Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Which POD Gets Your Nod

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.

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.
POD: Print-On-Demand Print areas for t-shirts

Zazzle offers 2 maximum print area options - 14" wide x 12" deep OR 12" wide x 14" deep.

When setting up your design on t-shirts, you can select which option you want to use. Smaller t-shirts such as the Women's Petite will have a smaller print area.

Skreened has a maximum print area of 11" wide x 17" deep.

Cafepress generally prints to a print area of 10" wide x 10" deep.

They scale that for plus size tees to 12" x 12"; and they'll scale down for smaller cut tees such as their Women's Raglan.

Printfection has a maximum print area of 13.5" wide x 16.5" deep.

Redbubble has a maximum print area of 12" wide x 16" deep.

Spreadshirt has a ton of information about print areas on their website! The maximum "printable area" given for a Men's AA tee is specified as 13.4" wide x 25.8" deep. Please consult their site for all print area 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.


When considering printing your designs through a POD provider, there are a few printing method points you should be aware of.


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.

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.

6. Flock Print: Velvety feel; soft fuzzy feel. 3 colours/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

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.

Range of Apparel/T-Shirts
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!
POD Joining Fees

1. The Costs to Join & What you get when you join:

Zazzle: FREE to join.
When you sign up, the username you set will be your shop URL:

As a member of Zazzle, you have control over customisation: you can upload store banners; fully customise your home page; customise navigations; set up categories and so on.

Note: You can also host products on your own domain using RSS feeds and/or the various share options that the Zazzle system offers.

Skreened: FREE to 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: - 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!

Cafepress: 2 Options -
1. Basic Store is FREE; and
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:

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.)

Printfection: FREE to join
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:

Redbubble: FREE to join.
Redbubble is currently not offering store customisation, however you can set up a decent profile page. The URL for this will be:

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.)

SpreadshirtFREE 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 - - 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 - - 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 - - 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 - - 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 - -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: - 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. 

Spreadshirt: The affiliate program for Spreadshirt is run through Commission Junction and Share A Sale. Each referral earns the affiliate 20% 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.
POD Product Lines - Using Cafepress as an example
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.

Skreened: light t-shirts and tote bags.

Cafepress: t-shirts (light apparel, dark apparel; kids wear); hoodies; magnets; buttons; stickers; posters; calendars; postcards; mugs, bags, mousepads; aprons; clocks and more.

Printfection: t-shirts (light apparel, dark apparel; kids wear); drinkwear; bags, aprons, mousepads and more.

Redbubble: t-shirts (light & dark apparel); and Art - canvas prints, framed prints, and greeting cards.

Spreadshirt: t-shirts (light apparel, dark apparel; kids wear), hoodies and more.


Want more to take a look at? Here you go:
ShirtCity - already mentioned for an alternate flock/flex printer.
SonicShack - t-shirts; hats and banners.
ArtsNow - t-shirts, caps, mugs and more.
E-Shirt - t-shirts.
Wordans - t-shirts, hoodies, bags and more.
ShirtMagic - t-shirts, hats & caps and more.
T-Shirt Monster - t-shirts.
Online Shirt Stores - t-shirts.
PrintMojo - t-shirts, mugs, pens, water bottles, and more.

Special thanks to Vic (aka tat2ts) for his contribution to this POD link list.

Over to you the reader... if you think I missed something important that should be pointed out, please share this with us in the comments area.

Created By: Amanda Vare "Manz", GritFX, Movies, TV, and Pop Culture Tshirts
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


  1. I posted reviews of the printing quality of these sites (and MySoti) at if anyone needs more info to make their decision

  2. Thanks for sharing MJ - that's one great site you've got going!

    I'll back up the recommendation to check it out - not only do you show printed tee examples, the site gives another aspect that isn't covered here... that being the packaging that items are shipped in!

    I also love your latest designer that you've featured/interviewed!! "Obey the Purebreed and niche marketing" is a terrific post.

  3. Thank you for the informative video.

  4. Great comparison! I'm from Spreadshirt and had some feedback for our review.

    -The asterix in the Spreadshirt example relates to their specialty printing (see below).

