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Comparing Artist Profit on Society6 and Printful

By Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s no secret that some artists have a difficult time finding a steady source of income as they can’t solely rely on freelance work coming their way.

As a result, they are becoming more fond of selling on Society6 or RedBubble. But is putting your artwork on platforms like this more profitable than selling it on your own online store?

To answer this question, we’ll be taking a monetary data-based look at the differences in profit margins between using Society6 and Printful.

How does Society6 work?

Society6 is an online marketplace that lets artists sell their artwork on a variety of products.

To start selling on Society6 you need to create and verify your account (there’s a $1 fee), upload your designs, and select the products you want to sell.

Society6 determines how much you can make for the sale of a given item. In most cases, artists earn 10% off the retail price (aka Society6 base price). However, for art prints, framed art, and canvas you can set your own price.

How does Printful work?

Printful is a print-on-demand drop shipper that integrates with multiple ecommerce platforms and marketplaces like Shopify, BigCommerce, Ebay, and more. This means that as an artist, you can launch your own store without having to worry about order fulfillment and shipping.

To start selling your art on printed products, you need to create an account on ecommerce platform of your choice and connect it to Printful. Then, add your designs to products and push them to your store with a price tag you set yourself.

When a customer buys something from your store, Printful charges you a set amount for the printing and the product itself. What’s left is your profit.

Products on Society6 vs Printful

Both platforms have similar product catalog. So, getting a fair and unbiased perspective of the profit opportunities between these two platforms is easy.

I’ve set up virtual stores for an imaginary artist who sells products online. Both stores offer:

  • Art print (8”x7” on Society6, 8×10” on Printful – $7)
  • Framed print (16”x17” on Society6, 16”x16” on Printful – $35)
  • Canvas (18”x16” on Society6, 16”x16” on Printful – $33.95)
  • Throw pillow
  • Mug
  • T-shirt
  • All-over print backpack
  • Custom phone cases

Making money on Society6 vs Printful

As mentioned before, Society6 lets you set up a markup price only for three products in their catalog: art prints, framed prints, and canvas. In this case the markup you set equals your earnings. However, if you select a $0 markup for these products, you won’t earn anything from those orders. For all the other products, Society6 uses their base prices, and you get a 10% royalty from each sale you make.

If you’re using Printful, you see how much each product and printing costs, and you can set your own retail price for it. So the main difference between Society6 and Printful in terms of pricing is that with Society6 you can’t control how much you earn from your artwork, while with Printful you can sell your art for how much you think it’s worth.

Now, to understand how this affects your earnings, let’s calculate the profit the artist would make by selling the same item on both platforms.

 Price you sell at (Society6 base price)Profit with PrintfulProfit with Society6
Art print$27.99 (w/ $10 markup)$20.99$10
Framed print$54.99 (w/ $15 markup)$19.99$15
Canvas$119.99 (w/ $20 markup)$86$20
Throw pillow$37.99$18.04$3.80
Mug$16.99$9.04$1.70
T-shirt$25.99$13.04$2.60
All-over print backpack$69.99$34.04$7
Sublimation tote bag$24.99$8.04$2.50
Phone case$35.99$25.04$3.60
Average profit margin*56%16%

*To calculate the average profit margin, we used the following formula: profit ÷ price the product is sold for = profit margin.

After evaluating the profit margin for both platforms when selling comparable products at the same price, the Society6 margin is always 10% except for art prints, framed prints, and canvases where they let you set your own price (and therefore bring up the average profit margin).

Meanwhile, the Printful profit margin is an average of 56%. The lowest margin being for sublimated tote bag at 32%, and the highest is for framed art prints at 75%.

Monthly store expenses to consider

While running your own online store gives you more freedom and control over the process, it also comes with extra expenses that take a portion of your profit.

Let’s take a look at some of the possible monthly expenses:

Total monthly expenses: $34.27

So, say you sell 20 t-shirts in a month. With Printful’s profit margins, you’d make $260, while with Society6 you’d make $52. Now subtract your monthly expenses from the $260 profit you make with Printful, and you’re left with the total profit of $225.73.

As you can see, even if you were running your own online store that comes with extra expenses, you’d make 334% more than when selling on Society6 ($52 vs $225.73). That’s a considerable difference.

