Print-on-Demand Services vs. Traditional Screen Printing Shops‍

Starting a business selling custom apparel is easier than ever in today's digital age. With the rise of print-on-demand (POD) services like Printful and Custom Ink, anyone can design and sell their t-shirts, hoodies, and more without needing expensive equipment or inventory. However, while POD services may seem like the perfect solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs, they also have some drawbacks as your business grows. This post will explore the pros and cons of using print-on-demand services versus traditional screen printing shops and when it makes more sense to use each.

Starting a business selling custom apparel is easier than ever in today's digital age.
Large DTG printers in a Print On Demand Warehouse

Pros of Print-on-Demand Services

  • No Inventory Required: With POD services, you don't need to worry about stocking up on inventory or investing in expensive equipment. You simply upload your design to your e-commerce platform of choice, connect it to your preferred POD service, and they take care of the rest.
  • Low Overhead Costs: Your overhead costs are significantly lower since you don't need to invest in inventory or storage. This means you can start your business with minimal investment and risk.
  • Easy Introduction of New Products: As your business grows, scaling up with POD services is easy. You can add new products and designs without worrying about storage space or production capacity.
  • No Minimum Order Requirements: Many screen printing shops require a minimum order quantity dependent on the printed design, which can be a barrier for small businesses. With POD services, each order is printed as purchased from your site.
  • Built-In Fulfillment: Print-on-demand services will also pack and ship your individual orders to your customers as soon as they’re printed, providing instant fulfillment.

Cons of Print-on-Demand Services

  • Limited Control Over the Final Product: When you use a POD service, you rely on someone else to produce your product. This means you have very limited control over the quality of the final product, including print quality, color accuracy, and garment selection. This can be extremely limiting when trying to build a brand.
  • Lower Profit Margins: Since POD services take care of all production and fulfillment, they take a much larger cut of your profits. This means your profit margins are lower than if you were to produce and sell the product in bulk.
  • Varied Turnaround Times: Since many POD services rely on third-party printers and fulfillment centers, the turnaround times can be longer than if you were to produce the product yourself in one location, especially when producing different styles. 
  • Limited Customization Options: POD services offer a wide range of products but often have limited customization options. For example, you may not be able to choose the exact type of fabric or ink used in the printing process. Since most Print-On-Demand services use DTG printers, they cannot offer special effects like puff or metallic inks.
An automatic screen printing press in motion

Pros of Traditional Screen Printing Shops

  • Greater Control Over the Final Product: When you work with a traditional screen printing shop, you have greater control over the final product. You can choose the fabric, ink, and printing method, ensuring a high-quality and consistent final product.
  • Higher Profit Margins: Since you're producing in bulk and selling the product yourself, your profit margins are higher than if you were to use a POD service.
  • Predictable Turnaround Times: A traditional screen printing shop will often have a more consistent turnaround time for bulk orders, so you have inventory to fulfill your orders as they come in. 
  • More Customization Options: Traditional screen printing shops offer a wider range of customization options, including choosing from a wider range of available garments, inks, printing methods, and placement (sleeves, cuffs, collars, etc.)

Cons of Traditional Screen Printing Shops

  • Inventory Management: Since a traditional screen printing shop will operate on bulk orders, you must manage production quantities and inventories yourself. This may require more research and forecasting to determine the quantities that meet your needs and budgets.
  • Limited Scalability: Since you're producing the product yourself, your production capacity is limited by your inventory storage space. However, proper planning can manage this according to the demand for your product.
  • More Time-Consuming: While printing with a traditional printer can open up your profit margins, all the fulfillment will now depend on your ability to properly plan and manage your time or outsource to a fulfillment center. 


While both print-on-demand services and traditional screen printing shops have pros and cons, it's clear that traditional screen printers offer greater control over the final product and higher profit margins. While POD services may be a good option for small businesses and entrepreneurs just getting off the ground, those looking to grow their business and establish a brand should consider finding a screen printer that can produce their products in bulk at a lower cost. By doing so, they can ensure a high-quality and consistent final product from the very beginning and maximize their profits in the process.

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