What Does Print On Demand Mean? A Beginners Guide

What Does Print On Demand Mean?

You’ve probably heard the term “print on demand” before, but what does it mean, exactly?

In the simplest of terms, print on demand is a digital printing technology and business process that allows businesses or individuals to order print copies of their products only as needed, rather than printing large quantities in advance. 

It is a form of dropshipping. You sell a t-shirt you have designed on your Shopify store.

You do not hold any inventory of the t-shirt, instead, through integration with print on demand companies, the order is passed to the POD provider, they print the item and ship it directly to your customer.

You keep the different between what the customer paid you and the amount the print provider charged you for the printing and fulfillment of the order.

Advantages of Print On Demand

This system has a number of advantages over traditional printing methods. Perhaps most significantly, print on demand eliminates the need to maintain a large inventory of printed products. This not only saves space and money but also makes it easier to keep your product offerings up to date.

For example, if you’re a clothing company and you want to offer a new design, you can simply publish the product to your site and upload the design file to your POD partner’s platform and start taking orders—there’s no need to wait for a batch of shirts to be printed and shipped from a warehouse.

Another advantage of print on demand is that it generally has a much lower upfront cost than traditional printing methods. With traditional methods, you typically have to pay for the entire print run up front, even if you don’t end up selling all of the products.

With print on demand, you only pay for the individual items that are ordered, so there’s very little risk involved. 

What types of products can be printed on demand? 

Almost any kind of product can be printed on demand! The most popular items include t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and phone cases but the sky is the limit. If you can dream it, chances are it can be printed on demand.

The number of companies offering a print on demand service continues to grow and which brings more and more custom products.

Print On Demand Images - What Does Print On Demand Mean

The Three Approaches To Print On Demand

There are three different ways you can start an eCommerce business selling print on-demand items. Each has its pros and cons and nothing is stopping you from taking all three different routes. But it is important to understand the different approaches so you can work out which one works best for you.

1. Your Own Website

Build an online store using an e-commerce platform that integrates with print on demand provider. We like Shopify & Launch Cart. Choose the print on demand supplier or suppliers, you want to work with and start uploading your designs and publishing your products.

Using an ecommerce platform With this approach, you have the most freedom as you aren’t restricted by policies and rules like you are on marketplaces like Etsy. You also own the customer and the customer data enabling you to market to them as you wish (whilst adhering to the law, obviously).

However, you have to learn the technical skills to build a site and you have to manage everything, including taxes, customer complaints and most importantly drive your own traffic to your store.

This can be costly, but if you get it right, you have no one else taking a cut of the profits.

2.Use Print On Demand Site or POD Platform

At the other end of the scale are print on demand sites like Redbubble, Spreadshirt and Amazon where you simply have to upload designs and the pod service provider, they print orders and pretty much do everything else.

Profits are lower than if you were selling on your own site, but its a bit of a fire-and-forget model. You upload your designs, choose the products you want to publish and the margin you want to earn and that’s it.

Redbubble manages order, customer complains, returns, everything. It’s free to use and you get the profit from each sale.

However, these platforms are extremely competitive and those that make it upload at scale.

Print On Demand - Screen Printing

Online Marketplace

In recent times online marketplaces like Etsy and eBay have begun to allow people to sell POD products via a fulfillment service like Printful or Printify

Selling using a marketplace like Etsy allows you to benefit from the traffic that the marketplace gets without having to advertise your products. Selling on Etsy for example is not free, but that is offset by not having to spend money on adverts unless you really want to.

Whilst you get to engage with your customers, on a marketplace like Etsy, they own the customer, they own the customer data and most importantly they set the rules of what you can and cant do.

For example, you cant contact customers for marketing purposes and you can only sell items you have made, or in this case designed yourself.

How much does it cost to print on demand? 

The cost of POD will depend on a few factors such as the company you use, the product you want, and the quantity of your order.

However, in general, print on demand is a very affordable way to get started with selling physical products.

You don’t need to order hundreds or even thousands of units like you would with traditional manufacturing methods.  

Why is Print on Demand So Popular?

Print on demand has been around for several years now, but it has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to advances in technology and changes in consumer behavior.

One of the biggest drivers of this growth is the rise of eCommerce. 

In the past, if someone wanted to sell physical products, they generally had to do so through brick-and-mortar stores. This required significant upfront investment in inventory, as well as ongoing costs like rent and utilities.

But with eCommerce, anyone can sell products online without any overhead costs using the POD business model. As a result, there’s been an explosion in the number of online businesses selling physical goods—and many of these businesses are using print on demand to fulfill orders. 


There are so many amazing opportunities available for entrepreneurs who want to sell physical products these days and print-on-demand is definitely one of them! Use POD and there is no need to worry about minimum order requirements or cost of or storage space for inventory.

Print on demand allows you to literally start selling your products without any upfront investment which makes it an ideal option for anyone just getting started. Hopefully, this article has answered some of your questions about POD and you now feel ready to start your own print on demand business.


How much do you make with print on demand?

When it comes to print on demand, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much can you make with print on demand.

Some people have found great success selling their designs on eCommerce platforms like Etsy, while others have struggled to make a single sale. The key to making money with print on demand is to find what is in demand and create designs that align to the demand.

With a little effort, it is possible to make a substantial income from print on demand. However, as with any business, there is no guarantee of success.

Where can I get images for print on demand?

One option is to purchase ready-made designs from a stock image website or marketplace like Etsy. This can be a quick and easy way to get professional-looking product designs, but it does come with some limitations.

For one, you’ll be restricted to using only the designs that are available for purchase. And secondly, if other sellers are using the same design, your products may not look unique.

Another option is to create your own custom designs using a tool like Canva. This gives you much more flexibility in terms of what you can create, but it does require a bit more time and effort.

However, if you’re willing to put in the work, you can end up with some truly stunning product photos that will help your products stand out from the crowd.

So there you have it – two great options for finding or creating high-quality product images. Whether you choose to purchase ready-made designs or create your own custom designs, make sure to take the time to ensure that your product photos are really making an impact.

Is print on demand passive income?

Like any business, print on demand requires hard work, dedication, and persistence. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can earn money passively as the products you design sell without you having to do anything. It’s great to wake up to find you’ve sold a few products and are richer than you were when you went to bed.

Is print on demand dead?

No it is not. It has become more competitive and harder to make consistent sales, but it is by no means dead.

Can I do print-on-demand for free?

Yes you can. In fact we have written an article about exactly how to start a print on demand business for free.