Finding trends to make designs for can be a difficult endeavor. Where do you go to find the latest trends? And once you find a good source for trends, how do you evaluate the suggested trends so that you are not wasting your time on designs that are not going to sell?  Let’s talk about it…

Considerations

Before we talk about where to find trends for your print on demand designs, lets take a moment to put a couple warnings out there. First, remember that everyone who does print on demand is also looking for good sources for design trends, we all want to get in on the ground floor for that next viral design. Second, if you rely on YouTube or blog articles for your weekly source of trending designs, realize that your sales for that design will often depend on when you get your design completed and uploaded for sale. If your source uploads a video or article on Sunday and you wait until Tuesday to start working on your designs, many other designers will be in the market with that design before you, and the market for that design will be saturated.

A trending story

The freshest and least competition source for trends will always be the news. This can be from twitter, a local or national news station or even Facebook. Who has time to watch the news all day? Nobody, but it is a good source. As an example, one of the designers I have been mentoring for a long time made a design last year using the phrase “it is what it is”. The designer happened to be watching the news the night that the story broke and within a couple hours he had a design created, tuned, and uploaded. The phrase went viral in the Print on Demand world and the designer did very well for the short time the phrase was a thing. This is a good example of noticing a trend, creating a design, and uploading while customers were actively looking or shirts with the phrase. The shirts sold great for the first few days and then sales held steady for three weeks. This is the lifetime for many trends, the first few days will do great then as the trend is fading you will see steadily declining sales as more designers get into the market for that trend. This is the problem many PoD designers see; they find the trend too late and unless their designs are above average (not using Canva or other template sites) they generally hit the market for that trend after the initial sales rush is over. The late to the party designer will see a few sales (or likely none) and get frustrated.

Competition

This can be difficult to hear, but designers who chase the latest trends but lack graphic design skills are the most likely to fail at print on demand, or struggle with sales. If you take one thing away from this article, know that the best way to make a decent number of sales on Redbubble, Teespring or other PoD services is to offer good quality designs that stand out from the crowd in a low competition niche. The number one thing you will hear from anyone offering advice on Redbubble or PoD will tell you that you need to find a niche that you are passionate about and is low competition. If you start out your PoD journey by jumping into the Pets or alcohol general niche, you are jockeying for a place at the table with well established designers. Unless your cat design is amazing, don’t expect to do well in an oversaturated niche until you get established in the market. Now, if you drill down into a niche to a smaller portion of it, like cats and coffee or cats and marathon runners (as an example, but these are also pretty saturated) you can expect to sell significantly more units that if you stayed in the general cats niche.

Do you suggest paid options?

My answer to this is meh.  I have been mentoring designers for a long time, and I have seen some do well with the paid services, but generally designers who find their own sources for trends make more sales than having a service spoon feed you the trends to work on. Much of this depends on how much time you must devote to your print on demand business. If you have time to watch the news and can move quickly to get a high quality design out to market, you can do well. As before, realize that there are a lot of other designers who are frustrated and struggling like you are and looking for that easy source of trends. The way to succeed in business is to find a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. If everyone is using the paid services and making the same shirts, how many do you really think are succeeding?

Evaluating trends

Many designers use bubble trends as their primary source for designs. You can find them here. (https://bubbletrends.herokuapp.com/trends) The site lists the trending searches on Redbubble, and a lot of designers hawk this site daily and make designs based on the daily results. Let’s take a look at the top 20 results for today, but first something to think about: The results on these sites can be skewed. The number one search is abs in progress, when a designer sees this, he or she will often go to Redbubble and search for the term and look at the resulting designs. This artificially increases the validity of the term and raises it higher or keeps it on top. The thing you don’t know is how many non-designers searched for this term.

The first thing you should notice about this weeks top twenty is the copyrighted material like Baron Zemo (from the Marvel Cinematic Universe) or celebrity names like DMX or Angela Dean. Copyrighted material cannot be used to make print on demand designs unless you are working with a partner program through Redbubble or other service, and celebrities are protected just like copyrighted material. You cannot use likenesses of celebrities in your designs without permission. The rest of the searches are reasonable sources for designs depending on hos many results there are. The only other point I would make about this week’s list would be the fully vaccinated still antisocial term. Some print on demand services are still purposely pushing results for Coronavirus and Covid-19 searches down into the lower rankings. They do not want to be responsible for people profiting off of the pandemic. I would use this one at your own risk. As of this writing, many services consider it a grey area but I personally don’t use it in my designs.

