Why Is Printful So Expensive?


Shirt with printful logo

If you’re interested in printing on demand but you don’t have the equipment to do so at home, you might rely on a service like Printful. By signing up for a membership, you can either print a design on a personal item of your choosing or even open a shop. Unfortunately, Printful is known for being quite pricy, but why is this?

Printful has earned its reputation as an expensive on-demand print service because of the low rate of profit you make with a customized printed item. For instance, if you sold a unisex printed t-shirt, you’d pay $12.95 for it, sell it for $22.95, and earn only $10, meaning you spent more than you earn. The base profit is $10 for other items, too, unless you set it higher by raising the prices of your goods.

If you’re considering Printful either for your own personal, at-home printing or as an income source especially, you’re not going to want to miss this article. In it, we’ll cover the cost of selling custom-printed goods on Printful, including more shirts, mugs, hats, phone cases, wall art, socks, bags, and more. Keep reading!

So Why Is Printful So Expensive?

We don’t want to lambast Printful in this post, because they are a solid on-demand print service. If you only intend to print on items for your own personal use, then Printful should work for your needs very nicely.

It doesn’t take long to get set up on Printful, and their user interface is beloved among its users. If you use other e-commerce platforms, Printful even integrates with these so you’re up and ready to go in much less time.

However, there are some downsides to using Printful. The biggest of these is that, when opening your own Printful store, it’s going to be very hard for you to turn a profit. Just look at the example we presented in the intro. We’ll have more pricing information for you in that same vein coming up, but that first example alone is not promising.

Remember, you’re paying upwards of $13 for a shirt yet only receiving $10 for it. That’s a lost profit of $3 per shirt. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much if you sell only one shirt, but let’s say over the course of several days you sell 10 shirts.

Now you’re talking about lost profits in the ballpark of $30. If you sold 100 shirts over several months, paying $13 for them but earning only $10, that’s $300 you’d lose.

It almost hurts you to begin selling more on Printful, because it means you’re losing out on money. You also have to consider you’re not only selling t-shirts. You probably have goods like printed mugs and embroidered hats in your Printful store. Now you’re paying various prices for all these goods and losing profits at different rates.

There’s also the issue that you may have a hard time holding onto customers. Brand Build + Launch, an e-commerce resource, published a post on Printful in 2015. They said that “shirts that had dark inks looked the most faded and cheap” and that tri-blends were also problematic, as they’re of even lower quality. The writer noted how their customers did complain about shirt quality, so it reasons to assume the same could happen to you as well.

Here’s another critique on Printful from a YouTuber:

This one is worth checking out as well:

The Profit You’d Earn Selling On-Demand Printed Goods on Printful

Now, let’s examine more closely how much it costs for you to buy an item to sell on Printful, how much it actually sells on the site, and how much profit you’d make. We used Printful’s calculator for this section, which is available on their website.

T-Shirts

You can sell t-shirts in a variety of styles on Printful, such as a premium unisex tee, a basic soft-style tee, and women’s shirts and racerbacks.

A unisex premium t-shirt with a Bella + Canvas 3001 style costs $12.95 per shirt for you to acquire, as we mentioned. If you then decide to sell it at the recommended rate of $22.95, you’d earn $10. The recommended rate, by the way, is not set in stone. You can change the rate at which you sell the shirt if you want.

If you bought a unisex basic soft-style t-shirt in a Gildan 64000 style, this would cost you $7.95 per shirt. Printful recommends you sell the shirt for $17.95 to again turn a $10 profit. This t-shirt is black, by the way, so the print may not turn out as clearly.

Even if you moved to women’s clothing, your profit doesn’t change. Printful says a racerback tank top in a Next Level 6733 style costs you $15.95 and should be sold for $25.95. A women’s fashion fit t-shirt in Anvil 880 style is $14.95 per shirt, and you should then sell it for $24.95 to make only $10. You’re losing $5 to $6 for each women’s shirt.  

Hoodies and Sweatshirts

Here’s where things begin to get very lopsided in terms of you bringing in income from Printful. The hoodies you sell will still only net you $10 per garment, but you’re paying way more money for one. For instance, a unisex premium hoodie would cost you $26 and should be sold for $36, but you’re still making $10. Now that’s a deficit of $16, which is significant, even if you do only sell a few hoodies.

Printful’s unisex crew neck sweatshirt in a Gildan 18000 style is somewhat cheaper, costing you $17.75 and sold for $27.75. Again, you don’t make more than $10, netting you a loss of nearly $8.

Sublimated Socks

It’s not a much prettier story if you’d rather print on socks than t-shirts. A set of black-footed sublimated socks should cost you $9.95 and be sold for $19.95. In this case, you’re making a profit of five cents per pack of socks, which is no way to actually bring in income for your printed goods.

