Deciding between embroidery and printing for your print on demand (POD) business?

The answer lies in balancing durability, cost, and style.

The main difference between embroidery and printing is that embroidery sews designs onto items for a durable, premium look but is pricier and less detailed. Printing offers versatile, quick, cost-effective graphics that can fade or crack with time.

Let’s start with an overview of the difference between embroidery and printing.

An overview of embroidery vs. printing

Here’s a handy overview table to see the pros and cons of embroidery and printing.

Embroidery proEmbroidery conPrinting proPrinting con
Very durable, designs last long.It can make the fabric heavier. Unsuitable for thin or delicate fabrics.Most printing methods allow complex designs with few limitations.Initial setup can be costly, especially for screen printing.
It can make items feel more valuable.Time-consuming for large orders due to individual stitching.It works on many fabric types, even thick ones.Some methods may fade or crack with time.
Suitable for logos, text, and simple designs with a 3D look.Generally more expensive than printing, especially for detailed designs.Quick production with some methods like DTG.Environmental impact due to the use of non-biodegradable inks and the energy consumption of printing equipment.

Let's now explore each product design method in more detail.

What is embroidery?

Embroidery is a technique based on sewing on fabric with a needle and thread.

This creates a durable embellishment that makes a quality look.

Types of embroidery

Let's explore three popular embroidery techniques that are great for POD stores:

1. Flat embroidery

Flat embroidery is a classic and widely used method where designs are directly stitched onto the fabric.

Due to its adaptability and cost-effectiveness, it's the go-to choice for a range of POD products, such as casual wear, hats, and bags.

2. 3D puff embroidery

For an eye-catching effect, 3D puff embroidery stands out—quite literally.

This method stitches over a foam base to give a raised look, often seen on baseball caps and snapbacks. It’s an excellent way to elevate your product line with a stylish look.

3. Patch embroidery

In patch embroidery, patches are created separately and then applied to products, allowing intricate designs to be produced efficiently, from jackets to accessories with unique appeal.

The pros and cons of embroidery

Here's a look at what embroidery is best at and what you should watch out for:


There are a lot of reasons why you should check out embroidery for your store.

1. Durability

Embroidered designs last a long time! The threads used are super durable to last much longer than printed methods.

2. Perceived value

The textured look looks professional, adding to the apparel's value. It helps the clothing look like a premium brand.

3. Versatility across fabrics

Due to how needle and thread work, you can use embroidery on many fabrics, such as delicate silks to sturdy leather, that other printing methods can struggle with.


Unfortunately, there are some reasons why embroidery may not be the ideal way to produce your designs.

1. Design limitations

Embroidery can't handle detailed designs or small text well. It also has a size limit that's smaller than what printing offers.

2. Can be pricey

Embroidery is often a more expensive method, especially for small order quantities.

The more thread used, the more it'll cost to make, which means small, simple designs are the most cost-effective.

3. Not as comfortable as printing

Stitching can affect the fabric's texture, especially with dense designs. This can lead to product distortion, making it less comfortable than printed apparel.

4. Issues with light and stretchy materials

Embroidery's effectiveness is limited by fabric type. It excels on thicker materials like cotton and denim but struggles with lightweight or stretchy fabrics, potentially causing distortion.

What is printing?

shirtigo products

Printing is the general go-to way for any customization, especially apparel. It offers much room for creativity with graphics, locations, and materials.

Types of printing

Printing is not a one-size-fits-all solution for your store. There are quite a few different styles and techniques.

Let’s look at the most known ones:

1. Direct to garment (DTG)

Direct-to-garment (DTG) employs inkjet technology to print designs onto fabric directly.

It excels with detailed designs and gradients, which makes it perfect for custom orders and small batches.

The flexibility and quick setup of DTG cater to dynamic market demands, allowing for a vast range of design offerings without the need for a large inventory.

2. Screen printing

Screenprinting from Gelato

Screen Printing is a traditional method known for its durability and vibrant colors.

It uses screens to apply ink layer by layer, one color at a time, making it best suited for bulk orders with limited colors.

Its strength lies in producing high-volume, long-lasting prints, which offer great value for orders that require uniform designs.

3. Sublimation

Sublimation printing

Sublimation is a printing method where solid ink converts into gas under heat, bonding directly with the fabric.

This results in durable, vibrant prints that become part of the fabric itself.

Ideal for all-over designs and complex patterns, sublimation printing offers unmatched durability and quality in print.

However, it works best on polyester-based fabrics—ideally 100% polyester, though 50% can work. It's commonly used for polyester items like sportswear and home accessories.

4. Vinyl heat transfer

Vinyl heat transfer involves cutting designs from colored vinyl and then heat-pressing them onto the fabric.

It's great for bold, single-color designs and offers durability and a unique texture.

It's particularly suited for custom orders, such as personalized t-shirts and mugs, thanks to its versatility.

