The Printful Glossary: Key Ecommerce and Print-on-Demand Terms Defined
Whether you’re an online retail beginner or old hat, it can seem like new terms and phrases are popping up all the time. You might even feel like everyone else is speaking some secret ecommerce language!
To help you become fluent, we put together a list of over 70 terms you’re likely to encounter when using Printful and navigating the world of ecommerce. Consider this your official Printful Glossary.
General business terminology
If you’re experienced in ecommerce, you might already know what these terms mean and can just gloss over them. If not, here’s our crash course!
A shortened form of “electronic commerce”—refers to the transaction of buying or selling products online.
A store with a physical location as opposed to an online one. Advantages to brick-and-mortar businesses include offering personalized in-store experiences and seeing customers face-to-face.
A retailer with on- and offline stores. Large fashion retailers such as Nike, H&M, and Zara are examples of brick-and-click businesses, but smaller stores can also reap the benefits of having a presence in person and online.
Abbreviation of “mobile commerce,” meaning that customers use their phones or tablets to shop online. You can think of m-commerce as an extension or large subset of ecommerce that is constantly increasing in size and relevance.
Learn more about the importance of a mobile-friendly shopping experience.
This term comes from the brick-and-mortar context of having display windows to feature merchandise. In ecommerce, a storefront is the online space where you sell products, also known as a web store or online store.
The virtual space which holds your customers’ items while they’re shopping. You might be surprised at how many purchases are left unfinished, so check out these tips for reducing shopping cart abandonment.
The platform on which you set up your unique online store, like Shopify or WooCommerce. Printful connects with many popular platforms, and we even made an ecommerce platform comparison chart to help you find which one suits you best.
A website where third parties can sell their products to a wider audience. It’s different from an ecommerce platform because you’re not creating a dedicated store for only your brand, but you’re part of a collection of brands selling in one space.
The practice of selling in channels in addition to your online store. These can be online channels like marketplaces and social media sites, or offline channels like trade shows and pop-up shops.
Multichannel selling can be an asset to online business owners, so make sure to read more about how multichannel selling can increase sales.
The amount of money you earn per sale. With Printful, there are two transactions that take place when an order rolls in: we charge you our price per product, and then you charge your end customer the retail price. What’s left in between is your profit.
To calculate your exact profit margin, you’ll also have to take other business costs into account like fees for apps or platforms, marketing materials, etc. For more on profit, watch our guide to pricing:
This is what we call the customers who buy from your store. You’re our direct customer, but we aim to satisfy your customers as well!
A white-label product is free from any branding and therefore fully customizable. In our case, it means there won’t be Printful branding on any of your products or packaging.
A printing system where products are made to order instead of produced in bulk. When you or your customer places an order, we print your design on one of our 257 premium white-label products.
Since we offer more techniques than printing, such as embroidery and engraving, you might also come across the term “on-demand fulfillment,” which covers all of our products.
Retail model in which a third-party stores, fulfills, and ships products on your behalf. Combining this with the previous term, Printful is a print-on-demand drop shipper, so we’ll print and ship your products for you.
The process of getting your order ready to ship and all that it entails: sewing, printing, embroidering, packaging, and more.
Since all Printful items are made to order, which reduces leftover stock and helps us be kinder to the planet, our fulfillment times may be longer than traditional retailers that ship out ready-made products.
Now that you’re familiar with the basics of business, let’s breeze through marketing buzzwords!
Upselling is a strategy used to persuade customers to purchase an upgraded version of your product or add-ons to it.
Let’s say you sell two types of hoodies: a less expensive cotton blend sweatshirt and an organic cotton one. If you use visual and textual marketing to convince customers looking at the cheaper version to buy the organic cotton hoodie, that’s a successful upsell.
This is a tactic that involves selling your customer related or supplementary products to what they were initially looking for. Maybe you sell one of our all-over print hoodies on your store, and a cross-selling strategy could involve marketing a pair of joggers in the same pattern to entice customers into buying a full sweatsuit!
Take a peek at our best cross-selling and upselling strategies.
Bundling involves creating a package of related products and offering it to customers as one combined product. Taking the previous example of an all-over print sweatsuit, you could bundle the hoodie and joggers and offer them for a reduced price to drive sales.
