirt packages.
  • Add-ons like labels, tags – Any additional services or materials add to the cost.
  • Rush production – Expedited turnaround fees for faster order completion can add 25% or more.
  • Artwork and design – Creating or refining the graphics and layout costs extra unless you provide print-ready files.

What are the Most Cost-Effective T-Shirt Printing Methods?

Bulk Shirt Making CostsIf retail price is your primary concern, screen printing and heat transfer provide the most affordable t-shirt printing options, especially for bulk orders. Here’s an overview:

Screen Printing

Best for bulk orders of 24+ shirts. Setup and production costs are relatively fixed so the more volume, the lower the per-unit price. Ideal for simple spot color custom t shirts. Expect to pay $2 – $5 per shirt for bulk screen print orders.

Heat Transfer

Transfers have a lower startup cost so great for smaller orders and photographic designs. The cost is $3 – $8 per shirt for custom heat press transfer depending on order volume.


A more specialized process is best for logos and patches. Typically used along with prints. Adds $3 – $10 per shirt depending on stitch count, design size, and quantity.

Direct to Garment (DTG)

Prints full-color designs directly onto shirts. Best for one-offs and short runs under 12 shirts. The cost is $10 – $25 per shirt for on-demand DTG printing.

What Other Costs Factor In?

Beyond the base printing costs, there are a few other things to consider:

  • Artwork/design fees – If you need a designer to create or refine artwork, this can cost $50 – $150 or more depending on complexity.
  • Rush order upcharges – Expect to pay 25% or more for expedited production of 3-5 days.
  • Shipping – Bulk order minimums often include free shipping. For smaller orders under 24 shirts, add $10 – $20.
  • Packaging – Many printers offer polybagging and hanger packaging for $1-2 per shirt.
  • Samples – Order 1-2 test samples first before final production. Samples are usually $15-$20 per piece.
  • Taxes – Remember to account for sales tax which varies by state.

Factoring in these costs provides a more complete picture of your total investment for a t-shirt order.

Should You Buy in Bulk or Order Only What You Need?

One strategy question for t-shirt buyers is whether to order in larger bulk for maximum volume discounts, or purchase only the quantity you need. Here are some considerations:

Benefits of Bulk Orders

  • Drastically reduced per unit pricing
  • Opportunity for resale at events and online
  • Cost efficiency for large groups like schools and teams
  • Lower costs to hold inventory for future use

Drawbacks of Overbuying

  • Holding inventory ties up capital
  • Storage costs for extra product
  • Risk of excess stock not selling
  • Potential for design to become outdated

In general, if you have a confirmed immediate need for a large quantity like team jerseys or event shirts, bulk buying makes sense. But resist overpurchasing inventory simply to achieve volume tier pricing unless you have a plan to sell or use the extras. Analyze your specific needs and sales pipeline before overdoing initial orders.

Final Words

The pricing examples above should help set realistic expectations when budgeting for your next t-shirt order. And ordering in bulk can yield big savings for large volumes. Now you have the info to confidently price out your next custom t-shirts!

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