    Actually, all of our print methods use the 11.8 x 11.8 inch design size, not just our plot printing method. Our print area(s) do cover the front and back of our products, sleeves and hoods, in some cases too, but the actual printed design size would adhere to the 11.8 size for Digital and Plot printing. However, you can place 2 designs and 2 text boxes, through our built in text tool, for each side of the shirt, therefore covering the entire printable area.

    -When you sign up with Spreadshirt your username becomes your shop name. The URL will be:

    Your username and shop URL are separate. You can define your Shop URL for each of the shops you open under your account within your User Area, specifically under Shops > Linking. The premium service allows you to open unlimited Classic shops, where you create the products your customers can purchase, and up to three Designer shops, where your customers can make their own creations with your designs, so we actually have two different types of shops you can open with us, this will factor in to pricing and commission as well.

    -Free Service…and you have 2 free vector uploads included

    You can upload 3 free vector uploads with our Standard/Free accounts and once you sell 10 products using your vector designs, then you would get an additional 5 vector uploads for free.

    -The prices of items listed in your store - - match those that Spreadshirt displays and sells through the Spreadshirt marketplace.

    As mentioned above, we offer two types of shops, Classic and Designer. Additionally, there are different commissions and pricing.

    Selling on the Spreadshirt Marketplace: You can sell any design you upload and any product you create that uses your uploaded design through our Marketplace. Here you would add a Design Commission on the Design and this is what you would earn when your design or product using your design sells through the Spreadshirt Marketplace directly.

    Selling in a Classic Shop: The base prices of products you create in your classic shop are provided at a reduced cost, so they do not match the pricing of the products in the Spreadshirt Marketplace. You can then add your commission. Of course, if have added a Design commission, then this would be earned when a product is sold in your Spreadshirt shop, but you can also add an additional Shop-Product Commission for your classic shop and therefore earn both commissions.

    Selling in a Designer Shop: With the Designer shop, the product prices are the same as the Spreadshirt Marketplace. Since the customer is creating the products they want to purchase themselves through your Designer shop, you would earn a 20% commission of the basket total. If the customer also purchases your uploaded design and you added a Design commission to the design, then you’d receive the Design Commission plus the 20% commission.

    You can find more information about Design Commission and Shop-Product Commission in this FAQ,, and related articles.

    -I'm yet to understand the system and if/how you can link to your own products. If there's a Spreadshirt user reading this, please enlighten us by leaving a comment.

    Our Affiliate program is separate from our Shops. With our affiliate program, you can sign up through Commission Junction or Share A Sale and promote the Spreadshirt Designer and drive traffic to our Designer. You would not be able to link to your own shop/products with our affiliate program. You can, however, set up your own affiliate program, as a merchant and allow others to advertise your Spreadshirt shop for you. In your user area for your shop, we offer an affiliate program page, where you can enter your merchant information, lead or sale, and pay based on the success of the ads.

  5. Just as a clarification on CafePress Prremium shops. You do have a limit of 500 sections.

    I was bummed out when I maxed my store out in less than a year.

  6. I know you're Teesinapod but w/ your thoroughness I sure wish you'd take on the poster sections of theses same POD's as well as others. I love Zazzle but I find their poster interface way too complicated for visitors.

    I've marketed art in one form or another for over 30 years and the one thing I learned is never give people too many choices, it confuses them and can deter sales.

    I wish Zazzle would give us the option to pick just one or two sizes of OUR choice (the artist's choice) and not make it so flexible on the client end that it's a maze of decisions.

    Besides CafePress (which does allow this) does anyone know of a POD where you can control the final size of your print products?

    Thanks - just found you when you followed me on Twitter and already love you.

  7. BTW, Mongo is correct. Even on a premium (paid) CafePress store you are limited to 500 sections which can get used up pretty quick if you're prolific.

    On top of that, their decision to leverage out all marketplace sales to only a 10% markup drove me out to other PODs - such a shame as I liked their product line and interface.

  8. Hey Pop Art Diva! I looked into what you were talking about regarding the Zazzle posters and found a couple links that might be useful This one will give more details about the posters themselves, but when you are creating your poster you can tick off a box that says "Show customize it button on the product page" If you uncheck it - you will then unallow your customers to change your poster... I don't highly recommend using this but it is an option... here' a link to learn more about that as well :) I understand that it can be confusing, but I hope this info has been helpful and thank you so much for your question!!

