If you are new to Print on Demand, you might have shared some of your designs only to have people in the forums complain about copyright infringement, stealing, and all sorts of other things. How do you know when you are creating a design if the material you are using is copyrighted? Here is a quick list of topics that should not be used in your print on demand designs (unless you have permission from the owners of the property, or you are working with a partner program.)

I compiled this list after doing a very quick search on Redbubble, Teepublic, and Teespring. There are many more examples, this is not intended to be a complete list. I often see examples of designs using many of the properties on this list, and it seemed like a good idea to compile a list of areas that you should stay away from when making print on demand designs.   

Brands

  • Starbucks
  • Food – Pizza Hut, Chilis logo, etc.
  • Clothing Brands like Nike and Adidas
  • Soft Drinks like Coke, Mt. Dew, and Pepsi
  • Alcohol like Budweiser, Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels
  • Cars, not just the names but the shape of a car is also copyrighted and therefore should not be used without permission.
  • Toys, like LEGO – they are copyrighted.
  • Any logo for any brand or franchise. This includes Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, DC, and any other logo which is recognizable and represents a brand. This also extends to logos that might be more obscure like the logo for the Empire or Rebels from the Star Wars franchise, they are all copyrighted and may not be used in your designs.
  • Electronics – Dell computers, Cooler Master, Sony, Apple (iPhone iMac, etc.) Camera brands like Canon, Nikon, etc.
  • Catchphrases and marketing phrases – D’oh from The Simpsons, Just do it from Nike, I’m loving it from McDonald’s

Cartoons and Television

  • The Simpsons are owned by Fox who is owned by Disney, they have scores of lawyers that scour the internet every day looking for people using their property without permission
  • Any Disney Character – Baby Yoda and The Mandalorian, Lino, and Stitch, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Aladdin, etc.
  • Star Wars – R2D2, X-Wing or Tie fighters, Mandalorian armor
  • Marvel Characters or the logos for those characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc.
  • DC Comic Characters and their logos – The Punisher, Batman, etc.

 Videogames

All aspects of a game, including the characters, the game logo, etc. Among Us, Pokémon, Kirby, Mario, etc. This is especially true with the Among Us franchise, they are a smaller company and are currently working toward creating their own merchandise. The developer has requested that people making PoD gear with their designs please stop.

Music

Music, lyrics and band logos are all copyrighted and should not be used in your designs. This includes just a few words from a song or the musical notes for a song’s passage. Art from album covers should also not be used, even if it is “only part” of the artwork. 

Too many rules

It can seem like with all these areas that you cannot make designs from, that there is some sort of conspiracy or the world is against you making merchandise for your favorite band, or game. The reality is that if you make a shirt with the Nike Logo or the words Just Do It and you make money, then you are making money off of a brand that you do not own. Another example is the team that made the game Among Us. They worked very hard on their game and there was a significant investment in time and money that went into creating the game. It is not right for you to take their characters or other aspects of the game and make a design so you can make money off their hard work. You might think that a big company like Starbucks would not care if you made a design with their logo, but they most certainly will. The design you make can hurt the brand, and this can get you into even more trouble. While searching, I saw a Baby Yoda drinking a beer with a pot leaf, alcohol and drugs can do even more harm to a brand by associating them together in a design, and Disney would be even more aggressive defending this sort of case. 

Conclusion

So, if you can’t use any of these properties when making your design, what are you supposed to do? Create your own stuff. But what if your design isn’t as exciting or interesting without the words Just Do it? Create your own catchphrase, don’t expect Nike, who spent millions marketing Just Do It to let you use it for free. What if your design isn’t as cool without the Among Us characters? Create your own. It is all plain and simple. If you didn’t create the art/character/drink etc. DON’T USE IT!

Now get out there 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!

If you are creating T-shirt designs and you are looking for some inspiration, each week we review the Print on Demand top Niches. Keeping track of what is hot and what is not is a tough process, hopefully this information will help you out.

This week we are transitioning away from Halloween, because regardless of which PoD service you work with your customers will not have time to order shirts or other items and have them arrive before Halloween which is next weekend. By now, you should have your Thanksgiving designs up for sale, and be actively working toward Christmas and New Years designs. Speaking of Christmas and New years, let’s talk about this week niche suggestions.

2020 Sucks

With COVID-19, lots have had a tough year and they are looking to show off their dislike of the year from hell. 2020 sucks shirts are still selling well, you should consider creating some designs which feature 2020 sucks somewhere. Perhaps marrying 2020 sucks with Thanksgiving, New Years or Christmas somehow would yield good results. If this works for you, let us know with a tweet or message!

I may be old but I got to see all the cool bands.

Look it up on Amazon or Redbubble, it’s the words with a guitar. This is a shirt that can seel anytime of the year, so consider this as one of those long-term designs for your shop. Do be careful of the guitars, don’t just go on Google Images and grab a vector or image of a Fender or other guitar, copyright police will come for you and make them take your  design down.

