With all the different print-on-demand (POD) companies competing for your business, you may feel buried under an avalanche of information and graphic tees. Sorting through and comparing the wide range of print-on-demand services found on Shopify or any eCommerce platform is daunting.
Whether you hope to create a business with print-on-demand, want to sell merchandise to spread brand awareness or think it’d be cool to sell your latest design idea, you must pick the print-on-demand company that’s right for you. In this article, we’ll explain print-on-demand and identify the top five print-on-demand services.
What Is Print-on-Demand?
Print-on-demand is a type of eCommerce where a third party provides printing services for white-label products like T-shirts, tote bags and art prints for you to sell online.
Most print-on-demand companies charge on a per-order basis, which means you don’t have an upfront cost. This model allows eCommerce platform users to set up an online clothing store with minimal inventory and overhead.
When integrated with online marketplaces, the POD fulfillment company receives order information and shipping addresses to handle the order fulfillment, so you can run the entire clothing operation without touching the physical product yourself.
Some print-on-demand service providers even offer third-party logistics (3PL) services. This means you can work with them to supply items to customers and track inventory through their 3PL programs.
Print-on-demand services give you extra flexibility to create any kind of custom product you want, so it has a lot of uses. Here are some example use cases for print-on-demand stores:
- Test new products and business ideas: You can use print-on-demand to test a new business idea or product line without spending a lot of money buying inventory.
- Create merchandise for a target audience: Content creators or independent artists can create print-on-demand products and ship them easily without spending too much time on order fulfillment.
- Launch niche products: You can use the small-scale nature of print-on-demand services to make custom-designed products for niche hobbies like scale modeling or competitive duck herding.
What Are Print-on-Demand Companies?
Print-on-demand companies are businesses that print custom designs on white-label products under your brand. POD companies offer a wide range of products that include t-shirts, hats, tote bags, art prints and mugs.
Many print-on-demand companies offer printing discounts for consistent sales, so you can earn more money if your business is successful. Some of them also provide 3PL services, meaning they’ll handle production and logistics, so you don’t have to handle the merchandise yourself.
Why Is Print-on-Demand Becoming Popular?
Print-on-demand is popular because there’s less commitment than bulk printing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money upfront because you only print the products that are sold instead of printing everything beforehand and trying to sell them.
Print-on-demand is also great for testing new product lines or potential customers, since you can simply stop selling if they don’t perform well on the market. It’s also perfect for limited-edition merchandise – you can cap orders as high or low as you like, depending on how much you plan to sell.
Pros and Cons of Print-on-Demand Fulfillment Services
Working with print-on-demand companies lets you build an online business where a third party handles production and delivery. These partnerships are a popular way to start online businesses because you don’t need to create or store print-on-demand products.
It pays to understand the pros and cons of working with print-on-demand services before starting your business. Here are the benefits of partnering up with print-on-demand companies:
- Fast production times: As long as you have a custom design, you can have your print-on-demand product put on sale and shipped out within several business days.
- Third-party shipping and deliveries: The print provider handles all shipping and deliveries, so you don’t have to handle print-on-demand products.
- Low barrier to entry: You don’t have to spend as much money to start the business because you don’t have to buy supplies and printing machines.
You also need to watch out for these risks when working with print-on-demand stores:
- Lower profit margins: Your upfront cost per item with print-on-demand companies tends to be higher because you’re purchasing individual products, not bulk. This means lower profit-per-sale, making it somewhat harder to make money.
- Less control of shipping: The printing company has complete control over order fulfillment, which makes offering benefits like free shipping difficult.
- Limited product selection: Some print-on-demand vendors may have a limited selection of white-label products to customize.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Print-on-Demand Supplier
Finding the right company helps your print-on-demand business thrive, but how do you find them? Here are three considerations when choosing a print-on-demand business to build long-term business relations with:
Finding print-on-demand businesses with the best product prices is essential. In this context, “the best” doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. In most cases, it pays to spend a little extra on production to get high-quality products.
You also need to choose the right pricing model for print-on-demand services. Print companies either charge a monthly subscription fee or take a cut of your final sale price. Don’t ignore this cost because it influences your profits.
Shipping and Order Fulfillment Costs
Depending on your client base, you may need to offer worldwide shipping. Choose a printing partner that offers reliable shipping and delivery options so you can fulfill orders on time. People expect their orders to arrive as soon as possible, so check whether your prospective partner has fast delivery options like two-day shipping.
Product Offerings and Print Quality
Choose a print-on-demand store that offers a wide range of custom products that fulfill needs. Some online stores may be fine with offering T-shirts, art prints and mugs, but others need to sell custom-printed notebooks and hats.
A broad range of print-on-demand products is nothing without high-quality results. Before settling on a POD site, order some samples so you can physically examine the quality of your POD products.
How to Pick the Right Print-on-Demand Company
There are lots of POD services on the market, so choosing the right one may be challenging. Here are four tips to follow when you’re searching for the best print-on-demand fulfillment service:
Your first exposure to a print-on-demand service will likely be on the Internet. The print-on-demand fulfillment service’s website is a good place to start, but don’t take everything at face value.
