The Top 7 Print On Demand T-Shirt Companies (Printful vs Printify) [April 2021]by Michael Essek · Updated: April 7, 2021
This is my personal review into the best Print on Demand Companies right now.
If you’re looking for a POD fulfilment company to hook up to your Shopify or Etsy store – and want a comprehensive Printful review or Printify review – then this guide is for you.
I’ve been using and testing these companies for several years, and I’m going to dive into each one in detail – in particular Printful vs Printify.
The 7 Best Print On Demand Companies
Here’s my list of the top Print on Demand Companies you should consider right now:
All of the above sites are free to use – you only pay when you generate an order for a product.
I’ve compared these Print on Demand companies based on price, quality, turnaround time, integrations and more.
So read on to find out which white-label POD company is the best choice for your business – whether you’re an independent artist just finding out about Print on demand drop-shipping – or a seasoned seller looking for the best Printful alternatives.
NOTE: This guide deals exclusively with Print on Demand Fulfilment Companies – and is for those who want to sell on-demand products via Shopify, Etsy, eBay, Amazon or their own e-commerce store. If you are looking for Print on demand sites where you just upload artwork and collect royalties (sites like Redbubble, Teepublic, Society6 and Merch by Amazon) – then check out my article on the Best Print on Demand Sites for Artists.
- Chapter 1 – Which Is The Best Print On Demand Company?
- Chapter 2 – Print On Demand Comparison Chart
- Chapter 3 – Other POD Considerations, Tips and Advice
- Chapter 4 – Understanding Print On Demand Companies
- Chapter 5 – Print-On-Demand Fulfillment Factors
- Chapter 6 – My 2021 Recommendations and Predictions
No Time To Read It Now?
Download a Free PDF version of this article & get exclusive Print on Demand news & tips
Which Is The Best Print On Demand Company?
Print on Demand is a growing industry – so I haven’t personally used every potential company out there (there seems to be a new one everyday).
In this guide I’m reviewing the Print on Demand companies I’ve personally used for my Etsy and Shopify stores.
Top Tip: Before you start selling with any of these POD Companies – you should place at least a few sample orders with them directly to check the quality, turnaround and final prices of the goods you’ll be selling.
Below you’ll also find affiliate links to those companies that I use and recommend.
Printful vs Printify
The two most popular POD Fulfillment companies are Printful and Printify.
These guys are dominating the space, and both are investing heavily to grab as much of the Print-On-Demand fulfillment pie as possible.
But there are some major differences between the two, as you’ll see shortly.
For most sellers it’s likely that one of these two companies will do almost everything you could possibly want – at a price you can stomach.
So let’s dive in…
Latvian owned but operating out of Los Angeles, Charlotte, Mexico, Latvia and now Spain – Printful have risen fast to become the dominant force in Print-On-Demand fulfillment.
Let’s take a look at how they shape up on the big questions…
How Does Printful Work?
Printful works as the ‘backend’ for your store – handling the printing, packing and shipping of a product to your customers, on-demand.
You can submit orders to Printful manually, or you can use one of their many integrations that allow orders to be sent to Printful automatically, directly from your Shopify, Amazon, Etsy or Woocommerce store.
Printful’s Quality Of Products
Printful do everything ‘in house’ – meaning when you order something from Printful it actually comes from Printful.
This is probably why Printful have a reputation for some of the highest quality products and printing in the fulfillment game.
If you asked me which company consistently produced the best quality prints, then I would have to say it’s Printful.
Printful do also offer a great range of products to choose from – almost every type of apparel product you could imagine and plenty more besides.
Printful’s Cost Of Goods
Answering the question ‘How Much Does Printful Cost?’ is not straight forward, but in general they are amongst the more expensive of Print-on-demand fulfillment companies.
What you gain on the quality swings, you lose on the pricing roundabouts.
Printful may be producing great quality products, but they certainly aren’t doing it at bargain basement prices:
Printful are usually the most expensive when it comes to Print-on-demand T-Shirts – with a Bella & Canvas 3001 costing $12.95 plus shipping. Yikes!
However you can get a Gildan 6400 from Printful from $7.96…which is not bad. It’s just a shame they only offer that shirt in very limited colours…especially as Printify and others can give you the Bella + Canvas 3001 for the same price.
More thumbs up here for Printful. They have more integrations than anyone else, and are adding new ones all the time…
The Best Print on Demand Company for Shopify?
Printful have become known as the ‘go-to’ Print on Demand company for Shopify users – currently being the most installed and most reviewed of all Shopify Print on Demand apps. (and maintaining a decently high review score aswell).
But their total list of integrations extends far beyond just Shopify, and is longer than that of any competitor.
Here’s what they currently have on offer:
- Big Commerce
- And even more – view Printful’s full list of integrations here…
So no matter how you plan on selling your stuff, Printful will almost certainly have you covered. And of course they offer a simple manual ordering process as well, if you’d prefer to do things that way.
How Long Does Printful Take To Ship?
