How Print on Demand Works

Tired of traditional inventory management and shipping hassles in your e-commerce business? Looking for a revolutionary approach to selling unique products without the headache? 

Print on demand might be the answer to your problem. 

Using this business model, you can effortlessly create and sell custom-designed products without ever handling the manufacturing, inventory, or shipping yourself. 

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? 

In this extensive readout, we will work out the mysteries of print on demand, delving into its inner mechanisms and revealing how you can unlock a world of endless possibilities while turning a handsome profit. 

But before diving in, let’s first understand the concept fundamentally.

What is Print on Demand?

Print on Demand (POD) is a modern method of publishing and producing physical goods, such as books, apparel, or other customized products, cost-effectively and efficiently. It allows individuals and businesses to create and sell personalized items without needing large upfront investments or holding inventory.

In traditional publishing, books or merchandise are printed in bulk quantities, stored in warehouses, and distributed to retailers or customers. However, with print-on-demand, items are printed as and when they are ordered. This eliminates the need for excessive inventory, reducing the risk of unsold stock and associated costs.

There are numerous advantages of print-on-demand. 

For creators, it provides an accessible way to publish and sell their work without any large advance investments. They can focus on designing or writing, leaving the printing, production, and fulfillment tasks to the POD service providers. This also enables independent authors and artists to reach a wider audience without waiting for traditional publishing deals.

From a customer’s perspective, POD offers the benefit of customized products. They can order books with personalized dedications, unique designs on clothing items, or other tailor-made merchandise. Furthermore, print-on-demand reduces waste since items are only printed when there is a demand, minimizing the environmental impact of excess production and inventory.

Trends and Market Stats

Print on Demand Trends and Market Stats
Credits – grandviewresearch

The global print on demand market size was valued at USD 4.90 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.7% from 2022 to 2030. North America is the highest revenue-generating location in the sector; one of the fact being all popular POD companies that are functional hail from the same location.

The apparel segment is the largest market for print-on-demand. Last year, it accounted for approximately 37% of the overall POD revenue, with a CAGR valuation of 27.4%.

Two main factors contributed to the growth of POD. The first one is the pandemic. As people were forced to stay home during the time, they turned to online shopping for products like apparel, home décor, and gifts. 

The second factor is the rise of social media. Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest make it easy for businesses to promote their print on demand products to a large audience. Both of these, combined, led to an accelerated surge in demand for print-on-demand products.

Growing customer demands for personalized product options followed by the cost-effectiveness aspect for the next-gen businesses ensure steady and prosperous growth for the domain in future years. 

How Does Print On Demand Work?

The process typically involves three main steps.

Step 1: Creation or Upload of Digital File

Content Creation: The creator or seller generates the digital file of the desired product. This could involve writing a book manuscript, designing artwork for a t-shirt, creating graphics for a poster, or any other printable item.

File Preparation: The digital file is prepared in the appropriate format and resolution, ensuring it meets the requirements of the print-on-demand platform. This may involve formatting the manuscript, optimizing images, or adjusting design elements.

Upload to POD Platform: The prepared digital file is uploaded to a print-on-demand platform. The platform serves as the central hub for managing product listings, customization options, and order processing.

Step 2: Customer Order Placement

Selection and Customization: Customers browse through the available products on the POD platform. They choose the specific item they want to purchase, such as a book or a t-shirt, and select any customization options offered, such as size, color, or personalized text.

Order Confirmation: Once the customer has finalized their selection and customization, they proceed to the checkout process. They provide shipping details, payment information, and any additional instructions for the order, if applicable.

Order Submission: After reviewing the order details, the customer submits the order through the POD platform. At this point, the platform processes the order and prepares to transfer the relevant digital file to the printer.

Step 3: Printing, Customization, and Shipping

File Transfer to Printer: Upon order submission, the POD platform sends the digital file associated with the ordered product to a connected printer. This ensures that the printer has the necessary instructions to produce the customized item.

Production and Customization: The printer receives the digital file and initiates the printing process. It utilizes specialized equipment and techniques to produce a single copy of the item, applying the requested customizations, such as printing personalized text or graphics on the surface.

Quality Control: Once the item is printed and customized, it undergoes quality control measures. This may involve visual inspection, checking for print accuracy, ensuring color fidelity, and verifying that the customization options are correctly applied.

Packaging and Shipping: After passing quality control, the finished product is appropriately packaged for shipping. It is then dispatched from the printing facility or a fulfillment center to the customer’s provided address. Customers receive tracking information to monitor the shipment’s progress and anticipate its delivery.

