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Best Overall: Printful
Printful was the first print on demand service I used with Etsy, and it’s still my favorite. Though far from perfect, Printful still has way more upsides than downsides. I currently do most of my all-over print (AOP) products through Printful, as well as any colorful designs demand a high-quality print.
What I like about Printful
Some of my brands involve highly detailed, colorful designs, so I’ve spent lots of money and time testing designs on the same products across POD companies to find the best. For direct-to-garment (DTG), none were as brightly colored as Printful. Their sublimation printing on AOP products is even better, with rich colors and highly detailed printing.
If you’re new to print on demand, make sure to learn about different printing techniques and set your expectations accordingly. While DTG has lots of advantages, it will never be quite as bold at screenprinting or heat transfer vinyl.
Custom Variations / Multiple Products Per Listing
A huge advantage to using Printful that I have not found anywhere else, is the ability to sync a Printful product to an existing listing in Etsy. You can create your Etsy listing with a choice of products (e.g. both adult and kid t-shirts) or designs (e.g. couple shirts), and sync them up with Printful for automatic fulfillment.
Watch my video tutorial to learn how to create multiple design options in one Etsy listing.
Many POD services let your resize and position your print file, but Printful has some extra design features that make it even easier to quickly make products. One of my favorite is the ability to create a repeating pattern, which is great for seamless designs on AOP products like leggings. There’s also some basic design tools that you can use to add text and clipart, which can be helpful for beginners. Printful’s file library is also one of the best with the ability to upload multiple files at once and to organize them into folders.
Variety of Mock-ups
No other POD service provides nearly as many product mockups as Printful. In fact, most don’t provide model or 3D mockups like Printful. Having a variety of mockups available is great for quickly adding new products. Though I still recommend using real-life photos of your products or purchasing quality mockups from places like Creative Market to help your brand stand out.
Printful is compatible with Etsy’s personalization feature, which allows customers to send you the customizations they’d like. While you still need to create the custom art file, Printful will import the order with the default product and place it on hold until you add the custom art. This is a great way to fulfill personalized products, such as shirts with a customer’s name on them.
Being able to control my orders is important to me, and I don’t like having to waste time contacting customer support for changes. Printful makes it easy to do everything your self: sync with your Etsy store, add products, and most importantly: change or cancel orders when necessary. Many POD services don’t allow you to change an address or cancel an order without going through custom support, and a product might ship before you get a response! Some companies even require you to have them set up your store – ugh, no thanks!
Prinful not only ships globally, but has manufacturing facilities in several continents, including the USA, Europe, Canada, Australia, and Mexico. Having multiple locations not only gets products to your international customers faster, but can also cut down on customs fees. Etsy is an international market place, so your fulfillment should be too!
What I don’t like about Printful
While I am generally please with Printful’s service, there are a few things I don’t love.
With a rare few exceptions, Printful’s products are the most expensive of all POD services, and usually by a few dollars – not just cents! Yes, you get what you pay for, and Printful certainly has advantages worth paying more for. However, my shrinking margins is what led me to look into other print vendors, especially for simple one or two color DTG shirts.
My biggest annoyance with Printful right now is their strict policy requiring that you contact them within 4-weeks of an order’s estimated delivery if there’s an issue with the product or delivery. While most of the time this is fine, I find that the estimated delivery date is almost always underestimated and most international orders take four weeks to arrive! By the time a customer realizes their order is lost, it’s too late to get a refund. Printful should refund all lost orders, regardless.
Printful’s product catalog is much more limited than other POD services. They generally have fewer shirt colors to choose from, rarely follow trends, and pretty much ignore customer requests. For years, one of the top product requests has been black mugs, yet they won’t add them. I also don’t know a lot of people who wear baby pink and light blue sweatshirts; can we get some trendy colors like olive green and cream? And how about some modern styles like a scuba hoodie or at least less baggy everything. Don’t go to a brand’s wholesale site – it’ll depress you to see the number of great options Printful isn’t using.
