Pre-Press Preparedness

Eliminate wasted time by keeping everything you need on hand.

What makes money as a screen printer? When you are pulling a squeegee and quality shirts are coming off the press. When you’re making the wheels turn!

When screen printers get to press, they should be in the mindset of getting ready to make money. To get to that point, you must show up to the game ready to play. If you continually have to leave the press to prep for your next job, you are not efficiently heading in that direction. Next time you or your printers are setting up a job, count how many times you or the printer has to leave the press. Every time the press is abandoned is equal to time lost actually printing – time you could be making money. If you’ve noticed this phenomenon in your shop, then do yourself a favor and create a simple, all-encompassing pre-press check list.

A pre-press check list should contain (but is not limited to) a minimum of a few items.

Comprehensive Work Order

There are some shops out there that are a little more “free style”. Maybe you’re one of them – the kind who handwrites your orders on the back of a cocktail napkin. I would encourage you to open up Excel and create yourself an easy and simple work order template that can contain a job name, an art number or a description of the art with a detailed placement, and a count and description of the garments that you are printing. You don’t have to make it excessive. This is where you color comp should live (a full color idea of what the design should look like), especially if you are not the printer.

Color Films and Screens

Some screen printers actually have screen rooms (darkrooms) stacked to the ceiling with all the screens needed for future print jobs. Some screen printers only burn a couple jobs a day or week. It just depends on your business model and whether you are in the game full-time. Either way, you should distinguish your films and screens with either a number of some sort or a unique name. If you print two or three different designs for a customer and you don’t distinguish your films and screens numerically or by name, you are definitely running the risk of putting the wrong design on the wrong product.


Show up to the press with ink. Simple. You put gas in the car to make it run – put ink in the screen to make shirts! And moreover, use the right ink! I think every screen printer out there has accidently put the wrong ink in the screen. I know I have, and it’s not a good feeling. This is why you need an order or color proof of some sort.


You need something to print on. Make sure the product you need is ready to go. I also recommend having a quality control process for checking in your product. Finding issues with your product when the truck delivers it will save you frustration and time at the press. Ever set up a print to find out that your product is incorrect – that they’re the wrong color, style or maybe even missing garments? Then you have to undo all the work you just did. Once you’ve confirmed that you have the right product, stack all the garments you need. Imagine having three or four cases of garments. You stack one and start printing. You’re printing away and in the flow of the job and then … you have to stop and stack more shirts. I see it all the time. Stack them all and stay in the flow for the entirety of the job.

So let’s see how this looks in practice. I like to use a cart of some sort to transport things around a shop. (Even if the shop is small, a cart is very versatile.) List in one hand, cart in the other. I grab the order and make sure that I have screens that match all pertinent info on said order. On the cart they go. Next stop would be inks; confirm them and place on the cart. If your squeegees and spatulas live in a different part of the shop, you’ll grab these at this point also. (Most printers have spatulas and squeegees close to the press.) If garments will fit on the cart, throw them on and let’s get to the press. All the while, I am checking off my list (whether physically or mentally). The goal is simple: Show up at the press with everything you need to set up and print efficiently.
Okay, you’ve got everything you need to produce. Missing anything? Oh, maybe some tunes. Now what are you waiting for? Start printing!