POD = Print On Demand = designs are printed onto t-shirts and merchandise as orders are processed. When discussing t-shirts, many refer to this process as "direct to garment" - meaning the process is void of the manufacture of screen(s) that are used when screen printing a t-shirt. POD is a service provided by a growing number of online companies, each of whom stock their warehouses with product lines ready to go on the press. They operate as the retailer on the designer's behalf, managing all the printing, processing all payments (and returns) and all deliveries. The largest POD will also have postage deals making shipping cheaper than you could probably afford as an independent.
Many designers are choosing the POD route as you do not need the capital as you do when screen printing (and being independent) - reducing the risk and possible loss of monies outlaid for tees that don't end up selling. Tees In A Pod will often cover the differences between using POD services versus screen printing and opting for independence, and we hope you read those posts and listen to the relating podcasts. For now, I want to try and help provide some comparison information about PODs.
Before you make a decision as to which POD (or PODs) you wish to use, it is important to understand what each one offers and how they meet your design and business needs. This post will look at 6 of the top POD suppliers (they're those that I see most shopkeepers using) and how they compare when we look at various aspects of the service(s) they provide.
T-SHIRT PRINT AREAS The following is a guide to help you compare the print areas available for t-shirts.
Note: The table uses an American Apparel Men's (Unisex) SMALL t-shirt. The t-shirt dimensions are: 18" (inches) across the chest and 28" in length. Should a customer purchase a 2x or 3x size, designs would not cover the same proportion of the tee. Please use this as a guide and consult the additional notes and corresponding service providers website for further information.
The asterix (*) in table 1, indicates the maximum digital print area, plus the maximum sheet sizes for Spreadshirt's specialty printing (see below). The maximum size is 11.8" x 11.8". However, you can combine two artwork files and fill more of Spreadshirt's "printable area" - ie, have your graphic as one artwork file - and the text that sits below this as another artwork file.
Please note: The above information pertains to t-shirt fronts. Some POD suppliers will also offer printing on the reverse side (backs), with some offering left/right printing for sleeves.
T-SHIRT PRINTING METHODS
When considering printing your designs through a POD provider, there are a few printing method points you should be aware of.
LEFT TO RIGHT:
1. Direct to garment colour printing: on white tees your design will appear relatively uneffected by the t-shirt/garment colour.
2. Direct to garment colour printing on coloured t-shirts: the garment colour will effect the final colour of the print. PODs factor this in and display the item very close to what your final t-shirt will look like.
3. Direct to garment clour printing on dark t-shirts:(black; navy blue; brown and even red - where the garments fabric is heavier) a white underlay print in first placed on the t-shirt. The coloured print is then printed over the top of this. Final quality will be dependent on the accuracy of alignment. If alignment is off, your finished t-shirt will have the ghost effect seen in the above table. That said, direct to garment presses are getting better and this is becoming less of a problem.
SPECIALTY PRINT METHODS...
The following are available through Spreadshirt.
4. Flex Print: Slightly shiny surface and smooth to the touch. 3 colors/design.
5. Special Flex Print: Smooth and glistening surface. 1 color/design.
A computer-controlled cutting plotter cuts text and graphics (without colour transitions - ie, solids only) out of special foils. These are then merged with the garment under constant heat and very high pressure. The maximum size is 11.8" x 11.8". However, you can combine two artwork files and fill more of Spreadshirt's large "printable area". Without a Spreadshirt Premium Store, cost is a consideration and the Spreadshirt customer service providers are more than willing to talk to you about your specialty print needs.
All artwork needs to be supplied to Spreashirt as vector artwork and elements can not fall below 0.06" with spaces no less than 0.04"... What exactly does that mean? Imagine an hourglass figure element in your design - the most slender part in the middle cannot be slimmer than 0.06"; and if you then knock a piece out of that, the space can not be less than 0.04".
Note: Image examples within the table are taken from the Spreadshirt website. If you'd like a comparison POD offering these specialty prints, visit ShirtCity.com.
The final point that may be of consequence to your decision making...
Skreened currently only print on light apparel t-shirts. I personally love their service, however this is something to be aware of.
