An Artist’s Guide to Print on Demand

print-on-demand-for-artists

*UPDATE: This article was originally written in January 2016, and has been updated as of December 2016 with new information to reflect the current state of print on demands for the artist. This is the most accurate and up to date information you’ll find on this subject anywhere.
 
By now I’m sure you’ve all heard of a little thing called print on demand (POD for short), but do you really know what it is, why you should be using it, and which print on demand services to avoid like a hoard of hungry zombies?

No?

Well then, this is the post you’ve been looking for.

Before we talk about what qualities we should be looking for in a POD service provider, I feel the need to talk a bit about the big companies that come to most people’s minds when they think of print on demand. I think for most people, print on demand means companies like Redbubble, Zazzle, or Fine Art America. While it’s true that these companies have a POD service attached to their sites (several different ones in fact), they’re not strictly PODs themselves. Companies like this should be thought of more as online art galleries as opposed to print on demands. Their primary goal is to show and sell an artist’s work. Their print on demand service is simply a by-product of that goal.

Wait…

Strike that.

Their primary goal is to make tons of money by taking advantage of artists, paying small percentages of the total sales, printing low quality items, and using the artist to bring them customers which they promptly steal and market other artists’ work to. Companies like this put your art in their packaging with their company logo and name, invoice in their company name, and add your customers to their mailing list, all of which is horrible for you as the artist.

A good POD, a real POD, does the exact opposite of those things.

When considering these companies as a viable option for selling your art, you should ask yourself this question – how do sites like Redbubble, Zazzle, and Fine Art America stay in business? Their websites are huge and expensive to maintain. Their email service alone sends thousands of emails each month to artists and people who have made purchases. The bigger the email list, the more expensive it is to manage it. I can guarantee these companies spend thousands of dollars each month just to send out emails.

So where do they get the money to pay for their expensive sites? How do they pay their bills? It’s free for an artist to put their work on these sites, so they aren’t getting it from the artist. That only leaves them one choice – to get it from your customers. These sites use you to bring them customers. They always get more money than you do, and they add your customers to their list so they can make even more.

Remember last week when I said that in order for a business to be profitable it must:

  • Increase its customer base
  • Increase the average transaction amount
  • Increase the number of transactions per customer

These companies use you to bring them customers to increase their customer base.

Then they suggest artwork by other artists to the people you worked hard to bring over to increase the average transaction amount for each customer.

They then add your customer to their mailing list so they can spam them with special deals and product offerings in an effort to get them to purchase again, to increase the overall number of transactions per customer.

It’s good business for them and very bad business for you. These guys are not PODs, they are art-for-the-masses megastores, and they are in business for themselves. They do not give a shit about you.

What to Look for in a
Print on Demand Company

 

A good print on demand company should be first and foremost, invisible to your customer. Your customers, the ones you worked hard to acquire, are not their customers. You are their customer. As their customer, you are the source of their income, and they should work hard to make you happy with quality products and services. You are the reason they are in business.

A good print on demand company should:

  • Have white-label shipping with your branding on everything
  • Have set prices for their products and services
  • Clearly state their shipping charges
  • Have fast turn around time
  • Let you set your own profit margins
  • Get paid by you after the sale, and not the other way around
  • Have excellent customer service
  • Have no minimum order amounts
  • Integrate with your store
  • Make products that have quality printing

Fortunately for us, there are several companies that meet most or all of these criteria.

The following recommendations are based on how well each of the companies meet the qualifications laid out above. While there are at least ten options in the POD category that an artist could use for this service, I have narrowed them down to three for this post.

Each of these companies made the list for different reasons, and we will be using all of them on our store at the same time. All of them use white label shipping, and between the three of them, we will be able to build out our brands, automate product creation, payment, and shipping, and keep our customers for ourselves. The companies I recommend and will be using to build out our test store are The Printful, CG Pro prints, and Printify.

Let’s take a look at them one at a time.

 

printful-logo (2)

Throughout the rest of the posts in this series, we will be using The Printful as our primary print on demand service. The Printful is a small startup company that operates out of California. They print everything in house and their quality is top notch. More importantly, their quality control is one of the best in the business.

Because they are a startup, a relatively new company that needs to prove themselves in the market, they understand the needs of small business owners like us. They know what it’s like to start a new business from the ground up.

The Printful currently integrates with:

The Printful interface is easy to use. They make it as easy as possible to connect their service to your store and to mock up your art on the products they offer, so you can show pictures of your products in your store. They don’t have all of their products available in their mock up generator yet, but they provide mock up images and templates for every product to easily create product images using Photoshop or other image editing software.

The Printful’s customer service is amazing. They are quick to answer any question you have and will work with you if you have a problem. They also have an extensive collection of how-to videos on their YouTube channel and plenty of other resources to help you get up and running. These guys really are the shit.

If I had any complaint about The Printful at all, it would be that their low-priced product offerings are a bit limited. They don’t do stickers, and their art print sizes are rather limited as well, with no small, low cost sizes available.

While I see these as limitations, these things could also be seen as a testament to their commitment to quality. They don’t make everything in every size and shape, they only make what they are really good at making, and consequently, everything they make is really good.

In the model that we are building in these posts, we will use The Printful for our high quality, higher priced items including:

  • All-over die sublimated shirts, dresses, and skirts
  • Digital printed (DGT) garments (including shirts, sweatshirts, socks, baby clothing, and pet clothing)
  • Phone cases
  • Mugs
  • Tote bags
  • Pillows
  • Leggings
  • Hats and beanies

That’s actually a lot of products, especially when you start thinking about size and color variants. For example, let’s say you have ten images you want to put on products. If you put those images on shirts, you’ll need different sizes like small, medium, and large, and you’ll want different colored shirts as well, let’s say white, black, blue, gray, and pink. Each color is offered in the sizes above, so if we do the math, that equals 150 shirt styles to choose from. Not too shabby. Add in the other product types and you’ll have several hundred products all from a single print on demand company.

