← Back to Blog Home

Comparing artist profit on Society6 and Printful

By Julia Gifford - Reading time: 3 minutes

It’s no secret that artists seem to have the most difficult time to find a steady source of income. As a result, sites like Society6 and Redbubble, where artists can upload their designs and people can buy them on all sorts of print products, have become a standard.

Regular people can browse the products and buy them online on the sites’ stores, and the items usually go for market price (like $22 for a tote bag). After talking to our friend Arpi, an artist that sells on Society6, I was shocked to find how small the cut of the profit is for the artists.

That prompted this blog post, a monetary data-based look at the differences in profit margins between using Society6, and what you stand to gain by using Printful. Artists deserve more, so why not work a little for it?

To get a fair and unbiased perspective of the profit opportunities between a platform like Society6 and Printful, we’re setting up virtual stores for an imaginary artist who’s selling their products online.

Setting up our imaginary store

In both “stores” we’ll set up a few products. We chose products that are available on both platforms so that we can compare the two experiences more easily.

The products we’ll sell in our imaginary store are:

  • Canvas print
  • Framed art print
  • Throw pillow
  • Mug
  • Sublimation tote bag
  • T-shirt
  • Art print (8×10″ on Printful, 8×9″ on Society6)
  • Square art print (12×12 on printful, 13×13 on Society6)

How the math works

The main difference between Printful and Society6 in terms of understanding the pricing is that Printful tells you how much you’re the product + printing costs, and then you can add your own profit.

Here’s we’ll set the prices – they’ll be the Society6 prices that they themselves set, as well as a poster price that our artist friend Arpi sets for herself. Then we’ll calculate the profit the artist makes from selling the same item on both platforms.

To calculate the profit margin percentage, we used the following formula and then found the average between all of the products:

profit ÷ price the product is sold = profit margin

Price you sell at

Profit with Printful

Profit with Society6

Canvas Print

Framed art print (18×24″)

Throw pillow

Mug (15oz)

Sublimation tote

T-shirt

Art print (mini)

Square art print (small)

$85

$80

$20

$20

$22

$22

$24.96

$31.20

$30

$30

$3

$6

$7

$6

$17.96

$22.20

$8.50

$9.10

$2

$2

$2.20

$2.20

$11.96

$18.20

Average profit margin

39.75%

20.75%

Profit margins speak the truth

After evaluating the profit margin for both platforms, selling comparable products at the same price, the Society6 margin is always 10% except for the art prints, where they let you set your own price (and therefore brings up the average profit margin). While the Printful profit margin is an average of %28.5 (the lowest margin being for throw pillows at 15%, while the highest is for framed art prints, at a 37% margin).

Even in comparison with Nuvango, a similar platform that offers artists’ work on products like phone/laptop/tablet skins, they only make a 20% profit. That’s still less than the Printful option, and more than the 10% Society6 standard profit cut.

Other expenses to take into consideration

Of course when creating your own store there are other expenses that take a portion of your profit margin.

– domain
– hosting
– design/maintenance
– ecommerce fee (if using Shopify or Bigcommerce)

Say you sell 20 t-shirts in a month. With Printful profit margins you’d be making $120, while with Society6 you’d be making $44.

Your yearly expense for a regular domain and basic hosting would be about $17 for your domain and $3.95/month for hosting (based on regular BlueHost prices). Divide the $17 by 12 months and you’re left with $1.40/month payment.

Your expenses:

$1.40 – domain
$3.95 – hosting
$29 – ecommerce platform (if you’re using Shopify or BigCommerce

Total expenses: $34.35

From your $120 profit subtract your extra expenses, and you’re left with your total profit:

Total profit: $85.65

Reasons artists still use Society6

An artist is just that – an artist. Not necessarily a graphic designer or skilled photoshop’er. One of the biggest draws to Society6 is the simplicity of setting up all of the different products. Rather than adjusting your image and preparing mockups for every design you have, and for every product you add it on. You upload your design, and Society6 automatically prepares the images for all of the products for you.

But artists that are looking towards making a bigger profit margin through Prinful can rest easy – our new feature, the Mockup Generator, is expanding every day. You can already easily generate your t-shirt, tank and poster mockup images, and other products are coming soon.

generator

Are you willing to work for it?