I recommend you browse the t-shirt ranges each offers before you make any decisions. Your ultimate decision may be to use two or more POD providers - which you have the right to do as you provide the POD provider with a non-exclusive license and can therefore place the same design on various PODs.
MAKING MONEY - Costs to Join; Setting Royalties; and Affiliate Programs
The all important dollar sign... what's it going to cost you and how you can make money!
1. The Costs to Join & What you get when you join:
When you sign up, the username you set will be your profile page. You can then set up as many stores as you want under this username. Each store will have a URL: http://www.skreened.com/storename - on the sidebar area it will say who owns the store. This link takes customers to your profile page.
Skreened currently isn't offering store customisation, however you can set up a decent profile page. The Skreened team have advised that they are working towards offering store front customisation. I shall keep you all posted!
2. Premium Store costs $4.99/month if you pay yearly - $6.95/month if you pay monthly - with other payment options available.
Free Store: Minimal customisation - upload a logo or banner only. Product restrictions - display one of each item only from the Cafepress product range. Suitable for those with limited (or single) designs to sell. You can open as many basic stores as you need.
Premium Store: Full customisation - if you can imagine it, you can do it. You're also paying to have an unlimited selection of products and multi-level pages. However there is a limit of 500 sections. If you set up 6 categories on your shop home page, that's 6 sections. Then add each design category as a section, and so on. You'll need to take some time to consider this and how your shop may grow. Otherwise you may find that you max that number out within a year of using the service. (see the testimony by Mongo in the comments area - thanks for the reminder Mongo!)
Each time you "Open a New Shop" you'll have the option to set your store URL: http://www.cafepress.com/storeURL
Note: As a Cafepress premium shopkeeper, you also have the option to host your products on your own domain as a Cafepress powered store. (For an example, see Soge Shirts.)
As a member of Printfection, you have control over customisation: you can choose a theme from their library of templates; upload store banners; set store footers; set background image; customise CSS and so on.
Once you have an account set up, you can open as many stores as you wish and when doing so, you set the store URL: http://www.printfection.com/storename
Redbubble is currently not offering store customisation, however you can set up a decent profile page. The URL for this will be: http://www.redbubble.com/people/username
Note: As a Redbubble shopkeeper, you also have the option to host your products on a Redbubble powered store. (For an example, see Muscular Teeth.)
Spreadshirt: FREE to join, with the option to upgrade to a premium store.
When you sign up with Spreadshirt can set a shop URL for each shop you wish to open. (See the comments area for more information left by Temple - a Spreadshirt representative.)
The FREE service allows you to customise your store: upload a banner, customise colours, add a background image and more. You can load an unlimited number of digital print designs, and you have 3 free vector uploads included. Once you sell 10 products using those vector designs, you then receive an additional 5 vector uploads for free.
The premium service costs $10 for a month - $55 for 6 months - or $100 for 12 months. With this outlay of monies, you purchase the ability to remove the Spreadshirt mini banner - your store will be completely Spreadshirt ad-free. You can provide your store in 2 languages, add your logo to invoices, upload up to 20 vector designs per day, and more.
Note: As a Spreadshirt shopkeeper, you also have the option to host your products on your own domain. (For an example, see Crock Tees.)
2. Your Profits (Royalties/Commissions):
Note:T-shirt shopkeepers typically profit between $3 - $10 per t-shirt depending on how they want to price their t-shirts.
Zazzle: Set a standard store mark-up percentage, or set a per item mark-up percentage. You decide how much of a mark-up you want on top of the base prices set by Zazzle.
The prices of items listed in your store - http://www.zazzle.com/username - match those that Zazzle displays and sells through the Zazzle marketplace.
Skreened: Set product mark-up. You decide how much of a mark-up you want on top of the base prices set by Skreened.
The prices of items listed in your store - http://www.skreened.com/storename - match those that Skreened displays and sells through the Skreened marketplace.
Cafepress: Set a standard store mark-up percentage, or set a per item mark-up percentage. You decide how much of a mark-up you want on top of the base prices set by Cafepress.