But as good as they are, The Printful doesn’t offer everything we need (yet). To make our business model run at peak efficiency, we need to have at least some low cost items to offer as incentive to turn “just lookers” into paying customers. For our model, we need some products, perhaps small prints or stickers or buttons, that we can sell at cost. Ideally, we want something that we can offer to our customers for 99 cents.

What we want is a product that is so desirable and so cheap and easy to buy that our prospects can not hep but add it to their cart, thereby changing their relationship with us from just lookers to valued customers.

Since The Printful doesn’t offer any product that we can sell for 99 cents and still break even, we will need to use another print on demand to fulfill this need.

 

cgproprints_logo

CG Pro Prints (CGPP) is a print on demand company that caters specifically to artists and photographers, and specializes in art and photographic prints on paper and canvas. CGPP is a division of Circle Graphics Inc, one of the largest producers of large format digital graphics. They have close to 500 employees and work around the clock 7 days a week producing orders for their customers. Their facility can print over a million square feet a day, and their quality and price are hard to beat. With white label shipping and outstanding customer service, these guys are simply one of the best in the business when it comes to printing your art on traditional art surfaces.

Video Thumbnail

CGPP integrates seamlessly with Shopify and WooCommerce, and they are in the process of adding integrations for Magento, Open Cart, Storenvy, Volusion, Etsy, and Bigcommerce.

Their mockup generator offers multiple different product views, and a 3D preview of your products to make sure that everything looks the way you want it to before you upload it to your store. Products that aren’t currently available in their generator can be created in Photoshop or another photo editing tool by using their extensive product image library, which is really pretty awesome.

CGPP also provides an extensive how-to manual with detailed instructions on how to set up the app, create products, and add them to your store. These guys really do care about your success with their products and services and are quick to provide detailed answers to even the most complex questions. When it comes to printing your art on traditional artist surfaces, CG Pro Prints really can’t be beat.

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Click for enlarged details

 

In our model, we will be using CG Pro Prints for:

  • Gallery minis (our low cost offer)
  • Gallery wrapped canvas
  • Giant repositionable wall clings
  • Standard prints
  • Canvas prints

 

printify-webpage-logo-300x123

Printify is a print on demand company built specifically for use with Shopify storefronts. Because they are designed to work with Shopify and Shopify only, integrating them with your Shopify store is a breeze. Their mockup generator does everything automatically. You simply add an image and it goes to work putting that image on whatever products you’ve specified.

Like the other companies here, they offer white label shipping and are invisible to your customer. Printify’s product offerings are very similar in most respects to The Printful. They offer a selection of garments, prints, mugs, phone cases and laptop sleeves. Printify offers a wide range of device cases for both Apple and Samsung phones, while the only cases that The Printful offers are iPhone cases. They also offer notebooks and journals at a pretty low price in comparison to the other products. From a quality standpoint, their garment printing is lower quality than The Printful, however, their posters, wall decals, and canvases are actually printed by CG Pro Print, so their quality on those items are obviously top notch.

We really only need to add Printify to our model if having both Apple and Samsung phone cases is important to us, and if we want to offer laptop sleeves, notebooks, or journals.

We will be using Printify in this model for:

  • Device cases
  • Laptop Sleeves
  • Notebooks
  • Journals

By attaching the three PODs we’ve discussed above to our Shopify storefront, we can offer a wide range of very high quality, affordable products to our store.

Our list of available products looks something like this:

  • Phone cases
  • Laptop sleeves
  • Mugs
  • Pillows
  • Journals
  • Notebooks
  • Direct to garment T-shirts
  • Die sublimated shirts
  • Die sublimated dresses
  • Die sublimated skirts
  • Tank tops
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Pullover hoodies
  • Zipup hoodies
  • Socks
  • Kids T’s and tanks
  • Baby T’s
  • Baby onesies
  • Hats and beanies
  • Leggings
  • Doggie tanks
  • Posters (with and without frames)
  • Repositionable wall decals
  • Prints
  • Gallery wrapped canvas
  • Rolled canvas
  • Gallery minis
  • Giclee prints
  • Momento ornaments

It’s quite an extensive list, and when you consider size and color variation as well, you literally have thousands of products you can put on your store to be printed and shipped by someone else while you sit back and collect the check.

So there you have it. My best recommendations for the print on demand companies we will be using to build out the business model for our store. If you need a refresher on what that model looks like, you can find that info here and here.

Oh and one more thing…

Choosing a print on demand company to make your products is a personal choice. You can’t really know which one is best for you if you don’t know what products you intend to sell, and you can’t really know what products to sell unless you’ve done the market research to determine who your audience is and what kind of products they like to buy.

Because your market may be different than mine, I will go ahead and include a list of the print on demand companies we looked at while writing this post. A word of caution though – I did not choose these companies for one reason or another, even though some of them appeared to be viable options in the beginning of our research.

These are the print on demand services that did not make the list:

MAKEABLE/PRINT.IO  –   Lots of products, but poor quality, horrible customer service, poor quality instruction, difficult product mockup process

PRINT AURA  –  No mockup generator, low quality garment printing

GALLOREE  –  No integration with e-commerce platforms

AMPLIFIER/MERCHIFY  –  Inconsistent quality, turn around times, and customer service

SCALABLE PRESS  –  Very slow turn around times

LEVEL PRESS  –  Good quality, but only 1 product type (shirts)

TEELAUNCH  –  Inconsistent customer service and turn around time

PRESSERA  –  Slow customer service, slow delivery time

KITE  –  No mockup generator, unclear product and shipping prices, poor instruction

Feel free to look these over and decide for yourself. You can never have too much knowledge, and the better informed you are, the better choices you’ll make.

Next we’ll take a look at the email service providers we’ll be using to build out this business model. Until then, sound off in the comments below and let me know you’re still listening 🙂

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links to services that I have researched fully and highly recommend. I will receive a small commission if you purchase through one of these affiliate links, but the price you pay is the same.

