At the time of this writing, I currently have 3 Etsy stores and 1 Shopify store. All of the items are print on demand. The majority of them are tee shirts and mugs. Then there is a smattering of other apparel like hoodies, v-necks, and tank tops.
Printful has been my print provider since I started this side hustle, now full-time business, in 2017. For the most part, they have been great. My main issue with them is the pricing leaves little room for a good return on investment.
Shopping around for new providers I dabbled with Tee Launch for a bit, but found the system too difficult to integrate into my business. I found a few promising alternatives, but Printify seems to be the best option.
But when I say option, I don’t mean for all of my business. I split the orders between Printful and Printify. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of each provider and how I maximize my business using both.
Comparing Printful vs Printify
These two companies have very different business models which affects a lot of how you’ll end up doing business with each.
Printful is an in-house print provider that does all of their own printing and fulfillment from their locations in Los Angeles, Charlotte, Tijuana, Riga (Latvia), and Barcelona (coming soon).
Printify is a middle man. They don’t do any of the actual printing or fulfilling themselves. They connect you, through their system, with print houses around the world that then print and ship your items.
Quality of Prints
With Printful, you should expect consistent quality between all of your orders. Since they use the same, very expensive, direct to garment printers and sublimation printers in all of their locations, there is no reason for the prints to come out different. As a DTG and sublimation printing company, I’ll give them a 10/10 for print quality.
Printify, on the other hand, is less consistent. Using different companies, you’ll end up with different qualities among them all. It is possible to mitigate this by choosing the best print providers in their system and sticking with them only.
The best way to figure out the best quality prints is by actually ordering samples yourself. For me, I’ve found that the shirt prints from Monster Digital and DT2Go are on par with Printful. I use Spoke for mugs, but they aren’t as bold as Printful, but the customers still leave glowing reviews so I won’t change that.
I didn’t realize how important this would actually be until issues came up.
Printful customer service is awesome. Well, most of the time at least. The chat is almost always up on the site and the customer service reps are generally knowledgable about the process and capable of answering your questions. There have been a few hiccups over the years, but nothing significant.
When business is very slow, the chat is available. When it picks up a little bit, you need to leave a note that gets a response saying they are likely to respond within a few hours. Usually, they do respond by then.
When it gets very busy, they have a habit of going completely MIA. For example, this past Christmas season I had one order say that it was packed and ready to ship. The issue was that the notification said that it was ready 2 days prior. I wanted an update from customer service to see what was happening since the order was already over the expected fulfillment time and just sitting there. The chat had the customary “Start a conversation. The team typically replies in a few hours.”
Well that few hours meant 2 days later. I think that is unacceptable.
The saving grace for them is that once I started sending enough orders to them I got an email from someone who was assigned to be my “Merchant Success Manager.”
She’s awesome and very helpful. That being said, it isn’t her job to help me with miscellaneous customer service needs that go unanswered, yet she was kind and helped me with a few of them. It’s a good fallback for emergencies, but something I wouldn’t want to start abusing.
Winner: Printful, by a long shot
This is where Printify becomes a bit of a gamble.
When you submit an order to Printful, you can edit pretty much any part of the order, including the actual design and product, up until the item is actually picked. After that, you still have some time to change the address, shipping speed, and gift note.
Printify is a different beast. Once you hit that “fulfill” button, you can’t change the order. That means if a customer emails you saying they made a mistake and need a different size or accidentally put the wrong address, you have to tell them too bad. Given, you can message customer service and ask them to change it, but there are no guarantees they can, and as you can see from the customer service section, the customer service is god-awful sometimes and may not respond fast enough.
Printify also doesn’t offer gift messages. This isn’t huge, but some customers do appreciate it, especially if they are sending a gift to someone and the only way to tell the giftee who it is from is the gift message on the packing slip.
Winner: Printful by a lot
This is the reason I split my orders between the two companies.
Printful is one of the more expensive options for print on demand companies. But, with that comes all of the positives I’ve mentioned already and will mention in the next few sections.
Printify offers much more competitive pricing. Prices do vary between each vendor you choose on the backend of the site, but I haven’t seen anything yet that is more expensive than Printful.
Below I made a handy little chart to give some examples of a few different items and the differences in prices.
Printful vs Printify vs Printify Premium Pricing Examples
All of the prices above are the cost of the product fulfillment plus flat rate domestic shipping
For apparel, I used Monster Digital’s pricing and chose medium black in each style.
For the mugs, I used SPOKE Custom Products.
