Spreadshirt vs. Competitors: Which Platform Is Right for YOU? (Series)

The world of print-on-demand (POD) is booming. Artists, entrepreneurs, and anyone with a creative spark can design and sell their products without the hassle of inventory, production, or shipping. However, with the abundance of platforms vying for your attention, choosing the best POD service can feel like navigating a labyrinth. This blog post series aims to be your compass, guiding you through the intricate landscape of Spreadshirt and other popular POD platforms like Etsy, Redbubble, Zazzle, Gelato, Shopify, Printify, Printful, and Teespring. We’ll analyze each platform, weighing their pros and cons, and help you determine which one best aligns with your unique business aspirations and goals.

Table of Contents:

  1. Active vs. Passive POD – Understanding the Core Difference
  2. Deep Dive into Active POD Platforms – Comparing the Top Players
  3. Exploring Passive POD Platforms – Unveiling the Marketplace Giants
  4. Additional Considerations for Choosing the Right POD Platform
  5. Conclusion & Recommendations

Part 1: Active vs. Passive POD – Understanding the Core Difference

Before we dive into specific platforms, let’s establish a fundamental understanding of the two main POD approaches: active and passive.

Active POD:

Imagine building your own online empire. With active POD, you are the architect, crafting a unique brand identity through your own website. You become a marketing maestro, driving traffic through social media campaigns, paid advertising, and content marketing. Customer service becomes your art form, ensuring a seamless and delightful experience for every buyer. This approach demands significant time, effort, and investment, but it offers the highest potential for brand control and profit. Platforms like Shopify, Etsy (integrated with Printful or Printify), and Woocommerce empower you to take the active POD route.

Passive POD:

If active POD feels like scaling a mountain, passive POD is more akin to a leisurely stroll. You design, upload, and let the platform do the heavy lifting. Giant marketplaces like Amazon Merch on Demand, Redbubble, or Teepublic handle attracting customers, managing orders, and addressing customer inquiries. This approach is significantly easier to get started with, requiring minimal upfront investment, but it often means lower profit margins and less control over branding and pricing.

Which Model is Right for You?

The choice between active and passive POD hinges on various factors, including your available time, financial resources, technical skills, marketing experience, and brand aspirations. Do you crave creative autonomy and the potential for high profits, or do you prefer a more streamlined, hands-off approach? Carefully weigh these factors to determine which model aligns best with your entrepreneurial vision.

Part 2: Deep Dive into Active POD Platforms – Comparing the Top Players

For those embracing the active POD route, several platforms stand ready to empower your journey. Let’s examine some of the key players.


A veteran in the POD space, Spreadshirt offers a platform with global reach and robust customization tools. Their product range extends beyond apparel, encompassing accessories, home decor, and more.

Key Features:

  • Extensive product catalog with diverse printing options.
  • User-friendly design tools for creating and customizing products.
  • Global production and fulfillment network, reducing shipping costs.
  • Marketing tools and promotional opportunities for driving sales.


  • Long-established platform with a global reach.
  • Strong emphasis on product customization and personalization.
  • Integrated marketing solutions for brand promotion.


  • Profit margins can be lower compared to platforms like Printify.
  • Limited branding options for creating a unique store experience.

Shopify (with Printful or Printify)

Shopify reigns supreme in the realm of e-commerce, providing powerful tools for building a professional online store. Integrating Printful or Printify seamlessly extends Shopify’s capabilities into the world of POD.

Key Features:

  • Robust e-commerce platform with customizable themes and apps.
  • Seamless integration with Printful and Printify for automated order fulfillment.
  • Marketing and analytics tools for optimizing your store’s performance.


  • Comprehensive e-commerce solution with a vast ecosystem of apps.
  • Freedom to design and control your brand identity and store experience.
  • Powerful analytics for tracking and improving your business.


  • Monthly subscription fees for using the Shopify platform.
  • Requires a learning curve for mastering Shopify’s features.

Etsy (with Printful or Printify)

Etsy is a thriving marketplace for handmade and unique goods, offering a built-in audience of shoppers seeking creative products. Integrating with Printful or Printify transforms your Etsy shop into a POD powerhouse.

