Yesterday I walked through the decision to print products on your own vs use a production partner. If you’re like me and it was a clear decision to use a partner, the next question is which one to use?
I spent a few days researching and testing products. While there are a ton of t-shirt printing partners out there, only a few currently offer direct integration with Etsy. This may not be a deal breaker to all – no direct integration just means you’ll have to manually input your listings into Etsy, and then manually input orders into the partner’s interface as they come in. They might be slightly cheaper as a result – but my philosophy is if you’re using a drop-ship partner, you want the ease of full integration so I narrowed mine down to Printful and PrintAura, both of which are reputable and integrate with Etsy (along with several other platforms).
Now between those two, it was a tougher comparison. Here’s how they ranked:
Ease of integrating
- Printful: 5/5 – extremely simple to connect to Etsy directly from the Printful interface. Only catch is your Etsy shop has to be fully set up to complete this, so if you don’t have any products you may have to put up a test listing to get this started.
- PrintAura: 4/5 – more of a manual process, where you have to go into Etsy to add PrintAura as a production partner, install the API, and then go back to PrintAura to complete the installation. Not too difficult and there are pretty clear instructions, but it is more steps and less seamless than Printful.
Types of products
- Printful: 5/5 – the selection is fairly similar, but Printful does have a few more options – leggings, socks, skirts, and towels. They are also missing a couple categories that PrintAura features, below.
- PrintAura: 4/5 – missing the above options, but PrintAura does have Pocket T’s and Aprons. Honestly the pocket t’s were almost enough to flip my opinion on this one.
- Printful: 5/5 – both options have all of the main brands & selection, but it looked like PrintAura had a little more depth of brands and a few options Printful did not, but Printful had a significantly larger selection of colors and options within some of the products I used so I’m calling this one a wash.
- PrintAura: 5/5 – As mentioned above PrintAura wins the slight edge on brand selection, mostly based on a little more selection within the Bella + Canvas & Next Level options, plus a brand called Royal Apparel that Printful does not have. However, they lose out on depth of color & other options.
Ease of Setting Up Products
- Printful: 5/5 – similar to the set-up noted above, it’s super easy to set-up products with Printful. The interface is extremely user friendly along every step of the way, from selecting a brand/model to generating mock-up images to creating your Etsy product listing. They also provide pre-written descriptions that you can leverage with basic product information (materials, fabric weight, etc.) The only manual step is flipping the listing on, which you have to do in the Etsy app (they will get transmitted as drafts).
- PrintAura: 3/5 – definitely less user friendly than Printful. Requires more work to pick your products, generate mock-ups, write descriptions. It’s not terribly difficult once you get used to it, but definitely not as seamless and user friendly as Printful.
- Printful: 3/5 – For the most popular products, Printful usually runs $1-2 above PrintAura, but for some products (like the Bella + Canvas 3480 tank which I use for my store) I’ve seen that go up to $4. Even $1 makes a big difference if you’re already making less than $10 a shirt – that’s 10%+ of your profit!
- PrintAura: 5/5 – generally much more price competitive than Printful, though you’ll find one-off products where Printful is cheaper (such as a basic ceramic mug)
System stability & up-time
- Printful: 5/5 – probably the main reason I ended up using Printful is the weekend I was trying to launch, PrintAura’s mock-up tool was down for the full weekend so I wasn’t able to even load products. With Printful, I haven’t had any issues with downtime.
- PrintAura: 3/5 – rated down for the above reasons. Maybe it’s a small sample size to penalize PrintAura for, but given that this is a side hustle and I do most of my work outside of office hours, it makes it tough to stomach a full weekend down.
Based on the above metrics, I give Printful a 28 while PrintAura gets a 24. However, that assumes all of these factors matter equally – if you value price much more than user interface, PrintAura is a great option for you. I personally went for ease of use – and my decision was very much colored by the fact that PrintAura’s upload tool was down last weekend. Whatever you end up choosing, I’d just recommend getting started sooner rather than later!
Anyone else out there try either/both services? Let me know your thoughts!