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110 Comments:

  1. Awesome post! I’ve been silently following along with this business series and love this advice! As a budding illustrator I will be considering print in demand companies

  2. Thank you, thank you!!
    I had not known those things about FAA, Redbubble, etc before. I know others in my field use them for selling prints, and I’m glad I read this before going down that path.

    • Hi Yvonne 🙂 I’m glad you did too! I really hate to see an artist go down that path. It takes a lot of work to get people to your site, regardless of what kind of site you’re using, but to do all that work for a single sale and then have someone else swoop in and steal the customer ought to be a crime. By the way, happy to have you here!

  3. Thank you so much for all of your posts. This one really helped me out.

  4. Hi Christopher,

    What a wealth of information you are! I had a quick question…..how do you set up multiple POD’s? Are they each separate stores on your site? And do you know any POD’s that do greeting cards, boxed set of stationary or magnets?

    Thanks for you help, I really appreciate it!
    Kajal

    • Hi Kajal, thank you for the kind compliment. These are great questions. If you want to use multiple PODs, you don’t need separate stores at all. You will just set up each product to be synced to the particular POD that it will be fulfilled by.

      As for your second question, there ARE PODS that offer those kinds of products. Makeable is one, but I personally wouldn’t recommend using them unless those types of products are absolutely necessary for you. I found Makeable to be difficult to work with for many reasons, but depending on your situation, the benefits of using them and having the larger selection of products could outweigh the struggle you may have with them.

      You can always give them a try. If you have a Shopify store, an Etsy, or website with Woocommerce, just install the Makeable app and see if it’s something you can make work for you, and since it’s free, you have nothing to lose if it doesn’t 🙂

  5. This ia a awesome write up! thanks for taling the time!

    I have been quite impresses with rhe quality of Printio/Makeable when it comes to phone cases.

    Right now I am looking for someone that does what CG does, but ship worldwide…

    Also, how do you charge for shipping if the cart contains items from 3 different POD services?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Jonas, thanks for the comment. Glad to hear you’ve had a good experience with Makeable. What different product types have you ordered from them and what did you think of the quality?

      CG Pro Prints actually does offer international shipping 🙂

      Most PODs generally have flat rate shipping prices for each product, so if you’re using an e-commerce platform that allows you to set up “per product shipping”, setting up the shipping for multiple PODs shouldn’t be too difficult.

      If using Shopify, there is an app called “Better Shipping” that lets you set up per product shipping rates, and it is 15 bucks a month.

      The method that we will be using for the Shopify store we’re building is to offer free shipping in the United States, and then bump up our product prices to cover it. For international orders, we’ve come up with a method to set up weight based shipping rates to kind of mimic per product shipping, but it’s a bit too complicated to explain here. We will be going over the details of this more in the near future.

      • With Printio/ Makeable I have only seen the phone cases so far, which I think were really good. I am waiting for some Giclee prints to check the quality.

        I just talked to CG Pro prints today and they told me they only ship to US/ Canada, do you use them to ship prints to other countries than that? In case, that would be awesome!

        Thanks for taking the time, really appreciate it!

      • I have not had the need to ship CG products internationally yet and was quoting information they had provided me at the time this post was written. After your comment I contacted them again today and you are correct, US/Canada 🙁 sorry for the misinformation!

    • Use Printify for worldwide shipping for prints and wall art. CG Pro prints is the manufacturer Printify uses in US for products like canvases and prints.

  6. Oh, and sorry for all the spelling errors… I wish I could edit them 🙂

  7. Do you know of a POD that will print just pages? I don’t mean for a book or anything like that, but actual 8×11 pages on nice thick card stock. Similar to posters but on thicker card intended for coloring on. I’ve been looking around and I am just not finding anything.

    • Hi Jade, I’m not sure if there’s a POD that would print single pages as you have described. Honestly, even if there were, I don’t think I’d recommend it, as the expense would be higher than you’d want it to be.

      The best solution to your problem is to save the images that you want to print to a thumb drive and take them down to your local copy center. Ask them to print on smooth 100 lb. or heavier paper, and you’ll be super happy with the results and the price.

      Hope this helps.

  8. Thank you for this. I also thought that FAA are in for themselves. I joined and they sent me a US tax form, (I live in the UK) obviously not ideal to pay taxes in 2 countries! Also, I pointed out that there were several Andrea Sartoris (a common name in Italy) on their site, and could we all have different user names 1,2, etc, and they shoved me off to the very bottom of the list and now no one can find me! Also, prices very expensive for prints and you only get cents back on each sale that you worked so hard to get.

    • Hi Andrea, I’m sorry you had that experience. You’d be surprised how many horror stories like that I hear. Or… maybe you wouldn’t. No worries, now you know there’s a better way. As artists we deserve to keep our profits for ourselves. Happy to have you here and happy to help in any way I can.

      • Thank you for your prompt reply. I can always tell if the website is good if there is a person on the other end, willing to reply quickly to even little comments like mine. I am happy I found a good website for artists (there are many, not all good likethis one) and really happy that your content is reliable and relevant, and I hope to learn a lot & make many new contacts here!

      • Hi Andrea, thank you for the kind reply. We do our best and I’ll always be here to help. Happy to have you here 🙂

  9. Hi I live in Melbourne Australia do you know of any PODs I can use here or do I use the ones you have mentioned? Im knew to all this online stuff though I’m keen to sell my artwork !
    Thank you for your wealth of info I’m glad I found this site!

    • Hi Debra, unfortunately I’m not aware of any POD located specifically in Australia. I do know of one in London which may be a bit closer to you, but I’m pretty sure any decent POD ships worldwide. Your best bet is to find the POD that fits your product types best, and then inquire about their shipping. Hope this helps 🙂

  10. Thanks Christopher for your speedy reply I will look into it! Cheers 🙂

  11. Wow, this is good.
    I was interested in POD, but had no idea where to start. A friend who owns a gallery suggested FAA, but to date she has only made one sale. Finding out what you discussed about those big mega-marts, I understand why. That, plus digging into the actual POD services really helped open my eyes, and now I have a place to start.
    I am excited that I can begin to sell the art that I’ve been making!
    Thanks, Christopher!