    Amanda R.- Teesinapod

  9. @ Temple - thanks for the clarification on those aspects of Spreadshirt. I'll edit the post to reflect your notes and refer others to read what you've said!

    @ Mongo - I forgot all about that! Thanks for the comment... going to make sure that gets included in the edits.

    @ Pop Art Diva - Amanda has given you some great advice (she does love her Zazzle!). However, I agree with you about the choices and try to restrict what's on offer. Check out her link... and good luck!

  10. Amanda- great, you have actually been of great help. Thanks so much!!!!! I'm looking at both the links and I'm going to play with that unallow option on a test poster.

    I was thinking that I'd offer 2 or 3 sizes but post them separately! I just think that poster interface is way too complicated and offers way too many options if you're just interested in selling low end posters on Zazzle. I do high end archival canvases too but outsource those elsewhere.

    Manz - thank you, I am following up on Amanda's advice as I type this :)

    Thank you all so much - love the community spirit I've found within PODs!

  11. I think you are just awesome @PopArtDiva and want to thank you so much for your questions and input. I too agree that posters can be too complicated for customers to use and wish there was a better way. Let us know how the test goes with doing the poster with the unallow option for I'd love to here if it works better for you. Great to have you on board with us! I'm glad I could be of help and Good Luck!! - Amanda R.

  12. Red Bubble does offer an affiliate program through

  13. thanks profits... checked it out and updated the post to include the necessary link. Appreciate the comment.

  14. Check out Zazzle vs Red Bubble tee prints here:

    But then, after Zazzle was washed:

  15. Hi Jan and thank you for sharing those links! Big difference once washed. Something important to pay attention to when using very bright colours with direct to garment on dark tees.

    I'd be interested to know if tests on light apparel has similar comparative results - do any?

  16. I'd just like to point out that Skreened also offers tote bags as a printed product option.

  17. Ah, that is true! Thanks Hockey Blades. I'll edit the post asap!

    Skreened is keeping me on my toes with regards to updating this post... it was only days after publishing that they launched their re-vamped site - which meant some of what I'd written about shop fronts became redundant.

    It's all good though. Shows they're working on improving the site and services. They've also indicated that they're discussing the introduction of store customisation. That's going to help get more designers to use their site. imo.

  18. That's good to know about Skreened. I hadn't heard about that news. I will definitely be looking forward to that.

    One of the few complaints I have about Skreened is not supporting transparency files. If you started out at one of the other PODS, chances are all your files have been saved as this type.
    I hate that I have to create duplicate files without transparency to use at Skreened.

    This would also entice more designers into using Skreened imo and make it easier for designers already using their site.

  19. Yeah... they're a good team over at Skreened and working hard to give shopkeepers what they want.

    Having said that, you are not the first to express that you would like the option to upload a transparent file! The transparency thing doesn't bother me. For me, I rarely (if ever) have an identical file for light apparel and dark apparel. Therefore it's not an issue for me.

    I also think that Skreened is perfect for tee designs that aren't all that suited to the other POD print areas. And from my own experience, the quality is fantastic!

    Disclaimer: Skreened has not endorsed this comment in any way or form. I'm just a fan of their service ;)

  20. this is an amazingly put together article! So thorough, i will be trawling my way through at a later stage to pick which one is right for me!

  21. Thanks Jared. I'll do my best to update it as the PODs go through changes... they're always up to something!

  22. EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT article! I've added a link this to my own POD review squidoo ( ), and added the RSS feed to your blog to my sidebar because this is SUCH a great resource!

    Under the section where you list what you pay and what you get when you join, I think you might want to add that at Zazzle you get the ability for your customers to customize your design. I've sold a LOT of my template designs, more than my regular designs actually (although this is true more of the other products than t-shirts, though I can see where items like a t-shirt for grandma's where you could add the names/photos of your grandkids might sell really well, and is a REAL plus to people making this type of product (in other venues you have to add each personalization yourself which is time-consuming.)

  23. Thanks for the comment Gale and for sharing it like you have :)

    There's a few updates I need to make to this post... you make a great point which I'll include with the updates! Cheers!!

  24. Very helpful, much appreciated. As I choose my shops, your info is valuable. (I have POD books out, and this was an area I've been planning to establish myself and designers for some time.)

  25. Interesting and important information. It is really beneficial for us. Thanks