Merchandise Printing for Art Business

I hope you’ve all had a good weekend! Today we are going to compare various printing methods and break down different print companies. Buckle up, there’s going to be a lot of information in this blog. When we talk about print in this, we are specifically discussing merchandise printing, not just fine art poster prints. This is for apparel, accessory, object, art, and stickers


There are many ways to get started, and deciding on how you want to print is sometimes the hardest. Here’s as basic and I can break down the methods.


Do it yourself

Print and Drop Ship Company

Bulk Printing


DO IT YOURSELF


Doing the printing yourself can be very rewarding and fulfilling. You can customize your packaging options, handling the product from the beginning to the end. You have complete control over your brand and presentation which makes for a more unique customer experience.


On the other hand, the tools and materials you need to get started can be very expensive. Investing in packaging supplies and shipping costs slips my mind almost every time I do a hand made article for sale. You will also need the appropriate printer for art and stickers, most artists I’ve seen use a cricut as well with their sticker prints. For apparel or most fabric based accessories, you will want to consider the manner in which you are printing. Here are some options for that:


Screen Printing; Screen printing is a printing technique where a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, except in areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil. - Wikipedia


Materials needed are the appropriate mesh, ink, the frame for the mesh and a mount for your frame.


Block Printing; Block printing (also called Relief printing) is the process of carving patterns, shapes and designs into a 'block'. The 'block' could be made of wood, acrylic plastic sheet, lino (linoleum) or metal. ... metal or acrylic sheets can produce much finer lines with 'sharper' detail. - BBC

Materials needed are the carving tools, block and ink.


Vinyl; Vinyl heat transfer, is a process that involves a machine that cuts out designs and letters - printcanada


Materials needed, heat sensitive vinyl, cutting tools or cricut to cut vinyl.


Sublimation; it's a method of printing that transfers a design into a material or fabric using ink and heat. In the world of apparel, it's a game changer in that it allows whole garment prints — designs that go seam-to-seam


Materials needed are a sublimation printer.



DROPSHIP AND PRINT SERVICES


What does drop ship even mean? I’ve mentioned it a few times in the last two blogs. The dictionary definition is move (goods) from the manufacturer directly to the consumer without going through the usual distribution channels.


This is very convenient if you do not have the funds or the time to manage your own shipping and handling. However there are no ways to personalize your packages, someone else is packaging your items for you. These Drop-ship services I've listened below don’t have too many differences in products that they offer. The differences really come down to price per item and customer services. I've done my best to list what they do have, don't have and a little of my experiences with them.


I’ve used a handful of printer companies and am still exploring the world of printing. My top three I mentioned in my first blog will be the ones we break down more fully.


Printify:

Moderate prices. S-XL sizing. Large clothing catalogue. Small Art Print catalogue, includes cardstock paper and canvas options. Does include sticker options.


Easily integrates with Wix, Weebly, Wordpress, Shopify, Etsy, and has ADI options for other websites. Meaning this will mostly autosync orders from your website to your printify shop. There are easy methods of replacing out of stock or discontinued items. Customer service is very quick to respond and handles issues or concerns quickly.



Printful:

Moderate to high prices. XS- XL2 with plus size options in leggings. Large clothing catalogue. Small Art Print catalogue, includes cardstock paper and canvas options. Does include sticker options.


Easily integrates with Wix, Weebly, Wordpress, Shopify, Etsy, and has ADI options for other websites. Meaning this will mostly autosync orders from your website to your printify shop


I had a hard time with Printful. I started with them, right before the Covid lockdown began and their production froze for small business owners as they jumped to the aid of several countries producing masks and keeping up with safety regulations. When they came back and began picking up small business work again, I found that many of the print clothing that I used was out of stock and eventually discontinued. It felt like every article of clothing I had designed at one point was cancelled and no longer available and constantly like I had to redesign things to keep up with their products cycling in. It was very frustrating. I only use them for plus size leggings, certain All Over Print items, and crop tops.


ThisNew:

Low Prices. Children-Adult XS-XL2 sizing. Moderate clothing catalogue. Large Art Print catalogue, does not include cardstock paper options; does include canvas, aluminum print, tapestry, and various other options. Does not include Stickers.


Easily integrates with only Shopify, Etsy, And WooCommerce. I manually enter orders as they come through my site but have felt that the extra step is worth it. Excellent customer service, sometimes you do need to touch base if you haven’t heard back from them. They do operate in various time zones and found that they usually respond within 24 hours.


I liked ThisNew specifically because while their clothing catalogue is moderate to small, they have items you can’t find at any other printer such as leather or denim jackets and specialized children's clothing. They also have the largest selection of art specific print options I’ve found and they are significantly less expensive to print with than the previous mentioned websites. All in all, I’m moving the majority of printed art options to them.



BULK PRINTING


Bulk printing is having your singular item printed at a low cost but with a high minimum order requirement such as 50 items or more. You then receive these items and can ship them out yourself, allowing you to control and manage your packaging, shipping, and brand.


If you have a large audience, minimal variation in product, and receive a lot of demand this is a great cost effective option. If you do not fit the aforementioned, bulk printing can become a gambling investment. If an item doesn’t sell well, you suddenly have 50+ items that will take up space and sit on a shelf until you have a close out sale.


Something that you can do to gauge interest with our audience is offer pre-order or crowdsourcing. We will get into this during a different blog however. Bulk Printing is definitely a good goal to work towards but as a beginning artist, I do not recommend.


The exception to Bulk Printing for beginnings would be for stickers. Many sticker companies require a minimum order but are much more manageable than apparel. The same gamble does exist but it’s certainly not as cheap. Sticker companies I have used that are not drop-ship, and that I liked are StickerApp.com

Stickermule.com





I hope that this break down and comparison has helped you. It can be really daunting to get started but I believe in you, and if you’re reading this part of you believes in yourself. Until next week art fiends.


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