    • Hi Mikey, I’m glad you got to read this before signing up for one of those other sites. I’m a firm believer that as artists we should keep our profits for ourselves. I’d love to hear any insights you may have uncovered.

  12. Hi Christopher, So glad I came upon your site. Thanks for your wonderful info!

    In terms of finding a good print on demand company that prints quality art books, do you have any recommendations?

    Also have you heard of http://www.paom.com?

    Glad you mentioned FAA – currently on the site, but in the process of creating our own Shopify store so we can have control!

    • Hi Michele, happy to have you here! I took a look at POAM, and I have to say, if I had to choose between them and getting the plague, I might choose them, but it would be a hard choice 🙂 Basically any site that gives you only a percentage of YOUR sales is a site to avoid. You’re much better off keeping your profits for yourself with a site you control.

      As for a company that prints quality art books, can you please be a little more specific on what you’re wanting to have printed so I can feel comfortable making a recommendation?

  13. I noticed that you mentioned that you need a product that sells for $0.99. You talk a bit about it, but then go on to CG Pro Prints, which does not appear to offer smaller items, like stickers. Were you speaking of CG as a place to sell smaller items and I just have to dig really deep into the site for smaller item information or was that just an awkward transition? It is fine if it was just that, but what is a good site that will print smaller items?

    • Great question, Danie! If you plan to use CG Pro Prints for your low cost $0.99 item, I’d recommend choosing the ‘Gallery Mini’ product. The cost on their site for a 4″x6″ or a 5″x5″ is $4.49 and includes USPS shipping, so this item offered for $0.99 plus $4 shipping and handling covers that requirement quite nicely 🙂 Technically, this product could be used as a free + shipping offer as well. The whole point with this strategy is to get them to open their wallet and make the transition from a prospect to a paying customer. Hope this helps. Let me know if you still have questions.

  14. Hi Christopher,

    thanks for this elaborate information. I am looking for this service in Europe, would you know who does this?

    txs,
    Anneke

    • Hi, Anneke. You’re very welcome, I’m glad you liked it 🙂 I don’t know of any European PODs off the top of my head, but I do recall running across at least one or two of them as we were researching these posts. You’re best bet would be to do an extensive search based on your geographic location. Would love it if you would share with us what you find!

  15. Hi Chris, thank you for sharing this information! I was wondering if you’re familiar with “Art of Where” or if you’ve heard any reviews about this company? I’d like to know how it compares to the Printful

    • Hi Viktoriya, thank you for the question. Art of Where is an interesting company in that they seem to be trying to fit every artist’s need. For those who are comfortable making a small percentage on their own work, their storefronts fill that need. For those who want to keep most of the profits for themselves, their drop shipping seems to do the trick.

      However, it’s difficult to be everything to everybody, and so being as well rounded as they are, it appears to come with some downsides. If you’ve read many of my posts, you know that I am adamantly against storefront type arrangements for artists, so in my mind, that’s not an option. Their drop shipping service is clunkier than a dedicated print on demand since you have to manually enter each order you receive. That’s a lot of extra work that the other companies on this list do not require you to do.

      Having said all of this, I don’t have any personal experience using them, so I can’t give a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down. My best advice would be to look over their policies carefully and if you think they are a good fit for you give them a try.

  16. Hi Christopher,

    I do not usually post in comment sections but your post addressed a number of questions I had and so I’m compelled to express my gratitude. I am in the process of starting a small company that will be selling prints and other gift items and stumbling across your refreshingly honest post was super timely and oh so so valuable! Thank you for taking time to share your wealth of knowledge. Thank you for taking time to share your wealth of knowledge. I’m all subscribed to your site and to learn more 🙂

  17. I was thinking of starting to sell some things. I’m glad I read your page beforehand. I was rather dubious of the minimal amount a lot of these pod sites give artists to begin with, and now I can see why.

    Have you checked out threadless, crated and teespring? These look pretty tempting compared to a lot of other pod sites. Crated nets you 80 percent of profits without any markup beforehand if one so wishes, and teespring has an interesting setup where one campaigns a t-shirt design, a minimum needing to be sold for the prints to go. Threadless offers variety the above two don’t have, but getting around 50 percent of the cut as opposed to say redbubbles 20 without any increase sounds a lot better then the standared pod site.

    • Hi Vic, thanks for the kind comment. I’m familiar with each of the companies you’ve mentioned, and they’re not bad for what they are. However, you’re still putting your products under the control of someone else. They’re still taking your customer and adding them to their email list to market other products to the people you worked so hard to bring in. For me, sites like this simply cannot compete with a Shopify store build by an individual who controls all aspects of marketing and message.

  18. Hey!
    great post,
    but it is October now, you have wrote this in January,
    i was wondering if there is already a printing service for greeting cards and calendars with the end of the year coming up.
    i can’t find it and i see printify isn’t doing this yet.
    greetings

    • Hi Sanne, VistaPrint.com does print on demand greeting cards. I haven’t done a lot of research into them so cannot vouch for their quality etc, but that may at least give you a starting point. Hope this helps 🙂

  19. Thanks SO much for this well-written, well thought-out article, Chris. I have run a gauntlet of fulfillment companies, starting many years ago with (suppress gag reflex) CafePress, moving on to Spreadshirt (just left them days ago), to most recently Red Bubble. Despite the same business model as the other two, I have had the most success by far with the latter. But then I stumbled upon Printful and haven’t been able to stop playing with it for the last 4 days. I just placed a one-off order and am waiting for the product before making a final decision to use them. If results are anywhere close to the mock-up generator, I will be a very happy camper.