As an artist, of course it makes sense for your designs to be seen by the world and maybe even profit a little bit, rather than gathering dust in your closet. The question is, do you want to put little effort into it for little profit, or are you ready to put a little bit more effort into it to create your own store, and double your profit? It’s up to you.

 

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to updates

Get actionable drop shipping advice in your inbox

You can unsubscribe at any time with a single click
  1. Roderick Esrey

    Thanks for this article. But are you really comparing apples to apples? For instance, it looks as if Society6 is using American Apparel (both 100% cotton and Tri-Blend Jerseys). Are you not charging $16.00 to print on American Apparel? Plus, you charge $5.50 to ship one shirt. Society6 offers free shipping on shirts. So when I add your costs, the total is $21.50. Therefore, I would need to accept fifty cents profit in order to compete with Society6 pricewise. And that doesn’t include my website expenses–which are closer to $300 per year. Am I calculating something wrong?

  2. Julia Gifford Post author

    Hi Roderick,
    Thanks for stopping by! As for your comment about shipping – that’s an extra expense that the customer pays for, not necessarily covered by you and therefore doesn’t eat into your profit.
    On another note, I tried to order a Society6 t-shirt, and it asked for $5 shipping to our US address. I’d say that the shipping is quite comparable.
    Cheers,
    Julia

    1. Josh

      The thing about Society6 and shipping is that they very often have free shipping deals. Also the paper Society6 uses for prints is of higher quality.

      Here’s their description, “Gallery quality Giclée prints on natural white, matte, ultra smooth, 100% cotton rag, acid and lignin free archival paper”

      Printful:
      Paper
      Epson Enhanced Matte Paper
      Heavyweight stock
      10.3 mil thick

      Now once the print is framed it doesn’t really matter but when a customer receives the print a more substantial paper can have an effect on a feeling of quality.

  3. Roderick Esrey

    Wow, you’re right! I just went through the Society6 ordering process and it asked me for the $5.00 shipping fee just before the checkout.

    Thanks for the clarification.
    Roderick

  4. Pingback: Comparing artist profit: Fine Art America vs. Printful | Blog - Printful

  5. Chichi

    Thank you for the article!!
    I am thinking of selling my art as a young artist trying to make profits for college.
    Which site do you think I should sell my art on and why? How much time and work does Printful ask for? Since I am currently doing quite an amount of work I would like to know. The society 6 profit seems really small but which one would benefit me and my situation?

    1. Andy Fawcett

      hi Chichi,

      I saw that no-one has replied to your comment so thought i would. I use printful for my products to sell direct from my website (www.designuntapped.com) and I have also registered to begin using society6. As a new website the difficulty is generating traffic to your page. No traffic = no sales prospects. Setting up your own platform takes time to start getting traffic. Society6 is a known platform that may offer less profit but will give you exposure. Maybe start generating instagram followers and upload to society6 initially, once you have a sufficient following then start your own page and use your existing following to drive traffic to your webpage.

      I love printfulls interface and like the mock-up features. Have yet to upload to society6 so can’t comment yet.

      Hope this helps

  6. Pingback: Printful Review: Possibly the Easiest Way to Sell Your Prints

  7. Bill

    I second Carol’s question – I just came here at Cory Huff’s suggestion and loved when you broke down the profit potential for each item, but all the shirts I saw on your products page were at least $12.75, making the profit on a t-shirt substantially less than you claim. Were you using a ‘very large’ volume discount? The cost of the t-shirt gets awfully hefty for the consumer when the artist starts with such a high price and they throw in $5 shipping.

  8. Aldo

    This is extremely biased…as if it was easy to sell on your own. If you have experience on e-commerce, generating traffic is very expensive and difficult, not to mention tedious. Its not like you are going to sell the same quantity on your own…true, profits are smaller, but with them at least you have the option to sell more, so whats better? profiting 40% of 60 or 20% of 200?

    selling 20 shirts in a month is also a lot!!!! Conversion rates for clothes stores are very very low, between 0.5-1%

  9. Saqib Ahmad

    I was thinking to be part of society6. As I have already a graphic design resources website but, The main thing is traffic to it. I don’t think it will be easier to sell? Anyone there who made something from this website please do let me know.

