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Beginner's handbook

The Printful Glossary: 50+ Ecommerce and Printing Terms Defined

By Reading Time: 9 minutes

There can be a steep learning curve when you’re starting out in ecommerce. You need to launch your store, create designs, select products, and figure out your marketing strategy. And on top of that, you’re likely to run into a bunch of phrases and terms you’re not familiar with.

So we put together a list of over 50 terms you’re likely to encounter when using Printful and navigating the world of ecommerce. Consider it your official Printful Glossary.

General business terminology

If you’re already experienced in ecommerce and business, you’ll probably already know what these mean. If not, these are some terms you’ll probably come across over the course of your online venture.

1. Ecommerce

Transaction of buying or selling online. Ecommerce stands for “electronic commerce.”

2. Brick-and-Mortar Store

Essentially the opposite of ecommerce. A store with a physical location instead of an online one.

3. Storefront 

In Printful’s context, this is the online space where you’re selling your products. This can also be known as a webstore or online store.

4. Ecommerce Platform 

The platform on which you set up your online store, like Shopify and WooCommerce. Some platforms might refer to themselves as shopping carts or selling channels.

Printful connects with some of the most popular platforms around, so check out our ecommerce platform comparison chart to find out which platform suits you best.

5. Online Marketplace 

This is a website where third parties can sell their products to a wider audience. It’s different from a storefront because it’s not a dedicated store for only your brand, but a collection of brands selling in one space.

Marketplace examples: Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, Storenvy.

6. Multichannel Selling 

The process of selling on places other than 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 a real asset to an online business owner, so make sure to read more about how multichannel selling can increase sales.

7. Drop Shipping 

When a third-party stores, fulfills, and ships your products on your behalf. Printful is a print-on-demand drop shipper, so we’ll print and then ship your products for you.

8. Fulfillment

This is the process of getting your order ready to ship and all that it entails: printing, embroidery, sewing, packaging, and every other detail that goes into getting your order ready.

9. Profit Margin 

The amount of profit you earn per sale. With Printful, there are two transactions that take place: 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 the cost of hosting, or any fees you pay for apps or platforms.

10. End Customer 

This is what we call your customers that buy from your store.

Printful Tools

These definitions might come in handy while you’re navigating the Printful website, setting up your integration, or chatting with our support team!

11. Mockup Generator

Mockup generator is a tool where you can upload your graphics to generate mockup images that you can upload to your store and print files you can save to your print file library. Plus, you can also use our mockup generator’s text and clip art tools to create your own designs from scratch. Watch the video tutorial on how it all works:

12. Product Push Generator

This is a tool that 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.


13. Integration

When we say integration, we’re referring to the connection between Printful and an ecommerce platform.

14. API

This stands for Application Programming Interface. An API essentially 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 don’t want to use an ecommerce platform that we integrate with, but it requires some programming knowledge to set up.

15. Product Sync

When you add products that you want to sell to your store, you also need to connect them to Printful products. That way when an order comes in, we know which product to print on. We call this process syncing – you add a product to your store, and then you sync it with one of our products.

16. 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 the products directly to your customers under your own brand. What’s more, our warehousing & fufillment customers enjoy same-day order fulfillment.

Printing Techniques

This section is a walkthrough of the printing techniques we use to fulfill your orders.

17. Sublimation Printing 

This is also referred to as all-over printing. How it works is that your design is printed on paper with dye ink and then it gets transferred directly onto the garment with heat. Sublimation lets you cover all of the garment with your design instead of our other printing methods that have a smaller area to work with.


18. Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing 

It’s cost-efficient for one-off orders and can print great detail with many colors. The DTG printing process is similar to printing on a piece of paper – we use water-based inks to print directly on the shirt. Unlike with sublimation printing, DTG has a smaller print area to print on.

We use only Kornit NeoPigment inks in DTG printing. Kornit printers use water-based vegan inks that they formulate, test, and produce in their own ink factories, maintaining the highest quality levels. The inks are non-hazardous, toxin-free, biodegradable, and contain no animal by-products.

19. Screen Printing 

Screen printing is a printing method that involves pushing plastisol ink through a woven mesh screen onto fabric, best suited for bulk orders of a similar, minimalistic design with limited colors.

20. Cut and Sew 

The process where fabric is sublimation-printed, cut, and then sewn. We do cut & sew printing for our all-over print products: shirts, sweatshirts, leggings, dresses, skirts, pillows, tote bags, and other products.

21. UV Printing 

This is used to print on materials like metal or glass, and we use it to print on personalized phone cases. UV printing uses ultraviolet lights to cure (or dry) the ink directly on the material.

22. Fixation Agent (AKA pretreat) 

Before we print your graphic onto a t-shirt, we pretreat it with a special liquid solution to make sure the ink stays on the shirt. Sometimes the pre-treat residue may remain on the shirt after printing, but it comes off after washing. It can also cause a vinegar-like smell.


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 a little more clear.

23. Print File

This is what we call the file with your design that you submit to us for printing. If your files don’t match our guidelines, you might not get qualitative printing results.

To avoid this, we suggest using our pre-made templates and export your files in the sRGB color profile. For more details check out our file guidelines that can be found under each product.

24. Mockup 

A mockup is an image that shows how a product looks with your design. You can create this yourself with a photo editing software, or with Printful’s free mockup generator.

