A little over a year ago, my husband and I were brainstorming passive income opportunities. As a stay-at-home mom, I’m always looking for something I can easily do from home to make some extra money. Who couldn’t use another income stream? He suggested a t-shirt business using Printify. While I was initially hesitant – having zero experience designing or managing a “creative” business – I started researching and realized just how easy it was to get started. I didn’t know how to use Printify – in fact, I’d never heard of it before then – but it was so easy to use that I put my first item up for sale on Etsy that night!
If you’re a small business owner, you will especially understand the importance of diversifying revenue streams. Utilizing a print-on-demand website like Printify is a fantastic way of easily creating and selling merchandise – without the hassle of dealing with inventory. Truly a win-win!
So, what is Printify?
Printify is a print-on-demand site that allows you to create your own internet commerce business without keeping any product or inventory on hand. Printify effortlessly syncs with Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, eBay, PrestaShop, or Wix to give you an easy storefront in which to sell, sell, sell. I highly recommend researching each store option to see which one you’re most comfortable with. I’m extremely familiar with Etsy, having been a frequent customer for several years, so that’s the platform I chose for my shop.
In order to get started, I went to Etsy, clicked sell, and applied to open my own shop. This is a very simple process – if you already have an Etsy account, simply sign in. Otherwise, create an account. After that point, all that’s required is naming your shop (make sure you have a unique name that corresponds to an available Etsy URL! For example – my shop is Smith’s Mercantile, and you can find me at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SmithsMercantile). After you choose the appropriate name, you’ll have to answer a few questions from Etsy – namely, what you plan to sell, and how your products are created.
Setting Up Printify
Once Etsy approves your shop, it’s time to set up Printify! Go ahead and create a Printify account and follow a couple of very simple steps to sync with your Etsy shop. Once you get your Printify and Etsy (or other ecommerce site) synced, the real fun begins – designing! As someone with no design background, I researched the best graphic design programs and ended up on Canva. Canva costs $12 a month to use, and is incredibly simple to figure out – especially if you’re a complete novice like myself.
Why Canva Pro is a MUST-HAVE Tool for Small Business Owners
The designs in my shop are rooted in pop culture – merchandise for TV shows like Outlander, The Good Place, and Schitt’s Creek, for example – and just other things here and there that have popped into my head.
Once I have a design in mind, I pick out what I want to put it on – I design my items almost solely on shirts/sweatshirts, mugs, or tote bags – and select that item on Printify. For the sake of this example, let’s go with a sweatshirt. Printify has a variety of sweatshirts – and print providers – to choose from, but after doing this for the past year, I have some favorite products I always use. This basic crewneck sweatshirt is priced well and is also super cozy and soft, so let’s go with that!
Once you’ve picked out your product, it’s time to pick out your print provider.
Choosing a Printify Print Partner
This is important to note: Printify does NOT actually print and/or ship your orders. It’s just the platform that connects all of the moving pieces. This is the reason why you’ll need to establish print partners every time you create a new item.
Typically, you’ll find that most items you create have multiple printers that can create your item. In our sweatshirt example, there a few different providers. You can see here how it looks when you’re comparing the details:
As you can see, the base price for The Dream Junction is less than MyLocker, though shipping is slightly more. However, production time is quicker for The Dream Junction and they have way more colors, so this is a more sensible choice in my opinion.
I know this is confusing, but let me repeat: There’s no right or wrong way to choose a Printify print partner. I recommend trying out all of them and you’ll probably find that you like some more than others.
How to Use Printify to Design Items
I’ll click on Start Designing and then I’m brought to this screen:
This is your design screen. But wait! First we have to actually create the design. See that green button on the bottom right that says “Add your design”? Underneath it says “4500 px x 5700 px” which is the design size for this particular garment. The sizes you will be creating are actually huge. There are 96 pixels in an inch, so in this case we’re basically creating an item that’s 46″ x 57″ (give or take). Of course your items won’t print that size, but large designs help to prevent quality loss when the image is shrunk down.
Using Canva to Create Designs for Printify
Now that we have those numbers, it’s time to go to Canva (or your design program of choice) and create the design that will appear on the product!
This is my Canva landing screen. I click “Create a design” and then type in the dimensions I noted from Printify. In this case, it wouldn’t allow me to create a design this big, so I ended up amending it from 5700 pixels to 5500 pixels. Canva then takes me to this screen, which is my design space.
And now, we’re ready to design! I do very simple designs that mostly just consist of text. So, I’ll click on the “Text” button on the left to access the Text screen.