The artist’s choice: Society6 vs Printful

Not every artist is necessarily a skilled Photoshop user or tech-savvy enough to launch and manage an online store themselves. So, one of the biggest draws to Society6 is the simplicity of setting up your store and all of the different products.

The process is pretty straightforward:

  1. Create and verify your account on Society6
  2. Upload your design once
  3. Select the products you want to sell
  4. Publish them on your store

Society6 automatically generates product images without you having to adjust your design size and prepare mockups for every product you want to sell. And so the only thing you need to worry about figuring out is how to direct your followers to your store on Society6, or how to get found in Society6 search.

But if you want to have more control over the products you sell and price tag you put on them, you should consider opening an online store with Printful.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Create an account on ecommerce platform of your choice
  2. Connect it to Printful
  3. Upload your design on the selected products (one product at a time)
  4. Push it to your store

It’s up to you to decide which ecommerce platform or marketplace you want to use to sell your products. You also have more say in what products you want to sell — not only product categories, but available variants (sizes, colors, etc.). Finally, you can build a stronger brand presence with white-label branding services.

Monetize your art

Whether you want to sell your art on Society6 or open your own online store is up to you. But if you believe that you deserve to earn more for the art you make, consider taking matters into your own hands. Doing so will also give you more creative freedom which is something you can’t get too much of.

This article was originally published in April 2015; it has since been updated.

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  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.

  20. Yohann

    Hey, nice comparison, and if I can add my experience with Society6, the customer service is very bad, since 2 months they don’t pay me for my art and past earnings (around 100$), so be very careful with this website…

  21. Karen

    This is very helpful information! I have been researching various printing companies and trying to decide where I should get my artwork printed to be able to sell to the public. I started to set up an account on Society 6 but wanted to research some more before I jumped in.
    Thank you again!
    Karen

  22. Rhayven

    Did my own study on this awhile back. The results were interesting. In 2 years I sold a total of 9 items (1 mug, 2 small tapestries, 1 large tapestry, 3 pouches, 1 iPhone case, 1 small art print) on Society6, only to gain a total of $29.80. -________-

    I just shook my head at how much money I could have gained off of those sales with Printful. Small tapestries alone cost around $45 with the bigger ones being at $85. The loss of money on prints between Society6 and Printful is relatively small since both allows you to set your own prices. But the bigger loss of money comes in with t-shirts, canvas prints, tapestries, etc. That’s when things get annoying.

    I will say this positive about Society6 (and it is something Printful is severely lacking) and that is the sheer amount of products available to artists. No company for artists comes even close to Society6s selection. Printful still doesn’t even have tough phone cases, nor full print hoodies, and the book bag quality is severely lacking compared to competitors.

    Because of the different types of products available at Society6, I see a lot of appeal for artists to use their service over Printful for that very reason alone. I have even been tempted to go back to it (I won’t because I actually like making money).

    Printful, as amazing as it is, has a lot of catching up to do.

    1. R’Rielle

      I definitely agree that their product selection is severely lacking. Everyone says Printful is the best, but I don’t see how with such a basic, limited selection. There are other companies with much more fashion forward style options and better pricing for better quality, especially with the sublimation items and leggings.

    2. Giedrė Kronberga

      Hi Rhayven! Thanks for the feedback. If you have a product in mind you’d like Printful to offer, submit it on our New Feature Request page. We’re constantly working on introducing new apparel and accessories.

      1. Diana

        Great, Giedre, I will once I start my POD via platform or print full. I’m a fashion designer as well.
        General question. If I create my own website (not WordPress, wix, etc), shall I manually place customer’s orders. Or can it be automatic too? Just starting, so afraid to mess it up.
        Thanks. Diana

    3. Emily Braun

      Your calculations did not include the monthly fees you would have paid printful to use their site. If you only sold 9 items in two years, wouldn’t you have actually lost money using them?