Printful stated turnaround is 2-7 days, and I can say from personal experience that they seem to be getting closer and closer to that 2 day mark. I’ve even seen some orders leave same day, even during busy periods.
Overall I’d say I’m happy with Printful’s ability to turnaround orders in a timely manner.
(Note: During the lockdown throughout 2020 – Q2 & Q3 specifically – Printful faced serious delays in turnaround time – and was probably hit harder than any other POD fulfilment service. But I’m happy to report this is now almost completely resolved – and Printful are now back to turning around products within a few days).
Where Is Printful Located and Where Does Printful Ship From?
Printful have bases in the USA, Mexico, Latvia and now Spain. This means they can reach most of my customers within a few days.
Because Printful do all their printing in-house across all locations – orders can be automatically routed to whoever is closest. This is a big bonus when compared with a company like Printify – who have no such ability right now.
Any Other Things Worth Mentioning
Printful’s ownership of everything from top to tail means their customer service is usually snappy and able to resolve things quickly. This is not the case with all providers – because others like Printify outsource the printing to others.
Printful grew out of a technology company – and that shows in their site design and ordering process. Everything is slick and easy to use, which makes it ideal for beginners.
Printful also offer additional features like inside labels and pack-ins – which allows you to look much more professional (for an additional fee). These features won’t matter to most people starting out – but it’s good to know you have those options as your business grows.
Printful have also invested heavily in education and training to help users get the most out of Printful and grow their businesses online.
Printful also offer sample orders at a discounted rate (20% off) – and with free shipping – which is a great incentive to try them out.
(If you want to test Printful’s quality without hooking up your entire store straight away – checkout my full guide to placing a Printful Sample order).
Printful Review Verdict
It’s not difficult to see why Printful are generally regarded as the top dog right now.
They’ve invested heavily and continue to do so, and it makes for probably the most user-friendly of print-on-demand fulfillment options. They cover all the bases, have a great product range, and deliver great quality goods.
However – Printful are still very expensive compared to other providers – and as the 2020 lockdown crunch showed – sometimes doing everything ‘in-house’ can be a disadvantage.
Because Printful are so expensive compared to Printify – and because they aren’t able to offer some of the flexibility that comes with Printify’s model – I would personally recommend trying out Printify initially.
If Printify don’t stock the products you’re looking for – or don’t offer the extra features you need, or an integration you rely on – then Printful are almost certainly the next best bet.
Printify is perhaps the biggest Printful competitor, and they differ from Printful in one significant way: they don’t do any printing ‘in house’.
Instead Printify works with various printing ‘partners’ across the world to actually produce and deliver the goods. Printify essentially acts as the middle man, where all orders are centrally managed.
Printify may be using a slightly different model to Printful, but they are still big players in the space – and have some serious backers.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty with Printify.
Printify’s Quality Of Products
You might get tired of hearing this – but because Printify aren’t actually a printer themselves – the quality of goods differs across their various providers. (See a full list of providers here).
The Printify providers I have most experience with are The Dream Junction, MyLocker, Monster Digital and T-Shirt and Sons (UK).
All these printers produce good quality prints – though I often go with The Dream Junction or Monster Digital by default as they are snappier on the turnaround and offer more colour options.
Judging the quality of prints between these providers and Printful is difficult – as quality seems to be improving across the board at a solid pace. I doubt most people would be able to notice any significant difference whatsoever between the average Printify and Printful-based print – and we receive very few complaints regardless of who we use.
I am unable to offer detailed thoughts on all of Printify’s individual providers – but I have no problem recommending either The Dream Junction, Monster Digital or T-Shirt and Sons for T-Shirt printing.
Update: Recently Printify launched the ability to switch print providers on your existing products – which means if your current provider starts lacking you can easily switch to another – without affecting your existing product listing on Etsy, Shopify or damaging your SEO. More details on that feature here.
Printify’s Cost Of Goods
This is where Printify really begins to shine.
Using The Dream Junction, we can get a Bella + Canvas 3001 printed for $8.30. That’s at least $4 less than Printful.
And you can get those prices down further by signing up to Printify’s monthly premium plan – which at $29/m saves you a few more dollars per shirt…so if you sell around 14 shirts a month it pays for itself.
In fact all of Printify’s Print Providers will ship a Bella Canvas 3001 to a US mainland address for less than Printful.
So if competitive pricing is your thing, Printify will probably be where you want to look first.
Printify are catching up on Printful here, but still lagging a bit behind.
Printful do have all the major e-commerce bases covered though, with integrations for:
Chances are you have what you need here…but again if you’re using a more niche platform you’ll need to figure out how to use that with Printify. (They do of course also offer an API, as do almost all other POD Companies).
Printify’s Turnaround Time – The Fastest Print on Demand Company?
Once again this depends on the specific provider used – but despite some ups and downs, I have found The Dream Junction (available via Printify) to be largely keeping to it’s stated production time of around 1-2 days – but you should certainly test this yourself to get the most recent, accurate results.
To be honest there’s probably not much in it – during normal times- between that and Printful. But right now Printify take my award for current fastest Print on Demand company by a whisker.
