Printful Review: Pros and Cons for T-Shirt Printing

 
printful review

Table of Contents

Custom Branded T-Shirts, Apparel and Other Merchandise

Updated 4/17/19: This Printful review will cover the pros and cons we’ve found in using Printful’s custom design platform. You’ll find screenshots and video as well toward providing a comprehensive review of this print-on-demand (POD) service.  

Creative branded products using your art and creativity is one way to generate revenue as a creator. We have tons of ideas across our brands to bring to life on apparel and products, so we’re testing multiple print on demand (POD) platforms beginning with iCreateDaily apparel. 

Audio Article – Printful Review:

Here’s one of our long sleeve iYogaDaily designs!

flowy long sleeve yoga tee, yoga t-shirt
LeAura Alderson, cofounder-iCreateDaily, at work wearing an iYogaDaily flowy long sleeve tee on a Bella +Canvas shirt.

Custom Designs with Printful

Design Variety

Printful offers a large variety of products to choose for your art and ideas, but we will only be covering the apparel printing in this article. 

Keep in mind that once you learn one printing platform’s system, you’re able to maneuver the next one more quickly. Many of the platforms have similar elements so the learning curve might be reduced.

Whichever printing company you start with will seem to be the hardest at first. We started with TeeSpring and experimented with Zazzle and RedBubble over the years before printing on Printful.

Quick Starter or Perfectionist?

If you’re inclined toward perfectionism, then you’ll just want to get something out there quickly and then refine as you go. If however, you’re inclined to launch quickly and then fizzle out, you’ll want to approach it with more care and thought.

The following quote is an opposite variation on Seth Godin’s “just ship it” concept, which we’ve written about elsewhere. But there’s always another perspective, and ours is that the two together represent a balance.

THE MARRIAGE OF QUICK START AND PERFECTION

  1. Make lots and get it out there quickly
  2. Ongoing refinement and improvement

“Don’t be in a rush to get big.  Be in a rush to have a great product.”
~ Eric Ries, American entrepreneur, blogger, author

For our iCreateDaily apparel, we're testing multiple platforms and currently have the most experience with Printful.  This Printful review will cover the pros and cons we've noticed in using the platform including a video of the editing and site overview. 

The Print on Demand T-Shirt Market

Today, the print-on-demand product creation market has matured.

Gone are the days where you can just throw up a bunch of T-shirts, post a few Facebook ads and sell lots of merchandise. So yes, create thoughtfully based on your preferences and knowing your prospective audience. But create, iterate quickly and refine as you go.

When we’re meeting our publishing goal late at night, we’ll go ahead and publish to get it out there, then review for final edits first thing the next morning when we’re fresh.

Sometimes there are glaring errors and we send an “oops” follow-up to fix it. But most of the time it’s just a matter of the ongoing process of refining and improving things. We’ve learned to relax around our bloopers and not stall out because of it.

If it’s a review, like this article, we’ll want to keep it fresh and updated with any changes that Printful has made.  Originally published in 2018, we’re updating this review to reflect updates from Printful in 2019.

Mistakes happen. Don’t let them stall you, stop you or hold you back.
~LeAura Alderson, cofounder-iCreateDaily.com

Printful Review

Review July 2018:
Printful has been the least headache for us so far in terms of ease of use. Which might seem odd since you see right off the bat we’re giving the design interface a 4 rating (but we gave this a 3 in 2018). 

Stick with us; all will be explained.  

I started with the 2-minute Printful ‘Get Started’ video tutorial. Even so, there was about full-day learning curve in figuring out “all the buttons.”

If you enjoy the process of clicking buttons and figuring things out, you’ll tinker your way to success. Though if you’re easily frustrated with lack of clear direction you could get annoyed quickly.

Update April 2019 – Navigation Improvements:
Printful had two navigation panels which they streamlined into one sidebar that stays on the right side of the screen. They also have an option for a quick video tutorial on each panel menu which really streamlines both your product creation and your learning time. Yay!

I love that Printful simplified their dashboard, pictured here, which we’ll get to next.

 

Review Categories

Here are the top five major categories we’re covering in this Printful review article. 