So is Bubbletrends a good site? Is the information valuable? It depends. I am telling you about it and you are checking it out today. How many other designers have read this article and are using the site on a daily basis now? The viability of a trend is determined by your ability to get a quality design out to market.

Conclusion

What sources do you use for finding trends? Are you struggling with low or slow sales on Redbubble Teespring, Merch by Amazon or other PoD service? Drop me a message and let’s talk. Please share this article with your print on demand communities and get out there and get designing!

The most common reason a design is taken down is for violating copyright or community standards. The second most common (an often overlooked) reason a design can be taken down is for using font which are not commercially licensed. There are a ton of sites that offer free fonts, so why would a design be taken down for using one of these free fonts? Let’s talk about it.. 

Fonts and how they can get your design removed

People create fonts, and just like a photograph, the work the creator does is covered under copyright. If you use sits like dafont not all of the fonts they offer are commercially useable. When you download a font from this type of site, you have to read the end user license agreement. You will find that many of the cooler fonts are not freely useable for commercial purposes. Just like stock photo sites, font sites scour the internet constantly  looking for improper uses of their client’s fonts. They will send a takedown notice to sites like Redbubble and quickly get your design removed, then it is up to you to prive that you purchased or properly licensed the offending font. 

The larger concern for print on demand designers is that the status of the fonts can change at any time. Often the author of the font will decide that they do not want the font to be used commercially anymore and the status will change to private use only. When this happens you will not receive notification, it is up to you as a designer to keep track of the fonts you have used in your designs and constantly review the status. This can add a lot of time to an already time-consuming design process. So, how do you avoid tis? How can you be sure that you are using fonts that are safe and won’t change status?

The argument for Adobe

When you subscribe to Creative Cloud or even the photoshop bundle, you get use of Adobe’s font library which is commercially useable. Since I have been using Adobe, none of their font have changed status from commercial to private and I started using photoshop at version two about a million years ago. That doesn’t mean it won’t even happen I just feel safe in knowing that if the status of a font changed, they would let their community know because they are the industry leader in design software. 

If you use affinity designer or Canva, the fonts in those packages are also (as of this writing please do your own research for confirmation) commercially useable. I would imagine if the status changed with one of their fonts, they too would notify their user base.

Conclusion

What is your source of fonts for print on demand designs? How confident are you in the likelihood of them not changing status? I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a message with questions about this article or anything in print on demand. Remember I use name brands in my blogs so I can’t monetize it please pass this article along to your print on demand communities it helps me and keeps articles like this coming.

Now get out there and get designing!

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! 

The print on demand industry has an incredibly low bar for entry, and if you do it right, it can be a good source of passive income. There are tons of great places to sell your designs online like Redbubble, Teespring, Teepublic and even directly on Amazon using their Merch by Amazon service. Getting started can feel overwhelming because there are so many options, so where do you start? Let’s talk about it.

The basics of design tools

There are two common types of graphic design tools used to create designs for print on demand, raster and vector. Raster or pixel-based tools like Gimp (free) or Photoshop are tailored to work on pixel-based images like photographs. The biggest downside to these programs is that the files you output are limited to the resolution of the source material you start with. As an example, many images found on stock photo sites like pexels or unsplash will be downloaded at around 2000 pixels at 72 to 100 dpi (dots per inch) on the long edge, and most sites like Redbubble want files around 4500 X 5400 pixels at 300 dpi for maximum compatibility with all products. This means that if you download an image of a squirrel depending on how big the squirrel is in the frame, you very well may not be able to use that image for printing purposes. Recent updates to photoshop have included the ability to increase the resolution of an image significantly, and there are dedicated plugins which will also increase the resolution of your image, but these can only go so far before the output begins to look fuzzy and unusable. Generally, if you plan to base your designs on photo type images, you will want to take your own photos so they are in higher resolution.