Everyone seems to have upped the turnaround time in the past year and I hope that doesn’t revert back anytime soon. But if you’re using another provider, it’s always best to place some test orders to get an accurate picture of turnaround times.
Printify’s Fulfilment Locations
Printify does boast Print Providers around the world – mainly US but also UK, Germany and CZ at time of writing. (Click here to view all the Printify providers right now.)
This is good news for us international sellers who want to produce and ship products as close to our customers as possible.
The bad news is that each product in Printify must be associated with only one provider – so there is no ‘auto-routing’ of orders to the closest fulfillment partner to the customer. (unlike Printful). [Update: Printify does now have an order-routing feature, but this only works when your initial print provider doesn’t have the item in stock].
But if you’re looking for someone to get started with and you’d like to have some international options – Printify does has you covered.
Any Other Things Worth Mentioning
Like Printful, Printify have built an easy to use interface which makes creating and ordering a breeze.
And because they work with a variety of providers, they are adding new and unique products all the time – some of which you won’t find at Printful.
On the negative side – customer service is somewhat lacking with Printify. It can be difficult getting up-to-date information regarding order progress, editing orders or upgrading shipping – because Printify are just the middle men.
At busy periods it’s hard to get swift responses or resolutions from Printify – which makes it hard to resolve issues before an order ships.
Printful on the other hand (because they print in-house) are able to act on most things immediately, and you’re also able to edit already-placed orders yourself (whereas you can’t edit an order once placed in Printify).
Printify Overall Verdict
What Printify have really going for them is the competitive prices and range of providers and products – this makes them a true Printful competitor, and a great choice for those just starting out.
However, if you want to grow your brand with features like custom labels, pack-ins or warehousing – you won’t be able to do that with Printify – and in general, if you need your hand-holding, Printful may be a better option.
But in 2021 – I would personally recommend Printify as the best place to start – as they offer you the most competitive prices and a flexibility that isn’t available via Printful. Just remember that Printify don’t do anything ‘in-house’ – and that means you’ll have to test with each supplier you use – plus customer service issues can take longer to resolve.
Gooten are certainly lesser known than our previous two contenders, but they have a decent product catalog, competitive pricing, and fulfillment centres outside the US (for certain products).
Gooten’s Quality Of Products
Gooten seem to be using various print providers around the world, similar to how Printify operates – though you aren’t actually able to choose your providers directly like on Printify.
I have never used Gooten for regular orders, though I have placed a few orders with them at various times for specific products.
As far as quality goes, I can say the T-Shirt prints I’ve received are of comparable quality to Printify, and not far behind Printful.
Gooten’s Cost Of Goods
Gooten are cheaper than Printful but more expensive that Printify, (in most cases at least).
A Bella Canvas 3001 (medium size) works out at $9.90, with shipping to US mainland at $4.95.
that’s $14.49 all in, still cheaper than the $17+ you’re looking at with Printful.
Gooten are lagging behind Printful and Printify when it comes to integrations:
Etsy(not live yet) Woocommerce(logo shows up on the Gooten homepage, but I can’t find any information about this on their site)
And another thing to point out – Gooten don’t have direct Amazon integration. You can hook up your Shopify with Amazon and use Gooten for fulfillment…but you could do the same with any fulfillment company that has a Shopify app.
If you’re using another ecommerce platform or looking to list on a different marketplace, then Gooten does offer a manual ordering option.
Gooten’s Turnaround Time
Unfortunately Gooten aren’t the most consistent when it comes to turnaround times.
A recent T-Shirt order took 6 days to ship out…whereas a poster shipped out the same day.
I’d have to place some more orders to get a more accurate sense of turnaround, but right now Gooten could be much faster and more consistent – so if speed really matters to you then it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
Gooten’s Fulfilment Locations
Gooten states they have fulfillment in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia…though getting specific details on exactly which countries they ship from in difficult.
You can take a look through their product catalog – certain products specify where they can be produced, but nothing here is explicit or that easy to find.
Any Other Things Worth Mentioning About Gooten
I first tried out Gooten a few years ago, and found their interface and ordering system to be incredibly difficult to use.
The good news is that things have improved and the ordering process is now more straightforward – though I’d say the interface is still more confusing than either Printify’s or Printful’s. This is especially true when trying to look up previous order information – for example, finding shipping tracking information is not easy at all.
Gooten Overall Verdict
Gooten are offering a broad range of products and reasonable pricing, plus international fulfillment…but they aren’t doing anything that isn’t already being done cheaper, slicker or faster by Printify and Printful.
The interface could be nicer, turnaround times could be faster, and there could be more transparency about their international fulfillment locations.
Printful and Printify Alternatives
Throughout 2019, Printify and Printful are who I used for almost all of my fulfillment, with a few test orders at Gooten and a few others.
But I do have previous experience with some other companies like Printful and Printify – so let’s take a look at some of them…
Before Printify really developed it’s offering, I was using Custom Cat for cheaper prints that Printful with decent turnaround times.