  1. User Design Experience – Pros & Cons
  2. Fabrics & Product Library 
  3. Integration Ease 
  4. Fulfillment & Payments 
  5. Customer Service & Resources

We’ve provide lots of screenshot images as you progress through this article to help you visualize our points. In addition, there’s a video demo of making a t-shirt so you can see the Printful pros and cons in action.

Rating System ~ 5-Star scale:
1 = atrocious; 5 = stellar  

1. User Design Experience:
4 Star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Printful Design PROS

  • Organized file library
  • Simple editing screen

ORGANIZED FILE LIBRARY

Printful’s designing was pretty easy when it comes to loading your own pre-created art files.  As long as you follow the recommended print graphics requirements, which are pretty standard across platforms, you should be good to go. 

Printful’s advantage here is they provide different folders for organizing your art files. This is especially helpful if you have seasonal collections, different logos or theme variations.

Many print on demand platforms don’t have a file library where you can save your work. That means that anytime you want to create a different style or product using the same design, you have to upload that design again.

FOR EXAMPLE:
We’re created an iWriteDaily Bella tank top. Once that’s done, we want to create an iWriteDaily mug. With some of the other platforms, we would need to reload the iWriteDaily art file for EACH variation. However with Printful, you can just insert the art on file from within Printful.

Printful’s dashboard helps you organize your designs. 

Here’s an example of our iCreateDaily file library. It’s easy to add any design to any product.

SIMPLE EDITING SCREEN

Printful’s editing screen is super simple, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you’re looking to create. If you already have your design graphic files made, it’s very easy to upload those and then add them to a product.

If you’re expecting to create super cool designs using Printful’s pre-made art and font variants, their styles are limited.

Printful’s clipart offers emojis and very limited basic shapes (like hearts).  You could choose from around a dozen fonts to make some cool slogan shirts, but that’s about it.

Printful’s in-house clipart and font designs are limited.

PRINTFUL REVIEW: Here's a screenshot, and you'll also see a much better in-action view in the video we created below.  We create all our designs with a graphic designer and so we have the art files ready to load the Printful file library and size properly.  If you're expecting a wide array of designing and artwork creation on Printful you'll be disappointed.  
Printful’s editing screen view.

Printful Design CONS

  • Can’t mass edit product variables
  • Limited product mock-up images
    • Image Mockup Options

CAN’T MASS EDIT PRODUCT VARIABLES

You have to start over.

So, while you save time in your design library, you pretty much lose it all when it comes to the product creation phase.  You have to create each merchandise variant from scratch.

For instance, you can’t make a t-shirt design and then have the design translate to a hoodie, tank top, mug, or other product. You have to list your t-shirt as a store item, and then start all over creating the hoodie or other items.

While it might not seem like a big deal, the drawback is TIME.  It would make more sense if Printful allowed us to edit product variants under a specific design as opposed to needing to starting over. 

On RedBubble you can edit multiple product variants under one design, on Printful, you cannot.*
*As of Q2, 2019.

If you need help with graphic art designs, you’ll find more on that at the end of this article.

EXAMPLES of some of the iCreateDaily branded mugs.

LIMITED PRODUCT MOCK-UP IMAGES

We highly recommend purchasing a batch of your custom apparel and merchandise so that you can test quality and get cool lifestyle images that people love. However, it’s nice when the POD platform provides some of those graphics for you.

Printful’s product images are inconsistent. They only offer front and back image mock-ups if you have a design on both sides.

So that means that if you choose to design only one side of the garment, the purchasing view won’t show the other side of the shirt. At first, this makes sense; it’s blank after all. But think about how we buy when we’re at a store or online.  We want to see the front and back regardless of design, it’s just part of a natural purchase habit.

Printful product mockups only show views of the printed side of garments, but if you’re a consumer, you want to see all sides, even if it’s blank.

Example of Printful product mockups.

IMAGE MOCK UPS

If you want images of models in your clothing you have to buy them from their partner company, Photific. So instead, for products like wall art, we had our graphic designer create mockups using Pixabay lifestyle images. For apparel, we needed to wait for our products to come in and then take our own shots.

Other print-on-demand platforms will provide modeled images for free. Not Printful.

This is especially helpful for marketing your shirts. Model mock-ups can be important not only so your customer gets a sense of the shirt being worn, but so that you can see if the design looks good in the way you’ve sized it. 

