Tech Tuesday: Fabric Printing Services Review

As many of you know, we print our own fabric for our projects. People often ask us if we will print for them (we don’t), but up until now we haven’t recommended any company because we hadn’t ordered fabric ourselves. Now we have, so we’d like to share our results with you. We focused on the following three companies because they will print small amounts of fabric (under a yard).

The Three Companies

Website – Ease of use
Both Fabric on Demand and Spoonflower’s websites are easy to use. Fabric choices are clearly marked, and you can order “fat quarters.” Fabric on Demand’s homepage provided answers to most of our questions. You know they are happy to answer your questions since their 800 number is so prominently displayed on the homepage. We had to dig a bit deeper into Spoonflower’s website to have some of our questions answered. It takes even more work to navigate Dpi’s website as they offer such a variety of printing (banners, silk scarves, etc). While ordering and payment went smoothly with Fabric on Demand and Spoonflower, ordering with Dpi was more complicated. We ordered first and then had to wait for an email to submit payment. The added step resulted in them not emailing us the payment request until we called to find out what had happened. Our order had somehow fallen through the cracks.
Best Bet → Fabric on Demand

Let’s face it, we would send our file in a handwritten letter to the company and have it delivered by Pony Express if they could print a decent black. Black makes all other colors pop, so if the company doesn’t print a good black, then it seems like everything else looks muddy. This is Spoonflower’s great failing, but at least they tell us on their website that they don’t get a deep black. Both Fabric on Demand and Dpi get good blacks, so we would be splitting hairs to pick. Kris deferred to Deb, and Deb says it’s a tie.
Best Bet → Fabric on Demand or Dpi

Comparison of grayscale from Fabric on Demand, Spoonflower, and Dpi

Comparison of grayscale from Fabric on Demand, Spoonflower, and Dpi

We didn’t want to get bogged down with color calibration and profiling, so we just uploaded the photo of the two of us without any adjustments. This is where Spoonflower gets high marks. Dpi and Fabric on demand both print with fiber-reactive dye on cotton. You hand-dyers out there know what that means. You’ve got to set the dye, usually with steam, and the colors change during this process. This is a pain in the patooty if you’re trying to match color. Since we also print with fiber-reactive dye, we know your pain, Dpi and Fabric on Demand.
Best Bet → Spoonflower

Test prints from Fabric on Demand, Spoonflower, and Dpi

Test prints from Fabric on Demand, Spoonflower, and Dpi

We admit it – this was the part of our analysis we could not control. We were not able to order the same fabric from all three companies (one company had Kona cotton, the other listed the fabric by weight, etc.), so our comparisons of the finished product included this unexpected variable. We can say that the thread count on the Fabric on Demand 6 oz. cotton was lower than we like, so try the 4 oz. instead. We could have sworn we had ordered a Kona cotton from Dpi, but what arrived was an incredibly sumptuous cotton sateen. We’d order it again. All three companies offer fabric swatches for sale, so it would be worth your while to order them before submitting a larger order.
Best Bet → Depends on what kind of fabric you want

We didn’t have any problems ordering from Spoonflower, so we can’t speak to their service except to say if ordering is easy, you don’t have to call for service. We didn’t have to contact Spoonflower, but we needed to call both Dpi and Fabric on Demand (for different reasons). They both came through for us. We found Fabric on Demand particularly great to work with, but it’s hard not to like Dpi for coming through in a pinch for us the other day. We had to have a rush order since our printer is on the fritz, and Dpi just said, “No problem!” We sent an email with our file attached, thereby bypassing their online ordering system, and were sent the payment link in their reply. Easy, peasy!
Best Bet → Take your pick

Our Overall Recommendation
Maybe it seems like we’re not willing to make a single recommendation, but there are so many variables with printing on fabric that maybe one company can’t provide what any one person needs for a particular project. One thing is clear, though. Until Spoonflower can produce a good black (and we’ve heard rumors that they’re working on that), we can’t recommend them despite all the other good things about their services. Dpi and Fabric on Demand are both good, but being able to order a fat quarter from Fabric on Demand just makes ordering from them one teeny bit better.
Best Overall Bet → Fabric on Demand

Do It Yourself Fabric Printing
Being the control freaks that we are, we actually prefer to print our own fabric at the studio, but that comes with its own issues. Sometime soon we’ll do an analysis of printing on your own. We’ll talk about our process (Epson 9600 printer using Novacron fiber-reactive dyes and fabric prepared for printing, both supplied by Jaquard Inkjet Fabric Systems) well as the closed-loop system by (printer, inks, fabric). Fabricmaker has just asked us to test their system so that they can add improvements (like offering different fabrics), so stay tuned for some more fabric testing!