The second type of tool commonly used for print on demand is vector-based programs like Affinity Designer (Win/Mac $24.99, iPad $9.99) and Adobe’s Illustrator (subscription). The benefit of using vector-based programs is that they are not based on resolution or file size. When you create designs in vector software, you are putting points and curves together to make a shape. These shapes are all mathematically based and can be scaled to any size and resolution needed for your printing needs. The biggest downside to these programs is they take time to learn, and the end result is often cartoon-looking.  Be aware that vector-based programs are CPU and GPU intensive and can really bog down an older computer.

What if I can’t draw?

The tool many choose to create designs for print on demand, especially when first starting out is often a template-driven drag and drop site like Canva.com. Canva provides lots of good-looking templates to get you up and designing (and selling) right away. Canva includes commercial usage rights and can keep you virtually buried in designs to choose from if you opt for the premium subscription level of Canva’s service. Canva is a great place to start if you have no graphic design or layout skills and want to quickly get some designs up on your print on demand service. If you have watched any of the YouTube creators, they often tout Canva as the go-to solution for most beginning print on demand workflows.

The biggest downside to using sites and drag and drop solutions like Canva is that everyone with little to no graphic and design layout knowledge is using the same templates. Customers are picky and they tend to glaze over their interest when offered multiple versions of the same shirt with marginally different text treatments. Remember that if your dream shirt says I love Dogs with a picture of a dog, you can execute the design in Canva, but the result you will upload to Redbubble will use text, images and layout that many other designers are also using. Your I love dogs shirt is no longer unique since it uses the same dog picture that is on a hundred or thousand other shirts available on Redbubble. This one reason is why most new designers fail to sell designs on Redbubble and other platforms after watching the YouTuber crowd hype the ease and lucrative nature of print on demand.

Which is best free or paid software?

The best answer to this is: it depends. If you are looking to throw a few text-based designs up on Redbubble and make a few quick sales, then perhaps Canva might be the best option for you. With Canva, you are limited to the look of their designs templates and if you do not plan to do t-shirt design long term this is a good solution.  

The biggest factor to consider in your decision when looking at tools to create your print on demand designs should be longevity and flexibility. What if you start a print on demand business today and spend thousands of hours creating and uploading designs and the free service or software you are using to create your designs is suddenly no longer available? Canva is a big site, but what if the legislation surrounding their content and templates changes? What would you do if the free software you spent hundreds of hours getting used to is no longer being upgraded? Choosing programs like Affinity Designer, Procreate and Illustrator are not only industry standards, but less likely to vanish because their team is not making it on the freeware model. I have gone the free/cheap route with programs before, and the program I spent hundreds of hours learning was suddenly gone because the technology in the free program was purchased by a larger company (Sony) and later phased out.  It is frustrating and can lead to downtime while you learn a new program or suite.

The argument for paid options

What if you want to get serious about making designs and the templates offered at Canva do not fit your needs? If you are looking to make unique designs (that have a better chance of selling), then it is going to cost you two things: money and time. If you subscribe to Illustrator, you will be learning to use an industry-standard design program. There are a million and one free YouTube tutorials available to get you up and running quickly. The point that I like to make is that when you are learning to use an Adobe product, you are learning a lasting skill. It can take time, but there are a lot of sources available for support when you decide to walk down that well-traveled road.  

The time part of the equation is learning the basics of graphic design. YouTube is a good source, but I have found that sites like skillshare and Udemy offer great courses that are produced by knowledgeable instructors. Udemy often has sales offering their master classes for less than 20 dollars. This isn’t an advertisement for Udemy, I just personally use them and have found their content very high quality and I recommend them to anyone looking to learn a skill.

Setting yourself up for success long term

Learning graphic design and a program like Illustrator will net you a set of skills that are not dependent on companies like Canva to produce your product. You are also setting your work apart from the competition. Once you know the rules for text layout and can create assets (like your dog picture for your dream shirt) then your work is elevated above all of the designers who rely on Canva.

One thing those who take this advice learn quickly is that once they have the basics down pat, they have another source of revenue available to them that other designers do not. If you can create the dog picture in illustrator, suddenly you can offer services to other designers who lack the skill to create those assets themselves. Offering to create those awesome dog pictures on sites like fiverr can be a good source of income that you can do while you are creating new designs for your print on demand shops. I have often created assets that never became shirts, and was able to sell them on fiverr, recouping my time spent on those images.

