Considering Starting Your Own Print-On-Demand Shop?

Considering Starting Your Own Print-On-Demand Shop?

For years, I thought it would be cool to get into screen printing, but didn’t know where to start. I saw others doing it and thought it looked fun, and I always wondered how they were managing to pull it off.
I figured I would need to find a screen printer locally and order a bunch of shirts from a wholesale company to use, and take the shirts and my designs to a local screen printer. This is what I’ve seen done before and the only model I knew of. While some people do this, and it may be a perfectly sound business model, I simply didn’t have the ability to invest in some of these wholesale prices.

I found a better way!

I've put together this article containing just about everything I've learned in the past few years!
If you would like more detailed information on the creative process and instagram marketing, stay tuned for my super handy PDF download!

Or, if you think you would like some extra help or someone to bounce ideas off of, I am also available for consulting sessions over zoom to walk you through it and work out the details! Sometimes it helps to have an extra pair of eyes and ears!
Let's do it together!

WHAT I USE (you will need accounts with these to get started)

  • Shopify and/or Etsy
  • Printful and/or Printify 
  • Adobe Photoshop and/or Canva Pro


BACKGROUND

I began using Shopify as my website host to sell my goods in 2020. Before that, I was using Etsy to host my shop. I started using Etsy back in 2014 when I had a small business selling handmade jewelry made with geodes and crystals. It was originally called Luminous Gemstones, later Gemologie, and I drove most of my traffic to my site through my instagram account. That venture ran well with great success up until 2016 when I had my daughter.

After taking a brief hiatus, I resumed my work as an artist/entrepreneur selling handmade embroidery hoops in 2017. This was the birth of Junebug & Co. Some of my earliest works in the realm of fiber arts included little dolls, toys, punch needle pillows, etc. but embroidery was always my main gig.

I decided to leave Etsy in 2020 in hopes of a more sleek and professional looking website. I wanted to be able to personalize the graphics, the fonts, and overall appearance of my shop. Presentation is big to me in online sales, so I felt that having my own domain name and customized shop would go a long way. I considered using Squarespace, but ultimately settled on Shopify.


ETSY VS. SHOPIFY
(Note: this was written before Etsy banned my account. I now, upon further research and thought, no longer support them as an organization.)


Both of the screen printing apps I use, Printful and Printify, actually allow integration across multiples selling platforms including Etsy. 

Up until very recently, I was under the impression that Etsy only allows sellers to list handmade products that they physically made themselves. Having the ability to integrate print-on-demand goods is revolutionary to me! Now knowing this, I would encourage you to consider using Etsy as your host if you are not wanting to do the added work of designing a custom storefront with Shopify.

If you are an artist who makes goods by hand, Etsy is a valuable platform in many ways. There are pros and cons to both Etsy and Shopify, but the biggest pro to using Etsy I would say is that you get more automatic traffic from searches within Etsy itself. If you use the right SEO (search engine optimization), you can generate a lot of traffic from customers who are already looking to buy handmade. SEO was a big learning curve for me when I got started, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really no big deal.

One thing I’ll miss about Etsy is the little *cha-ching* sound effect that’s made on the app whenever you get a sale. That was always so satisfying, and truly did make me smile and celebrate. The sale sound effect on Shopify is cool too, but there’s something about that cha-ching that really does it for me :-P

Another one of the main reasons I left Etsy and switched to Shopify was that I realized Etsy was taking out a pretty large percentage of my profits in hidden fees. One advantage of starting an Etsy shop is that it’s free to start, there’s no overhead charge or monthly fee to pay, but the downside is that there are other sales fees that do get deducted at each payout.

Shopify is an investment, and at their new raised price from $29 to now $39 a month, you have to be willing to risk that you’ll make more than that in sales per month, which may be a risk you’re willing to take.
I’ve found this risk to be worth it, because you not only receive the ability to sell your own handmade goods and crafts, but you are able to integrate other features through Shopify that you wouldn’t through Etsy. There are many app integrations which add value to a Shopify store, which I’ll get into in a minute.


THE STRUGGLE TO SCREEN PRINT

Which brings me to my next point, and the reason I’m writing this! If you want to start your own screen printing business, but don’t want to deal with the overhead of having to purchase from a wholesale provider, you’ve come to the right place.

