Creating your own products used to mean a significant up-front investment — purchasing a minimum amount of the product as dictated by the manufacturer, paying for warehousing, packaging, point-of-sale systems, and other overhead costs. And that was all before you even took a single order! Thankfully, for many types of products, print-on-demand technologies have made it possible for anyone to create and sell goods over the Internet with little or no up-front costs.
Below is a roundup of 15 great print-on-demand sites that will help you create and sell everything from t-shirts to clocks, from books to skateboards, from board games to fabric. If you know of additional print-on-demand sites to make and sell your own products, let us know in the comments.
CafePress is one of the oldest print-on-demand services online and they offer one of the largest catalogs of products on which you can print your logo or designs. From apparel, like t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats, to calendars, posters, mugs, water bottles, stickers, stuffed animals, buttons, messenger bags, and even clocks, CafePress offers hundreds of different products to sell and its thriving community of users creates over 45,000 new items each day on the site.
Like CafePress, Zazzle offers a huge number of customizable products including t-shirts, sweatshirts, bags, ties, and even aprons, jackets, postage stamps, and shoes. They offer both custom on-demand printing and embroidery on many of their clothing products, and also offer a range of non-apparel items, such as skateboard decks, calendars, magnets, and post cards. Zazzle users have created a mind blowing 19.5 billion items.
While the focus on Spreadshirt is on t-shirts and sweatshirts, they also offer a range of accessory items that can be printed with your designs, including bags, aprons, buttons, and neckties. One of Spreadshirt's strengths is the ease of use of its online product designer, making is really easy for anyone to make or customize products that can then be sold to the public.
Pikistore does t-shirts and a few other customizable items, such as mugs and mousepads, and does it with a flair that other print-on-demand publishers would be hard pressed to match. For those who want a really great looking storefront from which to sell their t-shirts, perhaps one that matches the look and feel of an existing web site, then Pikistore might be a good option to check out.
For authors and photographers (and musicians and filmmakers), Lulu offers an amazing service. Lulu is a great way for anyone to publish a printed book (in either hard or softcover, perfect bound, spiral bound, or saddle stitched), CDs, or DVDs. One of the best things about Lulu is that they can help you get your products listed for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores, as well as tools to help you sell and promote your work through social networks like Facebook.
CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon, lets authors, musicians, and filmmakers create print-on-demand books, CDs, and DVDs. The main advantage to using CreateSpace is that because it is owned by Amazon, your products' inclusion in the Amazon catalog is guaranteed. That means you can also sell on the Kindle, via the Amazon MP3 store, and offer movie downloads (which means availability on the Xbox 360 and certain TiVo players). Being guaranteed a spot in Amazon's marketplace can mean a huge boost to your potential sales.
Blurb just does books, but they do books beautifully. Blurb specializes in creating printed books that definitely don't have a print-on-demand feel, and because they create such great photobooks, the site has attracted many artists and photographers. As a result, many of the books they create are right up there in terms of design with those coming out of the major publishing houses. Blurb also makes it easy to automatically create books with your content from Flickr, SmugMug, Picasa, and TypePad.
If you're creating a cookbook, then TasteBook might be for you. TasteBooks are stunning hardcover, spiral bound cookbook binders that hold up to 100 recipes. But what really sets TasteBook apart from other print-on-demand publishers is that users can upload their own recipes or choose recipes from a large number of third-party providers, including Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Food Network, Better Homes and Gardens, Epicurious, Recipezaar, and more.
For more ways to publish a book, check out Mashable's 6 Ways to Publish Your Own Book
Over 200,000 indie artists already sell their music through CDBaby. It's not exactly a print-on-demand publisher, since they really just handle warehousing, selling, and distribution of your CDs (though they do offer disc duplication services as well), but it is so amazingly popular among indie musicians that it would be hard not to mention it here.
The Game Crafter is an awesome new service for making and selling your own board games and collectible card games. Just upload your artwork and game rules, and pick out which pieces (dice, pawns, etc.) need to be included and go! The Game Crafter will print, package up, and mail out your game every time it's ordered. It won't be quite as polished as a traditionally published game (game boards are printed on heavy clay-coated card stock rather than the even heavier chip core that game companies usually use, for example), but the results are still very playable and The Game Crafter's service is bound to get better over time.
Anyone who watches Project Runway knows that the right print can make or break a good design. Wouldn't it be great if there was an easy way to have your own designs turned into printed fabric? Spoonflower, a print-on-demand fabric seller, does just that, letting designers create and sell printed fabrics on either quilting or upholstery weight cotton or organic cotton sateen, with prices ranging from $18 - $32 per yard.
Ponoko takes your 3D designs and turns them into actual products using a variety of materials, such as MDF, bamboo, cardboard, leather, acrylic, and felt. The result is that you can make toys, housewares, furniture, jewelry, and even electronics and put them up for sale in your own storefront.
Like Ponoko, Shapeways lets you upload 3D designs and turn them into real products using 3D printing technology. The site then lets you sell your products via a custom storefront. People are using Shapeways to sell art, toys, jewelry and other gadgets, and some people are using the site for rapid prototyping of products.
Any artists out there? Want to easily sell prints of your work? Then check out ImageKind. This site, which is owned by CafePress, specializes in prints and cards with a variety of different material, size, and framing options. For photographers who use Flickr, you can easily import your work to ImageKind and offer it for sale with custom framing.
deviantART is one of the largest art sites on the web, with over 81 million submissions. Every member of the site is also eligible to sell their art through the site's store on mugs, mousepads, coasters, magnets, puzzles, prints and other items. Prints can be offered in a variety of sizes and with a handful of different frame types.
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