Social proof describes looking to others’ behavior to decide how to act yourself. It’s a proven psychological phenomenon and a natural thing to do. In terms of marketing, paying attention to social proof could mean getting more customer reviews and sharing testimonials to prove to new customers that your product is worth buying.
Printful tools and services
These definitions will come in handy while you’re navigating the Printful website, setting up your integration, or chatting with our support team.
The Design Maker allows you to generate your own designs—both by uploading graphics or using our text and clip art tools. We have two separate terms so that people who are just looking to design a product for themselves instead of pushing it to an online store as a mockup don’t get confused.
The Mockup Generator is a Design Maker feature that allows you to upload graphics or to create mockup images. Then, you can push designs to your store or download print files and mockups.
If you’re looking for next-level designs, we’ve got a blog post about 10 things you might not know the Design Maker can do.
Our Logo Maker is like a Design Maker that’s purely for logos. It’s a free tool that allows you to create a professional logo for your business with customizable templates. You can download your logo in multiple formats (for product labels, website, social media, and more) and consistently brand all of your marketing materials!
The connection between Printful and an ecommerce platform or marketplace. Visit our dedicated integrations page to compare all of our integrations and find the best fit for your business.
An acronym for “Application Programming Interface.” An API lets different software systems communicate with each other. Printful’s API automates sending orders from your store to our system, adding products, and setting up shipping.
Our API is a great choice if you have a custom-built store and don’t want to use an ecommerce platform that we integrate with, but it requires some programming knowledge to set up. Information about whether an API is right for you can be found here.
Product Push Generator
This tool lets you add products directly to your store from Printful. With the push generator, you can also use the text and clip art tools to create simple designs for your products and add them to your store. You can access the push generator by clicking the Add product button in your Dashboard.
A process that connects products in your store to Printful products. When you add products to your store without the Product Push Generator, you’ll need to manually sync them with corresponding products from our catalog. That way when an order comes in, we know which product to fulfill.
The Printful Wallet is where we withdraw funds for orders placed on your store.
Each time an order goes through, your preferred payment method (credit card, Paypal, Sofort, etc.) will be billed and money will be deposited in your Printful Wallet. Then we withdraw the cost of fulfillment from your Wallet. You can also manually add funds to it, which is good for making sure that your orders still get fulfilled if your billing method fails.
Warehousing & Fulfillment
With Printful’s Warehousing & Fulfillment service, you can store products sold at your ecommerce store at our warehouse, and we’ll fulfill your orders and ship them directly to your end customers under your own brand. Our warehousing & fulfillment customers enjoy same-day order fulfillment.
Short for “packaging-insert,” pack-ins are branded materials like postcards, thank-you notes, or stickers that can be added to your Printful orders to emphasize your brand. You send them to us, we store them in our warehouse, and then add them to your customers’ orders.
Creative and Store Development Services
Our Creative Services include graphic design, ecommerce photography, video production, and store setup. Essentially, we’re a one-stop shop for any of your ecommerce needs, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help in any of these areas.
This section takes you through the techniques we use to print, embroider, and engrave your orders.
Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing
Direct-to-garment printing is similar to printing on a piece of paper—we use inks to print directly on the shirt. DTG is cost-efficient for one-off orders, can handle many colors and yield great detail, but has a restricted print area.
We use Kornit NeoPigment inks in DTG printing. They’re water-based vegan inks that Kornit formulates, tests, and produces in their own ink factories, maintaining the highest quality levels. The inks are non-hazardous, toxin-free, biodegradable, and contain no animal by-products.
A printing method that involves pushing plastisol ink through a woven mesh screen onto fabric. Each color of ink you use requires a different, customized screen, so this option is often less sustainable and only cost-effective when used for bulk orders of a similar, minimalistic design with limited colors.
Check out this blog article for a breakdown of the pros and cons of DTG and screen printing.
This is commonly referred to as “all-over printing.” Your design is printed on paper with dye ink and then transferred directly onto the product with heat. Sublimation lets you cover the entire product with your design, as opposed to DTG, which has a smaller print area.
Cut & sew
A production technique where your design is sublimation-printed onto a fabric roll, which is then cut into the product pattern and sewn into the final product. We use the cut & sew technique for our all-over print (AOP) products: shirts, sweatshirts, leggings, dresses, skirts, pillows, tote bags, and more.
