The print-on-demand market is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.1% until 2030. If you want a slice of that pie, stick around as we look at two popular POD services: Printful and Gelato.
However, if you don’t have time to skim this entire comparison review, here’s my verdict upfront:
While Gelato might be the better choice if you’re looking for a more sustainable POD service, Printful is the more established of the two solutions, offers a variety of high-quality brands to choose from, and enables you to add branded labels and packaging inserts into your orders. So for all those reasons, I would select Printful!
With that said, let's dive into the meat and potatoes of this Printful vs Gelato comparison:
What is Printful?
Founded in 2013, Printful is a dropshipping platform with no set-up costs. It offers 327 products you can customize and sell, including sweatshirts, t-shirts, glassware, hats, posters, etc. Its HQ is in the US, and it fulfills over a million orders each month and, to date, has delivered 61 million items globally.
What is Gelato?
Founded by the former CEO of the telecoms company Tele2 Norway, Henrik Müller-Hansen, Gelato is another POD service with items produced in 32 countries by 100+ print partners.
Gelato describes itself as the world’s largest production on-demand network. It offers a range of POD products, including apparel, photo books, phone cases, wall art, tote bags, and more.
At the time of writing, Gelato has fulfilled over 10 million orders, and impressively the company reached unicorn status in 2021, having raised $240m.
How Does Printful Work?
Printful takes care of all aspects of order fulfillment, including packing and shipping. No set-up costs are involved, and creating an account is quick, easy, and free, so you can immediately focus on designing products for your customers to buy. Printful primarily operates in North America but has partners worldwide, with fulfillment centers across 13 locations, including Japan, Australia, and Brazil.
You can customize all of Printful’s products using Printful’s free Design Maker. This enables you to create graphics to put onto products, or you can upload your own design. You can also opt to include embroidery on a garment.
With your design ready to go, you can use Printful’s mockup tool to better understand what your design will look like in the flesh.
Printful works with 29 well-known brands, so you can be sure you’re working with high-quality base products, including Adidas, American Apparel, Next Level, Alternative, Anvil, and Port Authority.
Printful also lets you add branded labels and packaging inserts to your orders. For example, flyers, coupons, business cards, branded stickers, postcards, and handwritten thank-you notes!
Then once you’re happy with the end product, you can list and sell the items you’ve created on one or more of Printful’s 23 eCommerce integrations, including Shopify, Woocommerce, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and more.
How Does Gelato Work?
Like Printful, Gelato is also free to sign up for and produces products on demand across 32 locations worldwide.
You can integrate your preexisting store with Gelato to start creating, selling, and adding products to your store. Gelato integrates with popular eCommerce platforms, including Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, Wix, Squarespace, and BigCommerce.
Once you’ve created an account, head to its product catalog and browse through apparel, tote bags, mugs, and much more, including wallpaper. Then, pick the item you want to customize. On the product’s page, you’ll see information about its fit and fabric quality (or other relevant product details if it isn’t apparel). Next, use Gelato’s design tool to customize your chosen product by adding text, shapes, graphics from Gelato’s graphics library, and/or Getty and Shutterstock images. Basic images are free, or you can get a discount on paid images if you’re signed up for a paid Gelato account.
Any design you create can be saved as a template if you want to reuse it. Once your design is created, you can preview it before hitting the buy button.
Like Printful, Gelato also allows you to insert marketing materials into your packaging starting from $0.49 per insert. You can insert coupons and thank you notes and create branded labels. This, however, is exclusively available to Gelato+ and Gold plans, whereas Printful includes basic inserts for free.
You only pay the base price for Printful products after a customer makes an order.
For free, you receive the following:
- Access to Printful’s Design Maker
- Access to Printful’s Mockup Generator
- Automatic order fulfillment through Printful’s eCommerce integrations
- White-labeled packing slips with your custom message and logo
- Efficient global order fulfillment
- Round-the-clock customer support
- An online resource hub where you’ll find free educational blogs, videos, lessons, etc.
- Access to a Logo Maker with 100+ templates
Some specific features have a service fee (you’ll have to contact Printful for pricing specifics). These include:
- Additional branding like customized order tracking pages, printed inside or outside labels on apparel, etc
- Custom pack-ins like business cards, thank you notes, coupons, etc.
- Custom packaging, like colored packages, logos on the packaging, bio-degradable mailers, etc.
- Creative services like graphic design or photo and video shoots
- Warehousing services for your non-Printful goodies
Other Things to Note About Pricing
Product base prices include the cost of the product itself and printing. Shipping costs are added to this and depend on location. Taxes are also additional.
