Printful is great. It has a ton of products available, pricing still leaves room for profit and their shipping is timely and generally pretty reliable.
I've been using Printful exclusively in my Etsy store for almost 2 years without so much as a hiccup.
But if you’re looking for Printful alternatives, look no further.
For comparison purposes we’ll assume we’re selling a DTG printed tee shirt, the blank we’re using is the Bella + Canvas 3001 Unisex Jersey.
Product cost with Printful is 12.95. Printful charges flat shipping on a tee shirt of $5 and .75 for each additional shirt.
At a sale price of $20 and a cost of 17.95 we earn a profit of 2.05/shirt or 10.25% profit margin.
Printful has 12 e-commerce integrations including Etsy and Amazon, the most of any of the PODs I’ve reviewed. They also integrate with all the major shopping cart systems. They’re tried and tested and probably the industry standard in print on demand/fulfillment companies.
We’ll be looking at Printful alternatives and comparing the following metrics:
- Number of Products Available
- Product Cost
- Shipping Cost
- What unique products do they offer
Print Aura is another of the big players in the Print on Demand space. They offer a good variety of products including the standard apparel we see on all the major platforms.
Some of their unique offerings include aprons, printed pocket tee shirts, mugs and pillows. They also offer onesies and kids sizes on most of their products.
Print Aura offers more integrations than most of the other print on demand companies on this list. They integrate with Shopify, StoreEnvy, Etsy, WooCommerce, BigCommerce and OpenCart.
It’s a huge bonus to be able to use the same service to automatically fulfill orders both from your website and from your Etsy or StoreEnvy stores.
Another unique feature of Print Aura is that they also offer screen printing in addition to embroidery, DTG and sublimation.
Shipping costs are split up by product category and follow a fixed pricing structure. There are too many categories to cover here, but for tee shirts there are 3 shipping locations: US/Domestic, Canada and International.
Domestic shipping for tee shirts is $5 for the first and $1 for each additional shirt. Shipping to Canada is $8 + $1 and International is $12+$1 for each additional shirt.
Our sample DTG printed shirt on a Bella + Canvas 3001 is $14. Shipping is a flat $5, bringing our total to 19.00. Our profit margin on this shirt for our comparison at a $20 sale price is only 5%!
Maybe supporting all those integrations comes with more overhead, or maybe offering non-standard products increases prices across the board. Either way, this is one of the pricier options.
TeeScape is a fulfillment company that specializes in Tee Shirts and Sweatshirts. They’ve focused their business on their Shopify integration, so if you’re hoping to use TeeScape to automate printing and fulfillment of tee shirts from your website you’ll have to use Shopify.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Shopify takes a lot of the hassle out of owning and operating an ecommerce business. I don’t run a shopify website myself but I have set one up for a client and it was incredibly easy.
Because TeeScape is focused on Tee Shirts and Sweatshirts it doesn’t offer the number of products you’ll see from many of other Printful alternatives you’ll see on this list. They offer a good selection of tee shirts, one men’s and one women’s tank top, and two varieties of sweatshirts. Most of their blanks are available in kids sizes too. They also offer a long and short sleeve onesie if you create products for infants.
You’ll have two options for shipping when you use TeeScape. They offer weight based shipping and an optional flat rate shipping option. You’ll have to decide which makes more sense based on your business. If you sell in quantity or larger products like hoodies or long sleeve tees thens you’ll want to compare the two.
TeeScape does also offer sticker/decal printing. I’m not in that business so I’m not sure what a 4×3 Die Cut Decal is but they price at $1 and charge shipping separately. So if an order includes both apparel and decals it’ll be charged two shipping fees. I’m guessing because they don’t manufacture them in the same location and have to ship separately.
Flat rate shipping for US/domestic orders are 3.50 per shirt. The UK is 6.50 and Canada is 5.75.
Our comparison shirt the Canvas Unisex tee shirt starts at $10 (9.50 for white). With Shipping your cost for a domestic order comes to $13.50. Which is pretty competitive.
For this comparison we’re assuming you sell your shirts for $20 just to make the math easy. So you’re lookin at a profit of 6.50/sale or 32.5% profit margin.
Remember that Shopify charges a monthly fee, so just to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples and factor in the monthly fee when you evaluate the overall profit margin.
