Print on Demand Vs. Screen Printing

August 27, 2016

This is a common question asked throughout the internet ever since websites like Teespring and Shopify have been popping up. I’ll lay out the short answer right now: Print on demand is a great way to test the market, or test a design you think could work – but it’s a terrible business plan. Let me break it down for you…

Profit margins.

With print on demand printing, you don’t have to do anything except design and market the shirts. These companies handle all the printing, provide the webstore, even handle all the shipping arrangements, so you just sit back and collect a fat check right? Wrong! Print on demand shops charge a lot more per t-shirt than screen printing (enough to cover all their expenses and profits) so a basic t-shirt with one or two colors will cost you $15-$20, and then you get to mark up. Now the catch is, you can’t markup the price more than a dollar (and sometimes less than a dollar) to stay competitive in this brutal market, so to actually provide some sort of legitimate income you need to sell thousands or tens of thousands of t-shirts! Unless you’re some sort of design or social marketing guru, you’re going to have to spend money advertising which cuts even deeper into your profit margins. The plus side is there is no risk(or very little risk) involved. If your design botched and no one’s interested you’re not stuck with hundreds of shirts that you can’t move.

Screen printing on the other hand, yes you have to buy in bulk, but the cost per shirt greatly decreases. To follow up with the previous example, instead of going with print on demand for your one color printed shirt you screen print 24 shirts with Mutiny Ink. For our basic department store quality tee at that quantity would cost you $7.50 per shirt, $200 including shipping(we offer free shipping on orders over 72 pieces!) You could charge customers $15 per shirt to stay below the print on demand competition, and STILL make almost 100% markup. You increase the risk, but the rewards are much more appetizing! After all your other costs you’re looking at somewhere around 25% profits for this example – now imagine if you ordered 100 shirts instead of 24, saving $2.00 per shirt, and bumped up the price to $18.00 per shirt… You get the point.


A print on demand shop solely relies on digital printing otherwise known as DTG (Direct To Garment). DTG printers vary in different models and brands, price points and quality, much like your normal paper printers do. But even the best DTG printers struggle to compete with the quality of a highly experienced screen printer!

We here at Mutiny Ink only use water-based and discharge inks, that essentially make your design become one with the shirt by removing the shirt dye and replacing it with the ink. Our inks will always feel softer and last longer than print on demand shirts because their inks sit on top of the shirt. DTG printers also can’t do unique printing locations, most can’t print on sleeves, and they definitely can’t print over seams! (Ask us about printing over seams!)


Print on demand shops have a specific selection of t-shirts you can choose from. This is so they can order blanks in bulk and just pull what they need without having a ton of inventory. Custom screen printing shops always order their shirts when the order comes in, so we can get pretty much any shirt on the market for you – even if it’s not listed on our product page!


The choice between print on demand and screen printing can be a tough one! There is always a risk vs reward battle to be fought, but if you’re in it for the reward then screen printing is the way to go. As always if you have any questions, we’re always happy to help! Shoot us an email at and we’ll get back to you quickly. Or you can fill out our quote form here!

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