By following these steps, the POD businesses ensure that creators can easily and efficiently produce and deliver personalized items to customers worldwide.

Print On Demand vs Drop Shipping

POD and drop shipping have their own strengths and weaknesses. The choice between the two depends on your business goals, product offerings, marketing strategy, and your level of control and customization over the products and branding. It’s important to carefully consider which model aligns best with your business objectives and resources. Some businesses even combine aspects of both models to achieve a balance that suits their needs.

AspectPrint On Demand (POD)Drop Shipping
InventoryNo need for inventoryNo need for inventory, but often relies on suppliers’ stock
Product CustomizationHigh degree of customization for design-focused productsLimited customization; sell existing products from suppliers
Product TypesTypically focused on custom-printed apparel, accessories, and moreCan include a wide range of products, from electronics to clothing
Brand ControlLimited control over branding and packaging, influenced by the POD providerMore control over branding and packaging, but some reliance on suppliers
ShippingPOD providers handle printing and shipping, longer shipping timesSuppliers or third-party logistics companies handle shipping, potentially faster
Profit MarginsLower profit margins per sale due to higher per-unit costsPotentially higher profit margins, as you can negotiate better pricing with suppliers
ScalabilityScalable, but profit margins may remain lowerScalable with the potential for better profit margins as the business grows
Product QualityQuality can vary; limited control over production processQuality may vary based on suppliers, but more control is possible
Market NicheSuitable for design-centric, customizable productsSuitable for a wide range of products and niches
RiskMinimal risk due to no inventory costsMinimal risk due to no inventory costs
Branding and MarketingLimited brand control; marketing focus on designsMore branding control; marketing strategy customization
Competitive AdvantageDesign uniqueness and varietyCompetitive pricing and product selection
Lead TimeLonger lead times due to printing and shippingShorter lead times if suppliers have products in stock
Customer SatisfactionPotential for lower satisfaction due to longer shipping timesPotential for higher satisfaction with quicker shipping times
Product ReturnsPOD providers often have specific return policiesReturns managed based on agreements with suppliers
Initial InvestmentLow initial investment due to no inventoryLow initial investment due to no inventory

Key Players in the Print on Demand Industry

Key Players in the Print on Demand Industry

Here are the top 5 key players in the print-on-demand industry:

1. Printful 

Year founded: 2013

Current Revenue: $100 Million

Daily order scope: 10,000+

Printful is a popular print-on-demand company that offers a wide variety of products, including t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, and phone cases. They have a global network of fulfillment centers, so they can ship products quickly and efficiently to customers all over the world.

2. Printify

Year founded: 2015

Current Revenue: $50 Million

Daily order scope: 5,000+

Printify is another popular print on demand company that offers a similar range of products to Printful. They have a slightly lower price point than Printful, but they do not have as many fulfillment centers.

3. CustomCat

Year founded: 2010

Current Revenue: $20 Million

Daily order scope: 2,000+

CustomCat is a print-on-demand company that specializes in custom-designed products. They offer a wide variety of customization options, so you can create truly unique products.


Year founded: 2007

Current Revenue: $15 Million

Daily order scope: 15,000+

SPOD is an on-demand printing company that is known for its high-quality products. They use premium materials and printing methods, so their prints last longer than the average POD service providers.

5. Teelaunch

Year founded: 2012

Current Revenue: $10 Million

Daily order scope: 1,000+

Teelaunch is an on-demand printing company that specializes in t-shirts. They have a wide variety of t-shirt designs to choose from, and they offer free shipping on all orders.

These are just a few of the many key players in the print-on-demand industry. The industry is constantly growing, hence many new players have emerged or constantly keep emerging, providing innovative printing solutions for customers worldwide.

Types of Popular Products for Print on Demand

Print-on-demand (POD) enables customization and printing of various products. Here are some popular types of products for print-on-demand:

1. Apparel: 

These include clothing items like -shirts, hoodies, tank tops, and sweatshirts with unique designs, logos, or artwork.

2. Accessories: 

This includes various accessories such as phone cases, tote bags, backpacks, hats, and caps that can be custom printed.

3. Home Decor: 

Home decor items usually involve printed artworks, photographs, or personalized designs on items such as posters, canvas prints, throw pillows, blankets, and wall decals.

4. Stationery: 

You can also print on custom stationery products like notebooks, journals, notepads, stickers, and greeting cards.

5. Drinkware: 

Dirnkwares include sublimation/customizable mugs, water bottles, travel mugs, and tumblers which can be printed on by custom images, text, or logos.

