Custom Ink Vs. Zazzle: How The Top T-Shirt Printers Compare

Custom apparel sites like Custom Ink and Zazzle make it easy to design and order custom t-shirts online. Both services allow anyone to create unique shirts for their group, event, or business. But how do these two leading providers actually compare?

This detailed guide examines the key differences between Custom Ink and Zazzle. Read on to learn their pros and cons when it comes to cost, quality, order options, and more.

A Brief Comparison Table

FeatureCustom InkZazzle
Minimum Order24 pieces for bulk pricing$25 minimum order
PricingAs low as $5/shirt for bulk orders$12.95 base price, bulk discounts at 36+ pieces
Printing ProcessPrimarily direct-to-garment (DTG)Screen printing + DTG
Turnaround Time1-5 business days3-5 business days
ShippingFree over $50$6.95 flat rate per order
Support24/7 live chat and phoneEmail, ticketing, live chat during business hours
ProductsApparel and accessoriesClothing, mugs, signs, masks, etc.
LicensesNoneDisney, Marvel, and more
Ideal ForLarge group orders, photorealistic printsSmall runs, licensed art, robust design features

Overview of Custom Ink

Founded in 2000, Custom Ink is one of the top online t-shirt printing companies in the United States. The Virginia-based company focuses exclusively on custom apparel and accessories.

Custom Ink

Custom Ink offers:

  • Online design tool to customize shirt graphics
  • Hundreds of product options like t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and bags
  • Bulk order discounts at 24 shirts or more
  • Free shipping on orders over $50
  • Fast typical turnaround of 1-5 business days
  • Live customer support for design and ordering questions

Thousands of groups rely on Custom Ink for custom gear, especially for schools, teams, corporate events, and fundraisers.

Overview of Zazzle

Zazzle launched in 2005 as a California-based marketplace offering many customizable products beyond just apparel. The Zazzle website enables people to design and order custom t-shirts along with mugs, posters, phone cases, stamps, face masks, and more.

Key features of Zazzle’s custom t-shirt options:

  • Proprietary online design tool with templates
  • Integration with images and fonts from major brands
  • Streamlined bulk ordering for teams and events
  • Average turnaround time of 3-5 business days
  • Large on-demand fulfillment network across the U.S.
  • Massive range of apparel styles, colors, and sizes

Zazzle offers t-shirt personalization along with other popular customizable items. Their apparel design process is easy and intuitive.

Also Read: Comparison Between Zazzle And Shutterfly

Key Differences Between Custom Ink And Zazzle

1. Comparing the Design Experience

Most buyers start with the product design experience when using Custom Ink and Zazzle. How do the online design platforms compare?

Custom Ink provides simple design software right on its website. Users can:

  • Select shirt style, color, sizes, and quantities
  • Upload art or choose from image galleries
  • Add text with fonts, color, and arrangement options
  • Preview shirts on male and female models

Zazzle’s design studio is more robust with templates, brand content, and advanced editing tools. Users can:

  • Drag and drop images, illustrations, and text
  • Incorporate licensed content from Disney, Marvel, etc.
  • Adjust layers, filters, transparency, rotation, and alignment
  • Access millions of fonts, graphics, and images
  • View designs on products via mockup generator

For basic text and image needs, Custom Ink gets the job done. Zazzle better suits designers wanting more creative control. Both are easy to use.

2. Order Size and Pricing

Printing costs and minimum orders also drive decisions between these shirt printers.


Custom Ink offers wholesale pricing at 24+ pieces. Small orders have no minimum:

  • 24 shirt minimum for bulk discounts
  • Bulk pricing can go as low as $5 per shirt
  • Single shirt orders allowed with no setup fees
  • Free shipping on $50+ orders

Zazzle has a lower base price but higher minimum order:

  • Standard pricing from $12.95 per shirt
  • Bulk discounts at 36+ pieces
  • $7.75 per shirt for bulk orders
  • $25 minimum order requirement
  • Plus $6.95 flat rate shipping per order

For massive group orders, Custom Ink has better bulk pricing. But Zazzle allows you to order just one shirt if needed.

3. Print Quality Comparison

The printing process and materials used impact shirt quality. Custom Ink and Zazzle both use top equipment and inks.

