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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 does putting your artwork on platforms like this is 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. 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…

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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!

  6. 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. 🙂

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