For years, I thought it would be cool to get into screen printing, but didn’t know where to start. I saw others doing it and thought it looked fun, and I always wondered how they were managing to pull it off.
I figured I would need to find a screen printer locally and order a bunch of shirts from a wholesale company to use, and take the shirts and my designs to a local screen printer. This is what I’ve seen done before and the only model I knew of. While some people do this, and it may be a perfectly sound business model, I simply didn’t have the ability to invest in some of these wholesale prices.

Companies who offer wholesale t-shirts will usually require a minimum order of 100 or so, which winds up costing a lot. At the time I started researching this, I was selling only handmade embroidery, and was looking for a way to scale my shop.


As a stay at home single mom, I was also trying to homeschool my daughter while running a business. I didn’t have enough hours in the day to make ends meet, and I was looking for a solution. Simultaneously, I was realizing my graphics I would post on instagram seemed to be taking off, and getting lots of likes and shares. I wondered if there were a way I could get some of my graphics onto clothes, and a lot of folks actually made this request.

I was stuck on this, and wondered if I could iron on designs with iron on letters I got at Hobby Lobby, but still, the cost of production just wouldn’t be worth it. Another option I considered was purchasing a Cricut and making my own iron on designs that way, but alas, a Cricut and all the necessary components was just too big of an investment. (I still want one in the future because they come in such cute colors and they could really make all kinds of things!)

Alas, as I found myself out of viable options and at the end of my rope, I realized something. I remembered I had seen certain YouTube personalities offer merch under their videos. Sometimes it pops up under the video to show where you can get one of their shirts, mugs, hats, etc. and I wondered how they did that. I wound up going on to the website of a favorite YouTuber of mine, and noticed it said their products were fulfilled by Printful.


SCREEN PRINTING SUCCESS

Now begins the revolution! After toiling away at making things by hand, struggling to find a better way, I had finally arrived at an answer to my prayers.
I must have googled Printful at this point and realized it was an APP for SHOPIFY, which was great because I already had a Shopify account.

I want to take a moment to mention, and some of you may already know this, but one of the cool features of Shopify is that it has the ability to integrate apps. There are apps for all kinds of things, many of which I have yet to discover. I have used an app for selling digital downloads, and a few others, but there are a ton of options.

The two printing apps I have used to sell my goods are Printful and Printify. They both have their pros and cons! I use Printful for our shirts, mugs, and sweatshirts, but use Printify for stickers and buttons. I used to use Printify for mugs, but there was a weird incident where there was a misprint with a creepy image on one of our mugs, which I took as a sign not to use them anymore and converted the mugs to Printful.

You may want to browse the catalogues of both Printful and Printify and see which of their products you like most! They have all kinds of fun things from dog collars to puzzles to aprons. If you are a graphic designer, you would probably love to have your designs on some of these! The options are truly endless.


YOUR DESIGN

  1. CREATING THE DESIGN

So the first thing you’re going to need when using Printful or Printify is a graphic to put on your goods. Your graphic is going to need to be in PNG format, which gives it a transparent background. That way, you won’t have an extra block of color around your image.

I use Adobe Photoshop and Canva to make my graphics, but you may have another app that you prefer. With Canva, you will need the Pro version to make your images into transparent PNGs, which I believe is $12.99 a month.

I recommend investing in one or both of these softwares because it gives you much more versatility with your designs. Each of these programs have a variety of features, fonts, and images you could use when creating your designs. If you would rather not obtain these programs, another great (FREE) option is that you could use Printful to create your designs as their in-app design feature allows this.

        2. CREATING A PNG

In this section I will tell you how to do this just in case you don’t already know! If you already do, feel free to skip over this part.

CREATING A PNG IN PHOTOSHOP
This is something that eluded me for a good while so I’m happy to share this trick of the trade.

If you are working with photoshop, you are probably familiar with layers. Your creation is going to have multiple layers, including the background color. What you’re going to do is go over to your layers menu, find the one that’s the background, and simply press the DELETE button on your keyboard.

Then, you’re going to want to go to File > Save As and in the Format menu click PNG. Simple as that!

CREATING A PNG IN CANVA PRO

This one is newer to me, as I just recently began using Canva, but it has revolutionized the graphic design game. I don’t know how I lived without it!