The prices of items listed in your store - http://www.cafepress.com/username - WILL NOT always match those that Cafepress displays and sells through the Cafepress marketplace.
The shopkeeper agreement with Cafepress stipulates that when products are sold through the Cafepress marketplace, shopkeepers receive 10% of the sale price.
An example of what you may experience as a Cafepress shopkeeper...
You've designed, and set-up, a 10-pack of mini buttons.
Scenario 1: You're selling them in your store at a price of $14.99 = $7 profit to you the designer;
Scenario 2: Displayed and sold in the marketplace at a price of $20 = $2 profit to the designer.
In other words, the customer pays $5 more, while the designer receives $5 less.
Note: As a shopkeeper, you do have the option to "opt out of the marketplace". However, the catch is that you may not sell as many products if you do this.
Printfection: Set product mark-up. You decide how much of a mark-up you want on top of the base prices set by Printfection.
The prices of items found via your profile - http://www.printfection.com/storename - match those that Printfection displays and sells through the Printfection Shopping Page.
Redbubble: Set product mark-up. You decide how much of a mark-up you want on top of the base prices set by Redbubble.
The prices of items found via your profile - http://www.redbubble.com/people/username -match those that Redbubble displays and sells through the Redbubble HomePage.
Spreadshirt: Selling through Spreadshirt earns the shopkeeper a 20% design commission.
You can add your designs to the marketplace and earn design commissions through that avenue. If you set up a Spreadshirt "Classic shop" (under the premium service), the base price of products are provided to you at a reduced cost, and therefore will not match the Spreadshirt marketplace. If you sell your products using the "Designer shop" (where customers can use your designs to make their own creations) the product prices will match those in the Spreadshirt marketplace.
(See the comments area for more information left by Temple - a Spreadshirt representative.)
3. Affiliate Programs:
Zazzle: Anyone who joins Zazzle can act as an affiliate. Each member is given an Associate ID number that can be attached to a shop and/or product links, earning a referral of 15% of the sale price. Zazzle offers various methods for linking and earning referral sales and is one of the easiest systems to use.
As a Zazzle shopkeeper and affiliate, you can link to your own products earning the mark-up royalty PLUS the 15% referral.
Skreened: When you join Skreened you can act as an affiliate linking to your own or others' products. All one is required to do is add their partner (or "username") details to the end of each. An example URL looks like: http://skreened.com/?partner=username - earning a referral of 10% of the sale price.
As a Skreened shopkeeper and affiliate, you can link to your own products earning the mark-up royalty PLUS the 10% referral.
Cafepress: The affiliate program for Cafepress is run through Commission Junction. Once you join, you can link to whatever you want - Cafepress Home Page; Portals; Individual Design Pages; and Individual Products. Each referral earns the affiliate 15% of the sale price.
As a Cafepress shopkeeper and affiliate, you cannot link to your own products! It is a breach of the agreement to link to your own products and therefore you cannot earn the mark-up royalty PLUS the 15% referral.
Printfection: As of the date of this post, searches yield no results for any affiliate programs linked to Printfection.
Redbubble: The affiliate program for Redbubble is run through Share A Sale. Each referral earns the affiliate 10% of the sale price.
You can add Spreadshirt banners and text links to your domain and drive traffic to Spreadshirt. However you cannot link to your own shop and/or products. (See the comments area for more information left by Temple - a Spreadshirt representative.)
The final factor that may help you decide which POD to give your nod, is the products that each offer. Ask yourself what you want to sell, for example - t-shirts only, and/or merchandise, or large-sized photographic prints. Your answers will help you navigate towards the POD right for you. The following gives a glimpse - visit the providers' website for further information.
Zazzle: t-shirts (light apparel, dark apparel; kids wear); magnets; buttons; stickers; business cards and other stationery; posters; framed prints; calendars; postcards; mugs; bags; aprons; skateboards; shoes and more.
Amanda offers customized shop banners, website design and construction, as well as a range of other web and graphics-based services at very reasonable prices. For further information, you can contact Amanda directly at:firstname.lastname@example.org