I usually start off by simply clicking “Add a heading,” which throws a text box on the screen and I go from there. I type in my text and then fool around with sizing and font choice until I like what I see.
Now, it’s time to transfer that design over to Printify. But before I do that, I make one important change – I change the font from black to white. This is because most of my sweatshirt colors are dark, and I want the text to really pop. Once I turn the text white, you … can’t see it, so just pretend it’s there! I’ll click here in the top right corner:
And once I hit that down arrow, I’ll select an important option: Transparent background. That means that when I upload the design on Printify, it will be *only* the text without the negative space behind it.
Uploading Your Design to Printify
Once you’ve downloaded your design from Canva, it’s back to Printify to upload the design into the design space. Upload the file, and it will then appear here:
Click to select the file, and it will place it on the sweatshirt. I’ll change the sweatshirt color so that I can see the design, and voila!
From here, it’s a matter of selecting sweatshirt colors and messing with the size of the design until it seems just right. Since I used white text, I remove any light colored shirts so that I don’t end up with a contrast issue. Printify only allows so many variants (variant = every size in each color), and Etsy limits you to ten photos, so I tend to stick to around 9-10 colors total for each item so that there’s a photo mockup for each color. Once I’m happy with the design, I click on Preview to see how the design looks on the mockups.
Looking good! I’m happy with this design, so I’ll continue on to the Product Details page. I’ll select which mockup I want to use as a thumbnail for Etsy – I love Antique Sapphire, so I’ll go with that.
Adding Your Printify Product Description
Next up is the product description. Here is what automatically populates:
Now, all of that sounds boring, and would never catch the eye of anyone searching for anything on Etsy, so why don’t we change that up with some keywords (yay to SEO!) and better descriptors!
I’ve done a lot of Etsy research on beating their search algorithm, and the most important thing I’ve learned is to make sure your product title has the same keywords that are in the description and the product tags on your Etsy listing (don’t worry, I’ll explain that more later!). I want to appeal to as many searchers as possible, so I’ll write a title for this sweatshirt that encompasses many aspects of the design.
With this in mind, here is my new title with these keywords: Shop Small Shop Local Sweatshirt – Shop Small Sweatshirt – Shop Small Shirt – Shop Small Top – Shop Local Top – Small Business Top. I copy and paste that into the product description as well, and then add a little blurb.
After I set the description, it’s on to pricing.
Printify automatically suggests a price that gives you a 40% profit, but I adjust my pricing up a bit. Why? Because I offer all of my customers free shipping.
Etsy now prioritizes items in searches that have free shipping, and tons of customers have said that they would rather pay more if they receive free shipping, so I recently adjusted all of my pricing so that I could offer “free” shipping. No, don’t worry, I don’t really offer free shipping – I would never make a profit! Instead, I raise my prices to include the shipping. All of my sweatshirts are $32 with free shipping. My profit varies per sweatshirt, as the wholesale pricing is different per size and sometimes per color.
Since I include shipping, the profit Printify shows is not my actual profit. Just an FYI.
After pricing is complete, I move to Step #4, Store Details, and I select the following:
When I select “Publish product to your Etsy store,” well … that’s pretty self explanatory.
But, this is very important:
Make sure you also select “Hide in Store”
You want to click “Hide in Store to make sure your new product won’t automatically publish to your Etsy storefront – instead, it will be waiting for you to finesse the Etsy listing a bit in your Listing Drafts folder. Also, always click “Create new shipping profile” because the shipping profile will tell Etsy the production time (so that customers don’t get angry waiting for your item). With that being completed, it’s time to hit Publish!
After hitting Publish, you’ll be automatically redirected to the “My Store” page, which will have all of your designs listed. This isn’t your Etsy shop; it’s just all of the items you have produced through Printify.
As you can see, I screen-grabbed that as it was still working on publishing. Most of the time, your items will publish to Etsy immediately, but during peak times – when tons of Printify users are on designing stuff – it could take some time.
How to Use Printify and Etsy
Now it’s time to head over to my Etsy Shop Manager! Here’s a quick look at what I see when I first open it up:
I click on my “Listings” tab on the left, and then from my Listings screen I select “Drafts.” You’ll see I have a few things I’ve been working on that I haven’t yet uploaded to the shop, and the very first item is our Shop Small, Shop Local sweatshirt!
It’s time to edit the listing and get it ready to go live.
When I edit my listing, the first thing I do is go to yet another website to create a fun mockup of my item. I don’t always do this, but I think a great flat lay is a nice way of showing off the garment in a more unique way. I use a website called PlaceIt for this, but there are a variety of websites that create mockups for your items.