It’s hard to define the average price of products because it depends on the brand you select. Here, however, are a few examples:
- Men’s t-shirts: from $10.75 to $20.25
- Phone cases: from $7.50 to $16.50
- Bags: from $13.25 to $30+
There’s a separate Printful plan for larger businesses, and this is called Printful Enterprise. It’s aimed at large-scale POD merchants selling premium merchandise. Unfortunately, no prices were available at the time of writing.
There are four subscription plans:
- Production across 32 countries
- Connect two ecommerce stores
- Integrate with Shopify, Etsy, and WooCommere
- Access to Gelato’s intuitive design editor
- Free product mockups
This costs $14.99 a month or $139 a year and includes all the above and:
- 30% off all standard shipping to the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Singapore, and Japan
- Premium mockups
- Connect up to ten ecommerce stores
- Access to millions of stock images, graphics, and fonts
- Branded labels and packaging inserts become available
- 30% off shipping
- Product personalization tool (This allows your customers to personalize items with a dynamic live preview)
This costs $99/mo or $999/year and includes all the above and:
- 30 days free shipping with an annual plan*
- Up to a 50% discount on shipping
- Connect up to 25 eCommerce stores
- Product migration assistance
- You can set shipping profit margins
- A dedicated Customer Success Manager
This is a bespoke plan, so you’ll have to speak to Gelato’s sales team for a quote. It includes all of the above and:
- Fixed-rate shipping on all locally produced orders
- Dedicated implementation services to help set Gelato up to work specifically with your business
- Time with Gelato's solutions consulting team
Other Things to Note About Pricing
Of course, product prices need factoring in. Like Printful, these vary, but here are some examples:
- Men’s t-shirts: from $9.33 to $18.72
- Phone cases: from $7.57 to $12.81
- Bags: from $11.70 to $16.38
Again, prices depend on where you’re delivering.
Printful Print Quality
Printful is committed to its product quality. It implements a three-step quality check before any order is shipped out. First, automated software checks for the quality of graphics in a design, and AI evaluates whether the image needs adjusting. Next, a fulfillment specialist checks the quality while orders are being fulfilled, and finally, they run a quality check after the blank product is customized.
Printful also regularly invests in the newest technology for sustainable products and fashion, purchasing the right equipment for each product type. They have embroidery machines, MS printers and inks, inlet printers, UV printers, and more available to them.
If you’re unsure about product quality, you can order sample items with a 20% discount.
Gelato Print Quality
Gelato’s website is eager to emphasize that it aligns with international standards and encourages sustainable production. Although its website doesn’t list which brands it works with, it does tell you about each product’s quality. When you choose the product you want, e.g., a classic unisex hoodie, you can view information about its style (where the seams are, what the fit is) and how thick and soft the fabric is. There are also details about the product's noteworthy features, such as a front pouch.
Gelato selects each print partner not on price but on quality, professionalism, and production excellence.
However, Gelato doesn’t offer any discounts on sample orders, so the best you can do is buy your own product at full price.
Printful Best-Selling Products
Product popularity varies depending on seasons and generally what’s trending. However, Printful helpfully offers some insight into its trending products in 2023. Here you can see some of its best-selling products:
- Wall Art
- Premium t-shirts
Printful’s product catalog also showcases best-selling products and, at the time of writing, these were a range of apparel, including:
- Unisex t-shirt
- Enhanced matte paper poster
- White glossy mug
- Classic dad hat
Gelato Best-Selling Products
Gelato also offers guidance on its best-selling products. Its top items so far for 2023 are:
- Ceramic mugs and drinkware
- Ready to hang framed posters and wall art
- Personalized apparel
- Tote bags
- Phone cases
Also, when you search Gelato’s product catalog, in each category, Gelato labels its best sellers. So, for example, when I searched for t-shirts, I saw that the heavyweight unisex crewneck t-shirt was a bestseller.
Other bestsellers at the time of writing include:
- Classic unisex crewneck sweatshirt
- Premium matte paper wooden frame poster
- White 11oz ceramic mug
Printful vs Gelato: My Final Thoughts
That's it for my Printful vs Gelato review. Both platforms have lots to offer. However, if pushed to choose, I’d go for Printful.
Although I like Gelato’s design tool, product catalog, commitment to sustainability, and links with high-quality print suppliers, Printful is more established and offers premium branded products. In addition, its design tool is super simple to use.
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