  1. A very helpful comparison! Testing the black was a great ideas it looks like ordering a black/gray fabric from Fabric on demand and mostly color prints from Spoonflower might be the way to go. Thanks for doing this!

  2. Love that you did this! Of course, I’m a huge fan of DPI and they print machine finished silk, which it doesn’t seem fabric on demand can do – and of course their blacks have improved tremendously! Thanks again.

  3. Yes, it really does make a difference WHAT you are printing and on WHAT fabric. We are looking forward to writing the next review!

  4. Love your study of these fabric suppliers. I admit, I only knew about Spoonflower but I will be looking at the others too. I dye a lot of my own fabric but as we all know, there are never enough sources to feed our addiction!!!!!!!!

  5. Thanks for the testing. I have only tried Spoonflower so far and was quite happy with the results, though I have only done 3-4 pieces.Next on my list will be Fabric on Demand.

  6. Curious if you washed those fabric tests? Have printed with fabric on demand for almost a year, and am amazed at the color consistency even after washing. Wonder what experience others have had with DPI or spoonflower.

  7. Dear Gregory, that’s the subject of another post! We will be ordering two images from each company and washing one image. Stay tuned!

  8. I have made many, many projects- both art and wearable- with products from Spoonflower.
    On Kris’ recommendation, I ordered several pieces from FOD- and was BLOWN away. I even called them the minute they came in and told them how pleased I was.
    Will continue to use SF for some wearable things, but will get work with FOD for all artwork from now on.
    thanks for the rec, !!

  9. Pingback: Tech Tuesday: Another Fabric Printing Service Review | Pixeladies

  10. Hey there! I’ve been following your blog for some time now and finally got the courage to
    go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita
    Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the great

  11. Hi Dee Dee here from Decor Print, I have been in the textile industry as a designer for over 20 years and many of those working with digital printing. please call me at 704-906-0110 to discuss your next print job. The prices are very reasonable and we color match to perfection. Thanks, Dee Dee

  12. I’m glad to see that Fabric on Demand gets high marks on here. I just had another comment on my blog telling me they had problems with Spoonflower as well and I wanted to see who else was out there. So thank you for checking out all three companies for me!

    I’ll agree, Spoonflower has a beautiful website and ordering is a breeze. But if there’s an issue, you’re basically screwed. The contact info is hidden because they have no desire to talk to their customers. When you call the number on their site it’s a dead end (I wish I was kidding). Emails will go unanswered and their chat never seems to be live during the posted hours. Only after I blasted them on Facebook and others quickly chimed in with their complaints could they be bothered to respond. I do have a seller account but after they yanked one of my designs without cause I decided enough was enough and I’ve been looking for other sites to host my prints. Hearing FOD has such great customer service is very important to me. I can’t wait to try them out!

    • I had a different experience, as they responded to my emails/call, and when I sent them pictures of the issue (the print was off), even though the real reason for the problem was because the fabric designer intended for the print to be on a shorter fabric (I’d ordered it on sateen), they still gave me an extra 2 yards for free. This was last year, so maybe they’ve changed.

  13. How did the results from Modern Yardage turn out?
    and, can you say a word or two about cost?


  14. Thank you for taking the time to research and share this information! I am *completely* new to anything involving fabric printing and currently in the process of creating my own designs for textile home goods (pillows, hand towels, etc). Without your post I have gone directly to Spoonflower simply because it’s the only place I’ve heard of…now at least I know some options and things to look for! Having come hrer thru this post, I’m looking forward to browsing around your blog. Thanks again!

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  16. Pingback: Tech Tuesday: Fabric Printing, Part 3 | Pixeladies