    • Hi Ed, oh wow that’s awesome! Thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment. I think you’re going to be super happy with the quality you get from Printful, and if you take it one step further and build out the whole process for yourself, your profits will increase dramatically. I think it’s amazing that you’ll be able to bring all your past experience with those other companies and put it to use in your own endeavors. Please keep us updated, and I’d love to see some photos of the articles you get from Printful 🙂

  20. Here’s my report on Printful’s 100% polyester allover printing:
    1) The design was off center by about 1″. (Normally a minor issue. But the design was a Union Jack, requiring symmetry.)
    2) The creases customers are told to expect with allover printing weren’t just around the armpit and side seams, but the shoulders as well.
    3) While the overall aesthetic result is decent, the American Apparel Sublimation tees they use are WAY too thin. I did a side by side with Red Bubble’s Graphic Tee shirt (a California flag motif where the majority of the design was white), placing a magazine underneath both shirts. Even the colored portions of the Printful t-shirt (allover design-Union Jack flag) are unacceptably thin. While they are full-front panel only, I don’t know who Red Bubble sources their Graphic Tee shirts from. It’s impossible to tell from the garment.
    That said, that will do it for me, mostly for the garment quality, actually. I am bummed. I was looking forward to cranking out some nice allover designs. But I’m afraid the return rate would be too high. I did find two more operations that do allover prints

    • Hi Ed, thank you for the update. Wow, that sounds disappointing. The test garments I had printed with them while researching this post seemed very encouraging to me. Thank you so much for the additional information, and I would love to hear your thoughts about the other options you are exploring. Based on your comments here and the results you get from further exploration, perhaps it’s time to update this post. Again, really appreciate you taking the time to update and would love to hear any further information you may acquire.

  21. Great post. I wish you guys all the best.

  22. Thanks so much for this!

    I am still considering selling prints by buying a high quality printer for my home but this seems a lot simpler!

    I live in Canada so I’ll have to see if your suggestions are feasible here!

    Thanks so much for the info! I plan to read the rest of the articles too!
    Sarah

    • Happy to help, Sarah. I made my own prints for a long time, and I’ve gotta tell ya, it always ends up being more work than you think it’s going to be 🙂 Good luck which ever direction you decide to go.

  23. Hi Christopher,
    Thanks so much for this- I’ve been struggling with redbubble, society 6,etc. and I had never heard of the 3 pod’s you recommend before. I am definitely looking into those right away. Do you know if any of them have plans to feature integration with a Godaddy store? One other thing, when I first found your site, I was mistaken about you- with the style of your writing, I was thinking that any minute I was going to come to the part of the post where I would have to pay to learn the valuable info… and then I didn’t. And then I didn’t again, and it was a really welcome surprise. (That’s not a criticism on your writing, I just am used to being hooked like that)I thank you for these articles, it’s like a lighthouse for us trying to figure out how to make a living with our artwork.

    • Hi Tyler, thank you for the super kind comment. It’s really great of you to say that 🙂 I’ll be honest, it’s a hard balance to strike, and sometimes I feel like we go a little to the dark side every once in a while, but we do try our best to reign it in. So again, thank you. As for integration with GoDaddy, I didn’t even know GoDaddy had a store! So unfortunately, I can’t be of much help to you there, but I’ll try to take some time to look into it.

  24. Thank you for this very valuable post! I’ve been doing the POD dance for about two months now and sure am learning a lot. There definitely is a difference between the sites so it pays to do some/a lot of research. You helped immensely.

    • Thank you for the kind comment, Jean! I’m happy we were able to help, and would love to hear any insights you have gained through your experiences 🙂

      • I’ve probably put in at least 45 hours of research on PODs. I’ve stumbled and made mistakes. I finally opened my Shopify store and am stocking it with products from Printful, Art of Where, and Gooten. I keep a spreadsheet to remind me which store I want to make specific products. But honestly, you have to buy your own products to make the decision about which POD does better on which items. I’m working out the kinks on my Shopify site before doing a big social media push. I’m going with Saatchi Art for prints because I can’t stand the thought of selling them for $15-20 bucks. I’ve spent too much time honing my craft to do that.

      • Hi Jean, thanks for the update! Sounds like you’re well on your way. I agree with you that it’s unfortunate that to really get a sense of which products work best with which company, buying them seems to be the only way to go… but it’s worth it in the end when you know that you’re putting out the best quality products that you possibly can. Again, please keep us updated, and feel free to post a link to your site when you’re up and running. Looking forward to hearing more 🙂

    • Hello Jean. I would love to read or hear about your experiences with different sites and which one you think are more suitable than others.

      • Hi, Shareefa! Thanks for asking! I’ve used CafePress, Zazzle, Society6, Printify, Printful, Gooten, and Art of Where. I left CafePress and Zazzle because, frankly, the quality of a lot of the art being uploaded there is amateurish – a lot of users use stock photos and clip art. I really want to be affiliated with sites that feature original art by skilled artists. I realize that people have different tastes and it is a subjective experience-I don’t mean to sound like an art snob. But if I do, well, I do. Anyway, I was with Printify for a long time, but I wanted a POD site that makes all over print T-shirts and that’s why I switched to Printful. Both sites are easy to use. Gooten has an incredible amount of products to choose from and that’s why I went with them. I chose Art of Where because I wanted to design Beanie hats and they’re the only place I know of doing all over printing on them. Now, at my expense, I plan to order products from these sites- mainly the fabric-based items, so that I can see what the quality is. I had my first bad experience with Gooten tea towels, the quality of which was abysmal. They’re doing a reprint for me, but I’m very skeptical that their manufacturer will provide a better product the second time. It really was appalling how bad the quality was. So now, I’m reconsidering staying with Gooten. I’ll be placing some orders this week from my Printful store and I’m waiting to see what the Beanie my sister ordered from Art of Where looks like. What a process it is! It’s very time consuming, but I really want my work out there.

  25. I would suggest looking at Teescape for shirts as well. Nice selection, super friendly support, and I haven’t had a single order that was either done poorly or late.