6. Prints and Posters: 

High-quality prints, posters, or framed prints of artwork, illustrations, or photographs are amongst the most demanded printables. 

7. Pet Accessories: 

Customized pet products like pet bowls, tags, bandanas, and clothes can also be printed on-demand as per customer/client preferences.

8. Baby and Kids: 

Print-on-demand products for infants and children involve onesies, bibs, blankets, and kid-friendly wall art.

9. Tech Accessories: 

Phone cases, laptop sleeves, tablet covers, or mousepads can also be customed and printed with personalized designs.

10. Sports and Fitness: 

Custom workout apparel, gym bags, yoga mats, or sports water bottles.

11. Gifts and Novelty Items: 

Provide unique personalized gifts such as customized puzzles, keychains, coasters, or photo albums.

Remember, these are just a few examples, and the possibilities for print-on-demand products are vast. You need to have a good network of print-on-demand suppliers or manufacturers to get access to various printable products and variations. By offering a diverse pool of selectable, you can cater to a wider audience and meet their customization needs effectively.

Developing a Custom Print on Demand Application: Step by Step!

Developing a Custom Print on Demand Application: Step by Step!

Custom print-on-demand application development involves several steps, each requiring specific technologies. Here’s a detailed guide to help you understand the process:

Step 1: Planning and Design

Before diving into development, it’s crucial to plan and design your print-on-demand application. 

This first includes identifying your target audience. You need to research popular product categories and trends, do a few customer surveys, and gain their feedback on their product (commonly t-shirts, hoodies, phone cases, mugs, caps, and book covers) and printing style preferences (direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, screen printing, sublimation printing, vinyl (HTV) printing, UV printing, embroidery, etc.)

Once your planning is complete, the next process is to define features, and create wireframes or mockups. Tools like Sketch, Adobe XD, or Figma can be used for designing the application’s user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).

Step 2: Front-end Development

Front-end development involves building the visual components and user interface of the application. 

For this, you can use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue.js can speed up development and provide a more interactive UI. 

Additionally, tools like Bootstrap or Material-UI can help with responsive design and pre-built UI components.

Step 3: Back-end Development

The back-end development handles the logic and functionality of your POD application. 

You can choose a suitable programming language like Python, Ruby, or Node.js to build the server-side components. 

Frameworks like Django, Ruby on Rails, or Express.js can assist in rapid development. 

To manage databases, you can use technologies such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, or MongoDB.

Step 4: Product Management and Inventory

To manage products and inventory in your print-on-demand application, you need a robust system. 

You can utilize a combination of a database management system (DBMS) and an e-commerce platform. 

For example, you can use WooCommerce, Magento, or Shopify to handle product listings, pricing, and inventory management. Integration with these platforms can be achieved using APIs and webhooks.

Step 5: File Management and Processing

For most print-on-demand applications, users upload files that need to be processed before printing. 

You can store these files in cloud storage services like Amazon S3 or Google Cloud Storage. 

To process the files, you may need tools or libraries such as ImageMagick or Pillow, which allow you to manipulate and optimize images. For PDF processing, libraries like pdflib or PDFtk can be helpful.

Step 6: Print Provider Integration

To fulfil print orders, you’ll need to integrate with print providers who handle printing, packaging, and shipping. 

Research and identify reliable print-on-demand companies that offer APIs or integration options. Popular print-on-demand services include Printful, Printify, and Gooten. 

The specific integration method and APIs provided by the chosen print provider will determine the technology required for this step.

Step 7: Payment Gateway Integration

To facilitate transactions, you’ll need to integrate a payment gateway into your application. 

Popular options include Stripe, PayPal, or Braintree. These payment gateways offer APIs and SDKs that can be integrated into your application’s backend. 

By utilizing these tools, you can securely process payments and handle transactions.

Step 8: Testing and Quality Assurance

Thoroughly test your print-on-demand application to ensure it works as expected. 

Conduct functional testing, usability testing, and performance testing. 

Automation testing tools like Selenium or Cypress can assist in automating repetitive tests. Manual testing is also crucial to evaluate the user experience and identify any potential issues.

Step 9: Deployment and Maintenance

Once testing is complete, you can deploy your print-on-demand application to a production environment (i.e., Play Store or App Store). 

Cloud platforms like AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure offer scalable infrastructure options. Containerization technologies like Docker can also simplify deployment. 

Regular maintenance and updates are necessary to keep your application secure and up to date.

