Print on Demand: The Definitive Guide (2022)

Are you looking for a new stream of income? Or maybe you want to try your hand at a creative side-hustle?


If you’re an artist, writer, or any other kind of creator, you’re in luck! Now, there is an easy way for you to share your work without taking on the burdens of a traditional business, including startup capital. This exciting opportunity is called print on demand.


While some artists may worry about the lower profit margins typically associated with POD,  they will actually benefit from the very low startup costs and little overhead. Print on demand has the technology in place to print artists’ work on just about anything, from apparel to housewares. 


And the best part is, the print on demand method is easy. Once you have your designs in hand, you simply need to choose your supplier and product, then upload your designs. There will be more detail on each step below.


Print on demand is a booming industry that’s seen a 12% increase over the last 4 years, with an astonishing surge in 2020. One survey reports that 45% of print-on-demand store owners experienced a jump in sales.

What is Print on Demand?

In a print on demand business, creators work with suppliers of white-label products to offer customized books, apparel and other products to customers. They then sell these products on a per-order basis, without upfront costs. 


Suppliers customize their white-label products with the creator’s unique design or brand. The creator can then sell their unique products on demand. 

You never have to place large bulk orders or find a warehouse to store your stock. Customers order directly from the printer, and the supplier takes care of fulfillment. 


Print on demand gives creators more flexibility. It allows them to attach their own brand, graphics, or text to a product of their choice. It’s a low-cost option that’s becoming increasingly popular.

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Amazon Print on Demand Behind the Scenes

How Does Print on Demand Work?

In this section, we’ll give you a walk-through of the print on demand process, from picking your product to collecting royalties. 


Please note, that this is just a general outline. The specific steps you take as a creator will depend on the POD company you choose to work with.

1. Pick Your Product

Print on demand offers so many products for creators to choose to put their work on. Depending on your design, however, you may be able to narrow down your product. 


Are you a photographer? Consider art prints or coffee table books.


Do you have a book idea that you’re dying to write? Amazon offers self-publishing via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). 


Do you excel at coming up with funny sayings? Think about printing them across mugs, T-shirts, and more. 


Other options include: 


  • Apparel, such as T-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, hats, socks, and more
  • Housewares
  • Tech accessories
  • Travel gear 
  • Wall art

2. Design & Customize

Once you’ve selected the product you would like to print on, you can either start designing or customize a design you already have.


This is the part of the process where you’ll likely spend the most time. Choosing the perfect design isn’t as easy as it sounds, and you never know which design will resonate with your customers.


Take the time to conduct market research on what customers are shopping for. Or, take advantage of some of the research that’s already been done about best-selling niches.

3. Publish Your Product

Many POD services offer automation tools that take you through the upload and publishing steps. For those that don’t, the process is still straight forward. 


First, you’ll need to upload the files that contain your final design. You’ll also need to add metadata. Some of the requirements will depend on your product, but at the very least, expect to add your brand, title, description, color options, keywords, and more. 


You will also need to double check that your design doesn’t infringe on any existing trademarks or copyrights.

4. Ordering

The hard work is all behind you. 


Your product is now available for customers to order on whichever marketplace or website you choose to sell it. Once your customer places an order, your print on demand provider automatically starts the production process.

5. Print and Production

Once a customer places an order for your product, your supplier prints the product, puts it through quality control, and prepares it for fulfillment.

6. Fulfillment / Shipping

The entire fulfillment process is handled by your supplier. Once the order is printed and invoiced, they will package and ship it. 

Each POD supplier will handle this step somewhat differently. Some may have shipping restrictions, while others have global arrangements for shipping and fulfillment and can cater to international clients.


Before selecting a POD service, make sure to check where they ship and how long they take to ship. Look for companies that ship within a week.

7. Royalties Payout

Finally, it’s time for you to get paid. 


Your exact royalty payout will be determined by the company you’re working with and the product you’re selling.


Again, this is something to research before selecting a company. Make sure you understand their royalty structure. Some suppliers offer a fixed royalty rate on certain products, while others will allow you to adjust royalty rates based on certain criteria.

