Quick Take Review of The Printful
For a while now, I’ve been looking for a good on-demand provider of t-shirts and other imprint-able items. Not so much for GearGuide but for some other projects. In the past, we used traditional silk screeners and embroidering companies. These organizations typically delivered good quality results. But their too long turnaround times, unpredictable shipping fees and somewhat hidden setup costs made it tough to provide good value to our customers.
We began the search with a set of important criteria. We needed WordPress and WooCommerce integrations. This would allow for us to tie into our publishing and ecommerce systems. We wanted an integration that we could manage ourselves without requiring a developer’s involvement or handing the integration over to some other third party. Paypal was also a requirement for payments. The selection of merchandise needed to be of sufficient variety (nothing crazy, but we did want a decent selection of hats, hoodies and tees). The vendor needed solid shipping options and good turnaround times, the ability to collect sales tax and provide decent reporting. Oh, and the UI had to be intuitive. All these elements had a number of sub-components to them making finding a suitable solution a very difficult undertaking. In the end, however, we were successful. In fact, we were so successful that we decided to use the solution to provide our own GearGuide-branded gear available on our new Shop page.
Types: T-Shirts, Polos, Hoodies and Hats
Process: Direct to Garment
Supplier: The Printful
After several months of investigation – and many calls, emails and chat sessions between support crews at many different potential suppliers – we selected The Printful as our vendor. This Los Angeles-based company met all our criteria and helped get us up and running across several different web properties.
As you can imagine, getting things working wasn’t without a few bumps in the road. Not all of The Printful’s support team are fully up to speed on WordPress and WooCommerce, for instance. It took at least half a dozen interactions to get an answer to how to work with Variable Products and their backend. Hint: make sure you click the Link All Variations button to create distinct items for each size and color combination. Those can then be linked back to The Printful’s backend for production.
Once we got over that hurdle, we hit a few others. But those were not nearly as significant. The company provides a really nicely done Mockup Generator for creating example images and much needed production-ready print files. It works amazingly well but only a small subset of the company’s catalog is represented. For those not in the Mockup Generator, you’re back to Photoshop for those sample images.
The other issues are print quality and production turnaround. The Printful’s print quality is good, about as good as it gets using Direct to Garment production. You can’t expect this photo-printing-like process to really deliver the same punch as you can get from traditional silk screening. The samples we ordered have held up well to washing and demonstrate minimal fading btw.
Turnaround is also good. Products leave The Printful’s production facility in about three days. The company offers a number of shipping options starting at around $5.00 per order. We did experience a substantial delay with one recent order shipped via USPS. We paid for the 2-3 day delivery option but it actually took almost nine days to arrive. Not The Printful’s fault but still frustrating. And to The Printful’s credit, they stood by their service and offered us a refund on the shipping fees.
Other things we’ve noticed: the UI is good and getting better, the company is clearly refining their product; Paypal integration is solid and their backend billing approach is flexible and cleverly implemented; and the product catalog continues to expand, they now have mugs, posters, pillows, totes and other items along with apparel. Customer support is top notch and quick to respond as well.
Overall, we’re quite impressed with The Printful. Good quality direct to garment printing, a growing catalog of imprint-able items, nice UI and responsive support. Give them a try yourself at www.theprintful.com. And don’t forget to pick up some of your own GearGuide gear.