A print on demand business model makes it possible for anyone to dropship their own customized products without sinking money into piles of stock (which might not sell!)
Printful and Printify are by far and away the largest two print on demand drop shipping companies. Unlike Teespring or RedBubble, they simply print and ship orders to your customers, leaving you in complete control over your sales channels, profit margins, and marketing strategy.
Whether you're planning to sell shirts on a Shopify store, Etsy shop, or even in person, which of these two POD platforms is the best option for your online business?
Spoiler alert, there's no clear-cut answer. Both Printify and Printful have strengths and weaknesses that mean the answer will greatly depend on your business case.
To help you make an informed decision, let's take a look at all those differences and end with a recommendation.
When it comes to choosing what products to sell in your store, it’s good to have options.
Both Printful and Printify break the 200 mark when it comes to their product catalogs. Their catalogs boast a vast range of products across many different categories, including:
- T-shirts, hoodies, long-sleeves etc.
- Backpacks and other bags
- Fridge magnets and stickers
- Wall art
- Phone accessories
Though both have 200+ products, Printful has ~220, and Printify has ~250. There's a significant overlap between the two, but Printify just edges it out by offering print on demand shoes (sneakers, high heels, martin boots, and more).
Printful and Printify require you to have an existing sales channel, and for most that will mean an online shop where customers browse and purchase your merchandise.
As a result, it's essential that the print on demand platform you decide on has direct integration with your shop.
Fortunately, print on demand services integrate with the most popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Woocommerce.
However, Printful has by far the most extensive list of integrations:
- Shopify, BigCommerce, Ecwid, Big Cartel (Hosted/Premium ecommerce platforms)
- Woocommerce, Magneto, Prestashop (Self-hosted ecommerce platforms)
- Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Wish, Storenvy, Bonanza (Marketplaces)
- Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Webflow (Website Builders)
By comparison, Printify only integrates with Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy, eBay, Wix Prestashop and BigCommerce.
It's also important to note that there is some variation in the quality of the integrations. For example, the Shopify App for Printful is rated slightly higher than the Shopify App for Printify.
Order Fulfillment And Routing
One important yet often overlooked consideration is how each company fulfills your orders and from where. You ideally want to minimize the distance between the fulfillment center and customer location.
Printful handles printing in-house, and dispatches from its fulfillment centers and storage facilities which are located in the USA (Los Angeles and North Carolina), Mexico, Latvia and Spain.
By contrast, Printify doesn't own any printing facilities and instead has relationships with third-party print houses that handle printing and dispatching.
Since Printify lets you browse all the print companies and pick the one you like, you can find print providers in every corner of the world, from the UK to China to Australia.
Sounds good on paper, but the problem with this is that to access the 250+ products offered by Printify, you'll have to select multiple print providers.
That means your customers will potentially receive separate packages if they purchase different items from your store, and in that case, you also wouldn't benefit from reduced shipping fees.
Shipping Times and Rates
Both companies work with the same well-known postal services like USPS, DHL, Fedex and DPD to deliver the goods to your customers. However, the time it takes for your customer to receive their orders varies because of differences in lead time (the time between an order is made and the package is passed to the courier).
Printful has the advantage of having clearer shipping speeds. Orders, on average, reach customers within 4 days. Shipping within the US and most parts of Europe takes 2-5 business days, while other destinations such as Canada and Australia or New Zealand take slightly longer. You can learn more about shipping times here.
Because Printify outsources order fulfillment to its network of print providers, lead times and shipping times will depend on the print provider you pick. You can look up the estimated shipping times and rates for each provider here.
Shipping rates are comparable between the two, but I found Printful's standardized flat rate shipping fees to be slightly lower than almost all the providers found on Printify.
As we'll later find out, however, Printify has cheaper product base costs, so you have to look at the full equation when calculating your potential profit margins.
Product Branding And Shipping Labels
Printful offers you the option to add branded inside labels on select clothing. This lets you show off your brand and can also improve customer satisfaction by giving them something a bit more special than a generic label. You can filter items that are eligible for custom labeling in Printful's product catalog. Note that Printful charges $2.49 per custom neck label, which will squeeze profit margins if you opt to include them.