Now another fancy little chart to show you the how much cheaper Printify and Printify Premium are compared to Printful using the same products.
Printify and Printify Premium Savings Compared to Printful
Looking at that you might be wondering to yourself what is Printify Premium and is worth it? Don’t worry, I get into that more near the end of this post.
Okay, two more super exciting charts. The important ones. These calculate the return on investment (ROI) you’ll see using Printful, Printify, or Printify Premium on Etsy and on Shopify.
*The listing prices below are just rounded numbers used as examples to give you an idea of what you’d see at these types of prices.
Printful vs Printify vs Printify Premium
*The numbers above are assuming you are on the Shopify Basic plan. The transaction fees are 2.9% + $0.30 for online credit cards
ETSY ESTIMATED ROI
Printful vs Printify vs Printify Premium
*Etsy fees are 5% of the sale plus $0.20 to relist the item
So you can see that the price difference is a major factor in deciding to use Printify. Some of these might not seem like huge numbers on their own, but let’s just play a game of scale.
Imagine you sell 100 Bella Canvas t-shirts and 100 11oz mugs in a couple of months. On the regular Printify plan, you’ll have made an extra $492. With Printify Premium, you’ll make an extra $780 compared to Printful.
Winner – Printify, but technically Printify Premium more
Before 2019, Printify had an edge here. In 2019 Printful made estimating shipping much easier by setting flat rate shipping on all of their items. Yes, you can opt in to live shipping rates, but that only works on specific platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce.
The difference in flat rate shipping is negligible between Printiful and Printify, especially when you factor in the lower prices of the fulfillment on Printify.
What now gives Printful the obvious edge is with Express shipping. Flat rate shipping defaults to 2-5 day shipping. If you edit an existing order, I would say 9 out of 10 times you can change it to express shipping for the same price. Express shipping is only 1-3 days delivery time.
Most of the orders on Printify have the same flat rate 2-5 shipping. You can choose express shipping, but I’ve seen it be an additional $15-$30 just for a single item. That might be worth it if the fulfillment time was faster, but it doesn’t have any effect on that, unfortunately.
Winner – Printful
Printful advertises that it takes 2-7 business days for apparel products and 2-5 business days for non-apparel products. I’ve had a lot of items go out same-day, but some still linger until closer to that 7th day. And yes, on occasion there have been orders that took closer to 10 days.
Again, Printify has different printers for hire. Some are fast. Some will have you hitting refresh for days wondering when the order will actually ship. This is something I learned the hard way. They have a page with average order shipping times, but I don’t trust them anymore.
Printify says their products will ship out in 2-10 business days. Choose the right vendors and it will go faster. My mugs usually ship same day or the next business day. For those products that get stuck in fulfillment limbo forever, Printify will refund you for the order if it takes more than 10 business days. You just have to remember to request it.
If you’re new to Printify, make sure to check out my recommendations below for my favorite vendors.
Winner – Printify if you use the right vendors
At the time of this writing, Printful has 221 different products and Printify has over 250.
Most of the products overlap, so you can set up your shop so that you can pull from whichever provider makes more sense at the time. I have noticed that with clothing, Printful often has more size options where some Printify products won’t have XS or 4XL.
Winner – Basically a Tie
Mockups & Mockup Generators
I really hate the Printify mockups. They remind me of the very bland Amazon Merch mockups.
Printful has been stepping up their game over the last year by offering a ton of new mockups for most of their products. The plain flat-lay shirts look better and they have a lot of great lifestyle photos now. They also have a mockup generator to easily make new mockups to add to your store after they are posted.
For the sake of laziness, pushing products to your store from Printful is the easiest.
You can still use the mockup generator from Printful to make mockups to use regardless of who you end up using for the product though.
I still recommend using PlaceIt mockups to stand out or, if you have some Photoshop skills, make your own. You can buy templates on Etsy for that.
Winner – Definitely Printful
How Can I Use Printful and Printify?
After reading all of that above, if you want to use both Printful and Printify for the sake of increasing your ROI, it is actually pretty easy.
Set Up Integrations
Unless you’re using an obscure platform that only integrates with Printful, all you need to do is make sure to integrate both services with all of your stores. If you need some help:
Turn Off Auto Fulfillment
Now you want to make sure you don’t fulfill an order with the wrong company. You need to turn off the auto fulfillment in each system so that you have to manually submit and/or accept orders.
