It has been a while since we reported on the review process at Redbubble. If you are like me, you add a lot of new designs to your shop every day. Eventually, no matter how careful you are with trademark and copyright searches, the Redbubble algorithm is going to tag your design for review. This morning, during my regular upload session, one of my designs triggered the review process and I thought I would let you all know how things are going today compared to a few months ago. After you upload, your design the review process starts with this email:

Busted!

There is nothing in print on demand that makes your heart race more than getting the under review email. Your mind starts to race, you think about the keywords you used and then immediately head back to the trademark and copyright websites to double check your design and wording (you are checking your designs before you upload them….right?). Read the email, one of the things it tells you is not to panic. The under review process can be triggered by images, descriptions or keywords. 

Art

At this point, if you have created your art or sourced it from a known safe site like Canva, and checked your wording for copyright then you are likely fine on this part of the process. If you are using copyrighted images like Disney characters, Videogame characters, Company Logos or Celebrity names, then you might be in a bit of hot water. You can’t use any of these things without eventually getting caught by Redbubble or the organization that owns the copyright to the work you stole. If you made a shirt with a Baby Yoda Riding a Nike swoosh, then likely Redbubble will not only delete your design, but put a black mark against your account. Enough black marks and they will suspend your account for violating their IP (Intellectual Property) terms. The number of infractions before they suspend your account can vary depending on the severity of the infraction. 

Words Matter

If your art is all good, then take a look at the wording of your design. Check each part of the phrase in a legitimate trademark search tool. like the United States Patent and Trademark Office https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks

If your art and your text is free of copyright infringement as far as you can tell, then we need to move on to the last potential issue: keywords. 

What about your keywords?  

Words are trademarked just like images. For example, words Nike, Star Wars, Nintendo, Batman, Zelda etc. are all copyrighted and cannot be used in a design without licensing or permission from the trademark holder. This means that if you draw a character that somewhat resembles Baby Yoda, then upload the design using keywords like Star Wars, Yoda or Mandalorian , you will get dinged. This is a top level infraction too because you made something that looked like Yoda then used official copyrighted words to try and game the system. This shows that you knew what you were doing was wrong and tried to subvert the process. I have seen accounts banned for one to two of this sort of offense. 

All good

If your art, text and keywords are all safe as far as you can tell, then it likely means that something in your design triggered the review process and they will likely get back to you soon letting you know that your product is ready to sell. 

My design

My design that went under review this morning was cleared for sale exactly one hour after the preview process was triggered. I panicked, I double checked, I sweated, but in the end everything turned out just fine. It has been a few months since a design of mine went under review, and I am happy to say that at least for me as of today, their process was reduced from nearly a week to just an hour. 

Contested

If your product gets reviewed and they make the decision to suspend the design you can send Redbubble a nicely worded response to the email they will send you and they might give you more information about your infraction. Unfortunately, most times they do not give you additional information, and you tend to be stuck wondering what you did wrong. 

The last time I had a design go under review, it was for a keyword that was starting to become politically  heated i social media. They decided apparently to not allow designs with that particular keyword, and removed it from my listing when they reinstated the design for sale. Not a big deal and I had to do all the research to figure out why that one word was removed. It made sense afterward, but at the time I was left wondering what happened. 

What about you?

What about your experience? I’d love to her if you have had designs that went under review and if they were reinstated and how long it took. I’m also interested to hear about the number of infractions it took for your account to be banned if they got you. 

Remember, I can’t monetize this content because of the trademarked names I use in my content, so please help out by sharing these articles to your favorite print on demand forum and spread the word about our site. 

Now get out there and make the next firal shirt!

Did you recently receive an email about a survey from Redbubble? Are you wondering if this is a legitimate email and if Redbubble really want your feedback? Are you concerned that this email is a spam email and you should not click the link because it may be a scam? Let’s talk about it

Changes

Redbubble has been going through some recent changes, in January this year, new CEO: Michael J. Ilczynski, joined the company amidst ongoing litigation for copyright infringement from videogame company Atari. Hope by the artist community was that when Ilczynski took over the CEO seat positive changes would be coming for Redbubble in terms of the rampant copyright infringement present on the site. Hopefully, we may be starting to see changes on the horizon. But what about that weird email?

Your opinion counts

I recently got this email too, and before I took the survey, I sent off a response to the address the message originated from.  I received a curt response that this is indeed a legitimate survey, and my feedback is valuable etc. etc. It appears as though there were two different surveys sent out, one for buyers and one for artists.

The artist survey was mostly focused on copyright concerns and how the artist community felt Redbubble was handling the situation compared to other Print on Demand platforms. The survey started with questions  about how Redbubble was dealing with copyright infringement and if I felt that my designs were protected on their system. You can protect your designs with watermark easily, just go to your Redbubble dashboard where you can enable a beta version (as of this writing) for an option to protect your artwork. This feature places half opacity X’s over the design when it is viewed to prevent others from directly lifting and stealing your work. The reality is that anyone with photoshop and about 30 seconds can remove those watermarks. As with most copyright systems, they only really hinder the legitimate users and shoppers experience rather than deterring theft.  

The survey also asked questions about copyright infringement, and as an artist if I was satisfied with the way RB protects my work. I have had more work stolen from Redbubble than any other print on demand service I use. It is difficult to tell whether this is just because Redbubble is so much larger than other services, making them a bigger target or whether it is just easier to scrape data from Redbubble’s servers. In the survey, they also wanted to know if Redbubble did a better job protecting artist’s work than other print on demand services. What was the sudden concern about whether I consider my work protected or not? They haven’t cared up until now, could there be another reason for this sudden concern about our art?

Ulterior motives

I do not work for Redbubble, but I know a lot about copyright, and intellectual property law. In June 2018, Redbubble was sued by Atari for copyright infringement. People were apparently selling Atari branded merchandise on Redbubble, and they got caught. I surmise that this survey is part of the litigation going on between Atari and Redbubble. They want to show that their artist community feel they are taking the safety of artist’s work – and copyright infringement very seriously. So. the sudden concern for the protection of artist’s work may be for more selfish reasons, especially when they have other problems that need to be addressed with their business and site.