Printify has more limited availability when it comes to neck label printing. Only a handful of print houses in its network (DTG2GO, Fifth Sun, and Textildruck Europa) offer this luxury.
Shipping Labels are another way to make your brand stand out. Since Printful and Printify are white label companies, the packaging is generic and your customer won't have any idea that their order was fulfilled by them.
Printful allows you to add your business's logo and a custom message to the shipping label. You can upload your logo by going to the 'Packing Slip' section in your account settings.
To contrast, Printify lets you add some branding to the shipping label, but only in the form of plain text.
Here we’re talking exclusively about the quality of the print being added to the shirt. The fabrics you’re getting from Printful and Printify are going to be the same. A Bella canvas 3001 is a Bella canvas 3001 no matter who sold it to you. If you’re worried about fabric quality, it’s more a question of which product you choose than which PoD service you’re working with.
When it comes to print quality, though, there is a difference. Printify is a conglomerate of many print houses that have joined teams to make a single service. Printful is a single company that owns multiple print houses but oversees them all. This difference between the two leads to a difference in consistency between Printify and Printful.
Printful’s products all adhere to a high level of standardized quality assurance, meaning customers will always receive quality products. What's more, Printful users can enjoy a 20% discount and free shipping on product samples.
Printify, on the other hand, has occasional misses alongside the good products.
This inconsistency with Printify comes from the different print houses, and once you find a print house you like for a product, the problem tends to go away.
However, ordering your own samples and handling quality control by yourself is far from ideal, not to mention impossible if your shop has a large product catalog.
Membership Plans and Pricing
Print on demand dropshipping companies typically don't cost you anything. That's because they've already baked their own margin into the final price of the orders you have them fulfill.
As such, Printful is completely free to use. You don't have to worry about any upfront cost or monthly fees. You're only charged when you have them fulfill an order for you.
Printify is also completely free to use. However, in addition to the 'free' plan, Printify also offers 'Premium' and 'Enterprise' plans. They don't alter the core service, but premium and enterprise members get discounts across all the products (up to 20%).
Printify's premium plan, at $29 a month, can really boost your profit margins at higher sales volumes. Monthly subscriptions suck, but I'd rather have the option of increasing fixed costs for reduced variable costs (costs that scale with sales), than not.
Printful and Printify have multiple products that are the exact same, which we can use as a point of price comparison. An example is the Bella Canvas 3001. If we wanted to have a single print on of the front we’re be looking at:
Now, there may be other warehouses on Printify who can offer the same for even less.
Regardless, the takeaway remains that you’re generally going to be able to find more competitive prices on Printify, which means the platform leaves room for bigger markups in your store.
To go one step further, Printify's 'Premium' subscribers enjoy an even lower price level on products. Printful does at least offer performance-based discounts, but it's nowhere near as substantial (beginning at 5% if monthly sales exceed $1k).
Once someone has bought a product from your online store, both print on demand services make handling the orders a breeze. You can set both services to take care of everything for you, so all you need to do is make sure you’re set up to pay the company for the shirts or other items you are ordering.
That said, Printful has one significant advantage when you need to participate in the order process.
If someone needs an aspect of their order changed, Printful has a phenomenal mobile app (available on iOS and Android), whereas Printify has none. It might not sound like much, but changing the size of a shirt in an order from your phone easily will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
It’s worth noting that neither service offers a place to sell the shirts, but they do allow manual order creation, which is useful for custom orders or ordering sample products. You can also do this from Printful’s phone app if someone mentions that they’d like one of your shirts when you’re on the go.
The phone app really makes the difference, and until Printify has one, Printful has better store management tools.
Building your products for Print on Demand is going to be a never-ending job for your business. New products, designs, and promotions will result in a constant stream of new products that you need to build.
Basically, you’re going to spend a lot of time in the product builder.
When it comes to the product building, both of them are great for basic shirts. They make the process a breeze that you’ll be comfortable with the user interface within minutes. That said, once you get past basic t-shirts, Printify's design tool starts to pull ahead.
The two main advantages of the Printify product design tool has are:
Printify gives you the exact numbers for your print design when it comes to size and position. This makes it a breeze to make small edits that can be finicky with a mouse. This also helps with more complicated graphic designs like 3D objects, where you’re going to have to make a ton of small adjustments to get it right.
