I was thinking that you have to reject what others want from you and do your own thing.
This is a simple trick to have a few more sales. Maybe you know it, but frankly, this trick hasn’t occurred to me until after a few years of designing t-shirts. I’m going to write it down here, in case there’s someone else who hasn’t thought of it.
Some people really don’t want to buy dark t-shirts. And some people won’t buy light t-shirts. Let’s accommodate both those groups.
When I made this design I checked if it looked good when colors were reversed:
It did look fine. Turns out this design works well both as a white design on a black t-shirt and as a black design on a white t-shirt. So now both versions are for sale in my shop.
If you have a white design and you sell it on a black t-shirt, then invert the colors and check if it looks good too.
However, don’t just submit every design in two color options, it doesn’t always work. For example, this one looks good on dark but wouldn’t make sense on a white t-shirt:
One of my designs has been added to the Threadless store. Yay! I received an email a few hours ago.
Now, what exactly does it mean that a design is added to the Threadless store?
First, what you need to know is that there are two ways to sell designs on Threadless:
- One way is to simply create your own Artist Shop. For example, I have my Fox Shiver Artist Shop. You can add any design you want to your shop. You can have hundreds of designs. But, at least in the beginning, those designs might not be visible in the main Threadless store.
- The second way is for Threadless to select one of your designs to add to their own Threadless store. Every time there’s a design challenge, a few of the best entries are selected. And sometimes Threadless might select a design from your own Artist Shop.
When your design is selected and added to the Threadless store, it means better visibility and a higher chance that someone is going to see it and buy it.
That’s why it’s so important to add all your designs to your shop. The more designs you have, the better chance that one of them is going to be selected. Same with challenges — submit your designs to challenges and you get a chance that Threadless likes them and wants them in their store.
And remember, you never know what is going to be popular, so submit every design. I very nearly deleted one of my best-selling designs because I thought no one was going to want it.
Oh, and one more thing, usually when your design is selected to be added to the Threadless store, you get a $250 gift code to be used in the Threadless store on anything you want.
This is my Galaxy design:
Someone asked me about this design: how it’s made, why it looks kind of ‘silver’. So I am sharing it here in case you find it interesting too.
This is a close up:
And even more close up:
As you can see, it’s painted with the most basic hard pencil brush in Photoshop.
I think it might be interesting to share how much each of my designs has earned. For today I have selected “Zen Maze”.
“Zen Maze” is a moderately successful design, which means the sales are somewhat in the middle among my designs.
Average Monthly Earnings: $58
Total Earned: $755
How long did it take to make?
It took me 2 hours to make and another 1 hour to modify it for different products.
The design on apparel is slightly different than the design on most other items. I didn’t want it to be a regular rectangle when printed on clothes, so I erased some parts and made it irregular:
But on other items it looks best when it takes up all the space:
When you work on something for a long time it’s difficult to say how good it is.
This is a design I made 3 years ago and it’s titled “Get your own pizza, human!”
It took me a while to make this design. It has a lot of details and colors, and the cat is more complicated than I usually draw. I could not get the cat’s butt shape just right. And I kept changing his fur color until I finally settled on blue.
“No one’s going to like it,” I thought. I was sure no one would buy it and that people would complain about the blue color and wrong cat anatomy. But I had spent over 5 hours on this design so I didn’t want to just delete it. I was too attached. And there was one thing that I liked about this design — the cat’s serious expression, not angry or scared, just serious as if the pizza was the most important thing in the world.
So I published it. It’s in my top 10 best selling designs of all time. Shows what I know about what people like. Now when I look at this design I really like it and the blue fur too.
I wanted to share with you this little story because we often forget that we are our worsts critics and we judge our art too harshly.
There’s a funny design I once saw that I now spent 15 minutes searching for. Here it is:
It makes me think about how I approach designing for t-shirts.
A few years back I was renting an apartment with my brother. I ordered pizza at noon and knocked on his door to tell him. He woke up and said “wake me when it arrives” and went back to sleep.
A while later when I was designing t-shirts I vaguely remembered that. I drew a sleeping dog and experimented with different texts and finally shortened it to this:
Now I write down everything that catches my attention or is even remotely funny – you never know what might come in useful.
I just stumbled on a 6 years old thread on the Threadless forum: Top 20 best selling designs. And if you scroll down the thread, you will see another slightly newer list of designs.
This one caught my eye:
It makes me want to paint something colorful too.
But what surprised me most is that they all are so different. So many various themes: games, animals, retro, movies. That’s a good thing because it means that every designer can find their own niche.
Another thing that I noticed is that only two designs are with cats and I always thought that designs with cats sell best. So I checked the most popular designs right now and among the 48 designs on the first page, just two have cats and one of them is mine! I thought there would be 10 cat designs at least but I was wrong.
This is the first cat one:
And here is the second one. This is a cat about to jump.
I like browsing through designs and get inspired. For example, this dinosaur design has been popular 6 years ago and is still popular now:
That’s pretty amazing — to make a design that people love and buy for years.
Today I wanted to show you the most popular design that I ever made. Here it is:
I don’t know how many designs I’ve made in my life – a few hundred probably. This remains my best selling one.
Doesn’t look like much, does it? It’s really quite simple. My friends don’t believe me when I tell them that they too could design something and sell on a t-shirt. But as you can see it’s absolutely possible.
The important thing is to just have an idea.
This text is not about dogs.
When I first started drawing things and selling them on t-shirts and such, I spent way too much time endlessly improving my complicated designs. And then after maybe a week of work I would have one finished design and I would submit it to various websites. And it would disappear, no one would like it, buy it, no one would pay any attention. Then I would repeat the whole process: make a design for days, obsessing over tiny details and colors, submit, and most often than not, get no response and no interest.
Even after being in this business for years, I still can’t predict what people will like. That’s why it’s so important to not get too attached to any artwork, but keep making them, preferably fast, keep submitting, and some of those designs will get printed, often the ones you least expect.
Among my 10 most popular designs, 4 are designs that I thought no one would like. But I said to myself: “OK, you worked on it for hours, you might just as well publish it.”
So remember — quantity trumps quality. Draw a lot and publish everything, you never know what will be popular.