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Case Study: What is a Setup and why am I being charged for it?

Case Study: What is a Setup and why am I being charged for it?


You're just about to place an order when you notice a line on the quote for a Setup Charge. All you want is your branded swag, you don't need anyone to set it up for you. Or do you...? 

The answer is yes! Multiple factors are involved in setting up artwork on a product to make it ready for Production. A setup charge is the cost of preparing the equipment to apply your artwork to a product, including the cost of labor to manage that equipment.

What Equipment and Labor Does a Setup Fee go Toward?

The process of transferring your artwork onto a product is called decorating. Below are just a few examples of our decoration capabilities. 



Embroidery is used to apply logos to apparel and other items made of canvas or cloth including bags, blankets, etc. Once an eProof is approved for a product that requires embroidery, the first step is to create a digital version of your artwork that an embroidery machine can read.

That file, known as a DST (Digital Stitch Tajima) tape, gives a total stitch count and can tell a machine exactly how to embroider your logo onto a product so that the final result matches the eProof you approved. Typically an embroidered logo can be as colorful as you please, with no additional charge!

More condensed and open logos typically have a lower the stitch count. Logos that are heavy on stitches, or exceed the number of stitches included in a standard setup charge, may require an additional fee. 

Screen Printing


Screen printing is most commonly used on clothing, pens, and drinking vessels. The screen printing method involves decorating your artwork directly onto the surface of an item with a stencil or silkscreen, using ink. Setup charges for screen printing include the cost to make the stencil or silkscreen as well as the cost of standard inks included in the item price.

If your logo requires a non-standard imprint color, there may be an additional ink color match charge. This occurs only if Production does not stock the color your logo requires, therefore it must be specially purchased or mixed. With an infinite number of colors under the sun, there's only space on the shelves for so many!

Heat Transfer


Heat transfer decoration is often used on bags and t-shirts. The heat transfer method, also known as thermal printing, transfers your artwork onto a transfer paper or wax sheet, then onto the product using a printer that applies heat and pressure. It is similar to the process of using a hot iron to apply an iron-on decal. 

Laser Engraving


You can spot laser engraved logos on pens, metal items like stainless steel tumblers, wood, and ceramic products. A laser engraved logo is developed by a laser beam cutting into an item’s surface.

Embossing, Debossing & Foil Stamping

Most often embossing, debossing and foil stamping is found on paper goods like notebooks, as well as leather and leather-like products such as padfolios. These three decoration techniques use a custom metal die to stamp your design onto products. Embossing stamps a 3-D raised design onto a product while debossing indents a product with your logo. For foil stamping, your design is stamped onto the item with metallic foil to give your logo a shiny effect.

Will I Have to Pay an Additional Setup Fee for Each Imprint Color or Location?

It depends on the item. For products being screen printed, any colors or after the first will call for extra equipment and labor, so you may be charged an additional run charge and setup charge.

Similarly, for any additional locations of decoration after the first, regardless of the decoration type, usually a run charge and an additional setup charge are incurred. Unless a product’s description indicates that multiple decoration locations are included in the setup, you can expect to pay a little extra for the additional decoration location.

Why do I have to pay a setup fee on each item?

Each product requires a different setup process due to varying decoration techniques, logo sizes, and product sizes. Various equipment such as screens, pads, or stencils must be utilized to decorate each separate item with your logo.

For example, you need different equipment to engrave your logo into a small branded pen with a 2" W logo, than the machines needed to screen print a 9" W logo on the back of a t-shirt. The decoration area, or space available for decoration, varies from item to item so an individual setup is typically incurred for each item.


Ever wonder why you're being charged for an eProof? An emailed proof is necessary to be sure you, the client, and Adform Creative can agree on our expectations for how the final product will look. This charge is just a token amount towards the time our Graphics Team puts into each layout and is well worth it to get the product produced to your satisfaction the first time! It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Questions? Get in touch.

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