How To Calculate Ink Costs In Production

January 12, 2010 at 10:27 pm 3 comments

John Hatcher, our Product Manager, has a vast experience with not only printing, but running a screen print company.  So here is more insight to an operational topic every printer should know:  Ink costing for a particular print job.

“An age-old process that each screen printer goes through is trying to figure out how much to charge for the ink they use for a job.  The ink charge can be calculated several ways.  A fast and simple way is to use one of the ink calculators that are available on the web, such as the one on International Coatings’ web site which can be viewed at  Here’s how it’s done:  First put in the price per gallon that is paid for the ink, the screen mesh that is going to be used and the size of the printed image.  You also should put in the number of prints that are going to be printed.  The information shown after inputting this information will give you a very close approximation of the cost per print for the ink you are using. 

If you want to be even more accurate you can estimate the percentage of ink coverage for the size design you are printing.  In most cases, unless you are bidding on a job that is very price competitive, you can just use the size of the print without estimating the percentage of coverage.  Another method, which is the most accurate but the most time consuming, is to actually print the ink on the fabric.  What is done is that you weigh the fabric on a digital scale before and after printing (you can cure the ink, as plastisol is very high in solids and will lose little weight after curing), the difference being the ink used or printed.  Note that the fabric should be run through the dryer before printing to help knock-out any moisture in the fabric that could throw off the ink weight measurement.  While this is a more accurate way of estimating the ink cost, it is also the most time intensive.

Whatever method you use, you should find that your cost for ink is relatively low when compared to all the other factors that go into making a screen printed image.

Note that if you have to modify the ink in anyway, such as making a custom color match or adding other ingredients, the cost of the ink will increase and the more time and materials you take or use to modify the ink, the more the ink costs.  Sometimes it is actually less expensive to buy an ink that you can just use out of the container for most applications instead of buying a cheaper ink that you might have to modify to use.  Remember that labor is usually the most expensive part of the screen printing process and the more time it takes to modify an ink, the more it costs.  The old adage, “Time is Money” should always be considered in any costing.

If you keep track of the ink you purchase over a period of time and divide that by the number of prints you do, this will give you a rough idea of the cost of ink per print.  Keep in mind that you probably will have ink left over that is still on the shelf, so this number is only a rough calculation but a good number to track long term.  Speaking of ink on the shelf, which can be a very costly factor if you never use the ink again, keep this in mind when costing special colors or mixes.  You may want to put the cost in for all of the mixed ink or special color that is made for a particular job so that cost is covered in your pricing. 

Every 3 to 6 months you should look at your mixed or special ink inventory and think about how you might use that ink on other jobs so that you are not left with money just sitting around.”


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Curing Ink Correctly? International Coatings Winter Newsletter Link

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. buy twitter followers for cheap  |  July 22, 2014 at 4:48 am

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  • 2. Amila  |  March 24, 2017 at 12:36 am

    how to calculate ink area percentage of gravure print & ink usage

    • 3. International Coatings  |  March 24, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Sorry, Amila, we only manufacture textile screen printing inks, so we do not have anything to do with gravure printing and thus would not be able to advise you on your inquiry.


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