DigitalHeat FX Return On Investment

How Much Does It Cost To Make A Custom T-Shirt Transfer?

With DigitalHeat FX White Toner Printers

Easy answer?   Less than $.17

or $1.92…

This is one of those questions we get asked every day but is hard to answer without going into details.

Often this question is answered with other questions like:

  • How big is the print?
  • What colors are you printing?
  • How much of the print is toner and how much is negative space?
The only way to answer that question accurately is to:

  1. Know the specific graphic you’re printing
  2. Know the size of the transfer image in relation to the size of the full transfer sheet.


How much is a Large  Custom T-Shirt Transfer?

Since we can’t know everything you’re going to print; we’ve used the following sample design to come up with some solid numbers you can use to base your cost numbers on.

Here is a very typical 8” X 10” design you might use for a full front or back t-shirt print.

8” X 10” is a great size for use with the DigitalHeat FX 8432 because the EZ Peel paper you’ll use with is 11” x 17”. That means you’ll be able to fit TWO of these per sheet.

The graphic we used was analyzed by OKI to get the exact percentage of each color in the printer, so we can also add the toner costs to our calculations.  Getting precise calculations is one of the advantages OKI has over other methods.

(However, as you’ll see, toner cost is so low it’s usually ignored)

Colman and Company’s Laser EZPeel Paper for DigitalHeat FX is sold in a box of 100 A and B sheets.  Therefore, we would be able to create 200 of these transfers with one box of paper.

We’re going to use the Paper Savers Discount Club price of $3.69/sheet for cost numbers and the standard pricing for replacement toner and drum costs.

Since two of this 8” x 10” graphic fit on a single transfer sheet, the cost of each custom t-shirt transfer will be $3.69/2 = $1.85

We estimated toner and drum usage for each print at $.56.  You can use this number

Total cost of the finished custom t-shirt transfer is $1.85 + $.56 = $2.41

How much is a Small Design?
(like a left-chest logo)

Left chest logos are small designs that can make BIG profits!

If we imagine this same sample graphic is printed at 4” x 2” – the perfect size for a logo on the front of a shirt – you can then fit TWENTY logos on a single sheet of Laser EZ Peel transfer paper.

That’s TEN times the savings of the shirt-front example!


Using the same $3.69 for an 11” x 17” transfer sheet and adding a percentage of the toner use your cost to make each one of the left chest logos is now just under $.24 cents.

$3.69/20 = $.185 for transfer paper + $1.04/20 = $.056 for toner use =
$.24 per finished transfer

Printing Other Sizes

One of the best things about the DigitalHeat FX system is the Print Optimizer that comes with it.

Print Optimizer sits between your graphics program, like Corel Draw or Gimp, and your printer. It allows you to reduce the amount of toner you use, improve the breathability of the graphics.   You can do what’s known in the print world as GANG PRINTING.

Gang printing is the ability to mix different graphics and sizes of graphics on a single sheet of transfer paper. Organizing the designs this way let’s you optimize the sheet so you can get the maximum number of custom t-shirt transfer prints while using the least amount of full transfer sheets.

Here’s an example of a gang printed shirt from the DigitalHeat FX 8432.

On this sheet you’ll see 5 left chest logos, 3 medium sized prints and one full sized. These could be used for any combination of left chests, fronts, backs of t-shirts or promotional items like lunch boxes or cinch bags.

If you wanted to just use the simplest math these would average out to only $.50 each in materials cost.

How Much Does the Blank T-Shirt Cost?

At this point you could just sell the transfers you made to other t-shirt businesses.  Anyone with an approved heat press, then can take the transfers you make, trim them down and apply them to a t-shirt for sale themselves.

But MOST owners of the DigitalHeat FX 8432 and 9541 systems also sell complete custom t-shirts.

So how much does that part of the equation cost?

There are a variety of wholesalers, or “blanks suppliers” that supply the custom apparel and promotional products industry. We’ll use a shirt from for this example, the same shirt we often use internally at ColDesi.

The DT104 is a 100% cotton t-shirt of very good quality. It’s one that lasts. Not the cheapest available and not a famous brand. (You can frequently find good shirts on sale for under $2.00)

As you can see, pricing varies by size and quantity ordered. We’ll use $3.49 as the price for our calculations.

What’s the Cost of a Finished Custom Shirt?

Using our 8” X 10” sized graphic example at $2.41 for the print and a blank shirt price of $3.49 the total cost of all materials will be about $5.90.

Even if you ALSO ADDED the left chest logo to the shirt it would still only cost just $6.14.

Of course, these are just the cost numbers for supplies and materials. You should add for your time and a percentage of overhead. Those will vary by your location, situation and business model.

We have estimated the time it takes to make each full 11” x 17” transfer at about 1.7 minutes and the application time for each is about 1 minute. So, if you figured your labor at under 3 minutes per shirt you would not be too far off.

How much can I sell a shirt for?

We compiled industry research and polled our customers that are already IN business and selling short run, full color custom t-shirts and found the following: 

Average Sale Price: $21.00

If you sold a custom t-shirt for the average sale price of $21.00 and your cost is $5.90 as we’ve seen, you would have a gross profit of $15.10/shirt. Minus labor and overhead, of course.

This is a very conservative estimate based on averages. Many of our customers sell for much more than that $21.00.

And you may pay significantly less for your blank shirt.

But even using the averages you should be able to produce about 20 shirts an hour with a single heat press. So, if you want to look at your hourly rate for a custom t-shirt sale, that’s

20 Shirts X $15.10/shirt =
$302 per hour

What are My Next Steps?
You’ve seen the numbers and understand all the factors that go into how much it costs to make a custom t-shirt. And you also see that they’re low enough, and the sale prices are high enough, that you have room to learn and make a few mistakes along the way.

Your next step is to decide.  Are you ready to get into the custom t-shirt business?

Give us a call 855-348-4839 to speak with a product specialist today, chat below or the contact us button below.

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