So whilst CustomCat’s prices are still better than Printful, they aren’t matching Printify.
They do have quite a decent product offering and integration with Shopify and Woocommerce– but because they only use one printer (MyLocker), based in Detroit – you don’t have the international fulfillment, or any other branding options like stickers or custom packaging.
TeeLaunch have been around a while, focused mainly on serving Shopify store owners. They now also offer Etsy integration, but otherwise they haven’t really kept pace with their competitors.
Product Prices are not the most competitive – cheaper than Printful but still bested by Printify and others.
A decent range of products and decent turnaround from my memory – though I must say I have not used Teelaunch for at least 12 months.
Their site and interface seem a little dated now, especially when compared with Printful – but this is perhaps mainly because they are targeting Shopify store owners and not anyone else.
Hard one to recommend when you compare them to the competition.
PrintAura were one of the first companies offering Print-On-Demand fulfillment, and they were who I used exclusively for the first few years of my business.
Like Teelaunch and others, it’s hard to see why you would want to try these guys out given the current competition: their prices are higher than Printful’s (!), and their interface and website looks really dated right now.
Again, it’s been at least a year since I fulfilled anything with Printaura – so I can’t comment on their current quality or turnaround.
Scalable Press are another early bird in the Print-On-Demand white label world – and they handle fulfillment for some big brands.
Their pricing is competitive (circa $9 for a Bella Canvas shirt plus shipping) and their order process is fairly straightforward, but their turnaround times can vary wildly.
Overall it seems Scalable Press are more focused on large brands and even bulk order production, rather than serving the independent seller market.
However – for posters I have found Scalable Press to be the most competitively priced, and very fast on turnaround times. I have been using them for at least 12 months for all my posters, without any complaints and with low prices and fast turnarounds throughout the year.
So whilst I can’t really speak to their T-Shirt printing quality, I can say I’m happy to recommend ScalablePress as a cheap and fast print-on-demand poster fulfillment company.
Other Notable Print-On-Demand Companies:
Of course there are plenty of other on-demand T-Shirt printing companies besides those I’ve reviewed above – so here’s a list of other Printful and Printify alternatives and competitors you might want to check out:
- AllOverPrint (UK based – easy to use app – often adding new products)
- InkThreadable (UK Based)
- Spod (powered by Spreadshirt, promising 2 day turnaround)
- Art of Where (based on Canada)
Do you know another Print-On-Demand Company that you should be listed here? Message me and let me know.
What About TeeSpring / Spreadshirt / Threadless etc?
There’s a lot of Print-On-Demand companies out there and I can’t get to all of them, but let me address a few of these and explain why they aren’t really Print-on-demand Fulfillment companies in the same way that Printful and Printify are…
TeeSpring and others of that ilk are again not really white-label fulfillment companies – and indeed they don’t offer direct integration with any third party platform like Shopify or Etsy right now. They may offer print-on-demand clothing, but they are not really a Printful competitor.
So whilst their base price for a T-Shirt on Spring may be cheaper than Printful or Printify, you can’t hook them up with your own platform – you need to send customers directly to them.
That may work for you – but typically I don’t want to drive traffic to anywhere other than my own store; on a domain and setup I have complete control over.
(Another such company is Teemill – they allow you to setup your own store and they handle all the printing etc. – you can even use your own domain – but you don’t have complete control over the site or the customer data).
Spreadshirt, Cafepress and others (Rageon, Zazzle, etc.) – are marketplaces or e-retailers primarily. (Note: Spreadshirt do now have a dedicated fulfillment Shopify app – Spod).
But again, most such companies don’t offer fulfillment and integration options for use with third-party platforms, so they aren’t what we’re looking for or comparing here.
…And same goes for Threadless. Yes you can get a somewhat ‘branded’ storefront on a threadless domain with Threadless Artist Shops (yourstore.threadless.com) – but you can’t use threadless to fulfil orders you recieve via Shopify or Etsy.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use Threadless, Rageon or Teespring (I still have designs on all those) – it just means they aren’t a Print-On-Demand fulfillment company that I can hookup with my Shopify store.
Note: If you’re looking for places you can sell your art online (sites like Redbubble) – then check out my detailed guide to the Best Print on Demand Sites for Artists.
Print On Demand Company Comparison
To make comparing the biggest Print-on-demand fulfillment companies easier, I’ve put together this Print on Demand Company Comparison Chart.
For the price comparison I am using a Bella + Canvas 3001 Unisex T-Shirt, size Large, front-print only, shipped to 1 USA mainland address (No expedited shipping, no extras).
Why The Bella & Canvas 3001?
The Bella & Canvas 3001 is a lightweight, fashion-fitted style T-Shirt that looks and feels a lot nicer than lower end options.
It is the shirt I now use for most of my Shopify store products – because I prefer it slightly to the Next Level 3600. (Although to be fair, there’s relatively little between them).
So I chose this product as our comparison choice because it’s the kind of shirt I would expect a Designer, Artist or Brand Owner to gravitate towards when starting out. If you want to build a brand and have repeat customers, then this is the kind of Shirt you would want to use.