To have access to professional images of products to add your artwork to, allows you to begin promoting your merchandise right away. Early sales and advertising opportunities such as running Facebook and Pinterest ads can help you gain traction in the market sooner.

With Printful, if you order a women’s cut T-shirt or hoodie, you—and your customers—can only see mockup visuals for the men’s styles, unless you buy their photo options.

Printful is inconsistent in the types of product images they have. They will always have front and back image mock-ups IF you have a design on both sides.  If you choose not to have a design, they don't make a back mock-up available. At first, this makes sense, it's blank. But think about how we buy when we're at a store.  We want to see the front and back regardless of design, it's just part of our natural purchase habit.  
It would be great if Printful offered a couple standard view variations on all products. Including at least one variation where the model is wearing the apparel.

Oh, by the way, here’s the link to our I’ll Write, I’ll Write, I’ll Write shirt.

Video overview of Printful’s platform PROS & CONS

 

You can see the iCreateDaily shirts here, we’ll continually be adding more to the shop according to new designs and seasonal apparel and other items!  We’ll review that process as our brand grows.

 

 

2. Printful Review: Fabrics & Product Library:
4 Star 
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Printful’s Current Apparel Manufacturer Partners
  • Fabrics Printful Offers
  • Fabrics Printful Doesn’t Offer

Sourcing quality fabric at a reasonable price seems to be an overall problem in the print-on-demand industry.

It makes sense. Whenever you’re sourcing from the US (which we prefer to do), and ordering in smaller quantities, such as with POD, you’re naturally going to pay more, all of which we cover in this overview article: T-Shirt Printing on Demand Pros and Cons.

Printful’s Current Apparel Manufacturer Partners

  • American Apparel (Made in USA)
  • Hanes
  • Gildan
  • Bella + Canvas 
  • Next Level Tee

We like Printful’s shirt style options through the Bella + Canvas line. Most print-on-demand apparel companies these days carry this popular brand.

Bella + Canvas offers the widest range of T-shirts and tank tops for men and women in the softer tri-blend fabric, and they’re subsequently more expensive.  We favor the Tri-Blend because it’s softer, lighter and more wicking than 100% cotton T-shirts.1)https://creativeresources.threadless.com/what-is-tri-blend/

We favor the tri-blend of poly-cotton-rayon fabric for our custom designs because it’s softer and lighter compared to 100% cotton T-shirts.
~iCreateDaily.com

Fabrics Printful Offers

Fabrics Printful Doesn’t Offer – (of fabs that we like)

  • Bamboo 
  • Denim
  • Athletic Wear 
  • Microfibers and wicking
  • Tencel/lyocell 

NOTE: We like that Tencel is a more environmentally friendly fabric:

“Lyocell is truly an environmental achievement in fiber production. It is derived from a renewable and sustainably harvested raw material, its manufacturing is sustainable, and its disposal is biodegradable to complete the full cycle.”
~SOURCE: YesItsOrganic.com

POD Fabric Limitations

We don’t fault Printful for not having these more exotic fabrics; many POD companies don’t offer them.  They provide the simplest and cheapest solution for any startup or new creator. 

As the iCreateDaily brand grows we’ll be looking into higher-quality US manufacturing and fabrics. We love to source in country, so if you know of good US based fabric and apparel manufacturers, please let us know!

The next company we’re going to try is PrintAura. They offer more fabric and brand variety, so we’ll create a review for them once we go through their process.

3. Printful Review: Integration Ease:
5 Star 
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Integrating our Printful account with our Shopify storefront was easy-peasy.

Not all platforms have numerous linking options.  It took me under 10-minutes to sync to our Shopify account.

Now, any of our custom designs on Printful will immediately sync to our online store.  Any price, size, image, and other product variants we create from here on will show up immediately on Shopify.  

We would still recommend checking the Shopify listing, making sure it’s in the right shop collection, all the images are in the order you want, and any Shopify listing optimization you can do.  

So far we’ve only used Printful’s integration to Shopify, and it works like a charm.