Printify also lets you download the templates for their products into a program like Photoshop and then upload them back into Printify. This enables you, or your designers, work in a proper application for editing, which makes assembling designs much more comfortable.
Between these two features, Printify has the better product editor.
Mockups are how your product appears in the store and are likely going to be the first thing your customers see. High-quality mockups can be the difference between making the sale and losing a customer.
Both Printful and Printify are behind where I’d like them to be with product mockups, but Printful is closer to the goal than Printify is.
Though your options for lifestyle shots are scarce, you at least have the option of lifestyle photos to show off your product designs, which is a considerable advantage when posting on social media.
Overall, I’d suggest you use a premium t-shirt mockup generator for your product mockups, as neither Printful nor Printify really gets there. But if you just want to use the included mockups, then I’d suggest using Printful’s.
Both services allow you to top up a wallet using credit card or PayPal. Every time orders are delivered to your customers, the order amount will be deducted from your wallet. This is the recommended method because it simplifies accounting.
Alternatively, you can add your credit card to your account and make automated payments with each order.
Printful boasts several customer support channels. Email, a Facebook Group and and live chat are available for specific queries, while their Instagram and YouTube accounts are regularly updated with how-to guides and tricks.
I had an especially pleasant experience with Printful, who reached out to me when one of my uploaded designs to be printed was off center. That saved me dealing with a potentially unsatisfied customer, giving me the sense that Printful really take its users seriously.
Printify customer service is more limited, since you can only get in touch via their contact form or email support. Furthermore, there isn't as much social media activity, so your best bet is to find answers on the company's help center.
Another issue with Printify's customer support is that since they work with third party print houses, a lot of customer service requests end up having to be relayed to another company.
Printify do provide 'Enterprise plan' members with a dedicated account manager and branded customer support, but the reality is most platform members are on the free or premium plan.
As a result, Printful offers quicker and more reliable customer service than Printify.
Which Platform Is Better?
Printful wins 8-4
Printful and Printify are really comparable print on demand companies, and both have their strengths and weaknesses.
That said, in the end, if you’re just going to use one of the two services, Printful delivers a service that scores more points across different aspects.
Printful's key strengths include its top-notch product quality, fast turnaround times, awesome customer service, and more branding options for your company.
The quality assurance it provides is its greatest strength, as not having to order samples and check for issues means you can guarantee customer satisfaction and build up a solid reputation from the get-go.
However, Printify is still absolutely worth considering. Why? Price.
Even though the service is a little rough around the edges, being able to source items for cheaper is a big deal.
If you do your research when choosing one of Printify's print providers or order samples beforehand, you can potentially get the same quality, for less.
The fact it offers a subscription-based plan, which provides substantial discounts on all products, makes it possible further increase your profit margin on each sale you make.
Printful is the better service for newbies
Printful is by far the most recommended platform in graphic designer circles, and what Shopify gurus recommend to people looking to create their own apparel brand.
The biggest reason is that the service is relatively hassle-free, and there are no glaring problems to be found. That's what makes it the best print on demand service for online stores that are just starting out.
If you're still working on acquiring your first organic sale or starting your first Facebook ad campaign, Printful is a better place to start. You can easily switch to other PoD companies, or make bulk orders on popular designs, in the future.
On the other hand, if you're already making a large number of sales and want to drive up profits, Printify with the Premium subscription is better. You find more complaints surrounding Printify, but once you get things up and running, it's a solid service and its products are cheaper than Printful products.
Getting The Best Of Both Worlds
You don’t need to limit yourself to one service. For example, in one of my online stores, I use Printful for the majority of my products, like t-shirts and hoodies, but I’ve integrated Printify so I can use some of their cooler stationary and shower curtains.
Using Printful as your primary service, and using Printify to augment the product selection lets you get the best of both worlds. You don’t need to compromise on consistent quality, and you also don’t need to give up on cool product options!
Using both services complicates the order management a little bit, as there will be orders split between two fulfillment centers; Shipping costs can also go up for the same reason, but I have never run into a situation where using both services made anything painful to use.
Hopefully, you've now got a good idea about which print on demand platform will better suit your business needs. If you're still unsure, check out my Printful review and review of Printify, which cover each service in more depth.