If you've been considering opening up a print-on-demand store online, then there's a good chance that Printful and Printify were the first two print-on-demand suppliers that you heard about. This is because they are the two biggest companies in the industry. But what company is a better fit for your business? Let's take a look at Printful vs Printify.
Even though there are some striking similarities between what the two companies offer, there are still some differences that should be considered when selecting a company to partner with. In this article, we will summarize how Printful and Printify compare along some of the most important factors for print-on-demand businesses, and finish by letting you know what platform is right for you based on your needs.
But first, let's start with the basics.
What is Print-on-demand?
Print-on-demand is a supply chain model that allows you to sell customized products without purchasing inventory ahead of time. A print-on-demand supplier (e.g. Printful or Printify) allows you to place your design on one of their products (e.g. a t-shirt), and once you make a sale, they then print the design on the product and ship it to your customer. The reason it is on-demand is that the product is not actually created until it has been paid for.
Why use Print-on-Demand?
Print-on-demand's popularity comes from the fact that it is profitable, accessible, and scalable.
Let's imagine you want to start a t-shirt business. You have three basic options. First, you can buy everything you need to do it yourself. You can buy the t-shirts, invest in the machinery to print the designs, and process all of the orders yourself. But the problem with this strategy is that you'll need to invest a few thousand dollars up-front and do all of the work yourself, without any guarantee that you'll be successful.
The second option is to have a third-party company print your t-shirts in big wholesale batches, and ship them to you. This means you need to order every t-shirt size, in every color, with every design. This stacks up quickly, since 10 designs x 3 colors x 6 sizes = 180 different shirts. And that still only leaves you with 1 unit of each design-color-size combo.
The third option is to use a print-on-demand supplier like Printful or Printify. In this case, your only up-front expense is in creating the design. Signing up for a print-on-demand supplier is free, and so is setting up your designs on products, and importing them to a store. You can set up a store through Shopify, or elect to make a free seller account on a marketplace like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon.
Once your store is established, you can scale almost as quickly as you want to. You can have 10 designs, 100 designs, or 10,000 designs. Printful sold well over $100 million dollars worth of products in 2019, so you can bet that they are well-equipped to handle your growth.
You won't have to purchase any new inventory or hire new employees when scaling order volume. Once the products are set up on your storefront (e.g. through Shopify), you can set up systems to automatically process the orders once they come in, allowing you to fulfill orders without any effort.
All you need to do is to create (or outsource) the product designs, market them using mockups, and handle customer service.
But what makes Printful and Printify different from one another?
Main Differences (Printful vs Printify):
First off, Printful is a company that owns all of its fulfillment centers, with the exception of two partner facilities in Australia. This means that Printful has more control over their process, for better or worse. Printify, on the other hand, works with third-party fulfillment centers. Your orders aren't being shipped by Printify themselves, Printify is simply streamlining the transaction between you and these other suppliers. We'll cover what this means for your business more later in this article.
The second key difference is that Printful allows you to buy inventory in advance, should you want to. If you are worried that a certain product variant will be sold out by other stores, you can purchase units up-front and have Printful store them in their warehouse for a small fee. This way, you can continue to sell your products while other store owners are waiting for the general inventory to be replenished.
The third difference is that Printful can actually store other products for you, and ship them with your orders. So, if your store sells t-shirts from Printful and another product (e.g. headphones), you can send your headphone to be stored in one of Printful's warehouses. While this service isn't free, it can still be very useful if you are looking to sell other products without fulfilling them youself. Printful has more information available for its warehousing services on its website.
Let's start off with the most important difference — profit.
Printful is a bit more expensive than Printify is. A Bella Canvas 3001 t-shirt (the gold standard for a t-shirt) sells for about $12.95 USD on Printful, which is considerably more expensive than the $5.91 USD charged by (the cheapest US supplier on) Printify.
Even though Printify charges $1 more for shipping than Printful ($5 vs $4 for a t-shirt), most sellers will notice that Printify is significantly cheaper. However, Printful's products get cheaper as you increase your sales volume. You can receive up to a 9% discount on all of your orders for the month, depending on how much you sold the month before.
Profitability Winner (Printful vs Printify): Printify
Printful and Printify both offer a wide selection of different customizable products. These product catalogs are quite similar and include categories like t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, face masks, underwear, kid's clothing, hats, jewelry, shoes, towels, and more.
All in all, Printful offers about 260 different products, while Printify offers about 306. Now, the majority of people using either of these companies will never touch 90% of these products, but they can still be nice to have.
With this in mind, it is clear that Printify has a slight advantage in their catalog size.
Product Catalog Winner (Printful vs Printify): Printify
Shipping times can really vary between these two print-on-demand companies, and they can even vary between two different orders from the same company.