“Integrating our Printful account with our Shopify storefront was easy-peasy.”
~Devani Alderson, iCreateDaily.com

PRINTFUL SHOPPING INTEGRATION PLATFORMS

  • Shopify
  • WooCommerce (WordPress)
  • Squarespace
  • Big Cartel
  • Gumroad
  • Weebly
  • Ecwid
  • BigCommerce
  • Etsy
  • StoreNVY
  • Tictail
  • Amazon
  • Inktail

You can also create a storefront on the Printful platform itself. We always recommend for long-term branding to use your own website, but Printful’s storefront is a great place to start, especially if  you don’t have a website.

You could create a Business Facebook Page and post your design images and sell directly from Facebook to your Printful store link.

If you don’t yet have a website and you’re not sure as to whether you need one, this article should help.

4. Printful Review: Fulfillment & Payments:
5 Star  
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Printful Fulfillment
    • Ordering Sample Products
    • Shipping & Delivery Time
    • Sample Orders & Costs
  • Printful Payment Processing

Printful Fulfillment

Printful’s fulfillment is pretty simple.

  1. You or your customer places an order
  2. Printful processes the payments
  3. Printful creates the custom product
  4. Printful handles and ships it directly to your customer

POD Fulfillment Usually Takes Longer

One thing to note, when it comes to print-on-demand is that it typically takes longer to get your order. Of course, it makes sense. PODs aren’t just packing a pre-made item and sending it on its way.

So always remember to account for business days, which in the case of Printful (and most PODs), means Monday-Friday, and not weekends. Yes, you can pay more for expedited deliver, such a if you need samples pronto for a photoshoot, but otherwise, expect at least two weeks.

It’s easy to track your order’s progress in your Printful ‘Orders’ dashboard where Printful shows you the progress through each stage of each product you’ve ordered.

This image is a screenshot of one of our sample orders and you can see on that green bar, that some of the shirts are in the Printing stage and others are in Quality Control.

They have to print the batch of products you order first.  So it's standard for there to be a delay. In your Order's dashboard, Printful will tell you the stage of each product you've ordered.  This image is a screenshot of one of our smaple orders and you can see that some of the shirts are in the Printing stage and others are in Quality Control.  

ORDERING SAMPLE PRODUCTS 

Misprints and assuring print quality is one main reason for ordering product samples. You don’t want complaints from customers that their products are off; that does not begin any relationship on good footing, even if you make it good.

POD is a GREAT way to test your custom designs before outsource larger quantities. Far better to invest a little money up front than pay for products you can’t sell, or worse, to have to deal with unhappy customers, returns and haggling with your printer.  

Most ecommerce brands of all kinds, source their products offshore. We’ve heard all kinds of horror stories over the years and you don’t want to be the one receiving that huge pallet of hundreds or thousands of misprinted shirts shipped from China! 

TIP:
Until you get your designs set and established, start with POD. Investing a little up front can save a lot of grief.

SHIPPING & DELIVERY TIME – 

Your Printful order takes 1-2 weeks from ordering to receipt. It takes 2-3 business days to make the shirt, which then ships via USPS standard shipping in about 3-5 days.

TeeSpring takes more like 2-3  weeks but that’s another story for another article. 😉

You can sometimes reduce the time from order placement to receipt of products by placing your orders on Monday. If you place your order mid week, and it takes 3-5 days to print, then your order will be sitting and waiting over the weekend at the POD as well as with the shipping service.

TIP:
You can sometimes reduce the time from order placement to receipt of POD products by placing your orders on the first half of Mondays.

COST OF PRINTFUL SAMPLE ORDERS

For sample orders, you will be charged full price, as if you’re a regular customer. However, as soon as the order is processed, you’ll also have the profit from that sale deposited as credit to your account, so typically in one working day or two.

So ultimately you can buy your products at cost, but not directly.

TIP:
If you’re creating more than one product or design, order all of your samples at the same time to save on shipping.

Printful Payment Processing

Accepting money from Printful is a breeze, and they have integrations for most payment systems though.  We’re using PayPal and it works fine.

If you have any trouble connecting your payment portal, Printful’s chat, email, or phone support will walk you through it.

5.  Printful Review: Customer Service & Resources:
4 Star 
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Printful Review – Customer Service
  • Ordering Product Samples is a Must

Printful Customer Service

Printful’s chat support is cheerful and ready to help out. So far they’ve always had a solution to anything we’ve asked. 