That’s a little trade secret: Many (if not most) of the gorgeous flat lay photos you see on Etsy are fake!
I created this quick and easy mockup using Placeit and will add it to the listing photos. I will then make this the primary photo for the listing, and adjust the thumbnail as needed. Flat lays or other unique mockups draw the eye more than just a photo of the garment alone, so I like these flat lays to be the photos potential buyers see when searching.
After adding the new photo(s), I scroll down to the title and other details. I’ve already crafted the item title and description in Printify, so I don’t need to touch that here. However, there is a *very* important step you must take here!
As someone who uses Printify (or any print-on-demand service), you *must* select that you did not personally make this item!
This little drop-down menu shows your options. I always select “Another company or person.”
It is a finished product that is made to order, so we leave the rest of that as is. Scrolling through the listing fields, I adjust as needed and – as long as it’s not a seasonal holiday item – I always set renewal to automatic. Etsy listings expire every four months – setting my renewals to automatic means that I’ll be charged 20 cents per listing when they expire in four months, and I don’t have to worry about keeping on top of that.
Scrolling down, I select the correct Production Partner (refer to Printify to make sure you choose the right partner – this will be your printing company!) and also make sure the box to Request Customization is not checked.
I have a variety of sections on my Etsy shop – I place this one in the “Sweatshirts” section. Next up – Tags and Materials.
Tags are very important to ensure that your items rank well in the Etsy search engine! The key is making sure your tags match the exact same terms in your item title and description. Therefore, when possible, I try to do the exact same tags along with some more general terms. You can’t enter a tag greater than 20 characters, so because of that I can’t have all the same tags as are in my title. But that’s okay! I go with some similar ones instead that I think people might use to search for something like this.
I’ve already done my pricing on Printify, so I scroll down to Shipping. As you can see, the automatic shipping profile from Printify charges $7.50 for shipping. However, as I have free shipping for all my items (and, as you may remember, include the shipping fees in my listing prices), I edit the shipping and adjust for free shipping.
One thing to note about shipping – I do *not* offer free international shipping, because honestly that just costs too darn much. I have still had several international customers, so I guess that’s not dissuading them from shopping!
So, that’s it! Now we click that big black button on the bottom right – Publish! Ta da! There it is!
When someone places an order through my Etsy shop, it automatically syncs with Printify, and the printer fulfills the order and then ships it directly to my customer.
It honestly cannot get any easier than that.
You can elect for Etsy to pay you weekly or daily – I used to get paid weekly, but Lisa convinced me to switch to getting paid daily and I must admit that it’s pretty fun seeing daily deposits in my bank account!
I started this business last October, and now – just 17 months later – I have 549 orders with a total of $11,400 in sales. I’m not going to get rich from this business, but it’s exactly the type of easy passive income that almost anyone would appreciate! And, as I hope you see after reading this incredibly long piece, it’s incredibly easy to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions About Printify
How does Printify pay you?
Because Printify is just the platform connecting all of the moving pieces, they won’t actually pay you. Should you choose to sell your items on Etsy, your payment will come from Etsy.
Which is better – Printful or Printify?
Lisa answering here: Having used both Printful and Printify, I can confirm that they are incredibly similar. There isn’t much difference at all except I’ve found Printful charges more than Printify does. Since the cost you pay per item will cut into your profits, I recommend using Printify where items are cheaper (but the same exact brands and quality).
What is Printify Premium?
Printify Premium is a monthly subscription program. You pay a flat fee, and in exchange, you get a 20% discount on the items you produce. In our sweatshirt example, the wholesale price of the sweatshirt is $9.75. If you are a Printify Premium member you’ll pay $7.80 per sweatshirt sold. Depending on how much you’re selling, signing up for Printify Premium could be a no-brainer!
Is Printify free?
Sure is! Using Printify to start a small business from your home couldn’t be easier. There are no upfront costs – though you will pay 20 cents per Etsy listing.
How do I create my designs?
If you want to start designing but don’t have a subscription to design software like Adobe Creative or Pixelmator, we recommend subscribing to Canva Pro, which costs $12 per month. It’s easy to use and very intuitive. Check out our Canva Pro review for more details.
What products can I make on Printify?
While we used a sweatshirt in this example, Printify has a huge range of items you can customize, from clothing to home goods! You can customize notebooks, mugs, shoes, backpacks, and even Christmas Tree skirts! The only thing limiting you is your imagination!
Have any questions about how to use Printify to start your own Etsy business? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!