The Definitive Guide To Shopify Print on Demand Apps

I get a lot of questions about which Shopify print on demand app is the best? This is a bit of a nothing question because what is “best” depends on what you need it for.

Print on demand is becoming the norm for apparel and now that Amazon has Merch, it is clear that this is the future of apparel.

Spending thousands to hold stock that never sells is a thing of the past. Everyone wins and having less waste in the world makes me very happy.

Since the early days of Teespring, print on demand (POD) has evolved immensely. Almost any and every second POD provider prints T-shirts, mugs and hoodies.

These three items have flooded the market to the point where there are very few untapped niches that you can exploit for easy profits.

Don’t believe me? Just go on the Redbubble and type in the most obscure thing you can think about. You will get multiple results.

My search for “grandma golf” on Redbubble returned more than 1200 results

The point is that unless you can design some truly unique and kick-ass T-shirts or find some very untapped niches, it will be hard to make it with T-shirts.

Not impossible, but hard.

With an established store and an established customer base you can sell anything but until you get there, try and focus your efforts on products other than T-shirts and mugs.

A Brief Overview of the Print on Demand Landscape

There are new print on demand services joining the party almost every month. They essentially fall into two categories.

The first…

Are those who have their own print facilities and who do everything in-house

The second…

Are those who basically just aggregate a lot of different print houses into their app. They use large print facilities to farm out the printing and shipping and they just take care of the logistics.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Obviously in-house services will be more co-ordinated, your customers will receive multiple purchases in one parcel and you only deal with 1 provider.

The flip side is that this is usually more expensive. When something goes wrong, there’s no fallback and it is usually much harder and slower for them to expand their product line.

Printful, Printify, Customcat and Gooten are the biggest players and they have all been around for long enough that you can place total trust in them.

Printful and Customcat have their own print facilities and do everything in-house. Of the two, Printful has the better quality but is more expensive.

Printify and Gooten both have huge catalogues with some really great products. If you run an apparel store you can run your entire store just from their products.

Teelaunch is also a great option but is a bit smaller in scale and much more “small town” with some interesting print partners that have truly unique products.

They are the only Print on Demand App that has a custom photo upload feature that will allow your customers to place their photos on products. This is a huge plus for them as customized POD products is still the innovative in this space.

AOP+ is by far the best POD partner in Europe. Based in London they have some great products that are truly innovative. A lot of their products is All Over Prints which gives you a lot of design freedom.

Their quality is great but the location could be prohibitive for many as shipping to the USA can get a bit pricey.

ShineOn is probably the biggest innovator in the print on demand space at the moment. They specialise in high quality jewellery and they have expanded their product catalogue significantly.

There’s a lot to like about ShineOn but what i like most is the quality and the profit margins.

Lastly, we have the Chinese POD suppliers. PillowProfits and WC Fulfillment have some great products and being based in China the costs are much lower.

Subliminator is another great one based in China and they specialize in All Over Prints. Their quality is great and they have a great range of products to offer.

The problem with the Chinese suppliers is still shipping. It is either very slow or very expensive and in the end it all levels out to be about the same prices if you take fast shipping into consideration.

PrintTech is a lesser known provider but they are really solid with some truly unique products. Many Amazon sellers have been using them for years with great success.

They offer customization on some truly unique products like wood, glass and leather products and that is still truly unique in the industry.

Here’s my list of the top Shopify print on demand apps (many include Woocommerce and Wix)

1.Printful

Free or Paid:Free
(Standalone, Shopify, Woocommerce, Wix + more)
Customized products:Yes
Based in: USA & Europe (3 USA facilities & 1 EU facility)
Their main products:Shirts, Hoodies, Mugs, Leggings, Caps, Canvases, Posters (framed & unframed), Necklaces & Bracelets
Their Unique Products: Metal & leather bracelets and necklaces (can be customized), bean bags, backpacks
In-house Printing:Yes (everything printed and shipped from Printful’s own facilities.
What are they known for:Printful is known for their overall quality. They are also known for their quality embroidery on Caps.
Ideal For:Selling on Etsy and Amazon (FBM)
Best Features:High quality prints. Utterly professional. Great mockups. Great packaging, custom labels and in-house photography service. Flawless integration with Etsy & Amazon. Fast shipping worldwide.
Worse Features:Price. The highest product prices by far which makes it very hard to profit when running a niche store on Shopify. High shipping costs.
Integrates With:Etsy, Amazon, eBay

2. Teelaunch

Free or Paid App:Free
(Shopify only)
Customized products:Yes
Based in: USA (They use USA and EU print facilities)
Their main products:Shirts, Hoodies, Mugs, Canvases, Tumblers, Doormats, Dog bowls
Their Unique Products:Custom photo products (upload capabilities for your store all inclusive in their Shopify app)
In-House Printing:No
What are they known for:Teelaunch is known for great value for money. Solid provider overall with great prices on standard items. Great to work with.
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify Store and Etsy
Best Features:Cheap base costs, free size exchanges. Great customer service and fast turnaround. Awesome photo products for customization
Worse Features:Not printing in-house. Room for mistakes and quality control issues. Unique products are very expensive.
Integrates With:Etsy (still has bugs)