The real issues

Protecting artist’s work is a huge issue, don’t get me wrong, but Redbubble has other equally large issues plaguing it which could arguably impact artist’s Redbubble income more than someone stealing their design.  

Copyrighted Properties

The biggest problem on Redbubble is the rampant presence of copyrighted properties. Within a few seconds, it is easy to find designs based on all sorts of properties not in the partner program. Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Disney, and so much more can easily be found and purchased. The presence of items with these properties is detrimental to artist’s earnings on Redbubble. If I create a design with a coffee cup that says I love coffee and that is  presented to the customer side by side in the Redbubble store with a design using Baby Yoda that also says I love coffee, which one is going to sell? This assumes that the buyer is searching for a shirt that says I love coffee, and the representation of Baby Yoda is executed well. The sales for those of us who are not using copyrighted properties are impacted every day by Redbubble ignoring the presence of these properties on the site. Now, some may argue that if my design mentioned above was executed better than the one with the Baby Yoda, it would naturally sell more than the one with the copyrighted property – of that argument I am not convinced. If all copyrighted properties were removed from the Redbubble store (which they should be) it would put everyone selling product on the site on equal ground and make sales about the execution of the design not stealing trending properties everyone wants.

Tag spamming

When you upload a design to Redbubble, you add tags for that design, however many artists game the system using tag spamming to unnaturally raise the rank of their design in the system’s algorithm. We have all seen them before, a design based on dogs has a long line of the word dog and breeds copied a million times. Implementing tags in this way is against the Redbubble rules and gives those using this bug an advantage over others uploading similar designs. You would think that this should be easy to catch or at least remove the benefit to those gaming the system. As of this writing this has not yet happened, and the use of tag spamming can get your design on page on of a search easily.  

To catch a thief

Each time a design is printed onto a product, there is someone standing there putting the shirt or mug or whatever into the machine and bringing up the design to print. Those people should be knowledgeable in copyrighted properties and have a system where they can question whether something is a copyrighted property before it gets printed and sent out. Again, I’m not a Redbubble employee, but obviously this isn’t a system that is available to the employees printing the designs because if it were, they would know better than to print something with a Pikachu or Batman on it and send it out.

This leads to the argument that Redbubble turn a blind eye to what is being sent out. If they are more concerned about profit and sales than intellectual property theft, then they would have a system like the one mentioned above already in place, and more shops with copyrighted properties would be banned. The people printing the products are the last line of defense when it comes to copyright property theft, they should be able and required to mark a design for review before it is printed and sent out if it is suspect.

Approval process for designs

Because of the volume of deigns uploaded daily to Redouble, it may see an unsurmountable task to have a team member looking at every design before it gets approved for sale. I surmise that the only review happens when the algorithm marks a tag which is for a copyrighted property, meaning that you can sell that Baby Yoda shirt as long as you don’t mark it as Baby Yoda. The review process is also triggered by complaints from copyright owners. The problem with this system as mentioned earlier is that much goes unnoticed which is why there is so much copyright property for sale on Redbubble. Those using these designs have learned to tag so they won’t get sent to review and use more generic descriptions which don’t mention the actual name of the property.

The devil you know

Redbubble has issues, but they are the biggest print on demand service, so artists just have to deal with all the downsides. I mentor a lot of artists who have jumped ship from Redbubble to other services like Teepspring, Teepbulic (owned by Redbubble), Design by Humans and others but end up coming back to Redbubble for better sales. Redbubble spends more in marketing on social medial like Facebook and tis helps.

Will there be positive changes, and will Redbubble remove all of the copyrighted designs? Probably not. Will they thin the herd out so to speak? Likely. Will the new CEO implement changes that make it fairer for artists not stealing other people’s properties? Perhaps. Time will tell and I will report when I know more.

Get out there and get designing the next viral shirt!

Finding trends for Redbubble, Teespring, and Merch by Amazon designs can be tough. The YouTube creator crowd put out weekly trends videos which can give decent insight into trends of the moment.  The problem with the trends videos or trends articles is that often by the time you get your design uploaded to Redbubble, there are usually tons of designs available ranging from intricate pro designs to the quick and dirty text-based versions. What if there was a way to track the trends as they are happening, and jump on the ones you want to as they are becoming popular?

Beware copyright

Remember that just because something is a trend that is does not mean it is necessarily a good print on demand design topic. When researching trends all copyright and intellectual property considerations are still in effect. If McDonalds is trending, it doesn’t mean you can safely make McDonalds shirt designs. Just putting that out there. It should also be noted that I am not condoning the creation of any specific genre of design. I provide this information for your entertainment. Now.. on to the tools…

Google

Google Trends is a good place to look for trends. It is of course the best source because it is Google. They collate more information than you can swallow in one sitting, but it is a great place to hang out and watch for trends. You need a Google account and it is free. 

Trends24

Trends24.in is a site which constantly tracks twitter trends. You can select a specific region just like you can on Google Trends to focus you research to a particular part of the world. The service is free.

TV

When I am working on designs, I often have the TV on behind me. The news can be a boring topic, but sometimes it does give nuggets of cool design ideas. I don’t watch TV all day. I usually turn it on in the morning for an hour while I am working. 

Conclusion

What do you think? Have you tried these sources, and how did they work for you? If you have other sources please feel free to drop them to me and I will share them with the readers. 

Get out there and get designing! 