We’ve only had two misprint issues, one was on us because we didn’t follow the correct file procedures, one was a glitch on Printful’s side.  I ordered an “I’ll write, I’ll write, I’ll write“, white shirt with purple text.  While the shirt fits perfectly, feels great, and looks awesome, the text printed blue instead of purple.

The mistake was clearly Printful’s because the images of the design only showed up in purple. But Printful refunded my purchase without a problem. That was the only time we needed to get a product refunded.  So far, everything else has printed great.

“Customer service is a form of currency for a business.”
~LeAura Alderson, cofounder-iCreateDaily.com

Resources & Tutorials 

While Printful’s customer service is great, their Resources section has a lot of room for growth.  At first glance, it looks very neatly organized by the type of service you might need help with such as payments, fabrics, or designs.

What’s not so awesome is that Printful does not provide a search bar!!!

So for instance, if you’re trying to integrate your Printful account with Shopify as I was, you can’t just search and have it take you directly there. Instead, you’ll need to follow this path:

Resources > Integrations > eCommerce > Shopify > Download Printful Shopify app, (see screenshot for clarity). WOW!

It’s 2019 folks! “Search” is how we all find everything!

It’s vastly quicker and easier to just Google your keyword, such as “Printful Shopify integration”.  The other POD Platforms we’ve used so far do incorporate the (“should be mandatory”) search option within their own knowledge base portals.

Do you hear what I’m saying, Printful? We have to go out of the Printful platform to ‘Google’ the Printful answers we need!

In this example, it was pretty simple to figure out the Printful’s integration for was under the Ecom/Integration area. But sometimes you might have a more obscure question and need to click through all the tabs to find that answer, which wastes a lot of time.

How Printful Can Save Money and Time

Printful can save a LOT of customer service time and customer frustration (can you hear it in these words…?  Can you hear how loudly I’m typing…?), by simply adding a more complete and searchable Resources area.   The way it’s set up currently, it’s easier to hit up Printful’s chat with a question and then have them search for the right Resource article for you.

As business owners, we cringe at the wasted time that could easily be solved by just adding a basic search bar.

TIP:
Website and blog owners: if you don’t have a Search feature on your site, add one! You can actually lose readers/customers if you don’t.

The Search window is typically free and easy to do. Not only does it help your readers find what they’re looking for, but you can track Google analytics to discover what terms your site visitors are searching. Learning more about your audience is valuable market data and helps you hone your message and marketing directly to them.

Printful Review Conclusion:
4.2 Stars Total Rating

Printful Review Summary

We like the standard 5-Star scale, 1 being atrocious and 5 being stellar. 

  • User Experience & Design: 3.5 stars
  • Fabrics & Product Library: 4 stars
  • Integration Ease: 5 stars
  • Fulfillment & Payments: 5 stars
  • Customer Service & Resources: 4 stars

All in all, while there’s room for improvement, so far, our favorite platform is still Printful.  They are a good company that’s providing a great service for creators.

Please let us know if you decide to use Printful’s services. Also, if you’re using a different one, we’d love to hear your perspective.

About Creating Designs

Many visual artists use some form of Print-on-Demand platform for create products using their own original art! 

If you’re not a visual artist or graphic designer, we’ve had success in hiring a graphic designer on FreeeUp.com. FreeeUp is great because you can choose your budget, set a time frame of the project, and interview applicants for your job listing.  Here are the designs and some of the product variations we had our designer create.

We’ve had two different graphic designers create the covers for the iCreateDaily Journal covers, which you can see on our Amazon page.

What Could You Create for Your Brand and Followers?

Authors could create shirts, mugs, and products with catchy phrases from their books. Photographers can put photos on products, and many musicians will put their album covers on apparel.  There are endless ways to use print-on-demand services even if you’re not a visual artist.

One member in the iCreateDaily community, Lynda Suzanne Wright, had stunning curtains created from some of her visual art.

In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.
~Doug Warner

For our iCreateDaily apparel, we're testing multiple platforms and currently have the most experience with Printful.  This Printful review will cover the pros and cons we've noticed in using the platform including a video of the editing and site overview. 

Start. Sustain. Succeed! iCreateDaily.




Want to submit your photos, videos and/or article content for publication? We love to consider your contribution for publication! creators@icreatedaily.com

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