Once you’ve made your design and you’re ready to save it, just click the little folder symbol in the top right corner. Then you’ll want to click DOWNLOAD.

The default file type setting should already be set to PNG, but just in case it’s not, you can change that here.
You’re going to want to check the box for Transparent background.

One thing I noticed, which may be important here is that the resolution of the image might not be high enough when you save it as-is.
I realized that once I uploaded my images to Printful, the resolution was not high enough sometimes for shirts.
I typically use a very high pixel count in my designs, such as a 5000 x 5000 aspect for a blank canvas to start with to make sure it's the highest quality.

FREE OPTION: CREATING A DESIGN WITHIN PRINTFUL

If you would rather not invest in these programs for your design, there’s actually an easier way. For the cheapest and easiest possible route, I suggest using Printful to create your goods. One of the biggest benefits to using Printful is that they offer the ability to create your own designs within the app. Using their fonts and graphics, you can actually make some pretty great things.


BONUS: FONTS

I’m big on fonts, and if you’re making a design the font is going to be a major element. I personally favor the font Cooper for a lot of my work, and that is a built-in font within Printful, so you can have it ready to use there. It’s unfortunately not available within Canva Pro, however I do have it on my computer and use it for designs within Photoshop.

If you would like to obtain even more fonts (I have a weird obsession with fonts and want to get all the cool ones!) you can find them from a variety of sources online. dafont.com was the first one I ever used, but I have recently discovered myfonts.com which in my opinion has even better ones!

The fonts from dafont.com are basically free to download, but you’ll need to check the information to see whether you are required to obtain a commercial license. My other favorite font for example, called Keep On Truckin’, required me to pay a fee for commercial use. This is a one-time fee that lasts a lifetime.


CREATING A PRODUCT

        SELECTING A PRODUCT

Now that you have your image or design figured out, I’m going to walk you through the creation of your first product!

There are many different products to choose from within Printful and Printify. If you’re going to design a t-shirt, for example, I suggest you browse through all the options and consider things like the style, the brand it’s made by, fabric composition, etc.
I chose to source our t-shirts from Bella & Canvas because they’re a trusted brand with high quality shirts that are 100% airlume ring-spun cotton. You may want to do some research and look at the websites of different brands to see where their products are manufactured. I chose Bella & Canvas because their motto is America Strong and they are a lead generator of apparel jobs here in the US. Another brand I know of who is made in the USA is American Apparel.

One big difference between Printful and Printify is that Printify will show you a few different printing providers to choose from, while with Printful, this process just happens automatically and you don’t choose.

PRINTIFY
When choosing a t-shirt with Printify, for example, you will need to browse through the different printing companies they offer and select one that looks best to you. Some might not have the color options you’re looking for. Their price per item, shipping cost, and reviews are also a factor here.

Some products on Printify don’t make you do this, like stickers and pins for example all come from the same generic provider, but the printing provider has been relevant when it comes to selling clothing.

PRINTFUL
When creating a product with Printful, however, you will never be asked to choose the printing provider, as the printing provider is selected automatically. They have 17 printing facilities across 5 continents, so whichever one is located closest to your customer is likely the one to be used. This is incredibly helpful as it reduces delivery times and shipping costs.

 

This concludes part 1 of my overview! Thank you for reading!
I hope this helps you get started and gives you an idea of what to expect!


If you liked what you read here and want to take it to the next level,
stay tuned for my info-packed PDF download PART 2
where I go in depth on:

  • How I create product descriptions
  • Editing and optimizing your shop theme
  • Creating mockups for your products
  • Taking aesthetically pleasing product photography
  • My creative tips for instagram
  • Creating a cohesive & cute instagram feed
  • & more!

After reading this, if you think you would like some extra help or someone to bounce ideas off of, I am also available for consulting sessions over zoom to walk you through it and work out the details! Sometimes it helps to have an extra pair of eyes and ears!

WHAT IT IS:

  • A 30 minute consultation over Zoom
  • We can talk it out, work through your problems, I'll answer your questions and provide helpful feedback!

To book a session with me, simply fill out this form and I will get back to you in a timely fashion to schedule a time!

Let's work together!

Back to blog