Over the last few hours, thousands of users’ Redbubble accounts have been suspended. What is going on? While this is still a developing story here is what I have been able to find out so far: (This page will be updated as we find out more) 

Two theories

The first working theory at this point is that Redbubble has finally decided to crack down on accounts with copyright violations or tag spamming. Cries from the Facebook and Twitter haunts for Redbubble seem to be mostly from users who “only upload their own work and never tag spam” .Amazon recently posted that they will be cracking down on designs that promote violence, infringe on copyright, and many other no-nos. Users must have their designs culled and anything that might be deemed in violation of the new rules needs to be removed by February 2nd. This information is probably the biggest reason people are thinking that Redbubble has finally decided to crack down on users who are uploading copyrighted material, stock photography, and use tag spamming to get to the front pages.  The second theory is a lot less conspiracy theory-oriented – there is a bug in their review algorithm that auto bans users’ accounts when certain tags are used. No hard evidence of this has been verified at this time. 

What is tag spamming?

If you post a design featuring a dog, you could use tags like dog, dogs, beagle, cute, running,  etc. depending on the type of dog in your design. Users have found that if they use tags that for example have the word dog 25 times without a comma separating, they will tend to rank higher in the Redbubble pages for dog. This is cheating the system and most users knew that Redbubble would eventually catch on and the users who used this spam trick would be punished. 

Where we are now

I have logged into my account successfully this morning, and I have uploaded a few designs to test the system. I don’t use or condone tag spamming so the tags I used were all relevant to the design and there were 15 of them. As of this writing, I have not received an email saying that my account was banned and I was not asked to log in again like so many have today. None of the users that I saw reporting their account being suspended said they got an email explaining why their account was banned, which seems to be common practice from Redbubble. This is the major reason I am thinking that this isn’t a clearing house or mass suspension for violates, rather just a bug in their system,. The biggest concern is that designers need to ensure that they have all their designs backed up and ready to upload and post again if the accounts can’t be recovered. You do have a good system for designs that have been posted to each PoD service right?

My recommendation is that if you don’t have to upload a design or log into your account today don’t. I would wait until tomorrow at least to ensure that the issue has been i=dentified and or resolved. I logged into mine so I could report for you guys. I’m planning to wait until Monday to get back to uploading. Take the weekend and do some good research for new designs!

We will report more on this developing story as more information becomes available.  

Update 1/21/2021 @ 4:30pm MST:

Emails from Redbubble are starting to go out to those who were suspended saying accounts have been closed for violating the Redbubble user agreement. This could be tag spamming, copyright material in designs, or even the subject matter of some designs. If you are confident that your designs don’t have copyright material and you don’t tag spam, then I would review your designs to ensure that the content complies with the letter of the Redbubble user agreement that you agreed to when you signed up for your account. This is starting to look more like a cleaning of the accounts than just a glitch, but who knows. The source of the issue is anyone’s guess. Redbubble still have not posted any official comment on Twitter. 

More updates on this story as they come, remember this could all just be a bug in the Redbubble servers, but the logical argument against that theory is that emails are going out about suspended accounts and if it were a catastrophic bug I would think that Redbubble would have posted by now. 

At this point, your best bet if you got suspended today is to send Redbubble a nice email and ask about having your account reviewed.Good luck!

Update 01292021 @ 10:30pm:

There is still a ton of speculation from all of the internet sources but at this point, only Redbubble knows what is going on and they are remaining silent.  The latest speculation is surrounding automated uploading systems. Were you banned while you were uploading using an automated system like Merch Titans? I am currently not using an automated uploader for my daily workflow, so I am interested to hear from you all about this. 

As I said earlier in the day I did upload a few designs with no issues. I did them all manually so the auto uploader theory is as good as any at this point.  I think I will hold off uploading until Redbubble give us an official lowdown on the situation. In the meantime, I have scrounged up some links for your information during this time. 

Redbubble Account Recovery:

https://www.redbubble.com/account_recovery

 

Redbubble Account support,:

https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us/requests/new

I have had good luck emailing directly as well.:

support@redbubble.com

 

Content & Suspension:

https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us/articles/201350809

 

Intellectual Property Rules & Guidelines:

https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us/articles/211727063

 

User Policies:

https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us/articles/201761545

 

Hopefully, you find this information useful. Good luck out there. 

Update 01/30/2021 @  10:00 am MST

There is good news and bad news on this morning’s update of the current Redbubble account suspension avalanche. The good news is that I have received a number of transcripts from conversations between concerned artists and Redbubble customer support via chat. The situation appears to not be caused by a glitch or bug in the Redbubble system. The bad news is that Redbubble appears to be suspending accounts that violate their terms and conditions (which I have provided a link to above.). This means that if you are uploading designs that contain copyrighted material you do not have the license to use (I’m looking at you designers using Among Us and Baby Yoda), or you are a tag spammer or you are using an automated uploader system they are going to get you. If you have already violated these terms (or others) then it doesn’t matter when you log in, your account is very likely still going to get suspended. 

If this all comes down to be the automated uploader system, this is going to be an interesting hit in subscribers for companies like Merch Titans. I find it interesting that many of the youtube channels that create content around and have affiliate partnerships with these automated uploaders have been surprisingly quiet for the last couple of days. Not a conspiracy theory, just an observation. 

All of the transcripts I have been forwarded indicate that it is fine for artists to be submitting work as long as the designs are not violating any of the Redbubble terms and conditions. I uploaded five designs yesterday and five more today with no issue. I’m not saying that you should jump right in and start uploading because I don’t want to be responsible for your account being suspended. My advice is to evaluate your situation carefully and decide if you have used tag spamming, uploaded copyrighted designs, or used automated uploader systems before you try and continue work. I would also recommend reevaluating your workflow if you are one of the many designers who make 20 derivative versions of one design. This type of flooding does nothing for the market other than giving customers view fatigue and make them less likely to buy anything.

I will reiterate that for those of us who are not tag spammers and do not try to game the system or use copyrighted material in their designs, this mass account suspension is a good thing. There does not appear to be a glitch or bug causing accounts to be suspended randomly, this appears to be a clear effort on the part of Redbubble to suspend the accounts of those who are not working within the terms and conditions they agreed to. At the end of the day, those who worked outside of the terms, I’m sorry for your loss of time, but you knew this was coming eventually. For those who are working legitimately and not trying to game the system enjoy your increased sales.

