(This article contains affiliate links, and if you sign up after clicking on them, I get a cut of the sale)
It’s been a long, unusual road for me in the five years of my post-college artistic career. I still hate graphic design, and my day job has nothing to do with it (office work in a theater), but I do still use Photoshop, Illustrator, and my design skills regularly in my artistic work, even though my focus is on illustration and hand-painted masks.
In my quest to make my art available for people to purchase, I have been exploring various Print-on-Demand/Drop Shipping services to offer my artwork not just as prints, but on mugs, shirts, leggings, and more. This format doesn’t require you to store or pay for inventory, which can help keep startup costs down, & allows you to test the popularity of a wide range of products, and easily scale up as your designs become more popular. They also take care of payment processing and hosting in most cases.
One of the best print on demand services I have tried is Printful, which integrates with Etsy, BigCartel, Shopify, Amazon, and more. Since I like it best compared to the other services I had tried first, Society6, RageOn, and PrintAllOverMe, I will review those other sites first to better highlight the differences. Check out my selection of Printful products on my Etsy!
Society6 has recently become a popular site for print-on-demand shops. They offer a wide array of art prints, home decor, clothes, and accessories, and have an easy to use upload interface. (Note 1/11/2018: Society6 has revamped their interface since the time this article was written. The observations in this article do not take into account the improvements made to their shopping interface)
Society6 has a lot of products you can print on, ranging from apparel like shirts and leggings, to decor such as clocks, wall art, and bedding, to tech accessories for phones and laptops. They also offer several different options for art prints including canvas, wall tapestries, and metal prints. It’s pretty easy to add your design to multiple products, but you will often need to adjust the placement of your designs. Society6 makes it easy for shoppers to browse your store by design (showing all products available) or by product (showing all designs available for that product).
Though their prices are reasonable for customers, especially during their weekly sales, the profit margins they offer artists can be slim. You can only set prices for art prints (standard, framed, and canvas, but not the metal prints), and all other product prices are fixed.
Society6’s upload interface allows you to quickly upload a design on many different products, and add categories, descriptions, and tags. This makes it easier for customers to find your designs in search and on other products within your shop. You can adjust the placement of your design on individual products, but you cannot rotate designs (you could work around this by using their templates in your image processing program to place your design how you want and then upload that file), and sometimes it does not allow you to enlarge large image files.
Society6 can do both sublimation and screen printing, and while both those processes are effective at reproducing high-quality images, enlarging can produce blurry images. Their screen prints are soft enough as to not be overly stiff and crack, and are smooth to the touch. Their All-Over-Print Tshirts run large, and it can lead to customers ordering the wrong size. Society6 has the advantage that they print on both sides of their allover print shirts (where other sites charge extra to do so), but the image is the same on both sides. Society6 prints their logo on all their product tags and packaging, and does not offer White Labeling.
Society6 also offers an affiliate referral program for a percent commission on product sales, which you can leverage to encourage your customers to get involved by sharing your products for a profit. This can lead to free advertising for you, and a little extra cash in your pocket.
RageOn is a popular spot for party apparel, with GREAT name recognition. They have shirts, hoodies, shoes, leggings, swimwear, onesies, accessories, and more. Most of their products are sublimation printed (standard/premium shirts are flat-pressed, while “Ultra Premium” shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, and leggings are cut-and-sew), but they also offer basic direct-to-garment printed shirts.
RageOn offers popular items such as shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, shorts, bikinis, onesies and socks, as well as items like yoga mats and shower curtains. They’re mostly geared towards apparel with a fun, “party” vibe.
RageOn’s prices can be steep. They offer premium quality, but their prices are also premium, and they don’t often run real sales (there are ways to get a 20% off coupon anytime). If you upgrade your account for a monthly fee you can set your own prices and discount codes (along with various other benefits), but with a basic account you cannot. RageOn’s profit margins are about on-par with Society6, but you may want to calculate the difference yourself on your most popular products, especially if you are selling large volumes. RageOn offers better margins when you are selling higher volumes.
I absolutely love their design interface. You can easily scale, resize, and rotate your images over the printed area, and I feel that it is silly for other platforms not to offer this, as it is SUCH a basic design feature! Some drawbacks to their upload interface are that you are only able to upload the design to one product at a time (with the option to add your design to other products as the last step), and you cannot add tags, only a title and description. You also cannot edit your designs once they’re uploaded.
RageOn has ensured that their products are high quality to guarantee satisfaction, but that also means things are pricey. Most of their products are sublimation printed, but they also offer screen printed Tshirts. It costs extra to print on the back sides of shirts, but unlike Society6, with RageOn you can choose the design on the back of the shirt and adjust the placement separately from the front. RageOn prints their brand logo on your products and packaging, unless your upgrade to a business account to get White Labeling.
RageOn offers an affiliate referral program not only for product sales, but if you get someone else to sign up and start selling, you get a percentage of their profits! Their “Likes” system employs a thing called “Super Likes” which are Stars that can be clicked in addition to the like button. Users get a limited number of “Super Likes” per day, and earn a small percentage whenever a product they have Super Liked sells! This is a good way to get people to promote your products that doesn’t “clutter up their feeds”.