Phone Cases

You also begin to lose money if you get into printing on phone cases. A liquid glitter iPhone case should cost you $12.95 and be sold for $22.95, yet you still earn $10 through Printful. That’s a loss of about $3, just like with the t-shirts we talked about before.

A non-glittered iPhone case is cheaper to acquire at $10.95. You’d then turn around and sell it for $20.95, leading to a deficit of five cents per phone case. This is also true of a Samsung phone case, which retails and should be sold for the same price.

Pillows

A printed pillow makes a real statement in a home, but selling these on your Printful store could put a hurtin’ on your wallet. For an all-over basic pillow, the cost is $15.95, with the recommended selling price $25.95. Your profit doesn’t exceed $10 (noticing a pattern here?), so you lose almost $6 for every pillow you sell.

Even if you got into the business of printing on pillowcases rather than the whole pillow itself, you’re still paying more money than you’d make. Printful says an all-over print basic pillowcase costs you $13.95 and is then sold for $23.95. An all-over print premium pillowcase is even costlier at $15.95, which again puts you at the same income loss as buying an all-over basic pillow. 

Bags and Totes

While Printful gives you a variety of options for printing on bags and totes, none of these bags will net you more than $10, even though they often cost you far more than that. For instance, an all-over print tote retails for $16.95, and you should sell it for $26.95. This leaves you out almost $7 for every tote you sell.

Fanny packs, despite being much smaller, are even more expensive than Printful’s tote bags. The company says you should spend $24.95 for an all-over print fanny pack and sell it for $34.95. You’re now missing out on $15 per sale!

It gets even worse if you wanted to sell all-over print backpacks, which costs you $31.95 each. You’d put it up on your Printful store for $41.95 yet still only see $10 from the backpack. You’re missing out on nearly $22 each backpack, and who can afford that? You’re supposed to be making money selling printed goods, after all.

The only bag that’s really worthwhile is the canvas tote bag in Liberty Bags 8860 style. This costs $13 to buy each one, meaning you lose only $3. You really shouldn’t have to lose any money, though.

Mugs

You can begin earning a profit through selling mugs, as Printful says a matte black magic mug should cost $9.95 and be sold for $19.95. A white glossy mug should cost you $7.95 and sell for $17.95.

That said, a profit of five cents to $2.95 per mug hardly seems worth the trouble.

Hats

Now, Printful doesn’t offer printing on their hats, but rather, embroidery. From retro trucker hats to vintage caps, cuffed beanies, pom-pom beanies, or classic snapbacks, it costs you between $13.75 and $17.50 for a hat. You’d then sell it for $10 more than that, leaving you with a profit of still $10.

Once more, you’re hemorrhaging money at a rate of $4 to $8 per hat.

Wall Art

If you create artwork that deserves to be hung on people’s walls, then you might be interested in Printful’s wall art options. You can sell art in many sizes. For instance, an enhanced matte paper poster costs you $7, sells for $17, and earns you $10. That’s a profit of $3, which isn’t great, but it’s something.

Bigger prints quickly become not worth your money. The same is true of more luxe materials, such as a premium luster photo paper poster, which you’d pay $9 for, sell for $19, and earn $10, driving a profit of $1 per poster.

Printful’s canvas prints are at least $29.79 each to buy. They sell for $39.79, yet you only make $10 per print. You’re losing out on nearly $10 for each.  

Is There Any Way to Earn More Money from Printful?

It seems like across the board, no matter what printed goods you sell on Printful, that your max income per item remains fixed at $10. Considering you’re rarely even seeing the full $10 due to the costs of acquiring the printed item in the first place, you may wish to drive up your profit. Can you?

As we said before, the recommended rate is just that, Printful’s recommendation. Going back to t-shirts, you could buy one at $12.95 and sell it for $25. This would then net you $12.05.

While a higher price does yield a larger profit, you have to consider that customers won’t want to buy from you if you sell your goods for too much money. Also, you’re still losing 80 cents per t-shirt, so it’s not like the higher price of selling your goods made much of a difference.

Conclusion

Printful is an on-demand printing service that many regards as expensive. That’s because, with their recommended rate of selling goods, after Printful takes its cut, you earn only $10. You could quickly fall into the red by spending upwards of $35 on a hoodie or backpack yet making just $10 for each one sold.

Unless you stick to very cheap items, then your Printful store will quickly lose you more money than it earns you. Even when you do bring in a profit, it’s about $3 at most per good, which is hardly enough for even a second income stream.

This doesn’t mean you have to disregard Printful entirely. As we’ve written, it’s a great service for buying items and getting them custom-printed for your own use. If you’re thinking of using an on-demand print service for selling goods, though, you might want to keep looking at options like CustomCat, in which you’d pay $10 to $11 for most of its t-shirts and even about $23 for a zip-up hoodie.

Teelaunch has some shirts starting at $11 or $12 as well. 

Henrik Bruhn

Owner of a danish Print On Demand production facility and writes about the craft, techniques, and trends in the business

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