I’ll continue to update this as more solid information comes to light. 

Update February 3, 2021

First,  my apologies to those who have been turning to this site for updates on the Redbubble account purges for posting this so late, My computer decided it was going to have a drive failure and have been out of commission for a few days during the rebuild process. Enough about my problems, what is going on with the Redbubble account bans and suspensions?

Finally!

We finally got official word from Redbubble on the suspensions. Was this a coverup for a larger purge of users? who knows but it is sure nice to see an official statement being released recognizing the problem. As of this writing, we don’t know more than Redbubble is saying it IS a server issue. So is it safe to start uploading now? I don’t know. I have been uploading through the whole time (when my computer wasn’t broken anyway) and I uploaded five designs this morning with no issues. Reading a little into the statement, it seems like everyone who has continued to upload during this time has been pressing their luck. I believe I will hold off on uploading more until I am sure that the problem has been resolved. 

Good luck out there! and keep the news coming!

Update 02/05/2021 @ 8:00am MST

I have had many reports of Redbubble banning accounts again this morning. I honestly thought we were getting past this situation. Over the last couple of days, many users that had their accounts suspended have had their accounts reinstated. Unfortunately, the bulk of these users were banned again once they were brave enough to upload a new design. At this point, things are honestly getting frustrating. I’m happy that we finally got some official word from Redbubble on the situation but it is difficult not to read a bit of nefarious intent from Redbubble into the situation. Don’t get me wrong, those who illegally use copyrighted material in their designs should be held accountable and their accounts should be suspended. The way Redbubble seems to be going about this could be better. At this point, I am recommending that users wait to upload new designs until Monday to see if we get another official statement. I have been (and continue to) upload new designs throughout this whole situation. I feel it is important for me to have first0hand knowledge if I am going to be reporting this situation to you, my readers. 

If anything of note happens this weekend I will update otherwise expect a new update on the evolving situation Monday morning MST.

In the meantime, work on some new designs and good luck out there!

Print on demand sites like Redbubble, Teespring, Society6, Zazzle, and Teepublic attract a variety of aspiring artists, and those looking for a good source of internet-based passive income. I spend my days consulting would-be entrepreneurs and help them to improve the sales of their print on demand stores and consult on design quality. One of the most common questions I get is: “how much can I expect to make a month from print on demand?”. To answer this question, one must look at the factors that go into running a successful print on demand business.

The bottom line

I’m not going to waste your time and make you read the whole article if you are just looking for a number, so here is the down and dirty answer: on average, not much. I say on average because there is an 80% failure rate for new shops on sites like Redbubble. New designers see the YouTube channels promoting print on demand as a get rich quick scheme that takes little time and yields awesome passive income. The truth of how much you will make on average per month lies in how much time you are willing to devote to your venture. Print on demand can be a great source of passive income that can grow as you are able to devote more time to it. Will it pay your rent? In most cases, no. Will it pay your electric bill? Once you are established it is very likely to generate on average a few hundred dollars a month. Most of the designers I consult with struggle to make the $20 monthly payout limit on Redbubble for the first six months. After the first few months, and the designer’s work has gotten better and they have a better feel for the audience they are creating for, they will start to see enough sales to get paid at least the minium $20 each month. A good shop with decent evergreen designs can expect to make a couple hundred dollars a month on average.  

It takes time

If you need money to make ends meet this month, then print on demand is not for you. Do not stay at home making designs instead of looking for a new job. Especially at first, the print on demand industry is not going to replace your day job. The YouTube crowd will lead you down the road thinking that you will make thousands a month with little effort. While this is certainly possible it is not the most common experience with this overcrowded finicky industry. They aren’t going to tell you this because they want you to be hyped up and keep coming back to their “how to make your first sale” and “weekly niche review” videos because they make money every time you watch or share one of their videos.  

If you opened your shop today with no designs to upload, expect at least a couple of months before you have enough designs in your shop to make your first sale. If you spend 15 hours a day and put up a thousand “meh” designs, or steal images from the internet to put on your shirts, expect this time to take much longer. The best course is to research your designs, find a good niche to work in, and start making good looking well laid out designs that people want to wear.

Two paths

Designs in print on demand shops fall into two general categories, trends, and evergreen. Trends are the hottest stuff going on in social media and often mirror trends in meme culture. Evergreen designs are ones that are always going to sell like I love my Dog and Teachers are cool etc. Chasing trends can be profitable, depending on how you go about it. If you follow the YouTube creator’s content and make designs based on their trend suggestions you are going to fight for every sale tooth and nail. If you find your own trends by watching the news and social media you can likely identify a trend and jump on it much faster than waiting for someone on YouTube to tell you (and all their viewers) about it. Chasing trends also means you need to spend more time designing for the latest market shift. Depending on who got to the market with the trend before you (and how good your design is) one can do well or very poorly chasing trends. Most of the people I consult with are chasing trends and getting into the market late with a design and not understanding why it is not selling, or making poor quality designs. This can be a frustrating way of doing print on demand and is the most common reason people quit. 

Sales ebb and flow

Another aspect you should be aware of when it comes to print on demand is the way the market tends to rise and fall in terms of sales. As the year progresses, there will always be birthdays and other special occasions for people to shop for, this will be your trickle income, even on slow months. Holidays will be better, like Valentines Day, Cinco De Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, and the like. Expect to see a jump in revenue around this time if you have good looking designs in your shop. Most shops will see their best results in Q4 around the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and New Year’s Holidays. As long as you are not relying on your PoD shop to make rent then as the year goes along it can be a nice surprise when you have a good sale month or hit a trend just right and see some good income.

Designs matter

Your sales are all about the quality of your designs and your ability to promote and advertise your work. Finding a good mix of evergreen and trending designs will help you maintain consistent passive income from print on demand as the year goes along. 