Setting yourself apart

So, learning graphic design and illustrator sets your work apart from the rest of the crowd, and also opens another income venue, why wouldn’t you do it? Remember that a monthly subscription to use illustrator is a business expense, which you will be happy about when tax time comes. The problem with setting your work apart for the competition is that you will get more sales and thus have to pay more taxes. Print on demand is a very low overhead business and a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud can certainly help offset that. Who knew that selling more could cost you so much?

Conclusion

What do you think? Did this article convince you to consider investing in yourself to learn a new skill, or will you stick with the free or drag and drop options? I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a message here with comments about this article or questions about print on demand. Because I use name brand words, I can’t monetize my content so if you like articles like this, please share them with your print on demand community and spread the word.

Now get out there and get designing!

Print on Demand has two very distinct paths, and how you allocate your time when designing new products can affect the overall success of your print on demand business. Does it make more sense to chase current trends or produce evergreen designs? Let’s talk about it…

Two schools of thought

I get a ton of messages every day from struggling designers begging me to enlighten them on the latest trends, I am also asked all the time why I stopped publishing articles devoted to weekly trends. In truth, both questions are related to the same thing, time. I write articles for this blog, but I also spend my day (full time) designing print on demand products. Over the years, I have done a ton of experimenting with time spent on chasing trends and evergreens. Which is your time best spent on? Let’s talk about the right way to chase trends first.

Doing trends right

Most struggling designers focusing primarily in trends for their stores think that watching a YouTube video on this weeks trends, and jumping on those trends is the ticket to success in print on demand. Unfortunately, these are the designers I usually hear from saying they cannot figure out why their work is not selling. The reality is that (often) once the YouTubers have made their “this week’s trends” video, so many people have already made and uploaded designs for those trends, it is like jumping into a crowded pool. This means that the only people benefiting from spreading the word about the trends for the week are the YouTubers getting money for your views. Do not fool yourself into thinking that if there was a great trend the person making the video stumbled on, they would not sit on that trend themselves and make some money.

So, what is the best way to find new trends if the YouTube niches of the week and Redbubble trends tools are providing information that is mostly out of date by the time you get it? The best trend research tool is going to be you taking the time to surf the internet and television. Many of the trends no associated with holidays come from the news. As an example, in the news this week was the removal of six Dr. Seuss books from publication. Depending on the source of your information you would see that the cancel culture has taken the books off the shelf or that the Dr. Seuss organization decided to take them off the publication list for what they considered to be inappropriate material. Regardless of the stance you would take on the subject, the next thing you would do is find out If Dr Seuss was in the public domain and if you could use it on a shirt design. You would find out that it is a copyrighted property and that you cannot use it on a design in any way. How much time did this one search take, and did it net you an idea for a new design? If you end up spending your time surfing and reading news looking for the next trend is that a good use of your time?

Trends versus evergreen designs

This is a decision you need to make for yourself. If you are nimble and able to create designs quick enough to jump on emerging trends, then chasing trends could very well be profitable for you. If you sit back and wait for the YouTubers to tell you which trends to make designs for, then likely you are going to struggle. Whether chasing trends is a viable business decision for you is up to your individual situation. If you have another full-time job, and you work on print on demand in the evenings, then likely you will struggle with chasing trends, unless your designs are amazing and can stand above the rest. If you are making your designs with template sites like Canva, or using the same old stock images that everyone else is using then you might have a tough time. How much time you spend on chasing trends versus creating evergreen designs should also be a consideration based on where you are with your business. If you don’t have a lot of sales and you are focusing your efforts on trends, then maybe consider finding a few evergreen (good all year long) niches to work in and get some sales. Finding a good mix of trends and evergreens will net you a good return on your time invested in your business.

I love to work in my proven niches, but also spend some time each day looking at trends and determining if the trend of the day is something, I am interested in. Finding the right balance for your workday can keep you fresh in your niche while still allowing you to branch out into trends.  

Trend Saturation

Trends quickly become saturated in the market, especially the ones the YouTubers are pushing. Designers hear about the trend and jump on their Canva account and make a text only version of the trend so they can get something to the market quickly. The result is that the customer is deluged with a million designs that all look the same and they just move on.  When you are getting started, or if you are struggling to get your first few sales on Redbubble or Teespring, you must determine if you time is best spent uploading a design that is similar to the other offerings in the market, or if you could work on a good original design for an evergreen niche.