Key Features:

  • Access to Etsy’s large and engaged customer base.
  • Integration with Printful and Printify for easy order fulfillment.
  • Marketing and promotional tools within the Etsy platform.


  • Leverage Etsy’s existing audience and established marketplace reputation.
  • Benefit from organic traffic and search visibility within Etsy.
  • Lower barrier to entry compared to building a standalone store.


  • Marketplace fees and transaction charges for selling on Etsy.
  • Limited branding options within the Etsy platform.

Part 3: Exploring Passive POD Platforms – Unveiling the Marketplace Giants

For those seeking a more hands-off approach, passive POD marketplaces offer a streamlined path to getting your designs in front of customers.


Redbubble is a vibrant marketplace dedicated exclusively to print-on-demand products. It boasts a vast and diverse customer base, attracting artists and shoppers from all corners of the globe.

Key Features:

  • Extensive product catalog with apparel, home decor, accessories, and more.
  • Artist-friendly platform with customizable profiles and branding options.
  • Global production and fulfillment network, reaching a wide audience.
  • Regular sales and promotional events for driving sales.


  • Large and engaged customer base with a strong affinity for independent art.
  • Easy upload process and a wide array of product options.
  • Robust search functionality and internal marketing efforts by Redbubble.


  • Lower profit margins compared to active POD approaches.
  • Competition from other artists selling similar designs.


Owned by Redbubble, Teepublic shares many similarities with its parent platform, but it specializes in T-shirts and apparel, offering a more focused marketplace for artists.

Key Features:

  • Streamlined upload process specifically designed for T-shirt designs.
  • Fixed royalty rates for all products, eliminating price undercutting.
  • Frequent sales events and promotional opportunities for driving sales.


  • Simple and intuitive platform with a focus on T-shirt designs.
  • Fixed royalties, providing consistent earnings per sale.
  • Regular sales events with high traffic volume.


  • Limited product catalog compared to Redbubble or Society6.
  • Fixed royalty rates may not be as lucrative as flexible margin options.

Amazon Merch on Demand

Amazon Merch on Demand offers artists a unique opportunity to tap into the colossal reach of the Amazon ecosystem. Your designs become part of the world’s largest online marketplace, benefiting from Amazon’s established trust and unparalleled logistical capabilities.

Key Features:

  • Access to Amazon’s vast customer base and Prime shipping benefits.
  • Simplified upload process and product listing creation.
  • Automated order fulfillment and customer service handled by Amazon.


  • Immense reach and potential for high sales volume.
  • Leverage Amazon’s brand reputation and customer trust.
  • Prime shipping options for attracting customers.


  • Invite-only program, requiring application and approval.
  • Limited branding options and artist control.
  • Prone to design copying and price undercutting.

Other Notable Passive POD Platforms

The POD landscape is constantly evolving, with new platforms emerging and existing ones evolving to meet the demands of creators and shoppers. Platforms like Society6, Displate, Threadless, Zazzle, DesignByHumans, TeeFury, and many others offer diverse product catalogs, unique features, and specialized niches. Explore these platforms to discover hidden gems that may perfectly complement your brand and designs.

Part 4: Additional Considerations for Choosing the Right POD Platform

Beyond the fundamental difference between active and passive POD, there are several other factors you should consider when making your decision. These factors can significantly impact your profitability, customer satisfaction, and overall success in the competitive POD world.

Product Range and Customization

The product catalog and customization options offered by different POD platforms can vary greatly. Some platforms like Teepublic focus primarily on apparel, while others like Redbubble offer a more diverse range, including home decor, accessories, and stationery. Consider the types of products you want to sell and the level of customization you require. Do you need a platform that offers multiple print providers, product variants, and color options? Or are you content with a more streamlined catalog with limited choices? Carefully assess the product offerings to ensure they align with your creative vision and target audience.

Production Techniques

Different production techniques produce distinct looks and feels for your products. The most common technique is Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing, where ink is directly sprayed onto the fabric, allowing for intricate designs and vibrant colors. However, other techniques like sublimation, embroidery, and screen printing offer unique advantages. Sublimation creates all-over prints with a softer feel, embroidery adds a touch of elegance, and screen printing is ideal for bulk orders with simpler designs. Depending on your artistic style and target market, you might prefer a platform that specializes in a particular production technique. For example, if you are a pattern designer looking for vibrant all-over prints, a platform specializing in sublimation might be a better choice than one focused solely on DTG.