With Printful, your order will get shipped from the closest fulfillment center that carries the product you sold. Not every fulfillment center carries every product, and some products are only shipped from certain locations. For example, if you sell a t-shirt to a customer in Britain, your order will likely ship from Printful's warehouse in Barcelona, Spain. According to Printful, their orders take about 5 business days for shipping, on average. You can expect the reality to be a few days longer, but it's still a competitive pace for the most part. Printful has a full shipping breakdown available on its website.
Printify is a bit trickier since they have 90 partnered fulfillment centers compared to Printful's 10. Store owners can choose which supplier to use for their orders within Printify, which can all offer different shipping times, destinations, and prices. With Printify you can expect your US orders to arrive in approximately 2-5 business days (excluding processing time). You can check out the shipping rates and timeframes for all of Printify's suppliers on this page.
It's also worth knowing that Printful and Printify both ship globally, with the exception of a few countries. Printful won't ship to Cuba, Crimea, Iran, North Korea, or Syria. Printify won't ship to Belarus, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Zimbabwe. So just make sure that your store's shipping policies reflect these constraints.
All in all, Printful seems to be a bit more consistent with their timeframes, but this advantage is offset by the fact that Printify has way more fulfillment centers, and can ship items from closer locations. In our view, the average shipping speed between these two companies is nearly identical, resulting in a tie.
Shipping Speed Winner (Printful vs Printify): Tie
While both Printful and Printify allow you to place orders manually, this is more labour and time-consuming than is necessary.
Both of these print-on-demand suppliers can be integrated with e-commerce platforms like Shopify, allowing you to set up your products with a few clicks. Instead of building your product listing from scratch, you can import the product to your store, and automatically populate the title, the tags, the photos, the description, and the price. This also makes processing orders easier, since these print-on-demand suppliers can communicate with your e-commerce platform directly, and process incoming orders automatically.
However, Printful and Printify vary in the number of integrations they offer.
Printful has developed integrations for 20 different platforms including Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, Wix, Webflow, Squarespace, Ecwid, Bigcommerce, Prestashop, Weebly, Amazon, eBay, Big Cartel, Wish, Magento, Storenvy, Gumroad, Shipstation, 3dcart, and Launch Cart, in addition to making their API available to developers.
Printify offers significantly fewer integrations but still covers the major players. It has developed integrations for Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, eBay, Prestashop, BigCommerce, and Wix, in addition to making their API available to developers.
Although most people will be sticking with the big players that Printful and Printify have in common, we still see this flexibility as being a leg up in favour of Printful.
Platform Integrations Winner (Printful vs Printify): Printful
Processing time is one of the most important factors you should consider when selecting a print-on-demand supplier.
Since print-on-demand products still need to be printed after they've been ordered, order processing will take longer than if the products were sitting ready in a warehouse.
Printful also advertises that it can take 2-7 business days for their orders to ship. This appears to be true for the most part, but you can always check their fulfillment updates page for the latest updates on processing time.
Printify's products tend to take 2-7 business days to be printed, packed, and shipped, according to their help article. However, you can find a more detailed time estimate by navigating to the product page that you're interested in and scrolling down to the various suppliers you can choose from. You will see a metric called "Avg. Production Time", which will tell you the average amount of time it takes for the supplier to ship the order after receiving it.
Processing Speed Winner (Printful vs Printify): Tie
Bringing It All Together:
Ultimately, both of these platforms are viable to start a print-on-demand business with, and the question of which company you should choose will depend on what you value.
Simplicity: If you are just starting out, and you want a simple, reliable print-on-demand supplier to get started with, then you should go with Printful. Printful can be set up to automatically pick the best supplier for you based on your target market. It has more training resources, fewer supplier options to get overwhelmed with, and an intuitive interface.
Shipping Speed: If shipping speed is the deciding factor for you, then you might want to go with Printify because they have more suppliers across the world. This won't make much of a difference if your customers are in the United States. But, it can be a bit faster if you are selling to customers in the United Kingdom since Printify has suppliers there and Printful's closest warehouse is in Spain.
Product Offerings: Generally speaking, most print-on-demand stores will only sell a handful of different product types, so it won't matter if there are 260 different products or 306. You'll want to stick to the basics; t-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, sweatshirts, and possibly mugs. Don't get drawn in thinking that you need to start selling customized shower curtains just because your print-on-demand supplier offers them. With this in mind, both Printful and Printify are viable options.
Profitability: If you don't mind juggling a few different suppliers, then Printify can be a lot more profitable. For something like a basic Bella+Canvas 3001 t-shirt shipping to a customer in the USA, your costs will be about $12.44 USD including shipping if you go with the cheapest supplier. The same t-shirt sold through Printful would cost about $17.10 USD with shipping to the US, making it about 37% more expensive than Printify. While the price difference isn't this big for all products, it's worth knowing that Printify will usually provide you with a better profit margin, even with Printful's sales volume-based discounts.