- Go to your Printful dashboard
- On the left side of the page, click settings
- Under “Order import settings” choose “Manually confirm imported orders”
- Repeat with all of your stores
- Go to your “My Stores” page in Printify
- Click on the settings gear for one of your stores
- On the left side click Preferences
- Under “Order approval” choose Manually
- Also make sure Order import has “See all orders” checked
- Repeat with all of your stores
How to Manually Submit Orders
I’ve determined that for myself at least, it is easiest to push orders to my stores via Printful. This way, if I want to fulfill an order through Printful, you just need to click to the end of the fulfillment pages without needing to input anything. This also gives you more flexibility in choosing different vendors from Printify as needed.
I really don’t recommend pushing from Printify.
When an order comes through, it will show up in your orders page saying it “Needs Approval” or “Not Synced”
Open the order and click “Complete Order”
If you originally pushed this product to your store from Printful and it just needs approval, just make sure the design is right and the variation matches what Printful is choosing. If it is not synced, you’ll need to click “Sync product” and choose the product and variation, then put the design on it.
Click “Continue to shipping”
If express shipping is the same price as flat rate, choose that. It makes for happy customers. You want happy customers.
Click “Continue to review”
Choose your payment option and click Complete Order.
Now Printify isn’t as well organized as Printful and it takes some extra steps. It’s a little annoying, but I figure it takes 3 minutes to submit an order and that can get me something like $3 more per order. Technically that is a $180 per hour rate.
Go to your Printify orders page
If you have multiple stores, click the dropdown in the top right to choose the store that had an order come in.
Click on “Other” and find the new order. (It sometimes takes a couple of hours for it to show up)
Click on the order. Click “Select product”
Either go through the catalog or search for your product. The search is kind of janky and won’t find things unless typed exactly. For example “mu” won’t find mug and will just show up as no items available.
Choose your favorite supplier for the order then pick the variation your customer ordered. Click “Next”
Add your design. Position and make sure the size looks right. Click next.
If you have more than one product in your order, you’ll have to do this for each of them.
When all products are submitted click on “Edit” under the customer name. You need to put in a phone number for some reason. My good pal, the Merchant Success Manager, told me it doesn’t actually matter and you can just put 999999999.
Click Import order.
If you want to avoid confusion and not accidentally send a customer the same order from Printful and Printify, make sure to delete the draft from the company you aren’t planning on using. Another mistake I learned the hard way. Customers think its cool, but I don’t like paying twice and losing money.
When I Choose Printful over Printify
Lately, I’ve been trying to use Printify as much as possible, but these are the main reasons I’ll use Printful instead.
I rarely do international orders anymore since I don’t fully understand how VAT affects me from abroad and I can’t figure out how to not show international customers that many variations are only available in the US. Still, if I do my occasional international orders I’ll choose Printful.
I feel like it is important to give customers shipment tracking. Printify only offers tracking on their orders for ones made within the same country as the printer fulfilling it. It will be too much of a headache to manage multiple shipping profiles for each country.
Chance of the Orders Changing
You really can’t tell beforehand if a customer is going to cancel on you or change something about it after the order has been submitted, but sometimes you just get a feeling. Since it is difficult and rare to get orders modified after submitting to Printify, I’ll opt for Printful if a customer might make a change.
Faster Shipping or Fulfillment
Sometimes customers are willing to spend another $30-$50 to get their order in a couple of days. There are no guarantees of faster fulfillment between Printify or Printful, but opting to overnight an order with Printful does make it a priority order for them. It is a gamble, but so far they have turned around these orders within 24 hours each time.
Specific Colors or Sizes
I admit that my color picking options are a little overkill for my tee shirts, but you really never know what a customer is going to buy until it is out there. If one of my favorite suppliers doesn’t have a particular color shirt at Printify, I’ll go over to Printful.
For example, Bella Canvas 3001 steel blue and heather midnight blue both do really well for me. My only option for both of those on Printify is to use the supplier Dream Junction. I’ve had consistently horrible fulfillment times from them, so I’d rather pay Printful more than wait 10 days for a shirt to ship.
As it gets closer to certain holidays like Father’s Day or Christmas, I’ll lean on Printful more. Since the express shipping is often the same price as flat-rate, I’ll feel safer submitting the order through them.