Benefits of Print on Demand

The print on demand business model is unique, and it may not work for all creators. Artists should weigh the pros and cons of print on demand to see if the service makes sense for their situation.


Print on demand offers many benefits to creators, who may otherwise struggle with the logistics of distributing branded supplies. These benefits include:

Low or No Upfront Costs

The POD model and process is beginner-friendly. 


When selling products with your designs, there is no guarantee they will end up resonating with consumers. The beauty of print on demand is that you never have to order in bulk, so design selection is risk-free. If one design isn’t selling, you can simply move on to the next without having to worry about selling the products you have in stock. 


And since fulfillment is handled by the POD supplier, you also don’t need to worry about purchasing packaging.

No Inventory

Typically, businesses that sell products require warehouse space to store inventory. With print on demand, however, your products aren’t created until an order is placed. Then, your supplier takes care of printing and shipping the order. There is no inventory to store.

No Equipment

Printing your own designs on books, T-shirts or other products would normally require purchasing expensive printing and packaging equipment and then learning how to use and maintain it. With print on demand, however, your supplier takes care of the printing and packaging process for you.

Supplier Handles Fulfilment

Packing and shipping orders can be a full-time job in itself. When you choose print on demand, it’s someone else’s job. 


Once a customer orders your product, it will be packaged and shipped via your carrier’s supplier. In some cases, customers will have shipping options for how quickly they want to receive their order.

Low Risk

Since you don’t have to worry about entry costs, you can set your creativity free. With print on demand, you’re in a better position to experiment, since your risks are minimized. 


You also have the option of running pre-order campaigns. When launching new designs, you can set a time limit for your campaign and collect pre-orders before your product even launches without any risk.

Easier Customization

Do you have great content to offer, whether that’s words or art? Print on demand gives you the chance to customize and sell it. And you won’t just be selling to one target market. There are white-label products that will suit any taste.

Drawbacks of Print on Demand

For all of its benefits, print on demand does have a few drawbacks that are worth considering before selling your artwork in this manner. These include:

Lack of Control

A large part of your business will be controlled by your supplier. You don’t have a hands-on option for your own quality control. Your work will be produced and printed to someone else’s standards — which may not match yours. 


Your product is produced and shipped by a third party. And while you most likely saw a sample, you have no way to check the quality of the product being shipped. Shipping options are also out of your control.


One of the upsides of handling your own sales and fulfillment is that you can also generate valuable data in the process. When they are in the control of your POD supplier, you typically lose access to any data they generate and are unable to use it in your marketing endeavors.

Dependence on Your POD Partner

To some extent, your business will be at the mercy of your printer. 


If a customer has placed an order for a graphic T-shirt, and your supplier is backordered on shirts, there is nothing you can do to fulfill the order on time. Regardless of what type of product your image is printed on, you have to depend on your supplier’s inventory management. You also need to price your product in alignment with their pricing structure.

Customer Support

Good customer service is vital to any business, but having your products printed on demand complicates this a bit. Your customers may contact you with any issues they are experiencing, but you will need to get answers from further up your supply chain. That could delay your responses to your clients for more than a day. 


Furthermore, your supplier’s return policy may be complicated, if there is a return policy at all. This can also negatively affect the customer experience.

Popular Print on Demand Products

Print on demand offers a huge selection of white-label products for designers to choose from. 


Here is a detailed overview:


If you’re a self-publisher, the most notable difference when using a POD supplier is size options. POD does not have an option for mass market paperbacks. You do have more size options with IngramSpark over Amazon, but both have size limitations when compared to publishers who print on traditional printing presses.


POD offers T-shirts for all ages and sizes. They can be long-sleeved, short-sleeved, V-neck, crew neck and more. Design options can include small logos or full-sized designs. Regardless of the weather, people are wearing T-shirts to play, work, and sleep in, so there is a nearly endless market.

Hoodies / Sweatshirts

As with T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts can be made for all ages and sizes. Print designs can be small or large and printed anywhere they fit. This apparel option allows you to target customers in cooler climates. 

Sweatpants / Leggings

Since sweatpants are loose and baggy and leggings are tight and clingy, some attention should be given to designs. Will your design get lost in the folds of fabric, or will it look silly when stretched out? 