  10. Sally

    I would love LOVE love to use Printful. Any chance you will be opening a print house in Australia, so us Aussie artists can get in on the action? =) Wish we had something like you in our backyard.

  11. Ums

    This article is so far from comparing apples to apples. Julia you have conveniently skipped the most crucial thing required to start your own shop!!! MARKETING. Sotes like Society6 are NOT taking too much from us artists because they spend loads of money on marketing our designs through SEO, Ads, email campsigns and even posting our design to sites like ebay, Amazon etc. A site without a marketing budget like theirs or even similar efforts and time will stand no chance against a well established company like Society6. I know for sure because I have done both for years and then decided to stick with licending and not selling myself. Noce article for advertising Printful services though.

    1. Julia Gifford Post author

      Hi Ums, absolutely, there’s isn’t a doubd that marketplaces can serve as platform where you can be discovered. Perhaps earlier on this was easier, but now these marketplaces are so oversaturated, that it’s difficult to get any attention on them.

      In my experience, to be featured on these marketplaces and to really benefit from the marketplace aspect, you still have to put in a lot of effort to gain traction within that marketplace. And if you’re going to put lots of effort into it, you might as well be doing it for your own store, where you also own your contacts, rather than having the marketplace pitch them different stores afterwards. All in all, it comes down to personal preference. Good luck with your stores! Your designs look fantastic 🙂

  12. Daniel Feldman

    Does anyone know if an artist you can pull the artwork from Society6 or Printful if a manufacturer wants to license it? Doesn’t the artist lose a little control of the art work when other manufacturers can link up with these companies and produce your art?

    1. Julia Gifford Post author

      Hey Daniel, an answer to this should be in your inbox 🙂 But for anyone else that’s wondering, when you sell your art through Printful, you have 100% ownership. Printful will never print of license out your art to any other manufacturers, and it will only be printed if an order for it has come in from you our your store.

  13. JB

    Thanks for the informative article, Julia. I’ve especially enjoyed reading through the comments. I’d like to add my two cents regarding selling designs on someone else’s platform versus selling on your own website. As noted by other commenters, there are pros and cons to each approach. A site like Society6 can provide instant exposure for an unknown artist. But realize you’ll be a small fish in a big pond. Or a needle in a haystack. (Use whichever analogy you prefer.)

    In my opinion, Society6 is probably a better option for artists who just want some side income with minimal effort — who aren’t interested in building a “brand.” Whereas creating your own website and brand gives you better long term potential, assuming you’re willing to invest the time in building a great site, managing it and doing you’re own marketing.

    I’m in the beginning stages of selling my artwork and I’ve decided to create my own brand/site. It may grow slowly, but I’m in it for the long haul and have total confidence in eventual success. Of course, my background is in marketing, so I’ve already got some knowledge and experience in that area. But honestly, marketing is a learned skill. There are resources out there (books, videos, podcasts) that teach you how to do it effectively.

    Another nice thing about building your own brand and site is that you own it and you’ll never be a victim if a store platform decides to change their policies, prices or shut down or whatever. Case in point: some brands (like Coke and others) defunded their own brand websites 6 or 7 years ago and focused all their content/engagement on Facebook. They’re sort of regretting it now, since they must pay to reach their fans (which used to be free). Organic reach on FB is like 6 percent and will eventually be zero percent. Many of those brands have had to reinvest in their own websites again, at great cost. If they had focused on their own sites from the beginning and not chase the social networking darling of the moment, they could have built email lists, owned their relationships and become bigger destination sites.

    The point is, beware of making your living on other people’s platforms.

    If you’re a serious full-time artist with dreams of going big, build your own brand/site. If you’re a part time artist looking for side income, then perhaps sell your stuff on Society6 or similar platforms. Just my opinion.

    By the way, I’m not a Printful customer yet. But I’m kind of leaning that way.

    1. Julia Gifford Post author

      Hey JB, you couldn’t have said it better! I absolutely agree with you on all points. I think that those artists who are playing the long game should be looking at having their own platform, rather than giving away their leads to huge sites like Redbubble and Society6.

      Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help with getting started with Printful 🙂

  14. MT

    Printful seems like a perfect solution for me, BUT – shipping fees to Europe ruin this all:/ Especially in the situation when 50% of artist’s customers are based in EU:( Are you planning to set the production base also in Europe, so ordering from here makes more sense? 🙂

    1. Nora Inveiss

      That’s a great question! We do hope to eventually open multiple locations around the world. We’re starting out with a new location on the East Coast first and then we’ll see from there!

  15. JE

    Hi Nora, I’m very glad that I stumbled upon this page. The article and comments have all been very helpful reading. I’m a uk based artist looking to set up and having done a lot of research into POD options am now of the mind that a Printful with shoplift or woo commerce solution is probably my best bet. However, to reiterate MT’s concerns regards shipping to the uk/Eu, I’m concerned that cost and shipping times will be off-putting to my potential customers. I see on the Printful website that (for a T-shirt) the basic international tracked shipping costs $10 (bout £7.6) and takes 7-16 days whereas basic untracked shipping costs $2.80 (£2.2) but could take between 10-20 days delivery. Is this correct?
    I think many people would be tempted to go with the cheaper option, however If someone bought a T of mine using the untracked economy option and it didn’t arrive what would happen? Would they lose it because of the lack of tracking?

  16. Nicky

    JE,
    If you are UK based try looking into Art Rookie, which is based in the UK. I do a lot of UK art (though I am currently based in Toronto) and I found them on Twitter. Shipping from North America to the UK is very expensive so if you can find a POD there you’re golden. They followed me. I was in the middle of building my own site so haven’t yet had the time to upload on that platform, but you could also follow them on Twitter and see. I am @nickyjameson on Twitter.
    I have also used Fine Art America who have print fulfilment in the UK. But they don’t do mugs and tee shirts and with them you are a very small fish in an enormous pond….literally thousands of artists, plus people can hop off your page to another artist very easily. It’s almost impossible to make sales there.
    Nicky

  17. Carla

    If you have your own website wouldn’t you have to find the suppliers to make the items you are marketing, like the pillow cover or mug?

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Hey Carla, that’s where Printful comes in! You can connect your store with us, and then we print and ship products to your customers when orders come in.

      1. Kevin

        I’d like to learn more about this. I host my graphic design portfolio on a custom HTML site and want to add a shop and blog this year. You said I can ‘connect’ to Printful, does that mean you have some sort of developer addon?

        1. Nora Inveiss

          Glad you’re interested! You can connect with Printful through our API or through one of our plug-and-play ecommerce platform integrations (with Shopify, WooCommerce, and others). If you have more questions, feel free to get in touch with support@printful.com – they’ll be happy to help!

  18. Mike

    Great article. What JB said “Another nice thing about building your own brand and site is that you own it and you’ll never be a victim if a store platform decides to change their policies, prices or shut down or whatever.” is so true.

    I sell my art on Cafepress and they have changed their policies numerous times – to the detriment of the artist/designer. You can state that you want 10%, but if you don’t follow so many people on the platform, or don’t upload a certain amount of designs per period, you’re 10% will be more like 2-3%. I sold 30 items in the last week alone, and my commission was pitiful. I believe I made $30. And that was selling mostly t-shirts and coffee mugs. With Redbubble, if you want 10% then that’s what you get. They are fair.

    It still makes more sense in the long run to go with your own website and use a service like Printful. I just signed up for Printful and will be using WordPress and Woocommerce to build my store and then letting Printful do the fulfillment. I’ve done my research and what it comes down to is control. I think it’s best to own your own website. It make take longer to get exposure but you just have to learn to market your site and if you are persistent with it, in the long run you will be better off. Earning $5-$10 per item is better than getting .50¢ -$1 per item any day, I don’t care how many items you sell!

  19. Susie Amadasun

    What is the best way to go about setting up an online store for an artist? Can this be done through Printful? Also, how can the artist get copyright for prints? I would appreciate some guidance on this. Thanks.

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Yes, you can open an online store through Printful! We integrate with some of the most popular ecommerce platforms, like Big Cartel, which is all about artists. So you open your store, connect it with Printful, and then we’ll print and ship your orders.

      I recommend talking to a lawyer about copyright – they’ll better inform you how to do it and whether you need it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published