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Web-to-Print vs. Print-on-Demand: What is the Difference?

Web-to-Print vs. Print-on-Demand: What is the Difference?

Think you know the difference between web-to-print and print-on-demand? You might be surprised.

While both offer the convenience of online ordering and customization, they cater to distinct needs and use cases.

Print-on-demand (POD) is typically used to create individual, customized products, such as short-run print orders or promotional items like t-shirts and coffee mugs, making it a popular choice for e-commerce businesses and individual creators.

However, if your business requires a comprehensive solution for managing and producing high-quality print marketing collateral at scale, web-to-print (W2P) is the answer.  

In this article, we'll explore the world of web-to-print and explain its benefits, features, and how it differs from print-on-demand.

Keep reading to learn:

What is the difference between web-to-print and print-on-demand?  

Web-to-Print: The Digital Storefront for All Your Business Printing Needs

artisan-colour-web-web-to-print-storeWeb-to-print is a web-based platform that facilitates the online ordering and customization of diverse business printing needs.

Typically, these custom-built online storefronts are branded to your own business and offer exclusive usage rights only to the people within a specific group.

From personalized business cards and brochures to signage and promotional products, web-to-print is a comprehensive solution.

Think of web-to-print as a virtual print shop that never closes, where approved users (such as employees, franchisees, sales reps, and other partners) can browse, customize, and order the print marketing collateral they need 24/7.

Web-to-print platforms are linked to a digital printer that produces a diverse range of high-quality and consistent marketing collateral.

Key Features and Benefits of Web-to-Print

  • Flexibility: Includes multiple strategic ordering options including on-demand printing, where products are made to order and pre-printed items stored in inventory–such as pre-assembled sales kits, corporate brochures, promotional products, and more.
  • Customization and Templates: Businesses can upload pre-designed templates that approved users can personalize and order.
  • Brand Consistency: Ensures all print materials adhere to the company's brand guidelines for color consistency in the marketplace.
  • Centralized Control: Provides a centralized platform for managing, budgeting, ordering, and reporting.
  • Cost Efficiency: Reduces costs by streamlining the ordering process and minimizing waste.

Print-on-Demand (POD): The Agile Solution for Customized Consumer Products

Print-on-demand (POD) is a production model where items are printed only after an order is placed.  


Print-on-demand is widely used in e-commerce to create custom products for consumers, such as clothing, accessories, and home decor items.

As mentioned above, the core principle of print-on-demand is that products are manufactured only after an order is placed, which differs from traditional manufacturing models where items are produced in bulk and stored as inventory.

Key Features and Benefits of Print-on-Demand

  • No Inventory: Products are created only after an order is placed, eliminating the need for inventory.
  • Customization: Focuses on individual orders with high levels of customization for each product.
  • Low Risk: Minimizes upfront costs and allows e-commerce businesses to test different product ideas without significant investment.

The distinction between web-to-print and print-on-demand can be confusing due to overlapping functionalities. For instance, web-to-print platforms utilize the print-on-demand production model, which means that users can order customized items (such as business cards) that are produced after the order has been placed. 

Since the terms are often used interchangeably and have overlaps in functionality, here’s an easy-to-digest overview of how web-to-print and print-on-demand differ.  


  • Web-to-Print: A customized online platform businesses use to manage print marketing collateral, branded assets, and other print products, as seen in the image below. 


  • Print-On-Demand: A production model primarily used by e-commerce businesses to sell personalized, made-to-order consumer products like custom apparel, accessories, and home decor.


  • Web-to-Print: Allows for customization yet is more geared towards maintaining brand consistency in scale across multiple orders and locations.
  • Print-On-Demand: Focuses on individual orders with high levels of customization for each product.

Inventory Management

  • Web-to-Print: High flexibility, offering on-demand printing, pre-printed materials, and promotional products pulled from inventory.
  • Print-On-Demand: Specific products are created only after an order is placed, eliminating the need for inventory.

Target Audience

  • Web-to-Print: Suited for larger businesses, franchises, and organizations that need to manage and order print materials for diverse audiences or across multiple locations.
  • Print-On-Demand: Ideal for entrepreneurs and small e-commerce businesses looking to sell custom products online without significant upfront investment.

Which is Better for Business Printing: Web-to-Print or Print-on-Demand? 

Web-to-print is best for businesses that require a comprehensive solution for consistent, high-quality print marketing materials and branded assets–such as manufacturing businesses, non-profits, event management companies, franchises, and the education industry.

The versatility of web-to-print is ideal for businesses since it allows for ordering personalized print materials (such as business cards or personalized brochures) as well as pre-printed or pre-assembled items (such as promotional products or corporate presentation folders).

Print-on-demand is best for e-commerce businesses and creators looking to offer highly customized products without the burden of inventory management.   

Web-to-Print Use Cases vs. Print-on-Demand Use Cases

Web-to-Print Use Cases

  • Corporate Stationery for a Large Enterprise: A multinational corporation needs to ensure that all its branches use standardized business cards, letterheads, and envelopes. Web-to-print allows employees across different locations to order these items with consistent branding and quality.
  • Sales and Marketing: One-stop shopping for sales teams to send marketing materials to prospects and customers. Web-to-print allows for a centralized, consistent approach to sharing marketing literature and promotional products. 
  • Customer Deliverables: Informational brochures combined with product samples can be easily handled in a web-to-print storefront and delivered directly to the consumer.
  • Event Marketing Materials for Conferences or Trade Shows: An event management company organizing a large conference needs brochures, banners, and flyers. Using a web-to-print platform, they can quickly customize and order these materials, ensuring timely delivery and uniformity.
  • Franchise Marketing Support: A fast-food franchise wants to provide its franchisees with the ability to order customized print and promotional materials. Web-to-print platforms allow franchisees to personalize these items while maintaining brand consistency.
  • University Course Materials: A university needs to provide course materials, such as syllabi and lab manuals, to students. Professors can use a web-to-print platform to customize and order these materials, ensuring they meet specific course requirements.

Use Cases for Print-on-Demand

  • Custom Apparel for Small Businesses: A small business selling custom t-shirts and hoodies online. Print-on-demand allows them to offer a wide variety of designs without holding inventory.
  • Short Run Digital Printing: Specific or limited press run(s) where pricing changes, location mapping, or strategy adjustments are likely to occur.
  • Personalized Gifts or Home Decor: Unique, personalized gifts like custom phone cases with photos of pets or t-shirts with inside jokes. Print-on-demand is also ideal for unique home décor items like custom throw pillows, blankets, shower curtains, or wall tapestries.
  • Self-Published Authors: An author who has written a niche book wants to publish without committing to a large print run. Print-on-demand allows them to print copies as they are ordered.  

Web-to-Print Solutions for Businesses by Artisan Colour

If you're ready to take your print marketing to the next level with web-to-print, it's time to explore what Artisan Colour can do for you.

We understand the nuances of high-quality digital printing and are committed to delivering innovative solutions that exceed expectations–such as OrderJet, our proprietary web-to-print platform. 

For over 25 years, we've merged traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology to deliver best-in-class printing solutions for businesses nationwide.

Contact our team of experts today to learn how we can create a customized web-to-print solution for your business.

Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in January 2022, but has been updated with relevant information.