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Sell More with Personalized Gifts

Sell more in Q4 with Personalized Products

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. If you sign up for a service or make a purchase through an affiliate link, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate commissions help me create more content for you!

Combine Etsy’s personalization feature with a print on demand manufacturer like Printful to sell one of a kind products.

Stand out from other print on demand shops this holiday season by offering personalized products custom made for your customer. By providing bespoke designs that customers can’t get anywhere else, you can charge more and will have less competition. Print on demand manufacturers like Printful are perfect for these one-off designs. Here’s how I use Etsy’s personalization feature and Printful’s integration to sell unique products.

Ways to personalize your designs

Add custom text

The easiest way to custom a product is by adding a customer’s desired text by itself or to a pre-made design. This can even be done directly within Printful using their design maker – no extra tools required! I personally use Smart Objects in Photoshop to quickly add pre-styled text to a design. Some common text customizations include names, places (e.g. hometowns) and special dates (eg. birthdays and anniversaries).

Use customer-submitted images

Another easy way to personalize a product is to add a customer’s photo(s). Photo collage mugs are a very popular gift for parents and grandparents and can be easily created with the free graphic program, Canva. I’ve also been seeing a lot of gag gifts using photos, like putting a spouses photo on an all-over print shirt.

Create custom graphics

Although the most time consuming options, creating unique graphics is by far my best selling personalization option. This option involves creating designs from scratch based on customer requests and requires a bit more design skill or a partnership with a professional designer. Some great examples I’ve seen include: watercolor paintings of someone’s home, cartoon caricatures, embroidered pet portraits, and hand drawn maps of first date locations – the possibilities are endless!

How to print personalized products with Printful

Enable personalization on your listing

Printful has personalization tools for Shopify, Woocommerce, and Etsy. There are more features for Shopify and Woocommerce, but they are also more complex to setup. For beginners, I recommend starting with Etsy for personalized products, among all the other reasons for choosing Etsy as your first POD shop.

Screenshot of the Etsy Personalization setting. The left column says "Instructions for buyers. Enter the personalization instructions your want buyers to see." followed by a text input with the example text "Enter the name and birthday you'd like on the mug." Below is a check box titled "Personalization is option." and a numerical input titled "Character limit" with a value of 20. The right column shows a preview of how the form will look to buyers.
  1. When creating or editing a listing on Etsy, toggle the Personalization setting On
  2. Add instructions to the Instructions for buyers box, including what information you need or any limitations.
  3. Optional: Check the Personalization is optional box if you offer the product without personalization also
  4. Optional: Enter a character limit for the personalization (this is especially useful for small spaces like embroidery!)

Import personalized orders into Printful

Make sure that your Printful shop is set up to sync personalized orders by going to Settings > Stores > Orders and checking the “Import personalized orders as drafts” box.

Then when a customer purchases a personalized product, the order will show on your Orders dashboard, but will be on Hold. The product, customer’s address, and other order details will be prefilled for you, but you’ll need to edit the order to add any personalized text or artwork.

Tips for selling personalized products

Combine with variations

Streamline your fulfillment process by using variations in your listing to preset product options. For example, if selling personalized shirts, use variations to have the shirt color and size sync with Printful so all you have to edit is the design.

Limit personalization options

Too many choices can be overwhelming for your customers and just creates more work for you. For example, with custom text, I usually don’t offer font or text color choices, because those can’t be synced with Printful.

Create a business email for customer communication

If you’ll be collecting images from customers on Etsy, the easiest way is via email. Give customers confidence in your business by creating a business email with your business domain. I recommend using Google Workspace to create a business branded Gmail account, for example

Save time with templates

Whether you use Canva, Photoshop, or another program, use design templates to quickly create your personalized designs with premade styles and layout. I’m a huge fan of Photoshop “smart objects” and actions to cut my design time down to minutes.

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Are Premium Print On Demand Subscriptions Worth It?

Are premium subscriptions from Printify or Printful worth the cost?

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. If you sign up for a service or make a purchase through an affiliate link, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate commissions help me create more content for you!

Some print on demand vendors have started adding “Premium” subscriptions, offering additional features for an up front fee. But not all of them live up to their premium status.

Is the Printify premium subscription worth it?

Try Printify Premium free for 30 days!
Get started with Printify Premium for free with promo code ThePODFiles. Your first 30 days are free and you can cancel anytime. Expires 8/20/2022

The Printify premium subscriptions costs $29/month or $299.98/year (two months free). The subscription is pretty simple with only two benefits: 20% off most products and up to 10 synced stores instead of 5. The cost benefit analysis on this one is pretty simple – if you buy at least $150 worth of products a month (across all stores), then you should buy the premium subscription. There’s no reason to buy it just for the additional stores, because if you aren’t making $150 in sales from five shops allowed on the free account, then there’s no need to open another five! Get your first month of Printify Premium free with promo code ThePODFiles.