Branding and Marketing Options

Your brand identity is crucial for standing out in the crowded POD marketplace. Different platforms offer varying levels of control over branding elements like custom labels, packaging, and promotional materials. Some platforms allow for white-label shipping, while others might include their own branding on packages and packing slips.
Additionally, some platforms offer marketing tools like discount codes, email marketing integration, or social media sharing features. If you are building a distinct brand, prioritize a platform that provides the flexibility and control you need to shape your brand image and connect with your customers.

Shipping Costs and Turnaround Times

Shipping costs and turnaround times directly impact your profit margins and customer satisfaction. Some platforms offer flat-rate shipping, while others calculate costs based on weight, destination, and shipping method. Faster shipping options often come with higher costs, so you need to find a balance between speed and affordability. Additionally, some platforms have stricter production timelines than others, which can affect how quickly you can fulfill orders. During peak seasons like holidays, production times can increase significantly, leading to potential delays and frustrated customers. Before committing to a platform, carefully assess their shipping options, average turnaround times, and policies during busy periods to ensure they meet your expectations and align with your business goals.

Customer Service and Support

In the world of POD, where production and fulfillment are often handled by third-party providers, responsive and efficient customer service is paramount. Issues with orders, printing errors, or shipping delays can arise, and you need a platform that provides reliable support to address these concerns. Look for platforms that offer multiple support channels like email, live chat, or phone support, along with comprehensive help documentation and resources.

Refunds and Returns

As with any e-commerce business, refunds and returns are an inevitable part of the POD landscape. Customers might be dissatisfied with the product quality, sizing, or design, leading to return requests. Each platform has its own refund and return policies, which can significantly impact your profit margins. Some platforms might offer free returns, while others might require customers to cover the shipping costs. Familiarize yourself with the refund policies and understand the potential financial implications before selecting a platform.

Part 5: Conclusion & Recommendations

The best POD platform for you depends on your specific business goals, creative vision, and target audience.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur seeking creative control, higher profit potential, and the ability to build a unique brand, active POD platforms like Shopify, Etsy (integrated with Printful or Printify), or Woocommerce offer the tools and flexibility you need. However, these platforms require a greater investment of time, effort, and financial resources to drive traffic, manage your store, and handle customer service.

If you prefer a simpler, more hands-off approach with a lower barrier to entry, passive POD marketplaces like Amazon Merch on Demand, Redbubble, Teepublic, Society6, or Displate provide an easier path to getting your designs in front of customers. However, these platforms often come with lower profit margins, less branding control, and greater competition.

Here’s a concise summary of each platform and their ideal target users:

  • Printful: Best for those seeking quality, consistency, and control over branding. Ideal for established sellers and those comfortable with higher product costs.
  • Printify: Best for budget-conscious sellers seeking competitive pricing and a diverse product catalog. Ideal for beginners and those comfortable with managing multiple print providers.
  • Gelato: Best for international sellers and those focused on poster and art prints. Offers a good balance between affordability and automated order routing.
  • Spreadshirt: Best for sellers seeking global reach and robust customization tools. Offers a diverse catalog but with potentially lower profit margins.
  • Shopify: Best for building a standalone e-commerce store with full brand control. Requires monthly subscription fees and a learning curve.
  • Etsy: Best for leveraging an existing marketplace audience with a focus on unique and handmade goods. Requires marketplace fees and transaction charges.
  • Redbubble: Best for artists seeking a large and diverse audience with a strong affinity for independent art. Offers flexible margins and artist branding options.
  • Teepublic: Best for artists focused on T-shirt designs seeking a simple and streamlined upload process. Offers fixed royalties and frequent sales events.
  • Amazon Merch on Demand: Best for artists seeking access to Amazon’s massive customer base and Prime shipping benefits. Requires an invite-only application and comes with limited branding control.

Ultimately, your success in the POD world depends on your unique designs, effective marketing, and a deep understanding of your target audience. Carefully weigh these factors, experiment with different platforms, and find the one that best empowers your creative journey and entrepreneurial vision.