Conclusion

Did this article scare you away? Print on demand can be a great source of passive income, but you need to approach it with realistic expectations. Print on demand isn’t going to pay your rent next month if you just started today, but it can become a nice source of trickle or passive income as the year goes by.

Final thoughts

I have been asked numerous times over the last few months to create a paid guide for my print on demand method. Would you find this interesting? It would include everything from the basic setup and business plan to strategies for file archiving and asset management. Getting your first sales and promoting your work would of course be a significant part of the guide. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about this, feel free to drop me a message here on my contact form.

Now, get out there and get designing!

Among us is a multiplayer game that became popular during the early days of the COVID quarantine. The game was released by a small company called Innersloth. The viral popularity of the game and simple graphics inspired many designers to create designs for their Redbubble and other print on demand shops. The designs sold very well riding the popularity of the game, the only problem was that the artists that were selling the designs were doing so illegally.

Copyright

When the game’s popularity grew exponentially, demand for shirts and other gear went through the roof. Since the company that released the game was relatively small (three people) they quickly realized people were profiting off their work and publicly pleaded for people to stop making designs featuring their game. Shortly, PoD services like Amazon, Teespring and Redbubble removed the designs from their services, though many designs even as of this writing are still available.

It doesn’t matter if the team who made the game was a small indie gamer or EA, the fact remains that they own the copyright and rights to create materials with the design not you. Many designs have the mentality that if it is available on the internet, it is free and that simply is not the case. You have to have permission (written) to use any content in your designs that you did not create. What this means is that if you drew the characters from Among US and then created a design with the drawing you still did not create the design, you only copied it, creating a derivative work. You can’t use that in your designs any more than you can use Baby Yoda in your designs.

Expressing yourself

If you are a fan of the game and would like to talk to them about submitting your fanart then by all means, contact them. The link to their website is below and from experience small teams are often very appreciative when they receive fanart submissions.

Conclusion

I hope this short article cleared things up for you. I get so many questions submitted via social media about using games like Among Us to make designs. Copyright can seem daunting and it can be tempting to try and subvert the system and use content you don’t own in your designs. At the end of the day however, the only people you are hurting are the content creators large and small when you use their work without permission.

If you have questions you would like me to answer, feel free to drop m a message here. Remember I can’t monetize this content because of all the copyrighted product names I use, so please do me a favor and support this blog by sharing these articles with your friends on social media.

Now, get out there and get designing!

 

Article Resources

Among Use team Innersloth

https://innersloth.com/index.php

Buy official Among Us merchandise!

https://store.innersloth.com/

Note: I do not own the copyright to Among Us, the phrase is used only for educational purposes. All rights and permissions are those of the copyright holder. 

When you are researching content for new designs searching the status of copyright should be one of your most important steps. Why take the time to create a design and upload it to your Print on Demand service only to have it taken down because the design has been copyrighted or trademarked? Where is the best place to check the status of copyright? Let’s talk about it…

Disclaimer

Before we go any further, it needs to be made absolutely clear that I am not a lawyer, and comments, information, observations, and suggestions in this article are for your information only and should not be considered to be legal advice in any way. If you have questions about whether you have violated copyright law or need advice on legal matters of copyright, I advise you to seek counsel of an attorney who specializes in copyright and copyright law.

What is copyright?

Copyright and Trademarks are the most important kind of Intellectual Property (IP) protection that need to be considered when discussing or creating designs for Print on Demand.  You will often see people refer to intellectual property when discussing the use of copyrighted or trademarked designs in PoD forums, but what is intellectual property? IP is works created from the mind including literary and artistic works, inventions, designs, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. Intellectual property rights protect artists’ work from being copied and used without their permission (we don’t ever see that in print on demand, do we?).

While intellectual property protections extend to four different types, copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets, only copyright and trademarks are generally applicable to print on demand artists. Patents and Trade secrets are more applicable to the back-end printing side of PoD, so we won’t discuss those in this article.  

How do Copyright and Trademark differ?

You often hear copyright and Trademark used interchangeably, but they mean two very different things. Copyright is intellectual property protection geared toward literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from paintings, photographs, books, music, videos to technical drawings, maps, and advertisements. A trademark is a type of intellectual property geared toward items that help define a brand, such as company name, logo, or symbols, and that help distinguish one entity from another. When you create a print on demand design, it is covered under copyright once it has been published. The definition of being published varies so be sure to read up on the current definition if you find yourself in a copyright legal battle.

A trademark is like the Nike “Swoosh”, which is a symbol that defines the apparel company, and differentiates it from other clothing companies, even if they make similar items. Think of the difference between Nike and Adidas, you know their logos and they are instantly recognizable. This is why trademark protection is important, if you were to use a design that “played off” or parodied the logo of a company like Nike, they would be well within their right to come after you especially for print on demand because you would be using their logo on clothing, which would be in direct competition and they could easily demonstrate their loss of revenue form your using their logo.

Copyright protection allows the creator of a piece of art or song to make and sell copies of their works, to create derivative works, and to perform or display their works to the public.

Fair Use

Fair use is often cited as a right to use something that was published on the internet. This is where things get a bit muddy. A copyrighted work can be used for educational purposes, research, parody, or commentary. Ah, there we go! Does that mean you can use the Baby Yoda character riding a Nike swoosh if you put funny words and treat it like a parody? No. it will likely not be considered fair use if it’s for commercial gains, like print on demand. This also applies to the impact on the market, if you sell that shirt with the Nike logo, you are taking money (potentially) out of the pockets of the rightful copyright or trademark owner.

The more creative the work, the more heavily it is protected under copyright. Artwork, novels, songs, poems, and movies involve a lot more creative effort, and copying this type of material is less likely to support a claim of fair use. This is why you can’t legally use lyrics from a Beatles song in your print on demand design. Even though you might not put the title of the song in your design, the lyrics and music are all copyrighted and cannot be used without permission.