The domain of print of demand is very niche and competitive. Always stay aware of the market trends and incorporate printing services of trending products in your app. This will ensure the long-term sustenance and growth of your business.

Pros and Cons of Print On Demand For Your Online Business

Pros of Print On Demand (POD)Cons of Print On Demand (POD)
1. Low Initial Investment: You don’t need to invest in bulk inventory, reducing your upfront costs.1. Lower Profit Margins: Due to higher per-unit costs, your profit margins may be lower compared to traditional manufacturing.
2. Minimal Risk: With no excess inventory, there’s little risk of unsold products or storage costs.2. Limited Control: You have limited control over the production process, quality, and shipping, which can lead to potential issues.
3. Wide Product Variety: POD allows you to offer a wide range of custom products, appealing to a broader audience.3. Quality Concerns: The quality of POD products can vary, and it may be harder to ensure consistent quality control.
4. Scalability: Easily scale your business up or down as demand fluctuates without the constraints of inventory management.4. Longer Shipping Times: POD items may have longer shipping times, which could impact customer satisfaction.
5. No Storage Costs: You save on warehousing and storage costs, freeing up resources for marketing and business growth.5. Lower Brand Control: Your brand image may be influenced by the POD provider’s branding and packaging.
6. Diverse Designs: You can experiment with different designs and cater to niche markets more easily.6. Limited Customization: Some POD platforms may have restrictions on product customization and design options.
7. International Reach: POD allows you to reach a global audience without the need for international shipping infrastructure.7. Profit Share: Some POD platforms take a significant cut of your sales, reducing your overall profit.
8. Easy Integration: Many POD services integrate with popular eCommerce platforms, streamlining your online business operations.8. Competition: The POD market is competitive, making it important to differentiate your products and brand.
9. Eco-Friendly: POD can be environmentally friendly, as it reduces waste associated with overproduction.9. Print Limitations: There may be limitations in terms of print area, colors, and material choices for POD products.

These pros and cons should help you make an informed decision about whether Print On Demand is the right choice for your online business. Keep in mind that the specific advantages and disadvantages may vary depending on the POD provider you choose and the nature of your products.

How to Integrate Your Print on Demand app with Your E-commerce Business?

If you have an e-commerce business and you want your app to function with it cohesively, you will require to follow a tailored approach.

1. Familiarize yourself with your POD app: 

Since you have a custom-curated POD app, familiarize yourself with its functionality, features, and APIs. Understand how it handles orders, customization options, and product fulfillment.

2. Determine integration requirements: 

Identify the key integration requirements specific to your app and business. Consider factors such as data synchronization, order processing, customization options, and payment integration.

3. Develop an integration plan: 

Create a detailed plan outlining the necessary steps to integrate your app with your e-commerce business. This plan should cover technical aspects, such as API endpoints, data mapping, and workflows.

4. Set up API endpoints: 

Determine the required API endpoints to facilitate communication between your e-commerce platform and the app. These endpoints will allow data exchange, such as order details, customer information, and customization instructions.

5. Design data mapping and synchronization: 

Define how data will be mapped and synchronized between your e-commerce platform and the app. Determine which fields need to be shared, how they will be transformed, and establish data validation processes.

6. Develop the integration: 

Implement the integration by developing the necessary code and functionality on both ends. This involves leveraging the APIs provided by your app and e-commerce platform. You may need the assistance of developers or technical experts to carry out this step.

7. Test the integration: 

Thoroughly test the integration to ensure that orders placed on your e-commerce platform are correctly transferred to the POD app. Verify that customization options are accurately communicated, and order fulfillment is successful.

8. Ensure compatibility: 

Check that your e-commerce platform’s themes, templates, or storefront designs are compatible with the POD app. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure a seamless and consistent user experience.

9. Launch and monitor: 

Once the integration is successfully implemented and tested, launch your POD offerings on your e-commerce platform. Monitor the integration closely to ensure smooth operation and address any issues promptly.

10. Provide support and iterate: 

Continuously provide support to customers using the integrated solution. Collect feedback, monitor performance, and make iterative improvements to enhance the integration’s functionality, user experience, and overall success.

Given the custom nature of your POD app, it’s essential to have a thorough understanding of its capabilities and work closely with developers or technical experts who can assist you in building the integration. 

Idea Usher has developers with over 15 years of experience who have built application and website projects from the ground up. Contact us for further assistance.

Tips for Starting Your Print on Demand Online Business

By now, we believe you’ve understood how lucrative a print on demand venture can be. 