It’s one you won’t be worried about sending out to customers – it isn’t overly thick, boxy or otherwise cheap-feeling.
So yes – you can get much cheaper shirts than this. But I wouldn’t personally use anything of a lesser quality, assuming you want your customers to actually come back and purchase from you again.
Anyway, let’s get into the comparison chart…
Print On Demand Comparison Chart
|Cost Of Goods||Printful||Printify*||Gooten|
|Bella + Canvas Printed T-Shirt Price||$12.95||$8.30||$9.90|
|Total Shipped Product Price (Shirt + Shipping)||$16.94||$12.30||$15.51|
|Profit at $25 Retail (inc. Shipping)||$8.06||$12.70||$9.49|
|Monthly Profit selling 10 at $25||$80.60||$127.00||$94.90|
|Monthly Profit selling 50 at $25||$403.00||$635.00||$474.50|
|Monthly Profit selling 100 at $25||$806.00||$1,272.00||$948.00|
|Stated Turnaround||2-7 days||3 days||2-5 days|
|Actual Turnaround||2 days||2 days||5 days|
|Shipping Estimate||3-4 days||4 days||3-4 days|
|Logos on Package, Packing Slip||Yes||No||No|
|Inside Labels, Outside Labels (additional cost)||Yes||Yes†||No|
|Pack-Ins (additional cost)||Yes||No||No|
|Warehousing (additional cost)||Yes||No||No|
|Essek Scores (My Personal Opinion)||Printful||Printify*||Gooten|
|Built In Mock Up Options||Best||Ok||Ok|
|Sign Up||Sign Up||Sign Up|
- * For Printify, this is using Dream Junction as the Print Partner
- † Neck Labels are not available with all Print Providers
- This assumes you don’t pay for Printify’s Premium Plan (£29/m). If you did, your price for a single shirt would be $7.25, and profits would increase accordingly.
- For more reviews, you can check out the Shopify App reviews for each of these companies here: Printful Shopify Reviews / Printify Shopify Reviews / Gooten Shopify Reviews.
Other POD Considerations, Tips and Advice
There’s a lot of moving parts with Print-On-Demand T-Shirt Companies – so I’m going to share some tips and advice that should leave you better prepared to make a success of your POD business in 2021.
Shipping And Other Costs
Most Fulfillment companies charge very similar shipping prices – because they’re usually passing on the cost of the shipping directly.
Nevertheless, make sure you don’t overlook the shipping price. A cheap t-shirt won’t make much difference to your profit if you’re paying significantly more for the shipping.
There are also other costs that are going to be applicable – for example – if you’re using a marketplace, then you will most likely be charged a fee based on a percentage of any sales made.
If you’re selling directly on your own brand store, then your payment processor (PayPal or stripe for example) are going to take a percentage of the sale too.
So bear that in mind from the get-go and work it into your projections, because at relatively low price points, it can really eat into your profit per sale.
Other potential additional costs include (but are not limited to):
- monthly fees or listing fees from your marketplace (Amazon, Etsy etc.) or from your web host or commerce platform (eg. Shopify)
- monthly fees from your fulfillment partner. (Eg. Printify’s Premium Plan costs 29/m.)
- Sales tax or other taxes
There could be other things too – like Shopify apps or other software, but for the ‘bare bones’ of a T-Shirt site with fulfillment partner – the above are the ones you want to look out for.
The bread and butter for Print-on-demand fulfillment companies is DTG or Direct-To-Garment Printing – which is basically a big CMYK printer that prints directly onto fabric.
That’s great for the vast majority of T-Shirt designs, but if you want to do ‘All-over-printing’ (Sublimation) or embroidery – your fulfillment options may become more limited.
Branding Options: Logos on Packaging, Pack-Ins, Custom Labels and Warehousing
This is a big one for independent sellers and artists – as we often like to give stuff that ‘personal touch’ – which is rarely something you can do with Print-on-demand fulfillment.
Most T-Shirt fulfillment printers will simply send the product off in an unmarked poly-bag, and your customer won’t know by looking at the packaging who or where it came from.
Same goes for the shirt – the design is the only thing that will identify what or where this came from.
However, some forward-thinking fulfillers are beginning to change that.
Printful have the option to print custom labels inside or outside your garments (for a not-insignificant additional cost) – plus sleeve printing, should that interest you.
And on the packaging side Printful offer a brand logo on the package (FREE), a custom packing slip included (FREE – again, with logo – and an optional custom packing slip message) – plus the option to include ‘pack-ins’ like stickers or other goodies (not free – you have to produce these and have them sent to Printful, plus you pay a storage and picking fee).
Some of these options are not cheap and will certainly eat into your profit, but if you’re trying to give the personal touch, look professional and help your customer feel they’ve had a great experience – then it’s good to know you have those options available with Printful.
As far as I know Printaura are the only other fulfillment company to offer such branding options, shown below:
Printful also offer warehousing for non POD goods – meaning you can use them to fulfil stuff you’ve had produced in some other way (Eg. a bulk order of screenprinted shirts, or shipping out stickers on your behalf). Of course there are warehousing storage and other additional costs – but at least you’ve got the option there (and direct integration directly with your ecommerce platform of choice).