This leads to the final argument for fair use, and that is the fictional 10% rule, which says as long as I change 10% of the design or work I can use it. This is commonly cited when discussing EDM or Rap songs that use samples. There has been a myriad of court cases around this 10% rule and most of them failed. It is just better safe than sorry in this case. Don’t use copyrighted work period – not even parts. 

Words Matter

How do you know if the work you want to use is copyrighted? The simple rule of thumb is that if you didn’t create the work you can’t use it. If you drew a “fanart” Pokémon you cannot use it in your shirt design. If you didn’t write the song, you can’t use the lyrics in your design. If you didn’t take the photograph you can’t use it in your design.  But what about words? Words used in specific orders can be trademarked “Let’s get ready to Rumble” is copyrighted by ring announcer Michael Buffer and cannot be used without permission. “Just Do It” is owned by Nike and also cannot be used without permission from Nike.

How do you check copyright?

If you come up with a cool phrase or want to know if a phrase can be safely used in your design, check the phrase in the following websites. In general, if the listing says that it is live, then it is a phrase or word, or symbol that should not be used in your designs. If the phrase was trademarked or copyrighted at one time but the copyright has expired, then you should be able to use it safely. Use your best judgment, use caution, and if you have questions check with a copyright attorney. Again – I’m not suggesting a course of legal action here, just illustrating my copyright workflow.

USPTO Search trademark database | USPTO

Middle of the page – click Search our Trademark Database (TESS) and enter your term. This will show if there are entries for your phrase and if it is currently live.

United States Copyright Office: WebVoyage (loc.gov)

You can search by title, name or keyword in this search field.

Where’s my house?

If you have searched the above references and still aren’t sure whether you should use the phrase or logo in your designs, it is always better to not use them. For me, the amount of money I will get from the sale of the shirts is not worth risking my personal assets. If you want to use a copyrighted work, you can always contact a copyright attorney, they can determine the owner of the property and contact them for you. The attorney will negotiate a use cost and restrictions and you can go from there. If that sounds like way too much trouble and money to go through for a shirt design – you are correct. That is why it is just better to move on.

Conclusion

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Get out there and get designing!

Finding the next elusive trend for Print on Demand can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Most use the Bubble Trends tool to get a snapshot of the day’s trends on Redbubble then start making shirts if the demand versus availability is reasonable. The thinking (and what most YouTubers will tell you) is that if the phrase “Big Cow” is trending and there are only a few hundred designs showing available on bubble trends, you should drop everything and make shirts with “Big Cow” because that is where the money is. The problem comes when you make your shirts and upload them and the sales just don’t come. What is happening? And if the trends sites aren’t the best place to look for trends then where do you go? Let’s talk about it…

A moment in time

Most of the Redbubble trends tools are a snapshot of what was being searched for at that time. The numbers of available shirts are a bit misleading. You must realize that just like you, everyone else is searching for that next elusive trend to jump on. When the trends tool took the snapshot there may have been only a few hundred designs available, but unless you are there to jump on the new design trends when the next snapshot happens you are going to be behind. By the time you get your design done, how many others will already be available?

The tough truth

Chasing trends is a rough game, especially if you are not a graphic designer. If you use Canva or another service that offers pre-made templates for your Print on Demand designs, the truth is that they all look like the designs everyone else using those services are making. Someone who knows graphic design and does Print on Demand likely has a catalog of originally created assets ready to go. I would venture that they have a few different kinds of cows, maybe funny maybe serious that they can use right away. This designer likely has their own custom templates ready to drop their cow drawing into and all they need to do is add the text and a bit of polish and they will end up with an original custom design that is light years better than the one you created on Canva or on your smartphone. When the customer comes across a design that looks like 20 other people’s or the custom original cow, guess which one is going to sell.

Making sense of it all

The reason you aren’t getting sales from your trend chasing makes total sense if you take a step back. First, you must ask yourself if your designs can stand shoulder to shoulder with the other people that are making the same themed design. When I chase trends, I always make original content (not stolen from google images and not from Canva) instead of just making a text design. Text designs especially for trends are the low-hanging fruit that everyone goes for right away. Second, you need to ask yourself if the trend you are chasing or creating designs for is going to still be a thing by the time your design launches on the sites. If you are jumping on trends too late this could also be why you aren’t seeing the sales you want. If the YouTuber you watch does a weekly trends video on Monday but you don’t watch it until Wednesday night, how many designs are already available for that trend, and will the one you create on Canva be better than the ones being created by graphic designers? Think of trends like a crowded pool, if the pool is going to be open on Sunday and you arrive way later in the afternoon it is going to be very crowded and difficult to be able to swim and enjoy yourself. If you wait until everyone goes home for the day, you are going to get some time to yourself in the pool but it will be closing before you get a good swim in. Does that make sense?

Finding good trends

The harder something is to do, the more rewarding it can be. Using the Bubble Trends tool will give you a snapshot of trends from Redbubble, but something like Google Trends will give you more granular data that you can use to look at trends on Google, which will translate into trends for Print on Demand – but it will be more work than going to one website and having the information spoon-fed to you.  A good source of trend data is Merch Titans or just looking around on Amazon. Keeping a close eye on trending topics on social media services like Twitter is also a good place to start, but again, it will be more work than just clicking a trends tool. Soon we will have a full review of Merch Titans and Google Trend for Print on Demand users, so stay tuned!

Conclusion

Did you find the information in this article useful? Support us by sharing this and other articles on this site to your Print on Demand forums. We can’t monetize our content because we use copyrighted words, so we rely on our readers to share our content to support us.

Get out and get designing!

One of the best ways to get sales on any print on demand design starts with finding effective keywords. There are two schools of thought on how to use keywords in your listings: 1. Find relevant keywords that will drive buyers to your design and 2. Use popular trending keywords (even when they don’t fit the description of your design). Which is the best approach and are there risks associated with either method?

Where to start

With the margins for print on demand sales so thin, I always prefer free solutions to paid ones, and besides who doesn’t like free right? I recommend two services which are (as of this writing) free to use. They will require an email or free account signup. This can be easily sorted by just making a new Gmail account for your print on demand business if you haven’t already.

