What is Print On Demand and How it Works

What is Print On Demand and How it Works 1

With the start of the 21st century, numerous print on demand or on-demand printing businesses began to appear, courtesy of modern-day technology and, of course, ecommerce.

This business model was and remains pretty popular with books, but it later became applicable to many other products such as t-shirts, shoes, backpacks, and so forth. It even made it to the water bottles industry.

As the name implies, print-on-demand services revolve around printing copies of products upon demand, meaning you have to place an order for the service provider to print whichever product you choose.

In the world of clothing, this business model translates into printing customized apparel for the same product, which is why you’ll often see people wearing exact replicas of the same shirt or backpack, but each one has a different brand name printed on it.

In this article, we cover all you need to know about print-on-demand(POD) services, from what they are and how they operate to the difference between them and drop-shipping services, so you should stick around for a while.

What Is Print on Demand?

We’ve already touched briefly on the business model of print-on-demand services, but let’s dive a little deeper, shall we?

With print-on-demand services, the sale has to be made in order for the product to be acquired, customized, produced, and shipped to the customer.

The process consists of three main steps:

  • Creativity – For a POD business to start, products should first be designed, created, and displayed on the online store respective to the business.
  • Production – Next, upon receiving an order, the service prints the ordered product with the aid of a print provider.
  • Delivery – The delivery process, also known as the fulfillment process, is when the item is packaged and shipped to the customer after having been printed.

The print-on-demand business model has become extremely popular for one main reason, and that reason is that it requires no inventory whatsoever. It enables you to print custom merch in small quantities and send them directly to the customer.

At Designous, you can find many of our on-demand printing designs for t-shirts, face masks, posters, event invitations, and more, but as we’ve already established, the print-on-demand printing business model can be applied to a variety of products, from mugs and backpacks to shoes and pillows.

Another great aspect about on-demand printing is that, with the proper fulfillment model, orders go directly to the print provider after a purchase has been made, which helps eliminate the need for storage and fulfillment space. This also ensures speedy product delivery and ideal customer satisfaction.

Imagine the world before the model of POD came to fruition, where businesses had to spend a ton of money on inventory, staff, point of sales systems, and actual brick-and-mortar stores. All of the losses associated with establishing all of the aforementioned factors are eliminated with the print-on-demand business model.

Print on Demand vs. Drop-Shipping

Drop-shipping is when the orders are passed on from the service provider to the partner that’s responsible for delivering the order to the customer. Drop-shipping eliminates the expenses of inventory storage and can actually complement current inventories if present.

This sounds a lot similar to POD, right? Well, the striking difference between the two methods is that POD businesses don’t even initiate the production or fulfillment processes until an order or payment has been processed from a client. This helps decrease waste and expenses.

With drop-shipping, products may still be produced in bulk and stocked until they’re ready to be shipped, which could result in waste products if not managed properly. Per contra, there are no products made in bulk ahead of time with the POD business model.

The difference between POD and drop-shipping business is a bit subtle, as you can see, which is why a lot of POD businesses are categorized as drop-shipping businesses.

Another major difference between POD and drop-shipping business is the time taken to deliver the order to the customer. With drop-shipping, the product is already on the shelf, ready to be packaged and shipped, whereas with on-demand printing, the product must first be produced before it’s packaged and shipped, which takes some time that factors in the delivery process.

How Do Print on Demand Services Manage Inventory?

POD businesses might not require space for stocking inventory, but they’re still an inventory management system, and like any inventory management system, it’s important for on-demand printing businesses to figure out a way to maximize profit while minimizing risks.

With POD businesses, the process of managing inventory is comparatively simple when you consider the process of other businesses. As an example, for a POD business that revolves around producing t-shirts, the only type of inventory that they require is probably going to be different size plain t-shirts.

There are POD businesses that utilize the JIT inventory model, which is an acronym for Just in Time. This model helps reduce overhead expenses while ensuring the idleness of the different production factors so that the production process doesn’t take too long.

How to Use Print on Demand with Designious?

Designious is one of the best POD platforms because it grants you access to over 3.000 ready t-shirt templates that you can utilize right away. Further, there are literally thousands of vector elements that you can incorporate to customize your designs of preference.

The platform features a range of tools that simplifies the process of customizing ready-made templates.

So can you start using our designs on Designious? Well, it’s quite simple. First of all, you want to sign up for a membership with Designious to get started. Membership will grant you unlimited access to many premade designs. It’ll also grant you access to the platform’s online designer.

Next, if you want to launch your own POD business, you can download some of the designs on Designious that you think your target audience will like. You can edit them beforehand if they’re not exactly the way you want them to be.

From there, you upload the downloaded designs to various online marketplaces or you can use them to start and promote your own platform.

What Products Are Easy to Start a POD Business With?

To succeed as a POD business, you have to provide top-notch quality and unique designs. This entails starting with a product that’s relatively easy to work with and that’s susceptible to plenty of customization options.

Generally, apparel is the best type of product for the POD business models, especially t-shirts. For starters, apparel, specifically t-shirts, are always in demand, so you’re guaranteed to sell if you provide high-quality products.

Once you’ve started to garner traction and make sales by printing your designs on t-shirts, you can take your best-selling designs and print them on other types of products, from pillows and mugs to backpacks and footwear.

Another product that’s extremely profitable with the POD business is books. It doesn’t require as much creativity and uniqueness as with apparel. It basically revolves around printing a copy of a certain book upon receiving an order.

Pros and Cons of the Print on Demand Business Model


  • Easy Setup – Getting a POD business up and running is extremely easy. All you have to do is sign up, create a profile, and list your products. No brick-and-mortar store required and no warehousing activities whatsoever.
  • No Inventory Expenses – Products such as books and apparel are printed and shipped to the customer on demand, meaning the inventory is all digital. You can forget all about stock costs with the on-demand printing business model.
  • Customization – You can limitlessly customize a single product. Certainly, it all depends on the vendor and the product it is, but with proper selection, you’ll be able to customize products to the max.
  • Smooth Fulfillment – Order fulfillment with POD services is as smooth as can be. You won’t have to be involved in the process of getting the item in the hands of the customer.


  • Lower Profit Margins – The cost of goods with POD services is slightly higher than the cost of goods with wholesale, which results in lower margins.
  • Limited Product Types – The variety of products that you can sell is governed entirely by the offerings of the POD provider you’re utilizing.
  • Limited Data – Data is limited in the print-on-demand business model, which may deter people who prefer to make business decisions based on curated market data.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the information shared in this post has helped familiarize you with the on-demand printing business model. If you are looking to start a Print on Demand business we try to make it easy.