This month I thought I would touch on a short history of what companies I go through in order to make my shirts (What programs I use, and a brief description of my process will be for another post for those of you who are interested).
These are things that I’ve researched and tested over the past year and a half and are subject to change. Just a disclaimer, I am still learning and don’t know all the answers. Some people may have different views than me and that’s ok! Make sure you do your own research FIRST before committing to a specific route when it comes to finding the right company to go through!
So! Let’s get started!
I started playing around with shirt design waaaaay before I decided to start doing art for a living. I use to work as a security staff for concerts back in 2015/2016 and always loved to look at the merch that bands would have on display. There were a lot of amazing designs but I always felt like there could have been areas of improvement. When I first started out, I was sketching designs and inking them, taking a picture of the sketch, then uploading it onto Photoshop and re-lining it with the mouse. I HATED it. I also had no understanding of digital art (except for the typical playing around with photoshop for logo/picture edits) so all my works were lined in white and placed on a black tee. I would then have beebs help me tinker around with the composition and then when it was finally completed we would upload it onto TEESPRING and hope for the best.
What is TEESPRING?
TEESPRING is a company that allows you to create tshirts (and I believe other merch?) and sell them without the hassle of dealing with processing, printing, and ordering large bulks of inventory and running the risk of not selling any of it. They print on-demand at their own factories through a process called ‘Digital Printing’ (also called Direct To Garment or DTG), as well as ship them out!
***(Just a heads up, all the companies I’ve gone through, use this method so I won’t be explaining this for every company, but just know that they all do this lol).**
You only pay the base cost of the product, but that comes out of the purchase your customers make. All you’re left to do is to continue to create cool designs and upload them, reaping all monetary rewards in the comfort of your own home.
Back when I was selling through TEESPRING, I found the only downfall was that it was campaign based. Similar to Kickstarter, you launch your tshirt and you have only so many days/weeks so sell a target point in order for production to go through. For instance, you have the option to choose 3 weeks or maybe 72 hours to sell say, 20 tshirts. If you sell all 20 within that timeframe, your shirt goes into production, gets created, shipped out, and you receive the profit. If you don’t sell 20 shirts within that timeframe, the money is returned back to its rightful owners, and your shirt doesn’t get produced. In order to be successful at selling shirts through TEESPRING (and all other printing companies), you would definitely need to be promoting your shirts through Facebook or other social media platforms.
I think the only downfall about Teespring is that shirts are only sold off their site. There is no website integration which sucks a ton when you want to look official as a brand. The other downside is that selling so many shirts in a certain time frame may be difficult for some. There are of course, plenty of success stories about people making A TON of money off of TEESPRING, but again, you have to be able to promote it to get it out there.
After playing around with TEESPRING for a few months and having quite a few successful runs of designs, I put shirt design on the side and started working on advancing my skills in art while dealing with health issues.
Around 2017 I decided to play around with shirt designs again. I had the yearning desire to create AMAZING shirts that had my art on it. So I went to work creating a series of cute girls to place on everything. I decided I wasn’t going to go through TEESPRING because I wanted the option to have a lil shop. I came across a few artists at the time that had merch shops off of a site called THREADLESS and decided to set up shop too! I made decent money off of THREADLESS. Especially with my ‘TAKOYAKI’ sweater that has been probably my highest selling merch that I’ve created since.
What is THREADLESS?
Threadless is an amazing platform that you can sell all sorts of merch off of. They allow you to create a shop that represents YOU and YOUR own brand. They are similar to Teespring, in the way that they handle printing and shipment while you create designs and it’s free to have a shop up! And again, you only pay base price when you sell something.
One of the things that I liked about THREADLESS is that their products are absolutely phenomenal! The Takoyaki sweater that I was selling through them was one of the most comfortable sweaters I’ve ever owned and I was very pleased with the cell phone cases I’ve ordered through them too. Customer service is also great and timely and any mistake I made during production, they were willing to fix for free. I would probably still be with them if I was able to integrate the shop items into my own storefront off of my website. Another downfall was that I also noticed base prices were quite expensive so I was profiting very little when I’d sell a shirt or sweater. I was having to bump my prices up just to make $10 but ended up having to lower them for people to purchase, resulting in only making around $6 off an item that was priced at $30. This hit very hard and made me have to put a pause in shirt design since I wasn’t able to make much profit back from the time spent creating the shirt designs.
Fast forward to 2018! Beebs told me it was time to break away from having shops separate from my own website, so we started building a shop through Woocommerce (since Shopify required a monthly fee and ya’ girl gotta stretch those pennies!), to finally start selling prints, merch, originals, etc all on one page, allowing customers to easily find my products and making it easier to direct traffic to one spot. This meant that I needed to find a printing company that allowed integration into my own website but also upholds the great quality that THREADLESS allowed me to have. I ended up going through PRINTAURA first but hated the quality of their shirts. My first set of samples were very disappointing. The designs were sticky and smelled like chemicals. I was worried that the designs could peel right off so after a couple of months of contemplation, I shut my shop down temporarily to find a new shirt company to go through.
What is PRINTFUL?
PRINTFUL is a printing company that sells a variety of shirts, mugs, backpacks, etc that can be printed on. They also deal with the printing process as well as shipping to customers. You create designs, upload them onto their site, and they take care of the rest. They are also free. Again you only pay the base cost.
I found PRINTFUL SOOOO much better than PRINTAURA. Their site integration is FLAWLESS. I would spend HOURS uploading mockups and filling out product info for PRINTAURA. It was a mess to navigate through and at times, almost torture. During that time I started to hate having to upload new designs because sometimes they wouldn’t upload properly. PRINTFUL, on the other hand, has this two-in-one system where you simply upload your design, and it automatically makes a mockup for you. You fill out the random areas (colors, sizes, etc), and then you’re set! They also give two 20% discounts for samples of 3 shirts a month, while PRINTAURA only did a ONE TIME discount. The products arrived with no chemical smells and the print job was gorgeous! Didn’t look sticky one bit! Highly suggest PRINTFUL if you’re looking for a printing company that allows easy integration into your own website! If you’re interested in signing up for Printful, check them out here
As of now, this is my journey with designing shirts as well as other merch. Its only been a few years but I’ve learned quite a bit. I’m pretty satisfied with where I am at currently but again, I’m always looking for something better so I won’t be surprised if I find another company to go through in the near future. Again, I suggest you look around and do as much research to find what works best for you. Please take my reviews for a grain of salt, some companies would work well for some while others don’t. This is all based off my own experiences so far!
***All links are affiliate links. If you choose to buy anything through these links, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you *throws confetti* Thanks for your support!***
Have a beautiful rest of the month,
stay safe + stay hydrated,
My History Of Designing Shirts