Merchtitans

My go-to is the merchtitans.com keyword finder for Redbubble, it can be found here. Merchtitans does a good job of scraping the data from Redbubble listings when you type in your keyword or phrase. Merchtitans will collate a list of words and show you how many times they appear on Redbubble. Click the format and copy tags and it will present you with a list that is ready to be pasted into your listing.

 

 

 KWFinder

This one will require an email as well. You get only a few searches a day and in most cases, you only get the first five or so results. I consider this a decent resource, but to get the most out of this one you need a paid account. I have found that the results from KWFinder are fairly close to the ones that come from Google Adwords (which I will be doing an article on in an upcoming post.)

Relevant keywords

If you have a picture of a bear drinking coffee on the design you are listing, the relevant keywords would be bear, coffee and drinking. From there, consider using descriptors of the items in your design. Coffee cup, coffee mug, grizzly bear, cute bear, teddy bear, blue mug etc. Don’t forget words like cute, adorable and the like.  Clear use of keywords can get you far and most importantly keep your design from being removed from Redbubble and other sites which use keywords. Some of the best-selling products on these sites use a few clear keywords to describe the design instead of a million useless words.

Trending keywords

The other school of thought is to add keywords that are trending in the news and other media. The thinking is that when a buyer searched for these keywords on Google or other search engine, your design will come up and you will get your design in front of more eyes. In practice, adding irrelevant keywords or words containing celebrity names or other properties generally get you listed lower in the rankings when the customer searches for similar keywords to the ones in your listing.  The automatic algorithms are also much more likely to flag or take your design down if you use these type of trending keywords.

Order matters

Algorithms change, and as of this writing, the sites like Redbubble that use keywords give more weight to the keywords that appear first in the listing. Fewer keywords also put more weight or emphasis on the words used. This also goes for Merch by Amazon so use your most important keywords in your first description boxes. 

How many keywords?

Just because sites like Redbubble allow you to use more than 20 keywords doesn’t necessarily mean you should use more than 20 keywords. I generally to keep my word count under 15. Put the relevant ones up front in the listing and then use them in your description. This will add even more weight to these words. Do words like best-selling top-selling and others help? Not as much as you would think. There are a lot of people listing designs every day and how many of those people do you think are using words like best-selling and top-selling? Those words become less weighty when a lot of people use them. You have to come up with words for your design that are unique to your design.

Conclusion

What do you think? did this article help you? then help me out by sharing this article with your print on demand forums and on social media.

Now get out there and get designing!

Print on Demand (or PoD) is considered a passive source of income and is an internet-based business anyone can start. When most people talk about Print on Demand, they are generally referring to a company online which prints T-shirts for you, however today’s print on demand services offer everything from face masks to phone cases and beach towels. Essentially you create a high-resolution design and upload it to a service, depending on the service you choose to partner with, they will promote, print, and ship the order to your customers. You get a percentage for each sale and most services allow you to choose the amount you make on each item sold. This lets you focus your time on creating new sellable designs rather than dealing with business infrastructure. How does it work? Let’s talk about it.

How much does it cost?

Getting started in any business requires startup costs. Depending on the path you take, your startup cost for getting into Print on Demand can be very reasonable. All but a couple of the Print on Demand services are free to join, but you might be required to jump through a few hoops to get your items listed.  Until now, if you wanted to be able to make your own T-shirts to sell, you had to learn screen printing and buy the bulky equipment and all the blank shirts and inks. You had to buy into a credit card service and deal with the hassle of not only promoting your designs, but printing and sending them out to your customers yourself. With Print on Demand services, you just upload a high quality, high resolution file and they handle the rest. But what about the most important part of the equation? The designs?

If you don’t have a background in graphic design, color theory and typography, can you still make designs for Print on Demand? Of course, there are websites like  Canva.com  that allow you to create designs from templates, all you need to do is come up with the text you want to put on the shirt. Here is where most Print on Demand tutorials end – they don’t tell you the truth. You can use these design templates, but there will be many times when you want to make specific changes to a design to fit your needs for a shirt design, and having a background or at least some basic knowledge in graphic design can go a long way.

The most significant cost associated with starting a Print on Demand will be time. No matter how simple all of the other tutorials say it will be, there will be significant time involved in getting your business up and running, then you will spend a ton of time researching new niches for shirt designs, promoting your work and uploading your completed designs to your shop. There are automation services which streamline the process for you but be prepared to pay a monthly charge.

What you need

First and foremost (other than an internet connection) you are going to need a computer or tablet that can create designs for your Print on Demand shop. You will also need software to create your new designs on, there are free options available like GIMP, but I prefer Photoshop over all other programs because there is so much information available online to learn the program. All the best plugins, and content is created with Photoshop in mind, and I can’t see a viable reason to not use Photoshop for creating designs. My thinking is that you can get a free program like GIMP and try to translate tutorials and lessons to that platform, but learning new software can be difficult enough without having to add in a translation errors when you already don’t feel comfortable with the program.

Photoshop used to cost hundreds of dollars and needed to be upgraded each year. These days, you can get photoshop in the photographer bundle for $9.99 a month, less than the price of a cup of coffee. This will give you access to all the cool new features in photoshop and it is constantly updated. In the photographer bundle you also get Lightroom which is a great program to catalog and edit all your photos. We aren’t affiliated with Adobe, and get nothing for recommending photoshop to you, it is just the best program to use for design creation hands down.

You will also want a backup strategy for your designs. You are investing time into your designs, and a computer crash could completely derail your business if you don’t put a plan in place form the outset. 1 Terabyte dries ca be had at any big box store for less than a hundred dollars – often way under a hundred dollars. Back up your work often, believe me the first time you have a computer crash you are going to thank me.

Lastly, you are going to need your tax information. When you sell something online you must pay taxes on it, there is no way around it. Most Print on Demand services will ask for your social security number and will give you itemized comma separated lists of the items you sold over the year so you can claim them on your taxes.

