Are you interested in starting your own print on demand t-shirt business, but don’t know where to start? Selling print on demand (POD) merch is one of my favorite ways to make money online, and my wife and I have sold thousands of dollars in merchandise through our Shopify store. But how do you start?
There are a lot of choices to make when you first plan to launch a Shopify store using print on demand products.Who is your audience? If you’re not an artist, where will you get your designs (I recommend Fiverr designers, by the way)? What should your pricing be like?
If you are just starting out, I wrote this helpful post for you guys! It’s a comprehensive guide on how we successfully launched our POD Shopify store, and landed over $500 within our first 10 hours – How To Start A Print On Demand Business On Shopify
For this post, I’m going to give you a huge head start. One of the toughest things about starting up a print on demand t-shirt business is finding which ones are the best. If you choose the wrong companies it could ruin your brand’s reputation. Not all POD companies are equal! I had to sift through tons of POD companies available on Shopify, and after lots of trial and error (unfortunately, more error at first – yikes!), I finally found the 5 best print on demand companies for Shopify.
Check out the details below!
Quality Rank: ★★★★★
Shipping Speed: ★★★★★
I’ll start with Printful because they are probably the best known POD company for Shopify. There’s a good reason for this! But they’re not perfect. Here’s my review:
In terms of quality Printful is popular for a reason! There products look great, the print quality is very good, and they are a trustworthy brand overall. We ordered numerous samples of Printful products when we first started using them, and we loved them all.
Printful has a bunch of unique products, that are hard to find anywhere else. One of their coolest is their hat selection. Here’s an example of a pair of our snapback hats through Printful. They embroider your designs on the hat, and can even put your logo on the back!
One of the other greatest strengths of Printful is that they produce all of their products IN HOUSE. Most other print on demand companies outsource a lot of their production, but Printful does it all themselves. This helps them maintain higher quality, and also helps them ship your products out MUCH faster than their competitors!
The fast turnaround time of Printful orders will be very popular with your customers. Buyers prefer not to wait for their orders, so this is a big perk to using Printful.
So what are the cons to Printful?
Their pricing. Print on demand companies are free to use, and don’t charge you any flat fees, but whenever you make a sale they take their cut. Printful’s pricing on many items, like socks and coffee mugs, are so high that it’s very hard for you to mark up your profit on it. We needed to keep our prices competitive enough to sell our products, and this is hard when Printful’s pricing was already so high. $11+ for 1 pair of socks, especially when you have to add shipping, is WAY too much to pay, and that’s before our own mark up on the price.
This brutal pricing is the one thing that keeps Printful from being perfect. They also, unfortunately, take an EXTRA cut on your first hat sales to cover their cost of converting files to be embroidery friendly.
This pricing issue is why I only recommend Printful for certain products, like hats and some tank tops.
Shipping Speed: ★★★★
Teelaunch is another one of the more popular POD companies on Shopify. So what advantage does it have over Printful? The pricing. Teelaunch’s products are far more affordable than Printful’s in almost every category. When you’re first starting your business, and you want products that you can get decent profit margins with, Teelaunch is a good place to start.
Teelaunch has lower prices on t-shirts, coffee mugs, socks, and tank tops just for starters. For example, the Teelaunch price on a regular coffee mug is only $3.50, and $4.50 for an accented coffee mug. Even if you don’t charge your customers shipping, and absorb the $5 shipping cost, you can easily sell a coffee mug for $12 to $15. This is not a bad profit margin.
By contrast, Printful charges $7.50 for a plain coffee mug. You would have to charge almost $20 just to make a decent profit!
So what are the downsides to Teelaunch? They don’t have too many weaknesses, but there are a few things to consider. Their shipping speed is slightly slower than Printful’s, and their quality on clothing like sweaters and hoodies is lower. If you want to sell higher end, sublimated products (here’s a helpful post if sublimation is a new term for you), I recommend you not use Teelaunch.
There best products are coffee mugs, baseball shirts, wood cutting boards (AWESOME!), and phone cases. Here are some of our examples below!
Shipping Speed: ★★★★★
If POD companies were characters from the Super Smash Bros. video game, Printify would be Mario. If you don’t get that reference, don’t sweat it, the fact that Printify ranks at 4 stars out of 5 in every category sums it up.
Printify is good in ALL areas, but great in none of them. This makes it a balanced option, but not perfect for everything. The quality of Printify products is generally good, but their t-shirt and sweater prints do not come out as nice as Printful prints do. They used to make very good socks at reasonable prices, but unfortunately those were discontinued. So is Printify a wasted option? What do they bring to the table?
