An Easy Breezy Guide (2023)
You may have noticed that there’s a massive market for print-on-demand products, especially for custom t-shirts. It’s one of those items that will never go out of style: people need clothing, and print-on-demand shirts guarantee an infinite flow of fun new ideas.
This presents both an opportunity and an obstacle for hopeful business owners. On one hand, there’s a ton of business to tap into. But on the other hand, competition is fierce, as many other entrepreneurs have the same idea.
So how can you break in and build your own successful t-shirt business? In this article, we’ll talk about the basics of getting started. We’ll look at top print-on-demand companies to work with, how to create your designs, and how to start making some money selling them.
Best print-on-demand t-shirt companies
There are plenty of top-rated print-on-demand companies to choose from. Before you make your decision, you’ll want to consider some key elements like print quality, turnaround time, and competitive prices. Let’s go over a couple of popular companies.
Printify allows you to print your custom designs on more than 750 high-quality products—including t-shirts, of course. They offer all kinds of tops, like short- and long-sleeve t-shirts, as well as hoodies, jerseys, and even Hawaiian shirts.
Printify may be a great idea if you’re shipping outside of the US, as the company prints in more than 90 countries worldwide, including Canada, Australia, Germany, and the UK, to name a few.
Printify integrates with several ecommerce platforms, including Shopify, eBay, Wix, Etsy, and more, as well as a custom API integration to keep your business running smoothly.
As for fulfillment times, most orders will ship between two and seven business days from the time you place your order.
Pricing is available in three membership tiers:
- Free, for small businesses
- Premium, for growing businesses, priced at $29 per month, billed monthly, or $24.99 per month, billed annually)
- Enterprise, which uses custom pricing; contact Printify if you’d like to learn more
The lowest-priced tee on Printify costs $6.55.
With more than 430 products, including t-shirts and other items, Printful’s catalog isn’t as robust as Printify’s. But it certainly gets the job done, with all the basics that a t-shirt business would need.
Printful has printers located in the US, Canada, and Mexico—not quite as global as Prinity, but still able to make its way to other destinations.
Printful has lots of integrations, including Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, Wix, Launch Cart, Square, and TikTok Shop. It also offers a Printful API.
Another great perk of Printful is that it offers a free 14-day trial for its Pro membership, giving you a solid amount of time to test all of its features and see if it’s the right digital printing partner for you.
Pricing for Printful is available in three categories:
- Free, for small businesses
- Plus, for medium-sized businesses, priced at $9 per month
- Pro, for large businesses, priced at $49 per month, billed monthly, or $539 yearly (which offers one month free in comparison to monthly billing)
The lowest-priced tee on Printful costs $7.95.
Teelaunch is a print-on-demand company that customizes a range of shirts. You can choose from t-shirts, long-sleeve tees, sweatshirts, and tank tops. Double-sided printing is possible for some styles—TeeLaunch has men’s, women’s, unisex, and baby styles available.
We recommend connecting Teelaunch with your Shopify store. There’s no fee to use it, and you can sell the shirts on Amazon, Facebook, or Etsy. Though Teelaunch doesn’t offer samples, users are entitled to a 25% discount every 30 days.
Teelaunch ships to the US, the UK, and Canada. The company usually takes three to six business days to process and prepare orders for shipping, though the time is longer during peak periods.
- Free to use for all businesses
The lowest-priced tee on Teelaunch costs $5.
AOP+ offers more than 200 print-on-demand products to Etsy and Shopify merchants. What distinguishes it from other POD suppliers is that it’s also the manufacturer—you can work with AOP+ directly to make custom shirts.
Additionally, the company offers popular t-shirt brands like Gildan and Bella+Canvas. Shipping time varies based on location, and production takes three to five business days. If you choose to white label shirts via AOP+, you will also get labels, packaging inserts, and branded stickers.
Pricing for AOP+ is available in three categories:
- Start-up member, for small businesses, always free
- Super member, for medium-sized businesses, priced at $11.99 per month
- Hero member, for large businesses, priced at $19.99 per month
The lowest-priced tee on AOP+ costs $8.99.
SPOD’s print-on-demand services offer a wide selection of shirt options—you can choose from styles for women, men, kids, and babies. Use filters to see which items are available in a specific color or size.
SPOD includes over 50,000 free designs to choose from, making it a great option for those who don’t have the interest or time to create their own design. You also get a mock-up generator, allowing you to easily envision designs on different styles of shirts.
Plus, SPOD includes a customizer tool that lets buyers personalize products right from your Shopify store.
- Free to use for all businesses
The lowest-priced tee on SPOD costs $6.71.
Designing your print-on-demand shirts
Once you’ve picked your favorite print provider, it’s time for the action. While it would be great if you’re an artist who can design the shirts yourself, that’s absolutely not the only option. Let’s go over the main ways to create your custom t-shirts.
Make t-shirt designs yourself
Do you consider yourself artistic and have knowledge of graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator? If so, you can have complete control over the designs that are sold in your online store.
The main thing to keep in mind here is whether this option makes the most sense from a business perspective. For example, if you only have light or moderate graphic design skills, you may need to spend a lot of time creating all of your designs. In this case, it may make more sense financially to hire a designer or buy design templates to kickstart your process.
Do the math to figure out how much each option will cost before you make your decision.
If you’re looking to work directly with a graphic designer who can bring your ideas to life (or bring their own masterpieces to the table), you’ll find no shortage of great talent looking for work.
You might want to consider if you have any trusted colleagues, friends, or family who might be up for the job. If not, there are plenty of marketplaces that connect designers with short-term and long-term projects and positions. There are even websites like 99designs, where you can crowdsource your idea to a group of designers and choose your favorite submission.
Here are a few other places you can source your designer:
Buy design templates
If you have light or moderate graphic design skills, you can maximize your time spent working by starting with some templates or mockups. Using these as a baseline, you can add and tweak until they’re just right. This can be a huge time-saver in comparison to building everything from scratch, especially when there’s a learning curve that’s slowing you down a bit.
You can buy templates from websites like:
Note: just make sure that you’re buying art with the correct rights and permissions, like extended and editable licenses. You definitely DO NOT want to accidentally use anyone’s art without legal permission—even if you don’t mean it, it’s still stealing!
Another idea is to sell another artist’s designs in exchange for part of your profits. For example, motivational brand Startup Vitamins sells designs from other companies and people, like this shirt design that says, “Life is short. Do stuff that matters,” from entrepreneur Siqi Chen.
Start your print-on-demand shirt company today
It might seem daunting to start your own t-shirt printing company. Totally understandable. But when you do your research, explore all your options, and build a solid business plan, you can definitely succeed in this wide world.
In all things entrepreneurship, the name of the game is to learn as you go. Just make sure you keep an open mind and have a willingness to change gears if you need to. When you have a resilient attitude coupled with savvy business decisions, you’re already on the right path.
Print-on-demand shirts FAQ
Is selling t-shirts profitable?
The overall profitability of a t-shirt business depends on various factors. Your margins will depend on the types of t-shirts you sell, the cost of materials you use for production, and how much you spend on advertising and marketing. One advantage of following the print-on-demand model is that it’s much easier to remain profitable (due to not having to buy or hold inventory before a sale).
What are some of the best print on demand services?