You make it or you don’t

If I make a design using the Dr. Seuss example from above, I must balance how long (time) I am spending on creating that design versus time that could be spent on an evergreen. How long will the Dr. Seuss story be a trending topic? Odds are that as you are reading this, the trend is long gone. If I spent time making a design and uploading it, was it worth my time if I do not sell any? We all want to have the next viral shirt design, but honestly how often does that happen? If you spend a few hours deciding on a trend to make a shirt for, spend a couple hours or more making the design, upload it and sell one at your current profit margin, was it worth it? Most of the Merch by Amazon shirts are getting a few dollars in profit. If you spent two or three hours researching, designing and uploading and you sell one (or none) is your time worth the dollar or so an hour it took to make that shirt and sell it? That doesn’t count for viral shirts which make up for any loss of sales of course, but If you are reading this how many viral shirt designs have you had?

Conclusion

Finding a good balance of trend and evergreens that work for you is the toughest part of this equation. I don’t have a hard and fast time allotment because there are so many factors involved. The biggest consideration I can give you is to remember if you spend hours finding a trend and make a design for it, and it doesn’t sell can you reuse the assets you created for something else?  Find that balance and let me know how things are going for you. I love to hear from my readers and love to hear if the advice here helps you in your endeavors.

Remember, because of the trademarks and copyrighted words I use on this blog I can’t monetize my content, so if you find articles like this useful, you can help me out by sharing the site and articles with your friends in the print on demand communities you belong to.

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!

The lure of quick money can be strong when it comes to Print on Demand, this is especially true when you see the myriad of YouTubers who profess to be selling tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise per month on platforms like Redbubble, Spreadshirt, Society6, and Teespring. They promise an alternative to working your 9 to 5 job, and the best part is that you can start with a very small budget! If so, many people are making money hand over fist, why do so many Redbubble and Print on Demand shops fail? Let’s talk about it…

The lure of easy money

 It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Print on Demand is a great source of passive income. Those promoting PoD tell you that you can use template sites like Canva and make simple text-based shirts requiring no skill in graphic design. They promise that if you make 100 shirts and then you can sit back and wait for the monthly cash to roll in. This is where many people end up, they make the same shirts that everyone else is making, using the same templates that everyone is using, and upload to the same services that everyone else is using. Are we starting to see the source of the problem yet?

It takes time!

If Print on Demand is your first foray into internet-based business ventures, you will quickly learn that nothing on the internet happens quickly, unless it goes viral of course. It takes time to research new shirt designs, create the design, upload the design, research the keywords for the design, and upload the designs to the print on demand servers. Once the designs are live, it takes time for Google to index them and get them in front of your customer’s eyes. After a while with no sales designers will realize that print on demand takes time – quite a bit of it. It is at this point where many designers turn to upload automation services like Merch Titans which allow you to upload to a few different services at the same time. This does come at a risk however, when you sign up for your accounts, the agreement you digitally sign for most print on demand services state that automated upload services are not allowed. Using these automated services can result in your account being banned. The automation services aren’t free and suddenly, the no startup fee business is costing you ten bucks a month for access to an uploader service.

The market is crowded

The promise of quick cash in print on demand has brought a ton of designers into the industry. Rather quickly, you will realize that a lot of people are making the same design and offering it in their PoD shop. This leads to the desire to make more compelling and interesting designs, so designers who are not skilled in graphic design will turn toward the paid version of the template services like Canva premium. Just like that you are paying 10 dollars for your automated uploader system and 8 dollars for premium access to better templates. When you are starting out in print on demand, many will be struggling to make 18 dollars a month. Suddenly, you are losing money every month creating the same designs as everyone else is making.

My designs aren’t selling!

Here you are, you have created over 100 designs for your print on demand shop, but they aren’t selling. You search the internet and come across articles like this, post on Facebook forums, and even try Reddit but your designs aren’t selling, and you can’t figure out why. The tough truth is that you have fallen for the get rich quick scheme that is so pervasive in the print on demand industry. In an effort to recoup their initial investment designers often turn to copyrighted material and start to make designs featuring Nike, Starbucks, DC comics characters (how many fake batman shirts have you seen?) Using copyrighted material in your designs will often break the dam, and you start seeing some sales. You will quickly recoup your initial investment but as soon as things get going, your account gets banned, you might get a letter from DC Comics or Disney from who you “borrowed” your designs from. You have no leg to stand on, you know when you used the copyrighted material you were doing something you weren’t supposed to. Now your car and home are in danger because they have big lawyers, and you can’t afford to hire one because you aren’t even making enough every month to cover the costs of the automated uploader service and Canva premium. Your “no startup budget” print on demand business venture is now costing you a whole heck of a lot more than you ever anticipated.