You will have a lot of areas to print on, which means there’s room for you to get creative.


Given their size, hats are great for logos and smaller graphics. Baseball hats can be printed on the bill or anywhere on the crown.


Lots of people like to express themselves with crazy socks. Maybe it’s the only way they can be themselves under their boring corporate wear — and safely let others get a peak of it. 

Knee socks, ankle socks, slipper socks — the sky is your limit. You have the option of printing on the foot of the sock — top or bottom — or anywhere on the tube.


The mug market has been booming for years.


A lot of people have a favorite mug. They have one for their desk at work and one for home. And mugs are a great place for you to send a message — whether it’s World’s Best Dad or World’s Worst Boss. 

And you don’t need to limit your mug options to the standard round, 11-oz. variety. You can print on any size or shape of mug, whether they’re ceramic or enamel. 

Tote Bags

Tote bags are everyday carry-alls for many people. Often made out of a canvas-like material (although vinyl is also popular), they offer a great surface for artwork or marketing of any kind. 


Tote bags offer a large flat surface for your designs, making them a favorite POD choice for many artists. And since many people are now looking for more eco-friendly choices, the tote bag is even replacing the plastic shopping bag.

Pillows / Blankets

Speaking of large flat surfaces, throw blankets have become another popular choice for creators. 


If you create on a large scale with mural-like designs, blankets may just give you the space you need to display them in all their glory.

Posters / Canvas

Why should the art on your walls be limited to pictures of what someone else drew, painted, or took a photograph of? 


With print on demand, you have the option of turning anything special to you into wall art. It could even be the artwork of an old master that’s now in the public domain.


Stickers aren’t just for kids. There are so many applications — just take a look in the stickers category on Redbubble

Stickers can be printed on rolls or sheets. They can be for fun or serve a specific purpose — like sealing envelopes or packaging. And they come in a variety of materials.

Phone Cases

Smartphones need to be protected, and consumers like to personalize their cases. Plus, nearly everyone has a phone in their hands, so it’s practically a limitless market. 


Forget those boring, monochromatic phone cases that manufacturers offer. Instead, offer your designs for consumers to print on any size phone case.

Best Print on Demand Companies

There are many suppliers available for artists who want to start a print-on-demand business. But who should you partner with? Below, we’ll list different options in different categories, detailing the features they offer as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each company.


To provide you with a clear overview, our ranking is broken down into the following two product categories:

Books & Paper Goods
Clothing & Accessories

POD Services for Books

Many people decide to write a book. Some care about the artform itself, while others simply aim to make money. 


Whatever your goal, and assuming you’re self-publishing, you have the option of finding a printer, doing a print run, and finding space to stock your books. 


Your second option is much better — have your books printed on demand. This option means your books are only printed as needed, you’ll never have to pay for a large print run, and you don’t need to find space to stock anything. 


And you have several print-on-demand suppliers to choose from:

Amazon KDP

Our Rating


Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s publishing arm. 

Amazon originally started as an online bookstore, so the move into self-publishing and POD was logical. In 2018, Amazon bought CreateSpace, a print-on-demand service located in North Carolina, and merged it into KDP Print.



Our Rating


BookBaby offers a selection of packages geared towards helping self-published authors who want someone else do most of the work for them — and have the money for it. 


Packages range from $1,090 to $2,890 and include printing, distribution, ISBNs, cover design, formatting, and marketing, depending on which you choose.



Our Rating


Lulu Publishing, also known as Lulu Press, began their print-on-demand service in 2009. They offer both POD and distribution services. In that sense, they are much like KDP.  


However, Lulu also offers POD for photo books, which Amazon isn’t known for doing. 



Our Rating


Like Lulu, Blurb is the way to go if you’re a photographer looking to print your work into book form. It gives amateurs and professionals the tools to create both magazines and photo books. 

And of course, it’s also an option for both fiction and non-fiction self-published authors.



Our Rating


IngramSpark is the self-publishing arm of Ingram Content Group, putting them in a position to offer distribution that exceeds any other.