  26. I’m so glad to see you respond to comments on here! I’m overwhelmed and could use some advice. I am a former Cafepress seller. I still have a store on there, but I rarely update it. Back in the day it was far more customizable and easier to integrate with my own website. Now, as you say, they are all about promoting their marketplace and other people’s stuff instead of mine.

    I am wanting to get back into the printed merchandise business. I also want to set up a store for the company I work for. The problem I’m seeing with the sites you list is that none of them seem to offer stickers or buttons. Those are both really important for my personal business and my employer’s. Are there any other POD sites that offer them and can be integrated into Woocommerce or Shopify? Or a site that is like Cafepress but has embed codes or separate stores that are classy, customizable and don’t drive my customers to other people’s products? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Karin, at the time of this writing I searched high and low for a company to do high quality stickers and buttons, and while I was able to locate several, none of them integrated with Woocommerce or Shopify. Honestly, for me, stickers and buttons would be must have items as well. If I can find the time, I’ll try to do a little bit of looking and see if anything has changed. In the meantime, if you happen to find any sticker or button companies that integrate during your own research, please post them here. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

  27. Wonderful article with lots of useful info. I kept looking for Society6 on your list. Did you check them out and they were so bad they didn’t make the list? I haven’t used them but an artist I know sell her stuff there and has ordered from them too.

  28. anyone have thoughts about the shopify printing app “Pixels” which links to http://www.FineArtAmerica.com ??? Would love to know how that compares to the apps mentioned in this article!

  29. I love your article, Thank you so much for awesome information. I am looking for the best POD that offers Housewares such as , comforters , duvets, Pillows, etc. I used to use Zazzle and Society6 but after being on zazzle for years and seeing some of my products get thousands of hits and only seeing 2 or 3 sales I began to doubt that I was receiving the sales that were actually made so I am seeking PODs that offer wholesale and Dropshipping especially for the housewares. Thank you!

    • Hi Jericho. Have you looked into Makeable/Print.io? We did extensive research into them while preparing this post, and of any company we looked at, they offer the most variety, including comforters, duvets, pillows, etc. Unfortunately, I found their quality unacceptable, and so did not include them in this post. However, it might be worth your time to take a look. Hope this helps, and thank you for the kind comment 🙂

  30. Thank you very much for the information, great post!
    Do you know of any companies outside of the US that do the same services?
    Cheers
    Kim

  31. I’m setting up my Shopify site right now. I’m starting with Printify for mugs, totes and pillows and Merch by Amazon for t-shirts.

    Thank you for this article, I found it a couple of months ago and it has been so helpful to me as a resource.

    I never thought about the importance of having cheap items like buttons and stickers until I read it here. Now I’m on the hunt to find a pod for this.

    I’m on the fence about trying PrintAura. They have a great selection of totes that I would love to sell my designs on but the reviews are not that great. So I’m still on the fence about whether it’s worth it.

    Also, I just found a new one called Gooten, it has a great site with a ton of products but my research sent me to an article (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160217005163/en/Makeable-Rebrands-Gooten-Secures-Financing-Management) that says Gooten is Makeable/Print.io (just rebranded). So after your review, I’m hesitant to try them.

    • Give them a try, Brier – see my latest comment about Gooten’s redo of my tea towel and the hand towel I just received. They are a great company and I probably spoke too quickly and too harshly about them. They’re very responsive to the customer as well.

    • Hi Brier, that’s awesome. Sounds like you’re really getting things going! Please keep us updated, and yes, Gooten is simply Makeable/Print.io rebranded and under new management. I’m keeping my eye on them, but right now I’m still undecided.

  32. Here’s an update on my Gooten for everyone here – They quickly redid the Tea Towel that I had complained about and the final product was superb. It was a vendor-related issue and the vendor admitted their mistake. I’m thrilled with the Tea Towel. Also, I ordered one of their hand towels and got it the other day, and I was immensely pleased with the result. The fabric is just beautiful. It feels good and my illustration was spot on perfect. So, everyone, please give Gooten a try. They have such a fantastic array of products and I’m looking forward to seeing more of my art on their products soon. I’ll post a pic of my products from Gooten soon.

    • You’ve convinced me to give them a try. It’s nice to hear that they made things right for you.

      I really do hope they get my items right the first time. I don’t want this company to wind up being the kind that only prints quality for you if you have to complain about it first, if you know what I mean…keeping my fingers crossed!

      • I wish you a ton of luck, Brier! I really do think you’ll be pleased. They are quite responsive and I would imagine it isn’t easy for a POD having to rely on vendors who sometimes make errors. Let me know when your shop is up, Brier! I’d love to check out your stuff!

      • Jean and Brier – you guys are awesome. I love seeing a back and forth like this and am grateful to you guys for being so helpful 🙂

    • Hi Jean, thank you for following up with us on this, I really appreciate it. Gooten recently approached me about doing a guest blog post for them, and based on your review I may seriously consider it. Thanks again!

      • Wonderful, Chris! I definitely think Gooten deserves a look from those of us with online stores. They have an amazing array of products, too, which I’ve not found anywhere else.

      • Before you do a guest blog on Gooten, please do your research. I believe they are working with legit printing companies, but they themselves don’t print the products, so sellers could be buying directly from these printing companies instead of via gooten. Now since Gooten offers overall good pricing, I’m suspicious of how they earn a profit from this. I thought at first they might get reduction because they order more units per month via all the resellers who order via their site, but my suspicion is growing. Just check out their ‘about us’ page. If they can give such low prices without being a printing company themselves, how come they can hire so many people (49) and why would they need all of them? Are they even real? Many have these Slavic names when they pretend to be from the US? Although it’s not clear where this company is based..which is suspicious in itself. And then 5 big investors. Why would they invest in this company??