Failure is an option

Conservative estimates put the failure rate of print on demand businesses at 80%. Based on the comments and questions I get here on this forum, and all the questions I answer on the Facebook groups I work with, getting started in print on demand is tough unless you have a plan. If you think there are shortcuts and you can use Canva or steal images from google images for your content, you are destined for failure. If you troll design groups and steal ideas or designs, your success will also be short-lived. If you don’t want to take the time to exhaustively research the latest trends, or find good niches for evergreen designs then this isn’t the business for you.  If you fall into these categories I would suggest cutting your losses now and walking away.

Make a plan

Customers are picky, plain, and simple. They want the coolest looking designs with the words they searched for at the best price. If you have a shirt that says I love dogs in boring text and your competition has I love dogs with a cute little dog and the text laid out in a compelling way, and you are both selling them for the same price on Redbubble or Teespring, which one do you think is going to sell first? The cuter design with the better laid out text is going to beat out a “plain jane” design every day of the week. This is one of the many reasons print on demand shops fail, not taking enough time to layout the design. The second reason is that many designers jump into the deep end of a very populated niche like yoga or alcohol. Do your research, find a niche you are passionate about the make some shirts for it, if they sell then expand and refine your work and offer more designs for that niche. Designers often ask me what they can do to compete with those shops with graphic design experience?

Knowledge is key

There are a million places online where you can learn the basics of graphic design and layout. It can be incredibly boring, learning about text and typefaces that work in specific situations and how color harmonies work can make your designs stand head and shoulders above the ones who are struggling to make a sale. Consider taking a class from a reputable source like Udemy, they offer a lot of great classes and they often have great sales. YouTube is hit or miss with the quality of the content and remember that content producers on that platform are interested in time spent viewing. They will make shorter duration videos to engage your more in the hopes that you will stay on their channel and click the next video. Udemy charges a one-time fee and you can watch the course at your leisure. Udemy isn’t a sponsor and I don’t get anything for talking about them, I have used their service many times and overall I have been very happy with the quality of the courses offered there.

Areas to avoid

I cannot tell you the number of times that someone has said to me: just tell me the niche I should be working in to make money. Think about it this way: why would I tell you and everyone else reading these articles the niches I am working in? I am happy to give you help with designs, implementation and steer you toward the light in terms of making more money with your print on demand shop, but I’m not going to tell you which niches to work in. There are a ton of content creators on YouTube that do weekly niche reviews, but you must take this information with a grain of salt. If I tell you today that you need to be making yoga shirt designs, you, and everyone else reading these articles or watching the videos will be racing to put up as many designs in that niche, instantly flooding it and making it way more competitive. The only ones profiting from providing this information is the YouTube creators raking in the views on their videos about new hot niches. Don’t think for one moment that they aren’t going to be making everything they can from the niches they are giving you in the videos before they pass the information along to you. What would you do in that situation?

Don’t bother buying the all in one print on demand courses that are offered all over the internet, they are telling you the same stuff I’m telling you here. Start a shop, you can do it, get a Canva account, Get a Merch Titans account, do research for your designs before you put time into them and of course find the smallest niche you can to work in and expand from there. The most important thing you will learn from a print on demand class is to make great looking designs. Even if you are working in a boring niche or just using a few words, be creative and lay the design out so it looks better than the ones available in other designer’s shops.  See? Now you know everything, and it didn’t cost you a penny.

Lastly, when you are on Facebook or Reddit, don’t beg people to tell you the niches they are working in. When someone is selling well in a niche they aren’t going to tell you about it don’t be silly.

Conclusion

With all the ways to fail in print on demand, why bother to stay in it? Why do I bother to support artists who want to create work and sell it online? Because the first time you are out and about in the store or at the mall and you see someone you don’t know wearing your design, the feeling is unforgettable. The passive income doesn’t hurt either once you get your shop rolling and find out what designs are selling best to your audience. Stick with it, make sure you have a plan, and don’t fall into the get rich quick schemes.  

