Recommendations for T-Shirt, Button, Sticker, Postcard, Business Card and Matchbook Printing

People often ask where we get our schwag made for Dogster and Catster. Turns out these are some of the best vendors we work with and, considering most all of them are small business run by conscientious passionate people, I’m always happy to recommend them. In the spirit of the internet, I’ve posted who they are.

If you do end up using any of the companies below, please, for the love of dog, tell’em Dogster, Inc. and/or Ted Rheingold referred ya.

After an extensive search for a local shop, I finally found Ape Do Good Printing, a great silk-screener in San Francisco at 15th & Valencia. We just completed a 400-shirt run and I highly recommend them. They employ a state-of-the-art 12-station pneumatic screening machine that can crank out a couple hundred shirts an hour. Their screens are clean and they heat-bake immediately after printing for long-lasting art. I took some pix of their shop.

Another common request I get is to know how may shirts of each size to get. Here’s the size/quantity ratio we do for Dogster/Catster printing. If your crowd is predominantly adults, omit the smalls and increase the medium and larges.

100 women’s shirts: XL – 10, L – 40, M – 30, S – 20 (AmericanApparel brand)
100 men’s t-shirts: XXL – 6, XL – 24, L – 30, M – 20, S – 20 (Jerzees brand)

My longest reliable schwag maker is Scott Hay’s of Oakland, CA. Scott is a great guy who takes buttons sales and production very seriously. Heck, the guy reads Forbes Small Business and treats his business as if they produced fine china. He recently moved into a large space on the old Alameda naval base, upgraded his button machine to his custom specifications and even started an automated affiliate program so you can get a cut if you send sales leads their way.

Thanks to Scott Beale‘s recommendation we recently finished our first run with Contagious Graphics in North Carolina and can 100% recommend them. They are very thorough in reviewing your art, communicate the process very well and price competitively. Like most sticker shops they expect runs of a 1000 or more, and good vinyl stickers (critical for outside use) will cost a bit more. Here’s an idea … do a 1-color printing on the backing and you’ve got yourself a multi-use business card.

4-color postcards are an indispensable to a small company. You can hand them out, thumbtack or post them, send in the mail, use as business cards or write custom notes while netowrking. They end up on cube walls and fridges and community boards keeping the message going. San Francisco’s Rocket Postcards is excellent. You get 500 4-color fronts, 1 color-back for $99. Turn around time is 5 days and if you’re local you can pick-up to avoid shipping. They also do flyers, brochures and business cards.

I’ve also used to equal success. They print the night you order and ship the very next morning so 2-day U.S. turnaround is possible with next-day shipping.

Business Cards
We use 250 cards on good stock are $25 and for a little more you can do glossy, rounded corners or 2-sided. Ground shipping prices are very reasonable, and again, they print the night you order and ship the next morning.

If you literally do not have a penny to spend, savvy Molly Golightly recommends VistaPrint. Your cards are free if they can print their logo on the back.

Don’t forget business cards can have any content you want on them, so they can also serve as small flyers, invitations, hand outs, offer a thoughtful quote or memorable image. Note these prices if you’re thinking of doing the home printer solution. Save yourself the hassle, color ink and even a couple bucks and have them professionally printed.

I’ve done a couple matchbook printings. The shortcoming here is that there are only two printers in the U.S. that I’ve been confidently told are in deep collusion. So in the end the prices and options are identical no matter who the vendor is, and minimum print-runs are usually 2,000 books. Matchbooks, however, are another memorable, low cost give-away.

Some Final Suggestions
When using any of the above services, take the time to talk with them on the phone – or even better in person – and make sure they are ready to meet your needs. If you’re not familiar with that industry’s vernacular or not very good at communicating your needs explicitly, make sure you’re talking about the exact same thing. Also when ever you are submitting art or doing custom work, in these days of no-proof printing, allow for plenty of extra cycles to pre-proof everything. Paying your designer to oversee the the process is rarely wasted money. It always feels like a hassle talking with your designer or sticker shop 10 times, but there’s nothing worse when your shipment of schwag arrive with a typo or placement issue that make them unusable.

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