Is Printful Plus or Printful Pro worth it?

Printful offers two upgrade options – Plus and Pro. Printful Plus essentially gives you additional design tools for creating custom mockups and promos. At $9/month the cost is not bad, but if you just need design templates for social media, you might as well get Canva Premium for the same price. Canva also includes an image background remover, as well as other features that Printful Plus does not have.

While I don’t think Printful Pro is worth it for the clipart or premium images, or even the Keyword Scout (if it helps sales so much they’d make it free so you’d make more sales), but there is one instance where you might want to upgrade to Printful Pro. If you sell personalized embroidery – where most of your files are unique to a customer – then the free digitization feature alone makes a Printful Pro account worth it, assuming you’re digitizing more than 7 files a month.

Printful Plus

$9/month or $99/year

  • All the features of Free
  • Create custom mockups
  • Remove image backgrounds
  • Create marketing promos

Printful Pro

$49/month or $539/year

  • All the features of Plus
  • 480+ exclusive clipart
  • Keyword Scout for Etsy
  • Premium Images at no extra cost
  • Free embroidery digitization
  • Carrier-Based Shipping

If you’re just getting started, I don’t recommend upgrading your print on demand subscriptions. Wait until you reach a sales threshold at which the discounts are more than the cost of the subscription. Other features like designs and promo makers are just fluff that can be found free elsewhere.

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How to Sync Multiple Designs to a Printful Listing on Etsy

Multiple design variations in one printful listing. Example shows white text on black shirts and black text on white shirts.

Whether you want to offer both light and dark shirts in one Etsy listing, or completely different designs altogether, with a couple extra steps, you can list multiple design variations in one single Etsy listing and sync them all with Printful.

Option 1: Printful Variations

The simplest option for offering multiple design variations, e.g. white text on dark shirts and black text on light shirts, is to use the “Variations” feature in Printful. Note that this method only works on products with multiple variations such as shirt colors (so not all-over-print products) and you can only add each variation once, e.g. you can’t have multiple different designs all on black shirts; to do that, skip to the next option.

  1. Create a product with one version of your design on all the product variations you want for that design. For example, add your white text version on all the shirt you want to have white text.
  2. Click the Edit button next to the product
  3. Click the Add Variants button, located at the top right (if this button is greyed out, go to the next section about adding variants via Etsy)
  4. Uncheck all the variants you already have listed
  5. Check the variants you need to add and edit/replace the design as necessary
  6. Finishing publishing the product as usual

Option 2: Etsy Variations

Some products, such as all-over-print products, require you to add the variations on Etsy first and then sync with Printful. This method also works if you want to offer multiple designs on the same product variation (e.g. matching couple shirts printed on the same shirt model) or multiple product types (e.g. a t-shirt and tank top) in the same listing.

Watch my video on Adding Multiple Color Options for AOP Products for an example of this technique.

  1. In Printful, go to Settings > Stores > Orders and make sure Import existing products is checked. (If you have multiple stores synced with Printful, use the dropdown at the top to change stores and check this setting for each).
  2. Create mockups images of your products (you can use Printful’s standalone Mockup Generator)
  3. In your Etsy shop, create a new listing with all the required information such as title, description, photos, etc.
  4. In the Variations section, add all the product options you want to offer. Since you are only allowed two variations (e.g. color and size) you may have to get creative and combine multiple variations in one. For example, if I were offering family shirts with different sizes and colors, I might have one variation with the design options (mom, dad, sister, etc.) and another that combined the size and shirt color, e.g. “Adult XL Blue”, “Youth M Black”.
Keep in mind that too many options may cause “purchase paralysis” and customers won’t buy your product because they are overwhelmed by options. If offering multiple designs, I recommend sticking with one product color. You can always have multiple listings, which will also increase your odds of being found in search.
  1. Publish the listing (you can also save as a draft if you prefer)
  2. Go to your store in Printful and click the Refresh data link, located at the top right.
  3. When the new listing appears on your product list, click the Edit button next to it.
  4. Next to each product, you will need to click Choose Product and select the product and design for that variation.
  5. If you didn’t publish in step 4, go back to Etsy and publish your listing.

Note, you can also skip syncing all the products and instead sync them as you get orders; after you sync an unsynced order, it will sync all future orders. If you take this approach, make sure that “Import unsynced orders” is checked in your Printful settings.

Video Tutorials

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Best Print on Demand Services for Etsy

The best print on demand services for Etsy

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. If you sign up for a service or make a purchase through an affiliate link, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate commissions help me create more content for you!

