What to Know Before You Hire An Apparel Decorator

Decorators could well be the last people to touch your products before they’re delivered. That means you need to be able to trust them and understand what they do – and that may require asking some detailed questions before giving them the go-ahead.

“The first conversation I would have with your decorator is process based,” says Andy Shuman, general manager at Rockland Embroidery. “You’re relying on your decorator to essentially complete the cycle. You need to understand what that decorator is going to need from you to do the job properly. You want to let them know how you process orders so there’s a working understanding going both ways, so the challenges, if there are going to be any, don’t come up in the eleventh hour.”

Not every answer you get from a decorator is a deal-breaker, but “they’ll tell a lot,” says Scott Fresener, director of T-Biz Network International. “If their eyes glaze over when you use terms like ‘simulated process color’ or ‘CMYK,’ then you know they probably don’t do any high-end work.”

And overall, according to Marshall Atkinson, owner of Atkinson Consulting, if you want a high-quality product, it’s important to remember you’re going to have to pay a fair price for it.

“Don’t expect the cheapest, rock-bottom pricing by the folks that know what they’re doing,” he says. “Competitive pricing is warranted, but if you want quality production that ships on time, don’t nickel and dime. Get a price list agreement and understand the charges.”

5 Questions to Always Ask

  1. How many colors can you print?
  2. Do you print on a wide variety of items?
  3. What size orders can you handle?
  4. How good is the art staff at making low-quality artwork into a usable design?
  5. What special print processes can you do?