If you’re still confused,  here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Conducting Market Research and Competitive Analysis:

  • Identify your target market: Determine the specific niche or audience you want to cater to with your POD products.
  • Research market trends: Stay updated on the latest trends, popular designs, and emerging markets within the POD industry.
  • Analyze competition: Study other POD businesses targeting similar markets. Understand their product offerings, pricing, marketing strategies, and customer feedback.
  • Differentiate your offerings: Identify unique selling points and find ways to differentiate your products from competitors. Offer personalized designs, niche-specific products, or exceptional customer service.

2. Setting Up Your Store and Integrations:

  • Choose a reliable e-commerce platform: Select a platform that suits your business needs and integrates well with your POD app. Popular options include Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Etsy.
  • Customize your store: Create an appealing and user-friendly online store. Use high-quality product images, clear product descriptions, and intuitive navigation.
  • Integrate your POD app: Follow the integration steps mentioned earlier to connect your custom-curated POD app with your e-commerce platform.
  • Test the user experience: Ensure that the purchasing process is seamless, from product selection to customization options and checkout. Test on different devices to ensure responsiveness and compatibility.

3. Managing Inventory and Quality Control:

  • Inventory management: With POD, you don’t need to maintain physical inventory. However, regularly monitor product availability and update your listings based on demand.
  • Quality control: Choose a reputable POD app that produces high-quality products. Request sample products to assess their quality before offering them to customers. Regularly review customer feedback to identify any quality concerns and address them promptly.

4. Customer Service and Fulfillment Best Practices:

  • Clear communication: Clearly outline your production and shipping times to manage customer expectations. Respond promptly to customer inquiries and provide support through various channels like email, live chat, or social media.
  • Ensure smooth fulfillment: Coordinate with your POD app to streamline order fulfillment. Monitor production times, shipping updates, and track deliveries to keep customers informed.
  • Handle returns and refunds: Establish a clear policy for returns and refunds. Communicate it to customers and handle these processes efficiently to maintain customer satisfaction.

Remember to continuously learn and adapt based on market trends, customer feedback, and industry changes. Regularly update your product offerings, optimize your store, and refine your marketing strategies to stay competitive in the POD industry.s


In conclusion, Print on Demand (POD) presents a lucrative opportunity for the modern e-commerce industry by enabling entrepreneurs to offer customized products without the hassle of inventory management and production. In this guide, we have explored the working of POD, the developmental steps for a custom POD app, how you can integrate so with your e-commerce store, and finally, some tips to start with your POD journey.

Before you start your own POD business, you must have the right technology and tools to support your venture. That’s where Idea Usher comes in.

As a leading app development company, we specialize in developing customized POD apps that are tailored to meet your specific business needs. Whether you want to create a unique design interface, automate order processing, or implement advanced customization features, Idea Usher can bring your vision to life. 

Contact Idea Usher today and take the first step towards building a successful and profitable print-on-demand venture.

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Q) What is the process of print on demand?

A) Print on demand (POD) is a business model where products are printed only after an order is placed. This means that you don’t have to worry about carrying inventory or dealing with shipping. When a customer places an order, you simply send the order details to a POD provider, who will then print and ship the product to the customer.

Q) Can you make money with print on demand?

Yes, you can make money with print on demand. The amount of money you can make will depend on a number of factors, including the products you sell, your marketing efforts, and your profit margins. However, it is possible to make a significant income with print on demand.

Q) How much does print on demand pay?

A) The amount of money you can make with print on demand will vary depending on a number of factors. However, in general, you can expect to make a profit margin of around 20-30%. This means that for every $100 you sell, you will make a profit of $20-30.

Q) Is print on demand automated?

A) Yes, print on demand can be automated. There are a number of POD providers that offer automated services, which means that you can set up your business so that orders are automatically processed and shipped. This can save you a lot of time and effort, and it can help you to scale your business more easily.

Q) How do I make a successful print on demand business?

A) There are several things you can do to make a successful print on demand business. Here are a few tips:

  • Choose the right products. The products you sell will have a big impact on your success. Choose products that are popular and that you are passionate about.
  • Create great designs. Your designs are what will make your products stand out from the competition. Make sure your designs are high-quality and that they appeal to your target market.
  • Market your business effectively. You need to get the word out about your business if you want to be successful. Use social media, email marketing, and other channels to reach your target market.
  • Automate your business as much as possible. This will free up your time so that you can focus on other aspects of your business.

Contact Idea Usher to develop a customized feature-rich print-on-demand app.

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