      1. Giedre Kronberga

        Hi Emily,

        Printful doesn’t have a monthly fee. You’re only paying for the product and fulfillment, and only when the order comes in 🙂

  23. Alicia Anthony

    I have worked with several POD companies for the last 10 years–primarily Spreadshirt and Zazzle. The frustrating part is that the artist really doesn’t make much per sale. You have to sell a LOT in order to make some real money and it is a good deal of work creating and describing items, especially if the design software isn’t easy to use. Since I’m now designing fabrics, I checked out Art of Where. WOW! The design software has a lot of options and, for the most part, I can create my products quickly. I’m able to flip the design and get things to look the way I want them. And the scarves move and you can see the mockups in 3d! Sweet! I only wish I could say the same for Printful! Trying to design women’s leggings in the Printful software is excruciating! I can’t flip, rotate, etc. I have a hard time lining things up so that the seam lines don’t look jacked up. It takes me so much longer to get the leggings to look the way I want them to–IF I can get them to look the way I want them to–than it does with Art of Where. Now, I have other problems with AOW, but their design software is, IMO, far superior to Printful. I’m going to check out Society6, but I’m not hopeful. Printful, please make your design software more intuitive, especially for items like leggings. I would pick Printful over AOW for sure for other reasons if designing leggings wasn’t such a pain!

    1. Giedrė Kronberga

      Thanks for the feedback, Alicia. We’re working on improving our generator, so the more feedback we get, the better!

    1. Giedrė Kronberga

      Hi Jesuel! I’m not sure I understand your question. But in case you’re interested to know whether you can manage your store through a mobile app – yes, that’s a possibility. The Printful app is available on App Store and Google Play: https://www.printful.com/app

  24. Marjolein Caljouw

    So true! This blogpost is great because it gives an honest comparison. The artist profit on society6 is crazylow. So.. I’m switching now to Printful because #1 better profit. #2 I don’t have to link customers to a marketplace but to my own shop. #3 I really like the fact that I can order a sample and make my own photoshoots and this will helps with telling the story. I hope that the products will expand a bit more with items like a triangle bikini or padded ones with cups? A sportbag, kimono, maybe shoes and stationery items, duvet cover and bathmat…!
    But I have a lot of options to start with, so I’m happy!

  25. shannon

    You forgot to consider printful’s shipping charges, which are high. When you take all the sweat equity required for printful and that sellers have to charge crazy shipping prices or eat them, society6 is just easier. I have time to do what I need to do to get products up. printful is a good service and i’m looking forward to updates.

    1. Edward Zarins

      Hey Shannon,
      Thanks for the comment. We use live shipping rates provided by the carriers and we’re not marking them up for our profit. 🙂

  26. Kathy

    Just now looking into printing my art. I have a shop on Etsy, selling my items to multiple states. Etsy is taking care of charging and collecting the sales tax now required on online sales. I suppose with your own online store, you would be responsible for charging, collecting and then paying the different states their taxes? But maybe Society6 takes care of this complicated process for you???? Just curious!!!

    1. Giedre Kronberga

      Hi Kathy,

      I’m not sure how the sales tax work with Society6, but you’re right, running your own online store comes with legal obligations.

      Now, each platform deals with sales tax differently, so I recommend you use your platform’s resources. Here’s Etsy’s: https://help.etsy.com/hc/en-us/sections/360000066248-Fees-Taxes?segment=selling and if you’re using Printful, you can read about sales tax here: https://www.printful.com/faq/sales-tax

  27. Ducky Rubin

    There is a structural error in this comparison, and it relates to our expenses as designers. Selling on sites such as Society6 or Redbubble, does not require a financial investment to build a website, buy a domain, pay commissions to marketplaces such Etsy, Amazon, Shopify, and other profit reducing factors (discounts, promotions, coupons). The net income is highly influenced by these factors, and sometimes tends to favor sites of the first type.

    1. Giedre Kronberga

      Hi Ducky,

      We actually included monthly expenses of running your own online store in the calculation. Please check “Monthly store expenses to consider” part 🙂

      1. Ducky Rubin

        Hi Giedre,
        These calculations are not realistic, don’t account for listing fees (Etsy), commissions (Shopify, Amazon, Etsy takes a commission on shipping fees too), promotions, sales events, etc.
        Plus, the time to run a store with full customer support, returns, loss of packages – all these worth lots of money.

        1. Giedre Kronberga

          I understand your concern, Ducky.

          This article is here to give some food for thought. Since each ecommerce platform and marketplace is slightly different, we can’t make a calculation that is accurate in every possible scenario. Hope you can understand.

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