Refunds, Returns, Oh My!
You may be using a fulfillment company, but your customer doesn’t know that.
So they’re going to come to you with refund requests, complaints, questions about delivery etc.
Refunds in the world of DTG printing are not easy – because everything is custom ordered. No fulfillment company I’m aware of will offer a refund for orders unless there was an issue with the print quality or product quality.
This means if you honour a customers refund request and return their money – you’ll be making a loss on that order, roughly equal to the original cost of the fulfillment and shipping of the shirt.
So you need to bear this in mind – how are you going to handle refund requests?
Are you going to say you don’t accept refunds – or are you going to eat the cost?
As long as your refund rate is kept low and you make more than a handful of sales a month, you shouldn’t need to worry about losing money – but it’s always good to plan ahead.
I like to re-use refunded shirts where possible by asking customers to send them on to me directly (rather than back to the fulfillment company) – and then offering that shirt in a giveaway or competition on Instagram. (That way at least you get something for your trouble.)
Or you could collect all your refunded shirts at the end of the year and give them to charity – that would make a pretty good feel-good IG post also.
Selling Via A Marketplace vs. Your Own Store
If you’re interested in building your own brand for the long term (and you should be) – then you want to retain as much customer data as possible – to allow you to market to those customers in the future.
If you sell on a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy, then you have limited ability to get any customer data whatsoever.
Whereas with your own store built on Shopify or Woocommerce, you can do the following:
- Get the email address and physical address data of all customers, allowing for future marketing efforts
- Incentivise customers to submit their email address (eg. With a discount coupon)
- Install a Facebook Pixel (or Google equivalent) that will allow you to re-target those customers in future – aswell as help you to build up audiences of similar customers who are more likely to buy your products
- Offer customers the option of other interaction – such as via FB messenger or WhatsApp – again increasing your future marketing options.
- ..and much more besides (that’s really just a taster)
So if ‘brand building’ is your thing – it makes sense to choose a Print-On-Demand Fulfillment partner who can hook up with Shopify, Woocommerce or some other such platform that allows you to do at least some of the things listed above.
Mock-Ups, Customer Customisation, APIs, Additional Services…
- Mockups. All fulfillment companies will produce at least a basic mockup of the final product which you can use for the product image on your ecommerce story or marketplace listing. Printful probably offer the broadest range of possible images (shown below), though I personally prefer to use my own custom versions anyway.
- Personalisation tools. This is something currently only offered by Printful and Teelaunch, and it only works with Shopify. It creates a ‘customize’ button on your product page, which allows customers to change the text or upload a custom image to a template you’ve already created. Pretty basic in it’s functionality, but it’s a nice feature that I hope they’ll continue to develop. Here’s what Printful’s looks like in action: (more info on how to set it up here)
- Print-On-Demand Fulfillment APIs. If you’re a coder or computer genius, then you might prefer to use an API to deliver orders. The good news is that this is offered by almost all POD drop-shippers – allowing you to create whatever kind of customer integration you require. More info on that here: Printful API / Printify API / Gooten API.
- Additional services. Printful also offer a few other services that aren’t directly related to fulfillment, but are pretty cool nonetheless, such as; Custom Product photography to create custom images for your store, same for video, store setup services and also design services. All of these of course cost money, but features like custom photography could be attractive for those of us who want things to look really professional but don’t have a generous photographer friend with studio.
My 2021 Recommendations and Predictions
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably already decided who would be the best Print-on-demand T-Shirt company for you.
But if you’ve skipped to the end, here’s my simple advice for 2021…
The Best Print-On-Demand Fulfillment Company In 2021:
Printify vs Printify
Printify have gained ground on Printful recently – mainly due to the flexibility of their model and their consistently cheaper base prices.
Printify’s print quality is solid, they are usually speedy on turnaround, and you can choose from Print providers around the world (you can now also switch providers, even with a live product). They cover all the major integrations and have an easy to use interface.
However, as they don’t actually print ‘in-house’ – they can’t offer the extra features and branding that Printful can. But for many people this will be more than made up for by the price savings available from Printify – they are the most competitively priced in the Print-on-demand fulfillment market. (Scroll up to read my full Printify Review ).
Printful are the market leader and with good reason – they produce great quality prints with fast turnarounds, from multiple locations around the world. They offer the broadest range on integrations, offer additional branding possibilities, have solid customer support and the slickest interface in the game.
The only downside is their often uncompetitive pricing and limits on capacity – as displayed during the 2020 lockdowns. Printful are still a solid bet, but you are likely to get comparable quality and turnaround at a better price using Printify. (Scroll up to read my full Printful Review ).
- New step-by-step guide: How To Place Your First Order With Printful
No Time To Read It Now?
Download a Free PDF version of this article & get exclusive Print on Demand news & tips
What Is A Print On Demand Business?
