Not all Print On Demand sites are created equal
And now, the thrilling conclusion of my very drawn-out series on Print on Demand sites (or is it?)!
Don’t just use the first Print On Demand site you hear about … shop around!
All of these sites allow you to sell your designs on their items, where they handle inventory, printing, sales, fulfillment, money-taking, and (when needful) returns for you, and they pay you per item sold.
CafePress is pretty much the longest-standing print on demand sites. They have a good variety of item types and a strong Marketplace, which allows people to find your items so you don’t have to have your own website. (prior review)
Pros: established community; Marketplace drives sales to you; product creation tool fairly easy to use; set your own markups for your shop; can have multiple free basic shops; can use your own CSS for paid premium shops; accepts common bitmap file formats (JPG, GIF, PNG).
Cons: paid store necessary to use effectively; sales in Marketplace only have 10% royalty and do not count for volume bonuses; no effective way to integrate a shop with your website.
Pros: you are 100% in charge of your royalties; accepts common bitmap file formats (JPG, GIF, PNG); enormously wide variety of item types; tools for integrating your shop into your website, FaceBook, and more; free shops.
Cons: Zazzle branding is quite noticeable; no combined shipping charges; slightly less useful Marketplace for random sales; product creation is tedious.
Spreadshirt has also been around for a while, but I’ve never used them, mostly because they required vector file formats (and the limitations on how many designs one can upload). They now allow pixel (bitmap) file formats, but it’s clear that this isn’t their main focus. (prior review)
Pros: wide variety of shirts, some other items; other printing options (flex, flocked, even glitter!); you control your commission rates as a flat dollar amount (not a percentage that drops when they have a sale!); can use existing designs in your design (you both get commission money).
Cons: strongly prefers vector file formats; limited number of designs with free account (when you sell more, you get to add more designs).
Pros: great artist community (Groups, Forums, Challenges); focus on prints/posters and iProduct cases; die-cut stickers look nicely custom; understanding that artists want real royalties for real Art; accepts common bitmap file formats (JPG, PNG); free shops; product creation is a snap.
Cons: requires very large image sizes; limited item types; slightly less robust Marketplace; no cases for non-iPhone/iPad users.
Printfection is a relative newcomer to the POD scene. Unlike the other sites listed here, their primary focus is on promotional items (aka “swag”), and their pricing structures reflect this. For the seller that has a strong direct following/fans/market and wants tight integration with their existing site, this site may be the one to look at. (prior review)
Pros: very high print quality; Prinfection branding is quite limited (and theoretically can be zero); free shops; accepts common bitmap file formats (JPG, GIF, PNG).
Cons: limited item types (tshirts, mugs, nearly nothing else); effectively non-existent Marketplace.
When you’re getting ready to sell your designs, evaluate your priorities on these factors:
- Strength of your brand: Are people buying your work because they know you, or are you relying on mass appeal? Does it matter if they know you aren’t selling your work directly?
- Monetary considerations: How much do you need to get from sales of your work? How much control do you need over the price? How much can you afford to spend on simply having a shop?
- Intended market: Are you selling Art, funny quotes, or cause-supporting designs? Drive-by random sales, directed sales from your website, or both?
- Formats and output: Is your work full-color photographs, single colors, text, or something else? Do your designs work best as tshirts, buttons, posters, jewelry, or something else?
Whatever your priorities, you can probably find a good match among these sites.
Have I missed a Print On Demand site? Let me know in the comments. Just remember the criteria – it must allow you to sell your designs on their items, where they handle inventory, printing, sales, fulfillment, money-taking, and (when needful) returns for you, and they pay you per item sold.