Considering Custom Ink For Custom Apparel? Think Again!

Custom Ink vs Local Printer

(Buy Local, Get Better Service & Save Money! Yes, local printers are often cheaper than Custom Ink.) 

Custom Ink is in some ways the Amazon of custom apparel. They are one of, if not, the largest online retailer of custom apparel. Even recently adding banners and some signage to their catalog as well.

So if they are the “Amazon” of Custom apparel, why am I writing a blog telling you that choosing them for your custom t-shirt or banner project is not wise? I mean, in most industries the online giant is normally the best priced, with the best services in that industry. So, why would Custom Ink be any different?

This is what I plan on going into detail about and explaining in this blog. My goal is to draw attention to the three advantages of utilizing a local printer for your custom project. It all really comes down to 3 things.

  1. Buy Local -Most of you live in a part of the country where there are LOCAL printers and sign makers (Like Chicago Signs and Screen Printing) and when possible, they should be used for numerous local economic factors.
  2. Service and Delivery-Customer service is not the same as using a local printer and in fact the turn around times offered by Custom Ink are probably not good enough for about 75% of all orders out there causing additional costs to upgrade delivery times.
  3. Overall Pricing-Ironically, (although I will explain why below) Custom apparel and printing is one of the FEW spaces on the internet where the big giant (in this case Custom Ink) is NOT the price leader. Ill show below that in most cases, you will actually save money by working with a local printer.


When you have a project for your local school, organization, or business, there is a good chance of there being some level of local involvement. You may be looking for sponsors for your run or school spirit fundraiser. Local businesses are some of the most important parts of any community. I know Chicago Signs and Screen Printing offers discounts for local projects as well as speeding up turn around times when that is needed to hit target dates. We are more likely to support local events with either cash or product donations for causes that we believe help our neighboorhoods. The bottom line is when it comes to supporting local businesses, you get the following benefits:

The economic benefits of buying local

Easy enough to overlook. But when you buy locally (especially with manufacturing like apparel or signage) you are helping to keep people employed in your city. Not only are you helping to keep locals employed, but those employees then go out and spend their wages locally as well. This is basic economics, but keeping your spending local will almost always result in a multiplied result of economic benefit to many in the area, not just the company you purchase from. When buying from a company like Custom Ink, almost all of this money stays out of your local network.

A potential sponsor or supporter of your organization.

This can be cash or discounted product or even the promotion of your event or company on their social media. At Chicago Signs and Screen Printing we even offer additional services. We can provide high definition social media ready pictures of your products, as well as social media promotion. We have had many small businesses comment that even just that benefit was extremely helpful in promoting their business or event! Not a chance you get any of that “community support” when making a purchase from Custom Ink.

The power of networking

When collaborating with a regional printing or signage shop, you could have the opportunity of connecting with an executive or even the proprietor. If your cause needs assistance and/or you are looking for ways to network with other commercial organizations in your area, why not take advantage of this unique chance by meeting business owners who can then become powerful referral partners? This is something that online marketing firms like Custom Ink cannot provide – and there’s no telling what wonderful outcomes such relationships can bring!

Last month, a business owner buying t-shirts happened to also be looking for a job training in the fitness industry. I was able to give her 3 leads of people I know in that space and she ended up becoming a trainer for one of them. A win for both my clients, the trainer as well as the gym business owner that I work with. We’ve helped to create many opportunities by collaborating closely with clients and partners.

Service and Delivery: Local vs Custom Ink

It’s vital that you select a company with high-quality products and timely delivery. This is another important aspect aside from their custom apparel or signage. While Custom Ink undoubtedly produces excellent items…Here is an unexpected truth:


Custom Ink is a great online marketing company but all of their jobs are outsourced to other printers all over the country.

Why should you care about this? It effects the time frames and the types of printers that they are working with. Since they have to pay another vendor to do the actual printing and THAT company also has to make money on the job…it makes it harder to produce and deliver at a good price and quickly. In our experience at Chicago Signs and Screen Printing, when we outsource a job because it is something we don’t do in house, we always have just a bit more trouble managing that job. Custom Ink, while having a good process for this, still faces some of these same challenges.

Overall Price Compared to Custom Ink

While I can’t speak for all local print shops, I can tell you this. We at Chicago Signs and Screen Printing don’t consider ourselves the least expensive option in the market. We are rarely the most expensive option, but we are just as rarely the cheapest.

I know that I and my sales team have used the “Quick quote” feature on CustomInk’s website from time to time as it is a decent way to find out what the market is for a particular spec of a custom t-shirt.

This simple quote asks the number of colors on the front, the number of colors on the back, the number of shirts you are looking for, and the zip code it is shipping to. It then takes all of that information and along with the shirt type and color you choose, lets you know what that order will cost you delivered within 2 weeks to the zip code you provided.

Here is an example of what you will find using their “Quick Quote Tool”

When you click Get a quick quote it asks you a few questions:

  1. How many will you need -In this example we will use 150 shirts
  2. How many ink colors are in your design? There is a place to put a front logo and if needed a back. In our example we used a 3 color front and a 1 color back.
  3. It asks for your zip code to help calculate the cost of shipping into the overall shirt cost.

custom ink quick quote

Plug in that information after choosing a shirt (we chose to use the Gildan 64000.) Then you will get a pop up screen that gives you all the information for your order.

As you can see in this case 150 shirts with 3 colors on the front and 1 color on the back on a Black Gildan 64000 shirt will cost:

$1966.50 or $13.11 each. (This is AFTER a 69% “volume discount”)

I did a proposal in our internal quote system for the exact same shirts and exact same design. Our price turned in at $11.07 per shirt.

The crazy thing is, even though we are not the cheapest. We are ALMOST ALWAYS less expensive than the price offered by Custom ink. How is this possible? Well let’s start with we, as local printers, are doing the printing. Custom Ink is jobbing it out to another shop that they then have to split the profits with. Bottom line is that when you deal with your local printer, you will likely get a better price.

Another thing to consider with Custom Ink…Your delivery needs also effects the price and pretty greatly. The prices quoted by CustomInk include delivery in 2 weeks. In our experience, a high percentage of orders come through needing the product in hand sooner than that.

While we may charge a small fixed rush fee for orders needed under 10 days, Custom Ink seems to use delivery time as a significant revenue producer. If you need your order in less than two weeks but not faster than 1 week, you will be subject to “rush fee” of 15% of your total order. In this case, that comes out to $295. This addition brings your total per shirt cost to just OVER $15 each.

Need your order in a 3 day “super rush”?  They will charge you a WHOPPING 25% of your total order. In this case that would be an additional $492 bringing your per shirt price to almost $16.50 cents each!

Now, we also charge rush fees as well but generally they are fixed. I think the MOST we have ever charged for a rush fee on ANY job has been $250. That was on a 500 shirt order that was needed in 2 days.

For an order like this, if you needed it in a week we would likely charge an additional $75. If you needed it in 4 days it would be around $150. Our cost even with the highest rush fee is still just about $12/shirt.

Final Thoughts: Buying From a Local Printer vs Custom Ink

In conclusion, there are numerous advantages to using a local printer for your custom apparel or signage printing requirements. There are many advantages to shopping local businesses in your neighborhood. Get perks such as receiving the maximum service and quality, as well as getting greater value for money. So truthfully speaking, when you’re searching for good quality and cost-effectiveness on your project – CustomInk is not the right choice!

Contact us today if you resonate with our ideas and would like the best printing experience in The Chi!


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