This page will answer some of your questions about print-on-demand stores and why they are a good choice for graphic artists, web designers and writers to show their skills.
What are print-on-demand stores?
Print-on-demand stores (or PODs) are online user based e-commerce stores that offer generic items for customers and artists to place custom graphics on. Print-on-demand services often use high quality printers to print on t-shirts and apparel. Now, PODs can print artwork on a wider variety of items– coffee mugs, steins, tile coasters, clocks, you can even create custom camcorder designs!
Many artists and store owners use the popular print-on-demand services to make political statements or funny jokes, anecdotes and observations. However, you can create any kind of work you like (provided that you own the copyright to that work, of course).
How do print-on-demand services work?
With some services, you can set up a store for free, while some give you the option of setting up a basic, limited store for free or a more advanced store for a small monthly fee. Here are the few steps involved:
- Sign up for an account
- Create your artwork in your favorite software program
- Upload your artwork or text to your account
- Use their software to place the artwork or text onto a representation of the item
- Set a profit on top of the item’s base price
Many store owners buy one or more of their own items to see what the POD service’s print quality will be. You can do this before you sell if necessary.
In addition, two of the popular services give store owners the option of customizing their storefronts with HTML and CSS. The most popular service, Cafepress, offers this as part of their premium stores, which require a monthly fee. Zazzle, another very popular POD service, offers a custom store, as well as all stores, for free. For example, check out my custom store JGD’s Tees, to see what is possible with Zazzle.
How can I make money off of this?
Many artists and store owners make money by setting their profit margin high. Both Cafepress and Zazzle allow store owners to set any profit margin they want. Cafepress offers guidelines on pricing for those who are undecided. If you have put a lot of work into your art or have come up with a very original, witty phrase, joke or slogan, it is advised to set a high profit margin, as customers will perceive your item as valuable. In addition, many store owners put higher profits on posters, as these are seen as original art pieces or photography.
Of course, this is only half of the picture. Store owners must promote their items everywhere they can: Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. One of the things I like about Zazzle is that they have a “Promote This Store” page as part of every store. This helps a store owner as well as customers promote a favorite store. Within this page are several copy and paste HTML snippets and a Flash panel showcasing your store’s items, among many other things. In Zazzle, you can also promote individual items with copy and paste HTML and images.
In addition to the above, Cafepress and Zazzle offer affiliate programs. Some PODs pay a referral commission when the store owner refers potential customers to their site, if they go on to buy a product.
Any advice for artists?
- It is a good idea to save your artwork at no lower than 200 dpi for clarity
- Some POD services offer product templates for recommended print sizes. Make use of these
- Some services have an option to place artwork on every item in their inventory at once. Be careful using this option as results can be unpredictable
- If you create artwork in a vector program such as Adobe® Illustrator® or Inkscape, it is a good idea to bring your file into a pixel based program to scale, crop and size the image
- Most PODs accept file types .jpg, .png and .gif
- You do not need expensive graphic software to create your art. For instance, I use Gimp and Inkscape for my most recent projects
How do I get started?
Getting started is as easy as typing “print on demand” in a search engine. I mentioned Cafepress and Zazzle, but there are many more; everybody has their favorites. Create a first item and account and you are on your way!
Do you have any products you created?
Yes! Below are some of my creations from JGD’s Tees, my Zazzle store.