Print-On-Demand fulfillment is a relatively new industry, one that has developed only in the past several years.
So if you’re wondering ‘what is POD fuflillment?’ or ‘how does Printful work?‘ – then you’ve nothing to be ashamed of – and you’re in the right place!
Print-on-demand technology is not exactly new, but the arrival of companies who will print and ship as a ‘white label’ service for independent sellers and designers is a recent development – and their growth has been significant.
It doesn’t matter whether you call them ‘Print On Demand Fulfillment companies’, ‘T-Shirt Drop-shipping Companies’ or ‘White-Label T-Shirt Printers’ – it’s really all the same thing.
So let’s dive into what exactly they are, how they work and who would want to use them.
What Is A Print On Demand T-Shirt Company?
A Print-On-Demand T-Shirt Company handles the printing and shipping of T-Shirts to your customers, as and when orders come in.
You can think of them like the ‘back end’ or ‘back of house’ of your business: you receive an order from your customer – you pass the details on to your Fulfillment partner – and they print the artwork onto the T-Shirt and then ship it out to the address provided.
‘Print On Demand’ means that there are no pre-printed T-Shirts sitting in a warehouse waiting to be ordered.
And the ‘Fulfillment’ part means that these companies are not customer-facing – they work like drop-shipping companies.
As far as your buyers are concerned, the T-Shirt they ordered may have come directly from your house, packed personally by you.
That’s because these companies provide a ‘white label’ service – meaning they print the product, package and ship it out to your customer. They do not handle sales or receive orders directly from your customers – that’s your job.
Print-On-Demand fulfillment companies are different from Print-On-Demand marketplaces (like Redbubble, Teepublic and others) – because the fulfillment companies are only offering T-Shirt and fulfillment services – and not interacting with the customer directly:
Most Print-On-Demand Marketplaces (Redbubble, Teepublic, Society6 etc.) handle everything, and pay designers a royalty on every sale. (Note: to find out more about selling on POD sites like Redbubble, see my article: The Best Print on Demand Sites For Artists).
But Print-On-Demand Fulfillment Companies only handle the printing and shipping – which means they don’t pay you anything – instead you pay them, and keep whatever the difference is between what your customer paid and what you paid your T-Shirt Fulfillment company.
Many designers, illustrators, brands, celebrities, organisations and independent sellers use Print-on-demand fulfillment companies to handle their merch – because it’s more convenient than doing it themselves; it allows them to offer a broad range of products, and they don’t have to invest large amounts of money to get started – which means they can turn a profit immediately.
Finally – I should also point out that whilst Print-on-demand T-Shirts and other apparel items are the most popular products offered via fulfillment companies – almost all of them offer many more product categories, such as posters, mugs, cushions, hats, embroidered goods, all over printed shirts and many more.
Why You’d Want To Use A Print-On-Demand Fulfillment Company
There are a couple of reasons why you’d want to use a POD fulfillment company like Printful or Printify.
- You want to sell T-Shirts featuring your designs, but you don’t want to print shirts yourself, and you don’t have the money to purchase a bulk order of screen-printed shirts.
- You want to sell your products through your ‘own brand’ store, rather than send customers to another site (i.e. Redbubble, Amazon, TeeSpring) to purchase.
- You want to sell your products through a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy, but again without having to pre-purchase stock or inventory.
Using a Print-on-demand fulfillment company allows you to do all of the above – because by using them you can offer products for sale that don’t physically exist yet – and to do it with little to no upfront investment.
If your products sell, then you pass on the orders to a fulfillment partner and they do the rest.
And if your product doesn’t sell – at least you haven’t lost a load of cash on a pile of screen-printed shirts that are only going to take up basement or garage space.
This is why using a print-on-demand fulfillment company makes so much sense for the newbie designer or artist just dipping their feet into the world of selling online: there’s very little to lose.
You can use POD fulfillment companies to help you test your products and concepts to see if they will sell – all the while focusing your crucial capital on growing your audience, on marketing and advertising.
Print-On-Demand Fulfillment Factors
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to print-on-demand fulfillment.
If you want to build a long-term business selling your designs online, then who you choose to handle the printing and shipping of your products is of critical importance.
That’s because choosing the wrong printing partner could do significant damage to your reputation with customers…and it can be both time consuming and difficult to switch POD providers once you’re up and running.
So let’s take a look at some of the factors you need to consider when choosing a Print-On-Demand T-Shirt Company.
Quality Of Products And Printing Quality
Your business exists to serve customers, and nobody likes to receive a crappy product.
The good news is that most Print-On-Demand companies use essentially the same technology, print onto identical blank shirts using near identical Direct-To-Garment printers.
And as the Print-On-Demand industry has taken off, investment into the technology has grown – which means that the quality of the prints are improving year on year.
That said – there are inevitable quality differences between companies. These could range from minor colour discrepancies to crappy prints that disappears after the first wash.
The best way to test the quality of any Print-on-demand drop-shipper is simply to order a few samples for yourself directly from the companies you’re thinking of using. This should cost less than $20 per shirt, and is well worth the investment to ensure you’re pleased with what your potential customers could be receiving.