I highly recommend Printify as your resource for all SHOES. While Printify is not the only company offering footwear, they are currently the best one. They have a variety of cool sneakers, and even all-over-print boots that look great! Check out a few of our examples below:
Printify’s shipping speed is average. They do not produce their products in-house, so it takes a little longer than Printful, but they’re fast enough to maintain your customer’s satisfaction. Their pricing is hit or miss. They are generally cheaper than Printful, but slightly more expensive than Teelaunch. Again, focus on their shoes. At the time of writing this they actually DO NOT charge shipping on their boots!
Shipping Speed: ★★★★
Printy6 is a China based POD company, that I discovered by accident while building our Shopify store. At 4.3 stars out of 5 it’s actually one of the better reviewed POD companies on Shopify, so I had to check them out. Here’s what I found!
Printy6 can be a little tedious to work with. They link comfortably with Shopify and Etsy, but when a customer buys a product they actually require you to manually input the order! This was extremely frustrating, because every other POD company I have ever experienced is totally automated. Printy6 actually requires you to pay for the product every time a customer buys before they will fulfill the order.
Ok, rant over. Here are the upsides to Printy6. There products are incredibly unique! While there are plenty of great options out there, Printy6 was the best resource I found for pop sockets (a.k.a. phone grips). They also had print-on-demand wall art, wall clocks, watches, and the cheapest phone cases I’ve found.
So if you’re looking for low-cost, high profit margin products to fill up your store, Printy6 is not a bad option. Just be warned; the prints on their pop sockets, in our experience, do fade with time. Hopefully your customers will be understanding of this, especially because your pricing will be so good. They also have shipping times on the longer side, for most customers, because they are China based.
Here are a few examples of products that we have made with Printy6.
Shipping Speed: ★
SKYOU is a rare and hidden gem on Shopify. It was almost totally undiscovered when I first found it, and it’s still one of the lesser known POD options on Shopify.
The thing that makes SKYOU so unique is that they are completely customizable. While most other POD companies just let you drag and drop your design onto a square panel, SKYOU will let you create any pattern combination, color combo, and even thread color that you want.
They also sublimate almost all of their products, and use thicker, higher quality material in their clothing. While Teelaunch will only use flimsy polyester clothes for their sublimation prints, SKYOU will let you print all over real, high-quality material. Their sweaters, hoodies, and t-shirts can me made into incredibly unique designs and colors that will make your brand stand out. See a few examples of me wearing our SKYOU products below!
Just watch out, because if you don’t carefully combine your patterns on the clothes they may come out with awkward gaps (speaking from experience). The level of customization requires you to be careful with your work!
The pricing on SKYOU is also very reasonable, especially in light of the quality. Their pricing is highly competitive for most products, even after you factor their slightly higher shipping costs.
The big down side to SKYOU is that they have TERRIBLE production wait time. Our sample order through SKYOU took over a month to arrive! Even though SKYOU maintains pretty high ratings on Shopify, you will also see that the #1 complaint about them is how long they take. It’s an unfortunate blight on an otherwise awesome POD company.
Part of the reason for SKYOU’s delayed production time is that they have recently opened up new facilites. They have no finished settling in to these facilities. The cool thing about this is that they actually produce their own products! Hopefully SKYOU’s production time, and shipping time, will greatly improve in the future. Until then, it’s hard to entrust them with your customer’s satisfaction.
If you’re ambitious, and inspired by the amazing possibilities with SKYOU, I recommend you inform any customers buying SKYOU-produced products about the longer wait time. Explain to the customers that it takes you longer to make more advanced products, and to please be patient. It will at least give you a buffer if they get impatient for their order to arrive.
Testing Makes Perfect
These are some of the best tips I can give you. As you can see, each POD company has its pros and cons. That’s why I recommend using all 5 companies for different purposes.
– Printful for hats, and high-quality t-shirts/tank tops
– Teelaunch for coffee mugs, phone cases, wood cutting boards, and cheaper tank tops/t-shirts
– Printify for all footwear
– Printy6 for pop sockets, wall art, and cheaper phone case options
– SKYOU for advanced sublimation designs
I would still recommend that you get sample orders from each one before you release them on your store. Most POD companies (like Printful and Printify), will give you a big discount on your sample order, and you can then use the sample pictures for your Instagram promotions. Samples are important because they give you the quality control that your brand needs.
You can, of course, also read the reviews of each POD company on Shopify’s app store too. Just take these with a grain of salt, because people are quick to complain and write about 1 bad experience. I have used all 5 of these thoroughly, and I find them all to be worthwhile in at least some ways.
Do you know of some other good print-on-demand companies? What do you sell, and do you have some ideas to share? Let me know in the comments below, along with any questions you might have. Thanks for dropping by, and I’m routing for you guys!