3.Printify

Free or Paid App:Free & Paid $29/month
(Shopify, Woocommerce, Wix)
With paid plan you Save 20% on product costs.
Customized products:No
Based in: USA (They use USA and EU print facilities)
Their main products:Shirts, Hoodies, Mugs, Tote Bags, Pillows, Canvases,
Their Unique Products:Watch Bands (smartwatches), Neckties, Socks, Duvet Covers, Blank Journals, Dog beds, Fridge Magnets
In-House Printing:No
What are they known for:They have a massive catalogue for apparel products. Great mockups, excellent customer service and great prices (if you are on the business plan).
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify Store, Etsy and eBay
Best Features:Great app interface. Some cheap entry level T-shirts. Massive selection of T-shirts and apparel products.
Can run your entire store just from Printify products. Ability to pause or cancel orders yourself.
Worse Features:Not printing in-house. Room for mistakes and quality control issues. Some T-shirts have very small print areas. Processing times can be slower.
Integrates With:Etsy and eBay

4. Gooten

Free or Paid App:Free
(Shopify, Woocommerce)
Customized products:No
Based in: USA (They use USA and EU print facilities)
Their main products:Prints (Photo & Wall) Shirts, Hoodies, Mugs, Tote Bags, Pillows, Calendars
Their Unique Products:Wall Clings, Puzzles, Lunch Bags, Peristyle Water Bottles, Pint Glasses, Wine Tumblers, Ottomans, Yoga Mats
In-House Printing:No
What are they known for:They have a great catalogue for print products (wall art). Great selection of baby & kids products. Known for a great Catalogue of products
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify & Etsy Store
Best Features:Great new app interface. Some cheap entry level T-shirts. Massive selection of products.
Can run your entire store just from Gooten products. Competitive prices.
Worse Features:Not printing in-house. Room for mistakes and quality control issues.
Print costs can be complicated to work out.
Terrible mockups.
Integrates With:Etsy

5. Customcat

Free or Paid App:Free & Paid $30/month Shopify Only.
Paid plan give you cheaper base costs
Customized products:Yes
Based in: USA (they have 1 massive facility that handles everything)
Their main products:Shirts, Hoodies, Mugs, Caps
Their Unique Products:Customized products (for all their DTG products).
In-House Printing:Yes
What are they known for:Massive catalogue of apparel products that can be customized.
Embroidery – especially caps.
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify
Best Features:Their app includes customization for all DTG products. The app has a bulk upload feature that allows for fast product creation.
Paid app gives you some super cheap products.
Ability to pause or cancel orders yourself.
Worse Features:Terrible mockups. Very clumsy app. Not many unique products.
Quality can be unpredictable.
Often make order mistakes.
Integrates With:none

6. ShineOn

Free or Paid App:Free
Shopify and Standalone
Customized products:Yes
Based in: USA
Their main products:Jewellery
Their Unique Products:Custom Jewellery
In-House Printing:Yes
What are they known for:High quality jewellery items
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify
Best Features:Unique style of jewellery products that can be custom engraved/lasered
Prices are great with great margins
Worse Features:Their products have flooded the POD space.
You have to be creative to stand out.
Integrates With:none

7. PrintTech

Free or Paid App:$9.99/month
Shopify & Woocommerce
Customized products:Yes
Based in: USA
Their main products:Wine Glasses, Bible Covers, Cutting Boards, Beer Mugs
Their Unique Products:BBQ Sets, Humidors, Flasks
In-House Printing:Yes
What are they known for:Unique products that no one else has
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify, Etsy and Amazon (FBM)
Best Features:Truly unique products
Personalization on all products
Great print quality and amazing products
Worse Features:The app is primitive
Personalization is hard to use in-app
Virtually no mockups
Integrates With:Amazon and Etsy

8. AOP+

Free or Paid App:$0 – $19.99/month
Shopify Only
Paid app gives you cheaper base costs
Customized products:Yes (but its complicated)
Based in: Britain
Their main products:All over print Apparel
Their Unique Products:Sequin pillows, ‘face’ pillows, doormats
In-House Printing:Yes
What are they known for:Vibrant all over prints
Leading POD provider in Europe
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify and Etsy
Best Features:Perfect for EU based stores
Interesting products
Great print quality and amazing products
App great to quickly create lot of products
Worse Features:In Europe – expensive to ship to USA
Have to get paid app for competitive prices
All over prints are expensive
Integrates With:Etsy