5. Direct to fabric (DTF)

DTF printing method

DTF printing is a newer technique that prints designs directly onto fabrics using specialized inks.

It's distinguished by its ability to create complex, vibrant designs with excellent detail and vibrant colors.

DTF is ideally suited for fashion garments, bags, and cushion covers.

The pros and cons of printing

Here's a look at what printing does and doesn't do well for your POD store:


Here are the benefits of why so many use these printing techniques on their apparel.

1. Versatility

Printing technology lets you put almost any design, from realistic photos to simple sketches, onto fabric.

This offers a wide range of options for personalizing products, catering to different customer tastes, and enabling designers to freely express their creativity.

2. Scalability

Printing, especially screen printing, makes it easy and cost-effective to produce big orders.

This efficiency ensures that businesses meet high demand without compromising quality or facing significant production costs.

3. Quick turnaround

Modern printing technologies, including Direct to Garment (DTG), are known for their fast production times.

This quick turnaround is key for businesses looking to manage inventory and respond rapidly to market trends. This also helps customer satisfaction with order fulfillment.

4. Design size

Printing stands out when it comes to big designs, easily handling large prints like A4 and A3 sizes.

This allows for extensive, detailed product designs, an option that's both costly and time-consuming with embroidery!


There are some drawbacks you may need to consider when printing apparel:

1. Fabric limitations

Specific printing techniques like sublimation require certain fabrics, such as polyester, to work their best to get the results you want.

2. Wear and tear

While digital printing has increased durability, it will still fade or crack over time, which happens sooner with washing.

3. Initial setup costs

Printing techniques like screen printing may require setup costs, so custom orders may not be the best choice.

Which one is best for your POD business: embroidery or printing?

Two people searching on Google

Choosing between embroidery and printing for your POD business depends on several factors, including your product range, design preferences, and target market. Each approach has its own set of benefits that can affect how your products look.

Here's a comprehensive breakdown of when each method might be the ideal choice for your POD store.

Embroidery might be the perfect fit for your business if:

  • You're targeting a premium or luxury market. Embroidery adds a high-quality, textured look that can make your products seem more valuable.
  • Your designs are relatively simple, such as logos or monograms, where the texture and depth of embroidery can truly shine.
  • Lasting quality is important for your brand. Embroidered items are durable, don't fade easily, and hold up well over time.
  • You want to distinguish your offerings from competitors, as embroidery can provide a unique aesthetic not as commonly found in mass-produced products.

Printing might be a better fit for you if:

  • You prioritize versatility and creativity in your designs. With printing, you can put almost any graphic, from detailed art to bright, full-color images, on your products.
  • You plan to grow your business. Printing, especially screen printing, is great for big orders and can help you expand easily.
  • Fast production is key. Modern printing methods can quickly get products ready, helping you keep up with customer demand.
  • You're working with a diverse product range, including apparel and non-apparel items. Printing works on many different materials and items, giving you more options for what you can offer.

In the end, whether embroidery or printing is better for your POD business really comes down to the kind of products you sell, how you want them to look, and what your customers prefer.

FAQs on embroidery and printing

Choosing between printing and embroidery can lead to a lot of questions! Here are answers to help clarify any concerns:

Can embroidery and printing be combined on a single product?

It's possible to combine the two for a single apparel product. However, the cost and fulfillment time would be too much, harming profits, so finding a supplier that does both DTG and embroidery on the same product isn't easy.

How does the choice between printing and embroidery impact branding?

Embroidery is all about a premium, classic look, perfect for luxury brands. Printing, though, suits vibrant and modern brands better, giving a casual and eye-catching style.

Are there limitations on apparel colors for printing and embroidery?

They both have limitations. For printing, especially DTG, lighter colors tend to print better because darker colors require a white under-base print, which can affect the artwork. With embroidery, thread colors are flexible, but the contrast color from the apparel can make or break a look.

How do care instructions differ between printed and embroidered items?

DTG prints require washing inside and with cold water to preserve the design. Embroidered apparel may need gentle washing to prevent damage to the threads.


Before we go, we've created a quick summary of this article for you so you can easily remember it:

  • Printing allows for a wide range of creative designs for apparel, from photorealistic images to detailed graphics.
  • Screen printing, in particular, is efficient and cost-effective for large orders.
  • Modern printing techniques, especially DTG, offer fast turnaround times, which are crucial for promptly meeting customer demands.
  • Embroidery is known for its long-lasting quality.
  • The textured and elevated embroidery appearance adds a professional and high-quality feel to apparel, increasing the product's perceived value.


After reviewing everything you need about printing and embroidery, you will now know which is best for your store.

Feel free to experiment; don’t feel you must always stick with one if it’s not working out. That’s the beauty of POD! You’re never stuck with your style choice.

Thank you for reading, and have a great day!

Want to learn more about POD?

Ready to move your print on demand store to the next level? Check out the articles below:

Plus, don’t forget to check out our in-depth how to start a print on demand business guide here!

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