Because I use copyrighted words and phrases, and often talk about brand names I can’t monetize this content, so please support this page by sharing the content with your print on demand forums and colleagues.

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. 

If you create designs for Print on Demand, you know there is one email that will get your heart racing, that your artwork is under review for copyright or Intellectual Property violations on Redbubble or other Print on Demand service. Since November, Redbubble has been cracking down on accounts and seem to be more stringent with their review of products being uploaded to the store. I have had quite a few questions about this, so what causes Redbubble to put your artwork into the “under review” category, and should you panic about it? There are a few reasons this can happen, let’s talk about them…

Why is this happening?

When you get the dreaded “Your artwork is under review” email from Redbubble, it can be confusing and a bit frustrating because the email is vague and does not spell out what you might have done wrong – this is an auto-generated email and is intended to cover the lesser offenses as well as the big ones. When you upload a design to Redbubble, the server reviews the submission tags and details, searching for overt copyright infringement. A common example is this: you upload a design with a spaceship and tag it with Star Wars or use Star Wars in your description. Star Wars is a copyrighted phrase, and you are not allowed to use it to sell your spaceship designs, even if the design doesn’t contain the actual likenesses of a Star Wars spaceship. This is the same as uploading a sports design and tagging it with NFL, NBA, or other franchise.

If you are careful about checking the trademark and copyright status of your designs before you upload them, and don’t use obvious copyrighted words or phrases in your tags, then you will likely be just fine, and your designs will be reinstated to the store in a few days. Often the system kicks the design to a human to make sure that the content is not violating any intellectual property before can be sold. If this is where you are, then I would recommend that you wait a week and if they haven’t sent you a response, then contact Redbubble support at: Redbubble Marketplace Integrity Team dmca.support@redbubble.com and ask them nicely about the status of your design.

Target Tags change

Sometimes the review process is triggered by using tags that you would not think would cause an issue. I recently helped one of my readers through this process, and the first thing we did was start with the design and the tags he used. The design was generic enough and was something he drew in Adobe Illustrator; I did a search for trademarks on the topic of the design and all turned up fine. The problem came from the tags. When he uploaded the design, he used the word Redneck in his tags. This word triggered the process because of the NFL team Washington Redskins changing their name, and the media coverage surrounding it. Redneck seems to be the alternate name choice or suggestion from the public for the team. In the case of his design, the word redneck was appropriate, and he wasn’t even eluding to the controversy with the Washington Redskins in his design or description. He did as I suggested and waited a week then sent a genuinely nice email asking if Redbubble had any updates on the design review process. In this case, the design was reinstated, and no harm was done. Redbubble is very reasonable when it comes to reviewing copyright infringement. They see a lot of stolen work and a lot of people using copyrighted material in their designs so be nice to them and be patient because they are reviewing a lot of work daily.

Strike Three!

How many times can you get the “your work is under review” email from Redbubble before your account gets banned? First, I would say that if you are reading this and you are concerned about the prospect of your account being banned because you are using copyrighted material in your designs, then you have a larger problem. If you are using material you do not own in your designs, then you are stealing. Other artists and companies spend a lot of time and money to promote their brand and build their name and reputation, and it is not right for you to profit from that by using their content in your designs. I have heard between two and three strikes against your account before you are banned by Redbubble. I would imagine it depends on the kind of copyright infringement you are doing. If you are using a baby Yoda riding a Nike swoosh holding a Starbucks with a pot leaf behind him, then I would consider that a massive legel of infringement. If you accidentally add a copyrighted tag into your list, or accidentally put a copyrighted phrase in your description, I am betting Redbubble will be much more lenient in their ruling on your account.

Check your Copyrights

When researching content for new designs, you should always be taking the time to look up the trademarks and copyrights of your proposed design before you even start putting pen to paper. Even using material that some consider “grey area” like videogames in your designs is not allowed. There was a team that made the game, and an artist that created the characters, and programmers who made the code. You were not a part of the team and you do not have the right to make designs featuring their work for your profit. This applies to large and small companies and means you cannot use Mario from Nintendo and you cannot use the characters from the game Among Us in your designs.

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!