        The latest review from someone on their facebook page:
        “Alex Jefferson
        · 17 februari 2017
        We were so excited to find Gooten, glowing reviews and reasonable worldwide pricing. But now we are at a total loss what this company thinks customer service is. We tried this company and on our first order three items were “shipped”. All the other shipped items had a tracking number the same day or day after. We emailed 3 days after “shipped” asking for one. They could not get us one because the vendor would not respond to them. That’s right they have means to get a response from their own vendor. So 2 more days passed requested again same thing. We finally had enough and asked for a refund and ordered the products elsewhere. We were told and we quote “sorry we know not have a tracking number is an uncomfortable feeling but we dont do refunds. It should be there by Wednesday (today is Friday) if it is not please get back to us and we will see what can be done. I let the rep know tracking numbers are expected normal procedure from a shipping company and that I will still need a refund. We are now waiting for the manager to see if we are worthy of a refund. Well I will tell you one thing we are done with Gooten and you should be as well.”

        The first 15 or so 5 star reviews on their fb page is clearly from their “team members”
        They’ve also announced a contest to win $1000 for the artist who sells the most phone cases in 1 month. https://www.gooten.com/blog/gooten/2016/06/13/make-your-case-to-win-the-prize-powered-by-gooten/
        The winner would be announced a month later on their social media. I have not seen this announcement on their social media, so I assume it was just a fake contest to attract people.

        On their facebook page, the address of this company is supposedly in
        200 Broadway
        10038 Manhattan

        Googling this address, it seems to be the address of fulton center, a shopping mall in NYC.

        Most of their team members can be found in their reviews and liking posts with Slavic names, mainly based in Serbia, so why would they even have a company in Manhattan? Their previous company ‘Makable’ was based in Denmark btw.

        So basically I think it’s safe to say that Gooten is a fake company and we are all best to work DIRECTLY with a printing company not via via companies like these that aren’t transparent at all and trying to make a buck off of us, meanwhile ruining your business with their poor customer service.

      • Hi Gianni, thank you so much for taking the time to write such an insightful comment. You raise a lot of good points, and I appreciate you making them public here. I agree with you that all of this seems more than a little bit shady. For my part, I never heard back from them after they initially contacted me, but given what you site above, I’ll be skipping that guest blog post 🙂 thanks again, I really appreciate it. It’s awesome when the community comes together and helps each other out the way that you’ve done here.

  33. Right now I’m using shopify for my new shop and I am going to give Gooten a try and maybe on or two others. You can use shopify free for 2 weeks. Maybe look into Gooeten and see if they work better for you. Good luck!

  34. Does anyone know of any POD companies for canvas sneakers, like the ones being offered here? https://www.printedkicks.com/

  35. Printful throw pillow was printed on shinny polyester and was over filled like a marshmallow. Print Aura printed the same pillow on spun polyester and felt and looked wonderful!
    Gooten having small issues with their Woocommerce app/Wordpress. Trying Shopify and Gooten.
    Attached is real photo not moch-up.
    Using multiple apps works smoothly front and backend?
    Thanks for these posts. I’ll be back with more to report!

    • That pillow looks great, is that the Print Aura one? I’m thinking about using them as \well.

      I did get a throw pillow sample from Printful. I thought it was stuffed fine but did note that it’s a smooth, shiny fabric. I like the way you describe the Print Aura pillow.

      Thanks for the photos and info, can’t wait to hear more about your experiences with the different platforms.

    • Thanks for keeping us updated, Mark. I love getting real time feedback like this. 🙂

  36. Yes, pillow is Print Aura. And it’s printed both sides. Back is just background texture. Make sure . Gooten offers the same fabric (spun polyester) as well as cotton twill, natural faux linen, suede and white faux linen in 4 different sized up to 26×26.

    Selling mine without insert, commonly done and saving $4 –
    Here’s a tighter shot of the fabric.

    I would like to hear more from others as well!

    • When you ordered from Printful, did you also order there swatch samples? I did and now I have a pillow, cup and the allover tote with swatch colors printed on them.

      But then I decided to go with Gooten and they don’t seem to have print samples. Now I’m wondering if I can use the Printful swatches for Gooten and Print Aura.

      Are the colors the same on both of yourpillows (Printful and Print Aura)?

      Thanks

  37. I bought the black and white t-shirts with color swatches. I found them not up to my standards.

    Regarding samples, this is an email to me from Gooten…

    GET FREE CUSTOM PRINTED PRODUCT SAMPLES

    All you need to do is create 3 different custom products using your Gooten Account, push them to your WooCommerce store, and then contact us at [email protected]. Your free product samples will be on their way in no time.

    For example:

    You connect 2 t-shirts, 3 mugs, and 3 cell phone cases to your WooCommerce store through Gooten.

    You then email Partner Support informing them of the products you’ve connected, asking for samples and providing them with an image of what you want printed.

    You are eligible to receive: 1 Mug sample and 1 Phone Case sample (If you want a sample t-shirt you would need to connect 1 more t-shirt product to your store in order to meet the minimum of having 3 of those products connected.)

    If you have any questions or need help please contact us at [email protected].

    Best,
    Gooten Support Team

    I think it may be different if you have a Shopify website. Hope this helps Brier and good luck!

  38. I just bought a headband from Art of Where – I’ll let you all know how the product turned out when I receive it. I love that they’re carrying this item.

  39. Hi Christopher,
    Thanks for the really great and informative article. I’ve been doing a lot of research on website building and print on demand. Are you familiar with fotomoto, and if so, what’s your opinion?
    Thanks!

    • Hi again Sharmon, clearly you have seen the other articles in this series 🙂 To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with Fotomoto, so I spent a little bit of time on their site before responding to your comment. Thank you for sharing them with me. At first glance they look pretty good. I’m a little confused about the way they add a buy button to the images on your site, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on whether or not you can use your own branded packaging and invoicing, which in my opinion is a crucial consideration… but maybe I just didn’t dig around deep enough. As I mentioned before, I’m not overly familiar with them so I can’t recommend them, but at first glance they seem like they’re worth looking further into. If you decide to use them, please be sure to update us here with your thoughts and experiences.