Custom order syncing error
I receive lots of custom orders via Etsy’s custom order request feature, but these orders never sync with Printful. I use to create them manually, but now that Printful charges sales tax on manual orders, I use Printify for all of my custom orders.
Runner Up: Printify
I am increasingly using Printify to fulfill my products and find that they are often improving. Some the issues I had with them early on have been resolved and I now recommend Printify almost as much as Printful. These days I use Printify mostly for simple white or black DTG prints, and for almost all my mugs.
What I like about Printify
Cost on Printify depends entirely on which vendor you select, but there is almost always at least one vendor that is several dollars cheaper than Printful. I only tried Printify at all because the margins were so much better.
Because Printify partners with multiple vendors, their product catalog is extensive. Many clothing vendors also offer shirt colors that aren’t available from any other POD.
Custom order syncing
Unlike other vendors, Printify has the ability to import orders created via Etsy’s “custom order request” feature. You still have to manually add the product, but you won’t be charged tax that Etsy has already collected and the shipping status and tracking number will automatically sync back to Etsy.
What I don’t like about Printify
Not a manufacturer
What delayed me in using Printify initially and is still my biggest issue with Printify, is that they are not the manufacturer of any products, but just the software that connects your Etsy shop to your manufacturer. Because of this, quality and fulfillment time varies greatly across different printers. This is especially a pain during Q4 when vendors disable certain product variations and you have to manually go through your store to determine which products are discontinued.
Because Printify is not the actual manufacturer, once an order is submitted for production, you can’t make any changes or cancel the order without contacting support. Often it will ship before customer support gets back to you or they are unable to help because it’s out of their control. It is common for customers to make mistakes with their address or to cancel when they realize it won’t ship in time for an event or holiday. I will say though, that customer support times have gotten much faster over the years and they are increasingly able to cancel a delayed order.
Product syncing limitations
Unlike Printful, Printify doesn’t let you create listing in Etsy first and then sync it. It will let you manually sync an unsynced order, but this still makes it tedious to over multiple products or designs in one listing. Changing color names and other variations will also break the sync with Printify. I end up doing a lot of manual imports with Printify.
Global shipping issues
Although Printify works with manufacturers across the globe, you can only sync one location per listing. So for example, if a Canadian orders one my products, it will be shipped from the US manufacturer that is synced with my listing and possible be charged a customs fee, even if the manufacturer has a Canadian location!
Additionally, I’ve found that all of Printify’s manufacturers use THE SLOWEST shipping couriers in the world (e.g. Asendia) and the tracking is delayed at best and usually non-existent. Whenever possible, I switch non-US orders to an International manufacturer or to Printful.
Best for Bulk Orders: Scalable Press
I don’t use Scalable Press often, mostly because they don’t actually sync with Etsy. But Scalable Press is great for two specific needs: bulk orders and backup.
What I like about Scalable Press
This best thing about Scalable Press is that they offer screen printing with no minimums! Granted, ordering just one screen printed shirt is expensive given the set up costs, but it’s possible! When I get a group order or someone inquires about a discounted bulk order, I use Scalable press to leverage the large order size to get a high-quality screen print. The pricing is fantastic for large orders (as low as a few dollars a shirt) and the quality is excellent.
Scalable Press also offers DTG and embroidery on many items, as well as some sublimation like mugs. This is helpful when both Printful and Printify are out of stock on an item or are experiencing slow fulfillment times. I don’t think many POD shop owners use Scalable Press, so the fulfillment times are usually quicker.
What I don’t like about Scalable Press
The fact that Scalable Press doesn’t sync with Etsy is the biggest downside, since every has to be done manually, including marking your order as shipped in Etsy. I also don’t love the navigation of their product catalog as you can’t see what colors are offered and what the cost is until you go to the product page. Checking out is also a bit clunky, as you have to place an order and then go pay for it on another page.
Conclusion: Use Multiple Vendors
Whichever vendor you choose to start with, my advice is to have a least one other ready to go as a backup. Product stock issues and fulfillment times at one can often be resolved by switch an order to a different provider. You can also maximize your products by using multiple vendors to price shop.