If you are serious about starting your Print on Demand business, I highly recommend that you consider setting up a LLC. I’m not a lawyer and don’t consider this legal advice, but a LLC will protect your personal assets in the event that someone sues you over a design. Whether you are making shirt designs, jewelry or looking at a career in photography a LLC can be a lifesaver (and property saver). Again, I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice but Legalzoom.com is a great place to get a LLC setup for around $300.

Set yourself apart

Since COVID-19 hit the Print on Demand industry has exploded with new designers. Some have come and gone, others are still hanging on. With the field so crowded, you as a designer need to set yourself apart from the herd. When you use services like Canva.com to create your designs, you must realize that your work is going to look like other’s work. You can’t get around this and no matter how many different templates are available, customers are going to see the same shirt template all over the place. How do you set yourself apart from all the other designers? I am a bit proponent for learning new skills. Rather than just replaying on pre-made templates, why not take the time to learn how to make the designs yourself? This will open all sorts of new avenues for you. Consider this, if you know how to make the templates you could not only create your own designs to sell, but you can also create designs to sell to other designers who don’t have the design skills.

Is it worth it?

The revenue you are going to see (especially at first) from a Print on Demand shop isn’t going to pay the rent, and in most cases, it might not even buy you lunch. Print on Demand is a very crowded market and there is no get rich quick scheme. Just like any business, it is going to take time to research your designs, find new trends to create designs for and upload your designs. The margins you make are razor thin and you will rely on volume to start seeing a reasonable income on a monthly basis. If you have time, and you love to create things that other people can enjoy, then Print on Demand is right for you. I love to make the designs, but even to this day years later I still find myself buying a lot of my designs and wearing them every day. The joy of someone telling you that they love your shirt and you being able to hand them a card and saying I made this is priceless. For me, the time involved in Print on Demand as a business is well worth it.

Copyrighted material

Any “what is Print on Demand” article should include a bit about copyrighted materials. If you have questions about the legality of using the Nike logo, or Baby Yoda in your designs, we have detailed explanations here. For now, the best piece of advice I can give about copyrighted materials is this: If you didn’t create it don’t use it. Drawing Baby Yoda is not creating it. You must produce the design or idea and then implement it to be able to legally use it on your designs. If you venture into the copyrighted materials game be aware that the best thing that can happen to you is your account gets banned or they just take your design down. If you make that shirt with Baby Yoda and it sells well, Disney is going to come after you. Larger companies like this have teams of lawyers that do nothing all day but look for instances of people using their intellectual property and suing them.

Using copyrighted materials in your designs can be a way to get some quick sales, but the hassle and litigation surrounding the use of copyrighted materials is not worth the risk in my eyes.

Print on Demand services

There are a ton of Print on Demand services, but three stand out – Redbubble, Teespring and Merch by Amazon. These three services all use the same base file resolutions 4500X5400 and all three are non-exclusive, meaning when you create a design you can upload it to all three of these services to sell. Let’s break down a quick summary of each of these services:

Redbubble

When you are first starting out, Redbubble is going to be your best source of income. The process of uploading your design and choosing the products it will appear on is quick and easy. You can choose your profit margin and once your design is uploaded it will propagate through Google and the Redbubble service. They will immediately start including you into relevant searches and customers will be able to start finding your designs right away. Redbubble is stringent on enforcement of copyrighted materials, so if you upload something you don’t have the rights to use, they will catch you and remove the design. Multiple infractions will lead to a banned account. If you are going to just choose one Print on Demand service to work with, Redbubble will be the quickest and easiest to get up and running. They are a great way to dip your toe into the Print on Demand game and see if it is right for you.

Merch by Amazon

Did you know Amazon has a Print on Demand service? The shirts are decent quality, and they promote your work on Amazon. This is good and bad, good that it is Amazon and your products will be promoted where everyone is already shopping, but bad in that Amazon is so bug your work can get lost in the myriad of other designs available on the service. You also have to apply for a seller account and prove that your work is good. Once you are in you work your way up through a tier system starting at 10 design slots available. After your designs sell 10 shirts you move to Tier 2 whish has 25 design slots. Getting to the point where you can add a reasonable amount of designs onto your account can take quite a few months depending on your designs.

Teespring

Teespring has a metric called a trust score that you are required to navigate before they begin adding your designs into relevant customer searches. This means if you add 25 designs featuring dogs, your work will not be shown to customers searching for dogs until you have sold a few items and met the first tier of trust score requirements. The royalties are good on Teespring, and at the end of the day it is well worth the hoops you have to jump through to get a few sales to start your account. Use Twitter and Instagram to promote your work and get a few sales and you will be all good.

Big note: Teespring’s trust score is there to keep people from uploading and selling copyrighted materials, Don’t even think about uploading your fan art of Baby Yoda, your design will get taken down,  and your trust score will go into negative territory meaning you have to make even more sales on your own before your work starts showing up in relevant searches on the site.

Will you make a lot of money?

It depends. If you are using pre-made templates, and your work looks like everyone else’s, you might not. If you make create fun designs that people want, then you should do well.  Customers want fun topical and interesting designs.  

Give it a shot

Give Print on Demand a try. Don’t give up until you have at least 100 designs up. Once you reach 100 designs, you can take a step back and breath for a minute. Give it some time, depending on the time of year sales can be slow. Towards the holidays sales are always better, consider this as a long-term passive income source. That doesn’t mean to put up a bunch of designs and walk away, rather take the time for that big initial push to get 100 designs then evaluate where you are. Look at the designs that are selling and the ones that aren’t. Trends change, people’s taste change and your skills improve. Once you hit 100 designs I guarantee that you will look back and wrinkle your nose at some of the early designs you created.

Print on Demand is a fun and rewarding source of passive income. It is cheap to get started as it only costs you time at the outset. Go into it with an open mind and see if what interests you and drives your creation sells.