PrintAllOverMe is popular in the design community and features premium cut-and-sew apparel. Their gimmick is that they have a small selection of printable designer products that rotates every few months, and they offer many unique silhouettes that cannot be found on other print-on-demand platforms. Subscribers can access any past seasons’ product to sell or print. They have recently teamed up with retailers like Target to sell their products, which is bringing more exposure to the site.
PAOM offers a wide range of unique clothing silhouettes, and this is one of their biggest draws. You’ll find lots of items that aren’t available anywhere else, and their selection rotates seasonally.
PAOM probably has the most expensive products of any of the services I’ve tried, which may scare off all your customers, or not, depending on what market you reach. They offer premium products like XL Silk Scarves, Bomber Jackets, and lots of on-trend designer silhouettes. Subscribers can set their own prices and coupon codes, but the basic tier payout is a 20% cut of the sale price. One of their subscriber tiers allows you to receive a handful of products a month for a set subscription price.
PAOM allows you to upload design files to a library, and then choose which products you want to feature the design on, which you then add a title, description, and tags to individually. The design tool allows you to scale, rotate and mirror your images as you wish. My one gripe is that it is hard to pull product photos from the product pages – I have to take a screenshot to get the image.
PAOM creates all of their products by printing your design on the fabric, and then cutting and sewing them. This decreases the occurrence of printing errors such as white spots and streaks. They use premium quality fabric for many of their products, and offer on-trend couture silhouettes, giving them the highest quality product selection of any service I have tried. They also print their logo on product tags, but offer White-Labeling for subscribers.
PAOM does not have an affiliate program at the time of publication of this article.
Printful is a print-on-demand service that integrates with your existing E-Commerce store such as Etsy, Shopify, BigCartel, and more. They offer many of the same basic products as other services do, but give you more control over your shop itself. More control brings more responsibility, and you will be your Customer’s first point of contact should things go wrong. They also offer a variety of design services (including everything from product design to photographing your finished products on models), if you need some help bringing your ideas to life!
Printful has a wide range of products you can print on, including wall art and posters, & both direct-to-garment shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts, and sublimation printed shirts, leggings, skirts, and dresses, as well as phone cases, pillows, towels, and bags. They also offer embroidered baseball caps and knit hats, a service I have not seen elsewhere.
Printful has reasonable production costs, and allows you to set your own prices and control your profits. They also offer bulk discounts for large volumes. They do not run their own sales, except sometimes on products that are low in stock; it’s entirely up to you to run your own sales if you want to, but any sale you run will eat into your profit margins! You may also need to pay listing fees and hosting costs, depending on which E-Commerce platform you are using.
Printful allows you to upload your designs to a file library, which you can then add to any product to sync with your store. One advantage of their interface is that you can create and edit products on a mobile browser without the need to download an app! Uploading through Printful is a multi-step process: You must first set up the product files through Printful, then finalize things in your store. Your experience with the second half may vary depending on the service you use as your storefront. You can scale your images in Printful’s product editor, but not rotate or mirror them (you could work around this by using their templates to place your design using an image editor and then upload that file). You can add the title and description through Printful’s interface, but you will need to add tags through your E-Commerce store. I struggled a bit with learning how to set-up product files in Printful, for a few days I couldn’t figure out how to do it. But once I figured it out it was a breeze!
Printful has the largest selection of shirts to print on of any service I have used, both for sublimation and screen printing. This allows you to finely tune the look and feel of the products you offer, and you can offer more eco-friendly or premium fabrics or cut-and-sew options as you please. The print quality itself is on-par with the other services I’ve tried. They also offer branded White-Labeling and will keep add-ins for you, for a fee. If you need help designing or refining your designs, or getting product photos, Printful offers a variety of design services to make sure you look professional.
Printful has an affiliate referral program for design-your-own products, and offers a percentage of production cost profits when you refer another seller and they begin to earn. There is no way to do affiliate links for the products in your shop themselves; you could work out a discount code to track referrals, but you would have to pay out rewards yourself.
The Bottom Line
Printful allows you have the most control over your brand identity and profits, but you are also responsible for customer service and setting up your storefront. If you have other products you sell besides print on demand, you’ll want buyers to be able to go to just one place to see everything you offer, and Printful’s shop integration makes that possible.
Since Printful requires you to connect to another service as your storefront, you may run into the hurdle of paying to get a website set up and hosted, or paying listing fees. When you’re just starting out, you don’t want to be spending a lot of money just to figure out which designs will be popular. That’s why you may want to try a free service like Society6 or RageOn, or use social media to test the popularity of the designs you wish to sell.
Start selling with Printful today! Set up your shop or order one of hundreds of custom printed products with a 20% seller’s discount & Free Shipping.
Check out my Etsy to see my full selection of Printful products, PLUS Masks, Art, and more! If you’re wondering, my best selling pieces are my masks! I hope to support those sales with clothing designed to serve as a base for Halloween-themed outfits and costumes. I’ve often worked at costume shops, and around performers, and I love Halloween, so selling my own masks and costumes was a natural evolution for me! The best part is that mask season peaks from a few months before Halloween through Mardi Gras, so my mask designs are in high demand for half the year, and I can focus on Festival gear throughout the summer!
Thank you for reading, I hope this post has helped you move towards the decision to take your artistic career to the next level by launching your own brand! Please feel free to ask me questions in the comment section about any of the products or services I mentioned!