Understanding the Differences: Contract, Wholesale, and Custom Screen Printing

Emma Hewitt
January 31, 2024
Cusotm Contract and Wholesale Screen Prinitng

In the world of apparel customization, screen printing is an incredibly versatile and popular method for promoting a business, showing team spirit, and expressing creativity. Whether you're a promotional products business looking to outsource your screen printing needs, a distributor seeking bulk printing services, or an individual with a unique design in mind, understanding the differences between contract, wholesale, and custom screen printing is crucial. Each of these services that we offer at Extreme Screen Prints serves distinct purposes and comes with its own set of advantages and considerations. Keep reading to delve into the specifics of each one to help you understand what service will be right for you.

Contract Screen Printing

Definition: Contract screen printing with Extreme Screen Prints involves outsourcing all or most of your screen printing orders to us, where we print on behalf of your business. In this arrangement, the client (your company) provides the blank garments, all necessary directions on printing such as ink colors and print size and location, while we, the contracted printer, take care of the printing itself.

Key Characteristics:

  • Consistency: Contract screen printing is characterized by its regular and ongoing nature. Businesses often enter into long-term agreements with printing companies to handle their printing needs on a continuous basis.
  • Client-Supplied Garments: Unlike other types of screen printing, where the printer may also supply the garments, in contract screen printing, the client provides the blank apparel. This allows businesses to maintain control over the quality and selection of the garments used.
  • Partnership Approach: Contract screen printing often involves a collaborative partnership between the client and the printing company. This partnership extends beyond individual orders and focuses on building a long-term working relationship.


  • Consistent Quality: By working with us as a dedicated printing partner, our clients can count on consistent quality across all their printed products.
  • Cost Savings: Long-term contracts often come with discounted rates, resulting in cost savings for our clients over time.
  • Time Efficiency: Outsourcing printing allows your business to focus on bringing in more business and providing care to your customers while leaving the printing process in capable hands.


  • Volume Commitment: Our contract screen printing agreement requires a minimum volume commitment from our clients to justify the ongoing partnership. 
  • Lead Times: While contract printing offers consistency, it may have longer lead times compared to other methods, as we must accommodate multiple clients' orders within our production schedule. We do take pride in keeping our contract printing timelines at a maximum of 15 business days during the vast majority of the year.

Wholesale Screen Printing

Definition: Wholesale screen printing involves printing a large quantity of shirts or other apparel items at a bulk rate, often for resale or distribution purposes. Unlike contract printing, wholesale jobs are more sporadic and quoted on a case-by-case basis.

Key Characteristics:

  • Bulk Orders: Wholesale printing usually involves larger quantities of garments, often ranging from hundreds to thousands of units per order.
  • One-Time or Inconsistent Basis: Unlike contract printing, which is characterized by regular orders, wholesale printing may occur on a one-time basis or intermittently as the need arises.
  • Custom Quoting: Each wholesale job is quoted individually, taking into account factors such as quantity, design complexity, and printing specifications.


  • Production Efficiency: Wholesale printing offers cost advantages due to the larger order quantities, allowing for a more efficient printing process.
  • Flexibility: Wholesale screen printing accommodates varying order frequencies, making it suitable for businesses with fluctuating printing needs.
  • Customization Options: Despite the bulk nature of wholesale printing, our clients still have the flexibility to customize designs and garment types to match their specific requirements.


  • Initial Investment: While bulk printing offers cost advantages per unit, you may need to make a significant initial investment to fulfill minimum order requirements. In most cases, bulk printing quantities start at 500 pieces.
  • Inventory Management: Managing inventory for wholesale orders requires careful planning and accurate sales projections to avoid overstocking or understocking of printed garments.

Custom Screen Printing

Definition: Custom screen printing is the most common method of ordering, where customers approach us with their unique designs and ideas. In this scenario, we not only handle the printing process but also provide the garments and assist with the ordering process. This type of order is where our customer service team really gets to shine!

Key Characteristics:

  • Client-Driven Designs: Custom screen printing revolves around customer-initiated designs, allowing for a wide range of creative possibilities.
  • Full-Service Printing: Unlike contract or wholesale printing, where clients may provide the garments, we are required to provide the garments for all custom screen printing orders.
  • Tailored Solutions: Custom screen printing caters to individual customer preferences, offering personalized solutions for design, garment selection, and order quantities.


  • Creative Freedom: Customers have full control over the design process, enabling them to bring their unique visions to life.
  • Convenience: With Extreme Screen Prints handling both the garments and the printing process, customers enjoy a seamless and convenient experience from design conception to final product delivery.
  • Small Order Flexibility: Custom screen printing accommodates smaller order quantities, all the way down to our 50 piece minimum order quantity, making it suitable for individuals or businesses with limited printing needs.


  • Design Complexity: As is the case with any of our printing services, high color, photorealistic, and oversized printing will incur additional costs and may increase minimum order quantities.
  • Lead Times: While custom printing offers flexibility, customers should consider lead times, especially for complex designs or large orders, to ensure timely delivery. We consider ourselves experts in complex printing, but it does still take time to produce results we’re proud of! That’s why we’re able to achieve great results.


In summary, contract, wholesale, and custom screen printing each have distinct requirements and purposes. Contract printing provides consistency and long-term partnerships for businesses outsourcing their printing needs, while wholesale printing offers cost advantages for bulk orders on a sporadic basis. On the other hand, custom screen printing caters to individual preferences, offering creative freedom and tailored solutions for unique designs. By understanding the differences between these three types of screen printing, businesses and individuals can make informed decisions based on their specific requirements, budget, and desired outcomes. Whether you're looking for ongoing printing support, bulk order fulfillment, or custom design printing services, the Extreme Screen Prints team will partner with you to achieve the highest quality results. Contact us today for more information on your next project today!

Emma Hewitt
Last Updated:
January 31, 2024