9. Subliminator

Free or Paid App:Free
Customized products:No
Based in: China
Their main products:All over print Apparel
Their Unique Products:Dog Zip-Up Hoodies, Snug Hoodies, Mesh pocket leggings
In-House Printing:Yes
What are they known for:Vibrant sublimation (all over) prints at affordable prices
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify and Etsy
Best Features:All over prints on all products
Great prints & great quality
Great Shopify App
Fast shipping for China- Based
Offer free designs
Worse Features:Shipping from China – still slow
Integrates With:none

10. Pillow Profits

Free or Paid App:$29.99/month
Customized products:No
Based in: China
Their main products:Shoes, Bags, Bedding
Their Unique Products:Pet Seat Covers, Bean Bags, Sofa Protectors, Quilts, Bath Robes, Car Seat Covers, Luggage Covers
In-House Printing:Yes
What are they known for:Range of truly unique products you can’t find anywhere else
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify
Best Features:Amazing range of unique products
Competitive prices
Worse Features:Shipping from China – slow
Shipping from China – fulfilment issues
Integrates With:none

11. WC Fulfillment

Free or Paid App:Free
Customized products:Yes (not native to the app)
Based in: China
Their main products:Wallet Phone Cases
Their Unique Products:Watches, Wallet Phone Cases, Skateboard Wall Art, Hooded blankets
In-House Printing:Yes
What are they known for:Truly unique products you can’t find anywhere else
Ideal For:Selling on Shopify
Best Features:Amazing range of unique products
Great prices = big margins
Worse Features:Shipping from China – slow or expensive
Lately there are some fulfilment issues (early 2020)
Integrates With:none

More Shopify Print on Demand Apps Worth Checking Out

While I did not include the following two apps I’ve heard a lot of good things about them.

SPOD is Spreadshirt’s Shopify app. Spreadshirt is one of the biggest online T-shirt platforms and you can rest assured that you are plugging into a huge print platform that handles high volume.

Doing print on demand to Europe has always been a bit harder simply because of the shipping costs to Europe. Not anymore. T-Pop is a POD service based in France.

They print and ship from France and is a great option for stores that sell predominantly to the European market. Their prices are very competitive and fast shipping to Europe makes them a very attractive option.

Making Money From Print on Demand Beyond 2020

I will admit that in 2008 print on demand was fairly easy. It was new and because there was no risk in forking out anything up front, is was easy to design 20 T-shirts in 20 obscure niches and throw an ad up on Facebook.

It was not uncommon to get $2 – $3 cost per purchases. It was hugely profitable and the market was wild open with so many untapped niches. Over time people flooded into POD because it had such a low barrier to entry.

As T-spring started becoming less and less profitable new players like Printful and Customcat came on to the scene and allowed you to run your own Shopify store and plug it into the POD provider.

The technical setup was easy and profit margins way higher than with Teespring. Along with this came new POD products like mugs and caps. This changed everything.

Over the last 2 -3 years a whole range of new Print on Demand products from a seemingly endless amount of POD suppliers started appearing. Blankets, jewellery, shoes, underwear and even watches.

Trying to sell print on demand T-shirts is no longer an easy task. In fact, if you want to really make money from print on demand in 2020 and beyond you have to branch out to more interesting products.

Being able to print on more interesting products sets you apart from the massive T-shirt marketplaces like Teespring, Redbubble, Spreadshirt and now Amazon Merch. For your Shopify store to compete with these massive T-shirt sellers is just not a smart idea.

Yes, T-shirts can still be profitable with POD but you will probably have to sell on Etsy, Amazon or Wish.

The model of running a niche store on Shopify and selling print on demand products and advertising on Facebook Ads has razor thin margins. Unless you have unsaturated products with great margins you are fighting an uphill battle.

I’ve created a list of “the best” print on demand suppliers. This does not mean that the other 1001 are bad. These are all ones that I have used and where I can give you honest feedback from personal experience.

Some I have used extensively and some I have tested only a few products. Being on a gazillion Facebook groups you also get a good sense of where the problems lie.

Conclusion

If you run a Shopify store or even if you sell on Etsy or Amazon with print on demand you always want to limit your print providers as much as possible. Logistically it gets much harder to manage and shipping costs can eat into your profits significantly.

POD providers like Printify who do not have their own print facilities means that you will have to eat the shipping costs if your customer buys items that will be printed and shipped from different facilities.

On top of that, your customers will receive multiple parcels for the same order which is not always a great customer experience.

For this reason Printful and Customcat is great if you have an apparel brand/store. You will soon run into the limitations of their product catalogs though and will find yourself wanting to test the “shiny new” products from new POD suppliers.

It is inevitable that you will spread yourself across multiple providers so just be very cautious with shipping costs and your margins – especially if you offer bundles.

To truly embrace the power of print on demand you have to jump on to new products immediately. If you run Facebook Ads for your POD store then new products can get people in your niche to look at your stuff with fresh eyes. It almost always results in a boost in sales.