For one, I just kind of trust Printful more when it comes to big orders. Also, you get discounts for larger orders! Discounts vary depending on the product, but if you have at least 25 products (they can all be different products/sizes/variances) you qualify for a discount.
|Bella Canvas 3001||11 Ounce Mug||Classic Dad Hat|
|25-49||8% off||12% off||7% off|
|50-74||12% off||14% off||12% off|
|75-99||18% off||16% off||16% off|
|100-199||22% off||18% off||20% off|
|200+||26% off||22% off||23% off|
If you have a product in any of your stores that you know sells really well, especially during holidays, you should look into Printful warehousing. This way you can make sure they are sent out faster and don’t have to wait for fulfillment time. You can also use bulk discounts to offset some of the warehousing costs.
When I Choose Printify vs Printful
When I want more money and think it’s a good idea. That sounds like a pretty bleak statement, but I probably send about 90% of my orders to Printify lately.
Printful just can’t compete with the price. Even if I have to eat the cost of an order here and there because a customer wanted to cancel something already in production, it still makes up for the difference in prices.
The Best Printify Providers
I still recommend you order samples to find out for yourself how your designs come out from each vendor, but these are my favorites.
Apparel – Monster Digital.
Monster Digital is somewhat new to Printify, so I hope this isn’t just a honeymoon phase. They fulfill shirts faster than anyone else and the print quality is just as good as Printful.
Apparel Runner Up – DTG2Go
DTG2Go also has great quality on their prints, also up there with Printful. They are usually pretty fast, but I’ve had some orders hang around longer than I like. If Monster Digital doesn’t have a size or color I need, I’ll go to DTG2Go first. If they don’t have it, I go back to Printful.
They also have 5 USA locations, so shipping should be streamlined and faster to customers if they are sent from the closest fulfillment center. That being said, they apparently aren’t set up for that right now and are working on getting it going. When it is worked out, they could become my number 1.
Mugs – Spoke Custom Products
Spoke saved my ass last Christmas. I had some orders taking an absurd amount of time with one of the crappy suppliers, and I thought I was going to have to stop selling mugs 3 weeks before Christmas. Luckily I started using Spoke and they were turning the orders around within a day. Within a day the week before Christmas. That’s amazing.
I did notice that some of my prints weren’t as bold as they come out from Printful, but they are still really good so I’ll continue using them as long as my customers are giving me good responses.
Printify Providers I Avoid
I think these two printers were trying to give me a heart attack last year. It felt like most of the orders shipped out on the 10th fulfillment day, so it took as long as possible, and I just missed out on refunds.
Holy crap they are slow. What is also really annoying about this company is that when they get the order, they immediately mark it as picked. Everyone else marks orders as picked when they actually pull a product to print on. This makes it really confusing to those of us trying to figure out how far along our orders are.
Not one order in December was fulfilled in under 8 days. Many were sent on the 10th day. A few were sent after the 10th day so at least I got a refund. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt in the new year, but it is January 4th right now and I have 4 orders I sent them December 26th that are still just “picked.”
The only positive about Dream Junction is they have more colors than anyone else, but you have to wait for them.
Nope. Not a fan.
I gave them a few orders as a test run and they were sent out pretty quickly. Then out of nowhere, I got a bunch of orders on Amazon for mugs. I sent them all over to MyLocker thinking they would also be handled the same, but they all went out very late. Amazon notified me that my seller account was at risk of being shut down due to late shipments after that.
I’ve also noticed that a lot of those Printify vs Printful quality videos comparing the two have shirts ordered from MyLocker. These videos almost always complain about the quality of Printify (MyLocker). I imagine they would have a different story if they ordered from Monster Digital or DTG2Go.
Is Printify Premium Worth It?
If you’re already decided to use Printify then choosing whether or not to pay for Printify Premium 100% comes down to what you sell and what your sales volume is.
Oh, look, another chart!
Printify vs Printify Premium ROI – Etsy
For me, I sell a decent amount of mugs and Bella Canvas 3001 shirts…which is why I reference those two so much here.
For me to break even on the $29 monthly fee I’d need to sell:
- 23 shirts OR
- 18 11oz mugs OR
- 10 shirts and 11 mugs OR
- 15 shirts and 7 mugs OR
- you get the point – other combinations adding up to $29
If your store(s) don’t make that many sales, it might make sense to just use the regular Printify account until you get more sales.
On the other hand, you can also lower your prices in the hopes of enticing more customers to buy from you. If you think that will work and the math checks out, Printify Premium could also be an option.
If you try it and don’t like it, you can cancel at any time. You won’t get your money back for the unused time in a month, but you won’t be charged the following month.
I also did another write up just on Printify Premium if you’re not too burnt out from reading my ramblings already.