If you’re thinking of expanding your offerings to include a Shopify store this could be the perfect solution.
If you’re looking for product variety then Custom Cat is your go to option. They offer dozens of products in a ton of categories. They offer DTG, Embroidery and Sublimation printing. So they don’t offer Screen Printing even if you order larger quantities.
Their catalog is pretty impressive. There are dozens of categories and hundreds of products. If you’re looking to expand your business beyond just Tee shirts and Sweatshirts then check out custom cat. They print on hats, scarves, drinkware, bags, scarves and even jewelry plus a ton more, you can even print custom flip-flops.
If you’re looking to integrate with your website, Custom Cat has integrations for both WooCommerce and Shopify. I’ve said it before, Shopify is a great product. But WooCommerce is also great if you want a little more control over your site and aren’t afraid of some added complexity.
Custom Cat’s catalog is easy to filter and refine your search so you see just the products you’re interested in. [insert image of catalog filters]
Our comparison shirt, the Bella + Canvas unisex Tee comes in at 9.00 and there is no difference in the pricing for colors. Custom Cat charges a flat 4.99 for shipping for the first item and 1.50 for each additional item.
Shipping on international orders is 7.50 for the first item and 5.95 for each additional item.
For our comparison order our $20 sale price less 13.99 for the fulfillment and shipping yields us 6.01 profit or 30%.
Domestic shipping is generally 1-7 days and international shipping averages 4-15.
Scalable press is another option I found while researching this article that I’d never heard of before. Looking at their catalog I can’t believe they weren’t on my radar. They offer over 4000 products. Their offerings are primarily apparel but they also offer phone cases, posters, mugs, hats, totes, and backpacks.
You can have them print using any of the standard printing methods: screen printing, sublimation and DTG. The sheer number of apparel products is worth a look, the one downside was that you do have to create an account in order to see pricing information on products.
Scalablepress integrates with both Shopify and WooCommerce. If you’re selling on Amazon or Etsy then you’ll have to either place your orders manually or use a second printer for those platforms.
Volume discounts are available for most products printed with either DTG or screen printing, so Scalablepress is a great option if you order bulk products.
As far as our sample comparison order, A Canvas 3001U ordered as a one off DTG print comes in at $11.16. Domestic shipping was cheap, coming in at only 2.15 but Scalablepress does charge a fee of $1 per order. Grand total for our order was $14.31. Profit on our $20 order is $5.69 or a profit margin of 28.45%.
As small business owners we generally have to make decisions based on the numbers. It’s hard enough to turn a profit selling products online. When we compare two print on demand companies using the same technology, the same domestic shipping providers and the same raw materials, they should generally be pretty comparable.
As we’ve seen with the differences in pricing in this comparison that’s not always the case.
But, when we look past just the numbers, the things that set print on demand companies apart are the unique products that are “non-standard”. I’m talking about the mouse pads, bag tags, yoga mats, posters, clocks and stationary.
Printify has all the standard apparel that you’ll find in any legitimate POD companies catalog. What sets them apart is the large number of non-standard offerings in their catalog.
Printify has the big 2 shopping cart integrations, Shopify and WooCommerce but they also integrate with Etsy.
Printify is also unique in that they almost operate as a marketplace where printers can offer their services to be fulfilled on Printify’s platform. What you’ll notice if you try to place an order is you’ll have options for which printer you want to use after selecting a product. There can be a pretty large difference between the prices at the different printing companies, so make sure you check them all.
For our comparison product I’ll simply choose the cheapest. Do note that not all the printers offer the exact same colors, so depending on your needs the cheapest prices might not reflect your cost.
The cheapest option for our Canvas 3001 U is $8.89 + $4 for shipping, bringing the total to 12.89 with domestic shipping. Our profit on a $20 order comes to 7.11 or 35.5%.
Domestic shipping for tee shirts is $4 for the first item and $2 for each additional item. International shipping is $8 + $4 for each additional shirt.
Teelaunch is another POD company that utilizes the Shopify app store. Unfortunately they only offer 2 integrations, Shopify and Etsy. There is a catch though. In order to use Teelaunch for Etsy you also have to have the Shopify app. So you’ll really need Shopify even if you only intend to sell on Etsy.