Fixation agent (pretreat)
A fixation agent, otherwise known as “pretreat,” is a liquid solution that’s applied before the ink to make sure that the ink stays on your products. Sometimes the pretreat residue may remain on the shirt after printing and cause a vinegar-like smell, but it comes out after washing.
A white underbase helps colors look crisp when printed on a dark-colored garment. For example, we’ll automatically add a white underbase to a red graphic on a black shirt.
UV printing uses ultraviolet lights to dry (or cure) the ink directly on the material. This technique works best for materials like metal or glass, and we use it for personalized phone cases.
The etching of a text or design on the hard surface of an object. There are various types of engraving, but for our custom jewelry and accessories we use the diamond drag technique. This is a mechanical process that scratches fine lines onto metal for a deeper engraving and shinier finish than a laser can achieve. Diamond drag also results in a more hand-made look to set your designs apart!
Embroidery is a sewing technique that uses thread to create designs. It can be done by hand, but in order to improve accuracy and efficiency, we embroider your products with machines. Check out this overview of the most popular embroidery trends.
A process that converts your file into a format that embroidery machines recognize. It represents stitch patterns, stitch density, thread color, etc.
There’s usually a small fee associated with digitization, but once a file is digitized, you can reuse it as often as you want.
A raised, 3D effect produced by embroidering a design over a foam insert.
A flat effect created by embroidering directly onto a hat or garment.
Partial 3D puff
A combination of flat and 3D puff.
Basic, straight stitch where the needle passes in and out of the fabric.
Rows of run stitches that are used mostly for outlines or text. It has a maximum thickness of 0.5″.
Rows of run stitches that are used to fill up a larger space.
Getting your designs ready to print can be a difficult step for those with limited design or Photoshop knowledge. These definitions will make the process clearer.
This is an image that shows how a product will look with your design. You can create mockups with photo editing software, or with Printful’s free Mockup Generator.
The file that is sent to the printer and contains your design with the desired size, placement, color profile, and resolution. Our printers then process this file and output it onto the garment.
We recommend using our print file templates and checking our file guidelines for high-quality results. Once you’ve picked a product from our catalog, scroll down for the File guidelines.
This stands for Dots Per Inch and refers to the number of dots a printer can place per square inch. Computers display and print images in small dots, so the more dots the image has, the higher the quality of the print. The fewer the dots, the blurrier the image.
When it comes to Printful products, your files need to have at least 150 DPI. For more information, check out the file guidelines under each product.
Transparency refers to graphic elements that have less than 100% opacity. In terms of graphic design, opaque and transparent are opposites, so if your design is not fully opaque, it’s semi-transparent (see-through).
We don’t recommend using transparent elements in your designs as they can be problematic to print. Take a look at the most common transparency problems and their solutions.
sRGB and CMYK
These are the two most popular color spaces. sRGB is an acronym for “Standard Red Green Blue” and has a wider range of colors that can be expressed; print files made in RGB can be saved as PNG files. CMYK, which stands for “Cyan Magenta Yellow Key,” is the color space used when printing.
That being said, our printers are calibrated to convert sRGB files into vibrant designs on garments. If you design in the CMYK space, you run the risk of colors looking duller when printed. So to make sure that your design looks the same on screen as it does when printed, we recommend designing within the sRGB color space.
Color theory is a fascinating, complicated topic and it’s definitely worth more research if you’re interested! What’s more, color psychology can be a real asset in marketing and branding.
Fabrics, thread weights, fit—this section demystifies apparel industry jargon.
Indicates the thickness of the thread used. A common way to measure thread weight is in “singles,” and most fabrics fall somewhere between 30 and 120 singles. The higher the weight number, the thinner the thread, which in turn makes the fabric softer.
This refers to a garment’s mass and is measured in ounces per square yard or grams per square meter. The higher the fabric weight, the thicker the garment.
Cotton is one of the most popular fabrics used in apparel, so you’ll need to be familiar with its different types.
Ring-spun cotton is made by twisting the cotton strands to make a rope of cotton fibers. Shirts made of ringspun cotton are generally more durable than shirts made of other types of cotton. Combed cotton has the shorter fibers removed to make the yarn stronger, softer, and more compact.
Polyester is a man-made fiber that’s synthesized from petroleum-based products. It’s lightweight and both silkier and stretchier than cotton. Have a look at our guide to cotton and polyester and see which one meets your fabric needs!
