Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why Screen Print?

I’m an artist. I’ve always been an artist or intended to be one. I’ve done many different types of art... album art, magazine illustrations, book covers, comic books, trading cards, paintings, logos, product concepts and designs, packaging, brochures, maps, advertising, web sites... and t-shirts and posters.

I drew this! I'm an artist!

One thing about being an artist, unless you are simply exhibiting paintings, you are at the mercy of the people who reproduce your art. I dealt with that problem very early in my career by becoming an expert in printing and separations. That helped a lot.

But the passion to create has always been there. Along with a desire to communicate thoughts and ideas. After having other people print my work on t-shirts and posters, which was expensive and not always what I wanted I made the decision to try it myself. Control freak? Maybe. But I have a vision and I want it to be right. And affordable. So for me, screen printing was the way to go. But...

What if You Don’t Want to Screen Print?

Can you still create and sell your ideas on stuff? Yep. I do that, too. It may seem like an odd topic in a blog on screen printing, but it’s just another way to get your creativity out to the public. And maybe even make some money. You know... if you’re into that.

Let’s talk about on demand merchandise companies. I use Zazzle and Cafe Press, so I’ll cover those two. There are many more like Printfection, Spreadshirt or Pikistore. DeviantArt and Imagekind also specialize in art prints on demand. There’s even The Game Crafter that lets you create a board game and offer it on demand. Clever stuff!

The way these sites work is this... you create a design, upload it to the site, choose the products that the design can be printed on, place it into your own “shop” on their web site and it’s offered for sale. When someone orders a product like a t-shirt or coffee mug, the On Demand Company elves at the On Demand Company factory put your design on a blank product and ship it out to the buyer. And you get a tiny bit of the sale. Not a lot, but it’s not much work on your part and the sales add up. The main advantage it that it’s easy and open to anyone with an idea.

I’ve called Cafe Press and Zazzle my product testing sites. Some of the designs I come up with are too hard for us to print right now or I’m just not really sure if they are any good or maybe they don’t quite fit with what we do or maybe I’ve gone crazy and the design might be no good at all. Actually, I think I may be crazy quite a bit. But you can throw some ideas up on Cafe Press for little or no cost and see if if has potential. It’s also very fast for when you are impatient and caught up in the fire of inspiration and must have an idea out right away. This happens to me a lot.

I don’t know how to silk screen this one yet, but Cafe Press does it just fine:

Create your design and upload a computer file of the image to the site. It doesn’t need to be color separated, it will print onto the products just like an inkjet printer would. Cafe Press has good beginner instructions. The way I’ve chosen to do the images is I do a 300 dpi image at the largest size it would print on a product and save it as a PNG file. I’ve found that quality is very good and reproduces well.
Beginners Image Workshop

Cafe press also has resources for folks who want to sell on their site.
Resources for Shopkeepers

Cafe Press offers selling tools like this widget that can go on a web site. Or blog! It can be made in different sizes and colors to match your page’s scheme.
Make Custom Gifts at CafePress

Zazzle offers a similar panel to imbed in your web site or blog:

Look for a personalized gift at Zazzle.

You can use the same designs to upload on any of these on demand sites, so you can have multiple stores if you want to. I’ve tried these three:
My Cafe Press shop:

My Zazzle Store:

My Printfection store

All three are good, Cafe Press is a little more user friendly, Zazzle is more specific and you can make your products customizable by the person buying. Both Cafe Press and Zazzle seem to get good amounts of traffic, I sell a bit more on Cafe Press, but promoting your shop is up to you.

Some of my new designs!

Even an iPhone 4 case!

Next: How to Center a Shirt for Silk Screening


  1. I've never heard how well people do when they use these sites. People wanted t-shirts of my cartoon character, but I figured they are taking the lions share of the profit and it wouldn't be worth it.

  2. The sites do take most of the profits. You set the percentage or mark up yourself. I always set it to low or medium. But I made about $150.00 in commissions over Christmas. That's not much more than pocket money, but I don't really promote the site like some people do, it's not my focus, it's just an extra thing. And I enjoy doing it, so it's a win/win for me.

  3. One other thing... you don't give up your copyright to the art. You still own your work, they just print it for you.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.