If running a shopify store doesn’t sound all that bad, or if you already have one, then Teelaunch could be a great printing partner to fulfill your orders on both platforms.
Teelaunch has over 50 products in their catalog. They do have a couple unique items that I thought set them apart. Some of their unique offerings include plates and bowls, beer steins, cutting boards and jewelry boxes. You can also print custom dog bowls!
One thing they don’t sell however, is our Canvas 3001U. They do offer products from Bella + Canvas but don’t offer the unisex jersey.
They do have a mens canvas tee but don’t specify the model number, so I’m not totally sure what we’re comparing here. But, since they don’t have our standard comparison product this’ll have to work.
The men’s Canvas Tee comes in at $11 even. Add to that 4.50 for domestic shipping and we come to 15.50. So we profit 4.50 or a 22.5% profit margin on our $20 test order. Shipping to Canada is $4, UK is $5 and all other international orders are $10.
Kite is a UK based POD platform offering integration with Shopify and an API for custom integrations. They also have an iOS and Android integration to support application developers who want to sell merchandise directly from inside their apps.
For most of us, the Shopify integration is the only one that really matters. Kite is based in the UK and offers over 250 products. Some of their more unique offerings include postcards, greeting cards and invitations. They also offer photo books, which are bound books containing your graphics. Unfortunately these are not available through the Shopify integrations.
If you’re used to using Printful then you may be disappointed that when uploading to Kite each product has a different optimal file size. This can add a lot of complexity if you’re simply trying to offer your designs which were made for other platforms on a website or Shopify store.
If you want your packages tracked you’ll have to shell out an additional $4.10. This is something that we pretty much take for granted in the US these days so I’m not sure I really like this additional charge, even if their base price is quite cheap.
Kite does sell a Bella + Canvas unisex crew tee shirt that I assume is the 3001U but does not specify the model number. For our comparison purposes we’ll assume it’s the correct product.
Cost for the blank and printing comes in at $12.50 + 2.90 for shipping. This brings our total to 15.40. Our $20 sample order yields a profit of $4.60 or 23%. Each additional shipping item will cost you .90.
Gooten has all kinds of unique items. If you’re running a niche store and want to expand beyond just apparel then Gooten is a great option.
They have over 100 products in some very interesting categories. For example, wall calendars, prints on wood, professional photo printing, dog beds and bandanas, as well as some really cool home goods like table runners, koozies and cloth napkins.
Gooten also has integrations with Shopify, Etsy, and Amazon. They also offer a custom API to integrate your store (with the help of a developer) and a widget that can add store functionality directly to your website with just the insertion of a snippet of code.
The coolest integration by far is the widget, which allows your customers to select images from their instagram and facebook accounts to print onto your products. This is all done for you and even includes the shopping cart portion of the store.
I have not tried any of their integrations personally, so please take this with a grain of salt, but I may be building a site around this widget in the near future.
Gooten does sell the Canvas 3001U and pricing for a DTG print on a medium mens shirt comes in at $9.79 + $3.59 for domestic shipping. This brings our total to $13.38. Profit on our $20 test order is $6.62 or 33.1%.
Interestingly, if your customer would receive their order sooner if shipped from the UK, shipping worldwide from the UK starts at only $1.71. Obviously, shipping times would be dependent on customer’s location.
This comparison of Printful alternatives did not yield the results I’d expected. There is a huge range when it comes to pricing for the same shirt and I expected perhaps a 5-10% deviation across the different platforms. Profit on our $20 sample order ranged from $1-$7.11. That’s a massive difference.
Printful landed in the middle price wise but still has a lot of advantages. They’re a huge player with massive production capacity. If you’re worried about fulfillment during Q4 they could still be the best option as they’ve recently sunk a boatload of cash into upgrading their capacity with new printers and facilities. I can also tell you that from my experience running my Etsy shop, they’ve always quick and I have only had 1 printing mistake in almost 2 years with them.
That being said, if you sell lower volumes and just want to turn a bit higher profit on each order it might be worth your time to explore other options. Remember though that this comparison only takes price into account. Before going with any printer you should order samples and compare the quality personally.
Doug has been an entrepreneur for years, starting several businesses. Doug is a web developer, father of 2 great kids and husband to the best wife ever. I've been working on building my custom tee shirt business for 3 years.
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