Kayaking gets me wet and SUP

Its strange, but the Kayaking gets me wet design is doing well this week and last. I have also seen Stand Up Paddling gets me wet designs out there quite a bit. This is also called SUP. It seems early for summer sports, but hey, if it is selling why not? Have you tried this niche? How is it working for you?

Merry Quarantine Christmas

Christmas designs are starting to fill up the stores and they are selling well. From what I have seen so far, it los like lots of the larger shops are re-tooling their designs from last year and adding Merry Quarantine Christmas to them.  Many are also incorporating toilet paper rolls into the 2020 zeros. I have also seen lots of elves with 2020 toilet-paper-ized.  

Voting is hot 2020

We are at the end of the election season, you should have your Biden won and Trump won themed shirts in your stores (if you are playing both sides of the fence).  Redbubble is showing trends for Coting is Hot 2020 at the moment, it’s a bit late to jump on this trend but who knows if you have an original design it might be worth it. I still think that designs featuring both candidates for winning the election will be a good seller right after the election. Just put both up and whichever candidate wins the election pull the loser’s shirts down.

Did any of this help you? Did we inspire you? Let us know if you like this series we will keep it going each week. Now get out there and get designing!

Print on demand can be an incredibly rewarding or frustrating business venture. Since COVID-19 struck and people started looking for passive sources of income, the YouTube content creators who educate on Print on Demand saw an explosion of traffic on their sites. They promised the equivalent of get rich quick schemes and many fell for it. They said “All you have to do is follow the current trends, upload shirts and you will make a fortune”. Maybe you were one of those poor souls who fell for the hype? Did you make a bunch of designs and not sell one? Now, are you are here trying to find information about Print on Demand and how to make sales. What went wrong? What can you do to make more sales on your Redbubble, Teespring or Teepublic account? Let’s talk about it!

Busy place

When interest in Print on Demand first exploded earlier this year, the market was well saturated with designs. The market was crowded, but sellers with little or no graphic design skill could easily upload designs utilizing pre-made templates and still see reasonable sales margins for their time spent creating. The pandemic changed the Print on Demand industry just like it did so many others. People were out of work and looking to supplement their income, so many turned to passive income options like Print on Demand to fill the gap.  As the year wore on and quarantines started becoming the norm, layoffs caused even more people to venture into the already overcrowded Print on Demand market. These latecomers were inundated with content from YouTube creators promising a quick buck.

Education not creation

When times change, businesses need to change with them or face failure. Seeing their business change with a huge influx of new creators, those who have been in the Print on Demand game for a while, (yours truly included) saw an already overcrowded market  changing with new creators hungry to be educated about the Print on Demand game so many shifted their focus from creating designs to creating educational content, and their channels and blog traffic exploded. These new educators led new designers toward the path many of these creators took early on, relying on pre-made templates. They partnered with websites that create ready-made solutions like Canva and the market for new creators continued to explode. The problem was that they didn’t realize the biggest flaw with content creat3ed by these sites,

Everyone is doing it

The most common question asked in any Print on Demand forum is how to get more sales. New creators jump on this Canva bandwagon and create a ton of shirt designs, then end up selling one or two and give up. Realize that everyone is in the same boat as you are, whether you are new to Print on Demand or an old grizzled designer, the quest for that next viral shirt design is something we all share. Some use memes as content while others watch TV and keep up with current events in the news looking for subjects for their designs. Let’s look at an example, In late summer President Trump was on a news show where he touted that he has had aced a cognitive test where the test moderators asked him to remember five words, man, woman, person, camera, TV. This led to a rush of designs featuring the five words and quickly became a short-lived Print on Demand trend.  Designs featuring the five words sold very well for a couple weeks and those who had shirts in early to the game did well. Those that jumped on the bandwagon late saw little income from this design because the trend machine had moved on to the election and a myriad of other topics.  The lesson that many learned was that if they kept up on current events, and jumped on the design ideas as they came, it payed off.

Shortcuts

When you are looking for ideas for your next design, it can be very tempting to consider joining sites like Canva. They provide ready made designs, and all you need to do is type your text in, upload it to your Print on Demand account and wait for the money to start rolling in. The problem with this solution is that everyone is doing it.  There may be a lot of templates to choose from, but at the end of the day customers looking for shirts are going to recognize the design you used and pass yours by even if your text is more creative or funny than others. We all like shortcuts and learning graphic design, color theory and typography is a long and boring process and the allure of using templates can be strong.  The truth about the matter is that using pre-made templates is the most common reason for not getting sales in Print on Demand. You need to find a way to stand out from the crowd, especially when it comes to designs in a very crowded market.

Is it worth it?

Print on Demand is awesome. There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing someone you don’t know on the street wearing your design. Print on Demand is an easy an inexpensive business to get into, but it can be extremely frustrating, especially if you have no skill in graphic design. At the end of the day, t-shirt design is art, and there is a market for every type of art. Regardless of your preferred design topic, you will find your market if you look hard enough. Next time we will talk about some techniques you can use to get more sales in your Print on Demand business.