Integrations: Both of these platforms cover the basics with the integrations that they offer, but Printful has gone the extra mile. Even though most people will be selling through platforms like Shopify, Etsy, or WooCommerce, which are offered by both Printful and Printify, people using lesser-known e-Commerce software like Magento will be limited to Printful.
FAQ (Printful vs Printify):
Can I use both of them on my store?
Yes, you can use both Printful and Printify on the same store at the same time.
Do these companies make their products?
They do not. Printful and Printify take care of the warehousing, printing, and fulfillment, but they purchase their blank products from third-party suppliers.
Are these companies eco-friendly?
Yes, both of these companies partner with reputable clothing manufacturers and use eco-friendly ink in their printing.
Do other sellers share my inventory?
All suppliers using a print-on-demand service sell from the same inventory stock (unless they pre-purchased some). So, if another seller sells out of a certain product, you just sold out too.
Do these companies charge a commission or a membership fee?
Neither Printful nor Printify charge commissions on orders. They make their money from selling products. However, Printify has recently launched a subscription-based upgrade for sellers that would like to receive 20% off, and gain access to advanced features. This costs about $25/month.
How much money can you make with a print-on-demand store?
You can make as much as you want, provided you can scale effectively. Some stores, like SmashTransit, have sold well over 20,000 t-shirts, which would equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit. You're limited only by your imagination and your marketing success. And, since order fulfillment is taken care of automatically, you can spend your time scaling by creating more stores in different niches.
What happens if a customer orders a product that is out of stock?
This can happen every once in a while, and you have a few options. Your first option is to ship the item from a different fulfillment center than the one you usually go with, which might take a few more days to ship. The second option is to wait until the item comes back into stock. Your third option is to swap out the product for something similar, like a different t-shirt. And, your last option, is to cancel the order. Whatever you do, just make sure to keep your customers updated.
Can I set up my products in multiple storefronts?
Yes, you can. You can be selling your products in multiple storefronts at the same time. Many people choose to sell their products on their own Shopify website (better margins) while also selling them on a marketplace like eBay or Etsy (better exposure).
How do I create mockups to advertise my print-on-demand products?
Both Printful and Printify will set you up with very basic mockups for each product you create. However, if you want to create better, more unique mockups, then you'll need to find them elsewhere. Our recommendation is to check out Place It. It's a paid service (about $15/month), but there are over 30,000 customizable mockups for all kinds of products. It provides extremely good value for its cost, and you also get access to a bunch of design tools, so you can actually create product designs using the same platform. It's the perfect tool for people looking to start a print-on-demand business from scratch.
Alternatives (Printful vs Printify):
Gooten is another print-on-demand supplier worth considering. They have 174 products at the time the time of writing this, and their prices are comparable to Printify (a bit cheaper than Printful). Their processing times are also comparable with Printful & Printify, and the majority of their items ship within 7 business days. They use both in-house manufacturing and third-party suppliers, claiming to offer the best of both worlds. Most products ship from the United States. Gooten currently offers integrations with Shopify, Etsy, and WooCommerce.
SPOD is a second alternative to Printful and Printify, and has fulfillment centers in the US & Europe. The company carries over 100 products and has some design services built in to help you create designs within their platform. They are also one of the most affordable options, and advertise that they will match any of their competitors' prices if you can find a better rate. Their production times are faster than most of our competitors, with most small orders being printed and packed within 48 hours. Unfortunately, they only have an integration for Shopify, so you'll need a third-party app to sell on other platforms like Etsy or Amazon.
TeeLaunch is another print-on-demand supplier worth considering. Their website is significantly less developed than the other companies on this list, but they make up for it by carrying some unique products that we didn't see on their competitors' websites. They have about 86 products, and they seem to be a bit more expensive than Printify, but less so than Printful. They offer integrations with Shopify, Etsy, eBay, and Amazon. However, based on their Shopify Reviews they seem to be a lot less polished than the other options on this list. So make sure to do your own research before working with them.
How To Get Started:
If you're ready to get started, then you can visit Printful or Printify on their websites and create a free account. They both have plenty of resources to help new users get started. If you already have designs ready (usually in png format), then you could have your store up and running in as little as a few hours.
If you're wondering how to create designs, then we have two recommendations for where to start. You can check out Fiverr if you're looking to hire someone to create the designs for you. They have sellers offering custom t-shirt designs for as little as $1. Or, if you want to use the DIY approach, then you should check out Place It.
Place It allows you to create your own t-shirt designs using their graphic templates, set up the design for mockups (digital photos of real people wearing your shirt), and download everything you need with a commercial license. It's the #1 resource we would recommend for someone opening a print-on-demand store, and it's only $15 per month.
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