Saturday, August 31, 2013

What I Love/Don't Love With Custom Printing: A Review of CafePress

Earlier this summer I was asked if I'd like to try out CafePress and do a review by making some custom printed stuff for myself.  CafePress is a custom printing company that offers regular people & small businesses the opportunity to print their own one-of-a-kind designs on hundreds of different products.  

I loved the assortment of items they offered.   Besides the usual shirts, hats & phone cases, they had yoga mats, drinking glasses, clocks, even cloth napkins.   

It was a bit frustrating trying to find some items I wanted to make in the Create section though. For instance there are canvas shoes showcased on the homepage and I'd love to make my own shoes, but if you go to the Create section to upload a own design, shoes aren't listed as a product you can choose. Obviously other people had been able to make them since you could buy someone else's shoe designs, but (unless I'm just totally missing something) there's no apparent way to choose the custom create option on some of the products you can see in the Sell section.  

I really wanted to make some things for my newly updated kitchen, so I decided on a set of ceramic mugs & ceramic cookie jar.  Getting both put me a bit above the dollar amount I was allotted, but I knew I'd use the mugs (and really wanted the cookie jar), so I paid the difference, which was an extra $10.

Making my own designs was pretty easy.  They have a tool where you can build some when you select your product, but since I wanted specific colors, fonts & shapes I used some software I already had, called MyMemories, to build mine exactly how I wanted them. They have templates for each of the products so you can size your files just right (and help avoid pixelating or stretching).  I made sure to size mine properly, uploaded my files, selected my products and checked out.

I was pleased when my package arrived pretty quickly and my mugs looked amazing.

I kind of couldn't believe this was my own design - it looked just like something from a swanky store and the colors were perfect!  The quality was really nice too.  My design is actually under the glaze, not just printed on top so it won't wear off with washing.

The cookie jar was not so perfect though.  There was a crack in the wood lid:

And even though I'd followed all the directions and the file was sized right, the image was fuzzy & a bit off center even though I'd been careful to center it in the preview. 

So I contacted CafePress customer service.  They told me to upload a new file and they'd send out a new jar, so no need to return the damaged one.  I uploaded my file again, this time I made the colors a little darker to make sure they'd look as crisp as possible, sent the new link and a week later a new jar arrived and the image was perfect. Except there was a new problem:

It was printed upside down.  So I contacted customer service again and a different rep apologized for the error and said to keep that jar too, upload the file again and a new one would be made.  Weeks went by, no jar came and I followed up to see what was going on. Another rep responded right away that the third one was damaged in transit and couldn't be delivered, but that a new jar was now being sent asap.  And it arrived a few days later. Except....

Yeah, just like the first, the image was fuzzy and off center.  By this time I was too frustrated to try a 5th time, so I let my review contact know the status.  He was very apologetic & said this product was going to be discontinued so maybe there was an general issue with that item. Even though I'd partially paid, it wasn't possible to get a refund since this was review-related, so I was offered a gift certificate to try something else instead.  This sounded fine and since I'd had good luck with the mugs, maybe another product would work out better. But it never came, even though I emailed a few times over a month, so I just gave up.

I really wanted to love CafePress and I do love the way my mugs turned out, but the issues with the jars never working out does make me pause on trying other items.  I'd just wanted these to spruce up my kitchen, but if I'd ordered the jar as a gift or needed it by a certain date I would have been pretty stressed with all the issues I had (and the fact my $10 kind of went down the drain). But I'm going to look on the bright side as a crafter.  Since I have three jars & two lids that are functional, albeit misprinted, maybe I can paint or decal over the goofs and then make them display worthy:)

I was not financially compensated for this post.  I received a CafePress gift certificate to create my own custom printed items to review and paid an additional $10 in order to obtain several items.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.  For my complete disclosure policy, click here. 


  1. Thank you so much for your honesty!! I swear sometimes I never read a single bad review on people's blogs. The mugs turned out really cute, but printing the label upside down?? Unbelievable! Maybe you will get your gift certificate now.

    1. I know what you mean Kendra. I feel like that a lot too. It's great to get free items to try, but you have to be honest in your experiences.

  2. Yes, thanks for sharing your not-so-perfect experience! I haven't tried cafepress but have had frustrations with websites glitches but my products always came out fine. Looks to me that when the image came out upside down, someone would have called to check on it. Quality control.

  3. You could always just turn them to the wall and no one but you would ever know! LOL

  4. It's refreshing to hear an honest product review. Sounds like Cafe Press needs to improve its quality control department!


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