Custom Ink prints primarily with:

  • Direct to garment (DTG) printing machines
  • Water-based inks embed into the fabric
  • Good for detailed designs with photorealistic quality
  • Soft hand feel and stretch that won’t crack

Zazzle uses:

  • High-quality screen printing for most orders
  • DTG printing also available for photorealistic prints
  • Vibrant inks applied in layers to create a graphic texture
  • Durable results able to withstand repeated washings

Both providers use state-of-the-art textile printing suited for their production workflows. Custom Ink specializes in DTG, while Zazzle leverages screen printing’s bold results for orders big and small.

4. Turnaround Time

Responsiveness is critical when ordering custom shirts. Custom Ink and Zazzle both ship most products very quickly.

  • Custom Ink advertises a 1-5 business day turnaround.
  • Zazzle notes 3-5 business days for fulfillment.

Speed varies based on factors like order size, rush processing, production facility proximity, and shipping distance. Complex multi-color designs also take longer.

Custom Ink and Zazzle have similar baseline turnaround times. Large bulk orders may process faster at Custom Ink, while Zazzle’s distributed production allows fast shipping to more areas. Both services meet expectations for speedy custom apparel delivery.

5. Shipping and Delivery

Shipping fees and methods also impact overall costs and convenience.

  • Custom Ink provides free U.S. shipping on orders $50+
  • Under $50 orders have a $7.99 flat rate shipping fee
  • Expedited and international shipping available
  • Most orders ship via UPS or FedEx
  • Zazzle charges a flat rate of $6.95 for U.S. shipping per order
  • USPS, UPS, and FedEx methods offered
  • Faster shipping upgrades available
  • International delivery supported

For multi-item bulk orders, Custom Ink usually comes out ahead on free shipping. Zazzle has a better rate for single shirt delivery. Both have tracking and reliable carriers.

6. Order Verification and Support

Smooth ordering and responsive customer service provide confidence.

  • Custom Ink confirms designs via email before production
  • 24/7 live chat and phone support
  • Ability to call or chat directly with designers
  • Support guides and FAQs on the website
  • Zazzle provides order receipt confirmations via email
  • 24/7 email support and online ticketing
  • Live chat available during business hours
  • Info center with DIY help articles

Custom Ink’s constant live support by chat or phone is extremely convenient. Zazzle provides good options, especially email and online ticketing for simpler questions.

7. Additional Factors to Compare

Some other considerations when choosing between these top providers:

  • Product selection – Zazzle has posters, mugs, signs beyond just apparel
  • Branding options – Zazzle integrates with entertainment brands and licenses
  • Eco-friendly choices – Both have organic, sustainable products available
  • Visual merchandising – Custom Ink showcases groups wearing shirts
  • Integration and APIs – Zazzle has partnerships and custom software integrations
  • Refunds – Custom Ink and Zazzle both provide hassle-free returns or reprints

For most shoppers, the wider apparel selection and design experience at Custom Ink outweigh the expanded products at Zazzle. But Zazzle is great for branded merchandise.

Also Read: Comparison Between Threadless And TeePublic T-Shirt Company.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Custom Ink a manufacturer?

No, Custom Ink is not a manufacturer. They are a custom apparel printer that partners with shirt brands to produce one-off personalized designs on demand. Custom Ink has production facilities in the U.S. but not traditional apparel manufacturing.

Who are Custom Ink competitors?

Major competitors of Custom Ink include local screen printers, online providers like Zazzle, Rush Order Tees, Spreadshirt, and Printful. Custom Ink is considered one of the leading online custom apparel companies.

How do I save a Custom Ink design?

On Custom Ink, once you complete a design you can easily save it to reuse later. Click “Save Design” and give it a name. Saved designs are accessible under My Designs in your account dashboard.

Are Zazzle t-shirts screen printed?

Yes, most t-shirt orders from Zazzle are screen printed, especially bulk orders. Screen printing provides bright, graphic prints. Zazzle can also use direct-to-garment printing for photorealistic images. Their state-of-the-art equipment allows them to produce amazing custom shirts.

Final Thought

In summary, which is the right service for your custom t-shirt needs?

Custom Ink is ideal if you want:

  • Bulk ordering for large groups
  • Photorealistic printing quality
  • The simplest design tool
  • Free shipping at higher quantities

Zazzle is preferable if you need:

  • Small quantities or single shirts
  • Robust design capabilities and templates
  • Mix of apparel and other custom items
  • Media brand integration

Both Custom Ink and Zazzle provide great service and quality. Evaluate the factors in this guide to pick the best option for your specific t-shirt order.

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