25. DPI 

This stands for Dots Per Inch. It’s a measurement that indicates how many dots a printer can place per square inch. When it comes to Printful products, your files need to have at least 150 DPI. For more product-specific information check out our file guidelines that can be found under each product.

26. Transparency 

In the world of photoshop, opaque and transparent are the opposite of each other. So if your design is less than 100% 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.

27. White Underbase

If your graphic is being printed on a colored garment, we’ll automatically print a white underbase on your shirt so the colors look crisp. Graphics printed on dark shirts can appear dull without an underbase. So for example, we’ll add a white underbase to a red graphic on a black shirt.

28. CMYK and RGB

RGB and CMYK are the two most popular color spaces. RGB has a wider gamut (the range of colors that can be expressed) and print files made in RGB can be saved as PNG files. CMYK, on the other hand, is the color space used when printing. Our printers automatically convert your submitted print files from RGB to CMYK, and this conversion changes the color gamut. That’s why we suggest designing your file within the CMYK color space, but convert the file to sRGB color profile before saving. This way your colors will stay within the gamut.

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.

RGB ad CMYK color space comparison chart

Embroidery Techniques

Embroidery is very different from printing and it requires some extra knowledge.

29. Digitization

This is the process by which your print files are converted to a format that supports embroidery and represents stitch patterns, stitch density, thread color, etc.

30. 3D Puff 

When a design is embroidered over a foam insert, it results in a raised, 3D effect.

31. Flat Embroidery

When a design is embroidered directly on the hat, giving it a flat effect.

32. Partial 3D Puff 

A combination of flat and 3D puff.

Embroidery styles

33. Run Stitch

This is your basic, straight stitch where the needle passes in and out of the fabric.

34. Satin Stitch

Rows of run stitches that are used mostly for outlines or text. It has a maximum thickness of 0.5”.

35. Tatami fill

Rows of run stitches that are used to fill up a larger space.


Apparel Industry Terminology

Fabrics, thread weights, fit – this section is all about demystifying apparel industry jargon.

36. Thread Weight 

Thread weight refers to the thickness of the thread used. A common way to say it is “singles” – most fabrics usually fall somewhere between 30 and 120 singles. The higher the weight number, the thinner the thread.

37. Fabric Weight 

Measured in ounces per square yard or grams per square meter, this refers to a t-shirt’s mass. The higher the fabric weight, the thicker the t-shirt.

38. Ringspun Cotton

Cottons is the queen of t-shirts, so you need to be familiar with the different types of cotton. Shirts made of ringspun cotton are generally more durable than shirts made of other types of cotton. Ring-spun cotton is made by twisting the cotton strands to make a soft, strong rope of cotton fibers.

39. Combed Cotton 

This is where cotton is combed to remove shorter fibers. The process makes the yarn stronger, softer, and more compact.

40. Fabric Blend 

This can include poly-cotton blend, tri-blend, polyester fleece, and more. It’s basically a blend of more than one fabric type. Each blend will yield a different aesthetic and printing result (eg. tri-blend fabrics have a more vintage feel), so make sure you know which type of fabric blend suits your designs best.

41. Pre-Shrunk 

When a garment is pre-shrunk, that means it’s gone through a shrinking process to lessen the chances of it shrinking during wash cycles.

42. Fit 

The fit of the garment depends heavily on the manufacturer, so each type of fit can vary from model to model. Some common types of fit you might see at Printful include:

  • Fashion/Euro fit (more tapered body with slimmer sleeves and shorter length)
  • Slim fit (more tight fitting)
  • Relaxed fit (looser than the average shirt)
  • Regular fit (a happy medium that’s neither too loose nor too tight)

Non-Apparel Terminology

So we’ve got apparel covered, but there’s plenty else to know when it comes to our non-apparel categories.

43. Matte Paper 

One of paper options for our posters, matte paper isn’t glossy and has very little sheen.

44. Luster Paper 

Another option for posters, luster paper has a semi-gloss finish that’s between a matte and glossy.

45. GSM 

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 about 120gsm.

46. Archival Quality 

Archival quality paper is acid-free, durable, and it doesn’t degrade like regular paper eventually does.

47. Full Bleed 

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.

48. OBA-Free 

OBA stands for Optical Brightening Agents – chemicals that are sometimes added to paper or paper coating. It’s possible that they turn yellow over time and therefore discolor the paper.


And finally, let’s take a look at some common words you might read about shipping.

49. Carrier 

The mail delivery company that ships out your order; each one has different speeds and rates. Carriers we use include FedEx and USPS.

50. Tracking Number 

This is 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.

51. Customs/Duties Fees 

A tax placed on imported items that varies by country and retail price. When shipping international orders, your end customers will likely have to pay a customs fee.

Anything we missed? Was there a term that caught you off guard when you started? Let us know in the comments!

Nora covers all things ecommerce for the Printful blog. She appreciates good dad jokes, new books, freshly baked cookies, and evening jogs.

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  1. Ricoh printer

    This is a good post on print terminology which is required for business and tech support service. I have found many tips on print e-commerce which is very helpful for me

    1. Madara Zute

      Hi there Glenn,
      At the moment we have fulfillment centers in the US (California and North Carolina), Europe, and a cut-and-sew fulfillment center in Mexico.

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