This refers to a blend of more than one fabric type. This can include poly-cotton blend, tri-blend, polyester fleece, and more. Each blend will yield a different aesthetic and printing result, so make sure you know how fabric blend affects your designs.
A garment that has already gone through a shrinking process to lessen the chances of it shrinking when washed.
The fit of a garment depends heavily on the manufacturer, so each type of fit can vary from model to model. Common fits you might see at Printful include:
- Fashion/Euro fit: tapered body with slimmer sleeves and shorter length
- Slim fit: tighter than the average shirt
- Relaxed/loose fit: looser than the average shirt
- Regular fit: a happy medium that’s neither too loose nor too tight
Now that we’ve got apparel covered, there are still a few more terms to master when it comes to our non-apparel categories.
Matte paper isn’t glossy and has very little sheen. It’s one of our poster options.
Luster paper has a semi-gloss finish that’s between matte and glossy and can also be used for posters.
Stands for grams per square meter, and it’s the measurement used to designate paper weight. The higher the GSM, the thicker the paper. Most standard posters start at 120 GSM.
Archival quality paper is acid-free, durable, and it doesn’t degrade like regular paper eventually does. All of our posters are printed on archival quality paper.
Printing that goes beyond the edge of where paper is trimmed. When we request your prints are full bleed, that’s because part of it gets trimmed during the printing process, so we want to make sure your design covers the entire area.
Full bleed also applies to our other products–we recommend graphics cover the entire print area of whatever product you want to print on, otherwise some areas may be left blank.
We’ve also delivered on common shipping terms—let’s go through them!
The mail delivery company that ships your order. Each one has different speeds and rates, so check out our three shipping rate systems below. The international carriers we use include FedEx and DHL. In the US we also use USPS, in Europe we partner with DPD, and in Canada, Canpar and UPS are go-to carriers.
A number that helps you keep track of where your order is. Note that this can sometimes be limited. For example, tracking for some international orders stops after the package has left the US.
Standard shipping rates
Standard rates are fixed prices that you pay for the transportation of products. They vary based on the type and number of items ordered, so we have an entire page dedicated to helping you calculate shipping costs.
Remember that regardless of what you charge your customers for shipping, Printful will charge these flat rates, so to maximize your profit margin, you should pay close attention to them.
Live shipping rates
Live rates are real-time shipping rates displayed during order checkout. These rates are calculated based on the order fulfillment location, shipping destination, shipping method, and carrier pricing.
A tax placed on imported items that varies by country and retail price. Printful always tries to dispatch items from fulfillment centers close to you or your end customers. When this is not possible and orders must be shipped internationally, end customers may have to pay a customs fee.
Sustainability is one of the most current and important topics in the fashion industry, but there’s a lot of lingo floating around without clear definitions. Let’s fix that!
Corporate social responsibility
Corporate social responsibility (CSR for short) means being accountable to the society and environment a company impacts. CSR informs all of our decision-making at Printful; we always keep people and the planet in mind when improving our products and practices.
You can visit our sustainability and responsibility page for more on our sustainability philosophy and goals.
Marketing products and services as more environmentally-friendly than they actually are. Vague or misleading language, exaggeration, suggestive images, lack of proof, and irrelevant claims are just a few warning signs of green-washing.
At Printful, greenwashing is unacceptable—we’re dedicated to transparency when it comes to our sustainability efforts.
This term is often vague or undefined, but for us at Printful, a product is eco-friendly when it consists of at least 30 percent organic, recycled, or biodegradable materials.
Organic materials are produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers or toxic pesticides in an effort to maintain biodiverse agricultural systems. As far as fabrics go, organic cotton is not only better for the environment, but it also feels softer!
Organic Cotton Plus’s Learning Center has detailed information and comparison charts if you’re looking to learn more.
This adjective describes materials which break down with the help of microorganisms in warm, moist environments. For instance, our biodegradable phone case is made of soil, vegetables, rice, and other natural materials that decompose in around one year!
Carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by a given individual or organization. In 2020, we started calculating our carbon footprint and will use this data to inform the next steps for reducing our environmental impact.
Anything we missed? Any terms that were new to you? Comment your burning definition questions below!
This article was originally published in April 2017; it has since been updated.
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