Read through reviews on third-party websites, assess the company’s reputation with customers and draw your own conclusions before deciding to work with a print-on-demand fulfillment company. Pay close attention to complaints from customers, but also consider customer success stories so your opinion doesn’t get skewed either way.
Do Printing Tests
If you’ve narrowed your potential POD service candidates to a smaller pool, try ordering sample products from them. Things to consider when doing a test print run include print product quality, reliable turnaround times and additional costs, if any.
Some prospective POD partners may have high-quality prints and a wide range of products but lots of additional costs, while others may have competitive prices but sacrifice product quality. Whatever the results, a test printing run can help you determine which print-on-demand fulfillment company to work with.
Perform Regular Quality Control
The right POD partner now may not be the right one in the future. Order test prints every so often, especially for your most popular products, to ensure everything sold on your online store still fulfills your quality standards.
Talk to your print-on-demand fulfillment company if you receive low-quality prints. Ask them what went wrong during the production process and ensure they can keep the agreed-upon quality standards from when you first entered the business deal.
Communicate With the Vendor
Communication is especially important once you have a long-term business relationship with a print-on-demand fulfillment service. Keep the POD business updated about any complaints or concerns, and ask questions if necessary.
List of Top 5 Best Print-on-Demand Sites
Now that you know what to look for in the best print-on-demand service providers, it’s time to choose one. Here are five of the best and most popular print-on-demand sites on the market today:
Gooten is one of the industry’s most popular print-on-demand services. This white-label printing specialist offers all types and styles of products for your online store and brick-and-mortar locations.
Gooten also makes it easy to design products and add them directly to an already-existing online store. This POD provider’s interface is now more straightforward and much easier to use regardless of your level of tech expertise. So when a customer places an order on the web, it will move through Gooten for printing and packing, then ship directly to the customer without any work on your behalf.
Part of what makes Gooten unique is that it provides global shipping for all products. Gooten partners with numerous print businesses, so there is no cap on the total number of orders. In terms of print quality and additional cost, Gooten’s offers high product quality yet is not as affordable as Printify.
Gooten directly connects to many eCommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce and Etsy.
Printful is one of the major players in the print-on-demand industry. While it’s not quite at the top, Printful is slowly progressing to take that spot from Printify.
Printful acts as the backend of your online marketplace, which handles the entire printing, packaging and shipping process. You can submit orders to Printful manually via its website or use an integrated order form from your online storefront. This potential POD partner also provides third-party logistics services alongside its own 3PL software.
This print-on-demand site boasts excellent printing results and a large selection of high-quality products like clothing, mugs, art prints and dinnerware. However, this high quality and wide range of options come with a higher base price tag than most companies.
While somewhat pricier than other companies, Printful boasts order integrations with major eCommerce platforms like Squarespace, Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, eBay and WooCommerce, with more platforms to be added in the future. The extra cost also comes with high-performance 3PL services that you can’t find at other print-on-demand services.
CustomCat is a popular print-on-demand business that ships within a couple of business days. It offers a broad range of printing methods for your merchandise, like direct-to-garment, three-dimensional dye infusion and sublimation.
CustomCat boasts a large catalog of print-on-demand products for businesses and individuals. It also offers quick integrations with major eCommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce.
CustomCat offers a more reasonable price tag than other POD sites like Printful. However, CustomCat doesn’t offer international shipping, and it also doesn’t provide customizable product packaging.
Teelaunch is a Shopify partner that lets you take print-on-demand orders through your online store. It also boasts many unique items other POD services don’t offer, like basketballs and Apple Watch bands.
Teelaunch offers multiple options for your POD products like direct-to-garment printing, laser etching and cut-and-sew. This print provider delivers within four to five business days and provides a manual order tool if you want to sell printed products in person.
While Teelaunch’s prices aren’t the cheapest, it’s still more affordable than Printful and some of its competitors. In addition to native Shopify support, it also offers integrations with your Etsy store.
Printify is a POD service vendor network, which means it provides digital printing through its many global partners. Depending on Printify’s POD provider selection, your shipping costs and production time may vary.
In terms of printing options, Printify provides cut-and-sew, sublimation, direct-to-garment printing and any option you can think of through their network. With Printify’s monthly premium plan, you also get an additional 20% off your order.
Printify especially excels in its flexibility and speed. Its wide network of vendors and suppliers means you can deliver a broad range of products anywhere in the world.
Print-on-Demand Companies FAQs
Which print-on-demand company is best?
The best print-on-demand company depends on your needs and budget. Review what you need from a print-on-demand store and choose one that can fulfill those requirements.
Is Printful free to use?
Printful offers free setup without additional costs. You’ll only be charged when you start producing and shipping merchandise.
Which is better, drop shipping or print-on-demand?
Both drop shipping and print-on-demand are profitable businesses if you know what you’re doing. POD businesses are better if you want to sell custom products, but drop shipping lets you reach a larger market because you can sell any kind of product.