      • Hi Christopher! Thanks for responding. The reason I asked about Fotomoto is that I have read (wish I could remember where) that you can somehow integrate their service into a Squarespace site. Given everything I’ve read, I’d probably go with CG Pro Prints, but don’t know if it integrates with Squarespace. I want to use Squarespace’s ecommerce for selling my originals, and then have the POD on a different page. It doesn’t seem that you can integrate any POD service with Squarespace. WordPress would be my other choice, but it looks a little too technical to me, and it doesn’t look like they offer a free trial, so I’m afraid I’d get stuck. Right now I’m on artspan, which does have its own POD service, but I think the templates look really amateurish and it’s very glitchy. Also, I’ve sold zero prints there, and they don’t allow for certain things like Richpins.

        It seems I’ve actually asked about twelve questions here; sorry about that. Your article on POD for artists is far and away the best I’ve read, and I think it’s awesome that you take the time to answer questions from clueless people like me. Any insight you have would be helpful. Thanks!

  40. Actually, Gooten uses Circle Graphics for their canvasses. They use different companies for their products. I even think they offer lower prices than if you order directly from Circle Graphics. Maybe they can do that because they have a lof of clients (resellers).

    I am bummed you give Scalable press a bad rating, because I was really interested for their low prices. I’ve seen an Etsy store who uses Scalable press and they had overall good rating for their t-shirts. Some complain on their facebook page about slow delivery though. They also have a facebook group where you can ask questions.

  41. This is one of the most helpful articles I have ever read. Thanks for sharing it! You covered a lot I didn’t know and will use now. Outstanding site and great work. Thanks.

  42. Gianni and Christopher, I’m trying to get my head around the idea by Gianni that Gooten is a “fake” company. I’m not sure what you mean by this. Are they trying to steal our money and not deliver product? Is there something wrong about them being based outside the U.S.

    I’ve spent that last 2 months setting up and creating products using their templates, ready to give them a try and now this news in really discouraging. I would love more info about this from you Gianni, if you will. Thanks

    • Brier, I apologize if my reply to Gianni gave the impression that I think Gooten is a “fake” company. They are not. Technically they are a company that has been around for a while but has recently re-branded themselves. So for all intents and purposes they are a real company. My best suggestion to you would be to place a couple of test orders with them and see what you think. But I would definitely recommend testing them, or for that matter, any other POD before shipping any orders out to your customers. When a good POD ships, it looks like it came from you, so if the quality is bad or the orders are late, it looks to your customer like it’s your fault. Hope this helps.

      • Thanks for responding Christopher. I am going to be ordering some samples on Monday. I will be sure to do post an update and let everyone know how it goes. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  43. Also on their website under the options area, you can see that they may use 1-3 different suppliers for certain products. It was obvious to me that they use other printers around the world to print. Is this bad? thanks

  44. Hi Everyone!

    I love the discussion going on, wonderful to see articles like this that generate such a free flow of shared experiences and information.

    I work at Gooten and reading through the comments there were a few statements I just wanted to clear up about us so there was no confusion.

    Our office headquarters is located at:

    200 Broadway Suite 2013
NY, NY 10038

    We are on the 2nd floor of a WeWork which is a shared co-working space:

    https://www.wework.com/buildings/fulton-center–new-york-city–NY

    If anyone is in the NYC area and you would like to check out our offices and meet some of the (I know I’m biased) absolutely wonderful people that work here, I would love to take you on a tour and chat some about your business and what you’re interested in.

    We also have remote workers from all over including Chicago, parts of Europe, and some lucky nomads who travel around from AirBnb to AirBnb and work with us from wherever their location is.

    Gianni asked a great question — “Since Gooten offers overall good pricing, I’m suspicious how they earn a profit from this.”

    We have this answered on our home page under the ‘Make Money with Gooten’ section where it says:

    “Visitors are amazed to see how low our product costs are. The reason for this is that we have the capability to buy in bulk from our print manufacturers. We receive negotiated prices on manufactured products and we pass those savings through to you.”

    So basically because we provide vendors with so many orders due to the size of our platform, we are able to negotiate lower product prices . That is essentially the foundation of our business model, and something that differentiates us from others in our industry. We do the work of finding quality manufacturers through outreach and sampling, and once we’re confident in their dependability, we onboard them into our platform for store owners to use.

    Also, Gianni referenced our $1,000 contest we had for artists to see who could sell the most phone cases in a month. We did in fact post the results of that throughout our social media channels, and we even wrote a blog post about it that is still on our site:

    https://www.gooten.com/blog/gooten/2016/08/01/announcing-the-winner-of-the-make-your-case-contest-sponsored-by-gooten/

    As the article mentions, everyone who participated in the contest kept 100% of the profits from their sales so even those who didn’t win the grand prize were able to make money and gain their brand some more exposure.

    So to address his final comment — we are definitely not a fake company, we are a young company that has recently rebranded, and honestly we are going through the same experiences the rest of you are in trying to build your brand and make your product better and better with each iteration. We believe in this community and we hope that above all our service empowers artists, designers, creators, makers, entrepreneurs to grow and run their business how they want to.

    For Gianni and anyone else who would like some more information about the specifics of our company, please feel free to email me — [email protected] — and like I said, if you’re ever in the NYC area, stop by and say hello! 🙂

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply, Frank. I appreciate the fact you addressed everything that Gianni claimed in his post. Interesting he hasn’t responded.

      I have high hopes for Gooten and I hope it’s the company that I will be able to rely on and whose quality in printing my items is something I will be able to count on.

    • Please note: Gooten offer posters advertised at 16″x20″, but they arrive larger than this and therefore they don’t fit 16″x20″ frames. Despite not supplying the prints at the size they advertise they wouldn’t offer refunds. Also, prints took a long time to arrive (2-3 weeks) and varied a lot in quality depending on the printer they used to fulfill that specific order.

      I don’t recommend using Gooten.

  45. Daniel Greenberg

    Hi, thanks for all the good info. Any experience with printhouse.io?

  46. Does anyone have an opinion of Jakprints or VinylDisorder for die-cut stickers or Jakprints for all-over print shirts?

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