Best Overall: Printful

Printful Review

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

Print Quality

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.

Design Features

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!

Global Fulfillment

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.

Refund policy

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.

Product availability

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.

Printify Review

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.

Product selection

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.

Locked orders

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

Screen Printing

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.

The best print on demand drop shipping services for your Etsy shop.
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How to Create a Seamless Hoodie Design

Create a seamless hoodie design by lining up the pocket

All-over print hoodies are a great product for artists to showcase their work and get creative with multiple print areas. One way to level up your all-over print hoodies and make them look professional is to line up the design on the front so that it flows seamlessly across the pocket. Now, because these products are handmade and the print areas differ slightly on each size, it’s not going to be perfect. But, the better print files your provide, the better the outcome.

Here’s how I use smart objects in Adobe Photoshop to line up the hoodie pocket to create a seamless print file:

Save time with a pre-made template!

Save time with my pre-made AOP Hoodie Template for Printful and start making seamless hoodies today!

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Make Passive Income Selling Shirts – Start for FREE with Print on Demand

How to make passive income selling shirts in just 3 steps

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. If you sign up for a service or make a purchase through an affiliate link, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate commissions help me create more content for you!

It takes money to make money, right? Not anymore!

Much of my income comes from several Etsy clothing stores that I run with ZERO equipment and ZERO inventory!

How is this possible?


Sell products through an Etsy shop and use Printful or Printify to automatically print & ship the product to your customer.

You can use a free design program like Canva to create designs. Or, check out Creative Market for pre-made illustrations and other design elements, or hire a professional designer on Fiverr.

I use print-on-demand services that manufacture my products only after a customer places an order. I then pay the printer with the money my customer paid and keep the difference as profit.

Normally there is a minimal cost to starting a print-on-demand Etsy store, but if you sign up through my affiliate link you’ll get to list your first 40 products for free!

Whether you’re an artist looking to make a living, a mom wanting to run a business from home, or a college student wanting some spending cash, starting a print-on-demand clothing business is a quick way to make money online. With enough hard work, you can even turn this side hustle into a full-time income!

Step 1: Open an Etsy Shop

While there are several ways to create an e-commerce website to sell your products, I recommend Etsy to start with because it comes with a built-in customer base, rather than having to spend money on advertising to get traffic to a stand-alone website like Shopify. Etsy is also one of the cheapest, costing only 20 cents per listing. Start with 40 FREE listings when you sign-up using this referral link.

Get 40 FREE Etsy Listings

Step 2: Sync with a POD Company

Once you’ve set up your Etsy shop, you’ll need a print on demand service to make the products and ship them to your customers. I recommend using Printful and/or Printify is because your Etsy orders automatically sync, i.e. when a customer orders in Etsy, the manufacturer prints the products, ships it to your customer, and updates the order status and tracking number in Etsy! See my reviews of the best print on demand services for Etsy for more information.

Printful will even include your brand name and logo on the receipt, so it looks like it came directly from you. Check out Printful’s step-by-step tutorials for syncing your Etsy shop to Printful.

Sign-Up with Printful

Step 3: Create Products

Printful WYSIWYG text and clip art editor with a shirt that says "Look ma, no Photoshop!"
No design skills necessary!

When creating products on Printful you can either use their built-in text and clipart editors or upload your own images. Each product page also has a template for you to use in image creators like Photoshop or Canva.

Buying pre-made designs or elements from marketplaces like Creative Market is a great way to make lots of quality designs quickly, especially if your not an artist or graphic designer. Creative Market even gives away six free products week – download them now!

If you don’t want to spend time creating the designs yourself, consider hiring a designer on a freelance marketplace like Fiverr, where you can get designs for as low as – you guessed it – $5.

Watch my video tutorials to learn 1) how to sync Printful with your Etsy shop and 2) how to add Printful products to your Etsy shop.

Step 4: Make Passive Income

After you publish products to your Etsy shop, there is very little work on your end, other than the occasional customer question. When a customer orders one of your products, Printful will automatically print and ship the order.

Etsy subtracts their fees from the money paid by the customer, and your balance is deposited into your bank account (the default is weekly, but you can change it to daily). Printful charges you upfront for the product they print, but you can set this to be charged to a credit card, so you don’t have to pay it until after you’ve received your income from Etsy. I recommend getting a business credit card with rewards, so you can earn money back or other rewards for all your business expenses (also helps keep your accounting clear, by separating business and personal).

For more information on starting a successful print-on-demand t-shirt business, check out my Printful + Etsy video playlist.

How to make money selling t-shirts in just 3 steps by The POD Files dot com