(In fact, most of the big POD fulfillment companies encourage you to order samples, and offer a discounted price for doing so.)
I’m pleased to say that all of the companies reviewed below deliver decent quality printing in my experience, and complaints from customers over the past few years have been few and far between.
The Cost Of Goods
Perhaps the single most important piece of information you need when starting out – what is it going to cost you?
This is going to determine the price you charge your customers, and could mean the difference between making and losing money.
Print-On-Demand fulfillment companies usually combine the cost of the blank t-shirt with the printing, production and packaging – and charge you a flat fee for all those elements – anywhere between $6-$13+.
On top of that you will have to add the cost of shipping the product out to the customer – usually between $3-$6 depending on the customer’s address in relation to the printers location.
This means Print-On-Demand Shirts come out much more expensive than a single screen-printed equivalent – because you are ordering one-at-a-time – as opposed to a big bulk order with a significant volume discount.
A single T-Shirt order shipped to a US mainland address will typically cost me around $12. If I sold the Shirt for $20 then that’s around an $8 profit (though there will be other considerations there – covered later).
Here’s an example of the maths:
As we’ve already seen – prices for goods can differ greatly depending on the Fulfillment company you choose – and we’ll get into that when we dive into our reviews below.
Your Selling Platform (Where And How and You Receive Orders)
How are you going to be receiving orders from your customers?
Are you looking for a Print on Demand Company for your Shopify or Woocommerce store?
Or are you going to sell via a marketplace such as Etsy or Amazon?
Whichever it is – most of the major print-on-demand companies offer direct integration with the most popular selling platforms – meaning that once a customer places an order it can pass directly through to your fulfillment company automatically, without your involvement.
This is a great time saver and (usually) removes the possibility of humans screwing up orders.
It also means there’s no delay in the process – so customers should receive the product as quickly as possible.
And another advantage – it means your POD fulfillment company can let your customers know when their order has shipped – again automatically – without your input.
If you’d rather place orders manually, then the vast majority of Print-On-Demand drop-shippers allow this too. (This is a good option for people just starting out and testing the waters).
So if you’re looking for the best Print On Demand companies for Etsy, or the best Print On Demand companies for Shopify – read on.
(Spoiler Alert: almost all the major Print On Demand T-Shirt Companies have both Etsy and Shopify Integrations).
The Turnaround Time (Which is the fastest Print On Demand Company?)
After quality and price, the biggest consideration for customers shopping online is how fast they will receive their order. (Amazon Prime has made super-fast delivery an expectation for many people.)
Unfortunately there are no print-on-demand fulfillment companies who can guarantee next-day delivery on orders. Instead you’re usually looking at between 2-10 days to print the shirt, and then a few more days from ‘shipped’ to ‘delivered’ – in ‘normal’ circumstances (ie. not during Q4 or a global pandemic).
Turnaround time can vary considerably across print-on-demand fulfillment companies – though I have seen vast improvements across the board in the past year or so.
So which is the fastest Print on Demand company?
At time of writing, I’d say Printify (using MyLocker or DreamJunction) are printing and shipping products the fastest.
But the best way to get an accurate idea of the turnaround time is to place a few orders with a few companies and see how they do. Obviously you want the fastest possible turnaround to avoid angry emails or messages from frustrated customers.
Note: During Q4 (Quarter 4 – Christmas shopping season) everyone slows down and print times extend considerably. I often switch between providers depending on the season, to maintain decent turnaround times.
The Location Of Your Customers
Where do the majority of your customers live?
If it’s in mainland USA then you’re in luck – all the biggest POD fulfillment companies have you well covered.
However, things get a little less consistent when it comes to Canada, Europe or further out still.
This is because the major fulfillment warehouses (where the goods are actually printed and shipped from) are usually located in the states – with just a couple of new providers now popping up across Europe.
If it’s important to you where the goods come from – then this is something to bear in mind.
After all, your UK based customers may be frustrated and confused to discover that the UK-related Shirt they thought they had ordered from a UK company is actually slowly making it’s way to them from across the Atlantic.
Print on Demand can be a very profitable way to build your business – because you don’t have the initial setup costs usually associated with selling physical products.
Print on Demand fulfilment costs are beginning to approach – and in some cases beat – the costs you would expect to pay for a small run of screen-printed T-Shirts, for example.
However, your profitability depends on the price you charge to customers – and of course on who you use to fulfil your products. As you can see in this Print on Demand comparison chart – some Print on Demand companies charge much higher prices than others.
Get A FREE PDF Version Of This Guide
Download a Free PDF version of this article & get exclusive Print on Demand news & tips
Alright – so now you know my thoughts and recommendations for the best Print on demand companies in 2021.
If you spot a mistake, or think I’ve missed something – please message me via my contact page so I can keep this page as up to date as possible.
Please leave a comment below to let me know which Print-on-Demand company you’re using in 2021 – and why.
If you’d like to receive more content like this direct to your email inbox, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter here.
Thanks for reading!
– Michael Essek