Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about adding Print On Demand (POD) products to your webstore. You can do only POD products, or you can supplement your other listings with POD products. It’s an enticing business model: you list the products on your website and when an order is placed, the POD company fulfills the order – you never have to worry about inventory or shipping. But how do you actually create designs that you can sell on POD products? that’s what we’re discussing in today’s article.

Gathering Ideas

The first thing you should do is start collecting ideas. I actually like to save images of products that others have created that I might adapt into my own designs. I started with a Google image search. Just type in “funny (my niche) t-shirts” into the Google search bar and click on images. You will get a ton of ideas, even if you are going to sell something other than t-shirts. For example, for my AdventuresInSkiing.com site, I started out by searching for “funny skiing t-shirts.”

The concept here is to get ideas, not to steal someone else’s work. You want to be original, but you also want to find out what other’s are selling 9and if they are selling). Knock-offs and copy cats  don’t sell as well as original items do, so use this method to stimulate your creativity.

Can You Legally Use That in Your Craft Business?

  • When creating a t-shirt design, you cannot use images, characters, and any figure that resembles anything taken from comic books, cartoon networks, movies, video games, and television shows.
  • You should not use logos, names, pictures of educational institutions, organizations, clubs, sports teams, musical groups, artists, etc.
  • Avoid using logos, trademarks, and names of companies.
  • Do not use any photo, artwork, or caricature of a celebrity. Taking a celebrity’s picture and using that on a t-shirt by drawing it in your own way should also be avoided.
  • If you find an attractive graphic or image that is not listed for commercial use or free use, then do not use it on your t-shirt design. Whenever someone spots it, you will be in legal trouble. Use only those images or graphics that are clearly marked as free for commercial usage.
  • Many quotes are registered trademarks. You cannot use someone else’s trademarks in such a way as to confuse a significant number of consumers as to source or sponsorship or control of your products. For example, you cannot put JUST DO IT on T-shirts for sale without permission – people will think Nike licensed you and you will be subject to suit by Nike if Nike chooses to assert its famous brand. When it comes to using quotes in your t-shirt designs, you can quote anything from the public domain. You also are legally allowed to quote from common sayings and parodies.
  • You can use national symbols, flags, and the likenesses of political figures as well as coats of arms. These things are not covered under copyright or trademark laws.
  • If you are creating parody a t-shirt design, you can generally use famous characters that are commonly recognized by others.

Common sayings can generally be used on your designs. In fact, a large number of POD “designs” are nothing more than text. For example, “I’m with Stupid” and an arrow pointing to either side is just an idea, and ideas can’t be copyrighted. You can certainly create your own t-shirt like this (although I’d recommend somehow making it unique, not just another copycat).

What I like to do is find sayings that I can use, and marry them with graphics to create my own unique designs. Butterfly shirts have been a big fashion trend for women, so what about merging some butterfly graphics with a skier graphic and adding in a cute saying. That’s what I did to create this design:

The original quote said coach instead of boyfriend, but I figured a lot more girls had boyfriends than ski coaches, so I changed it. Obviously, you want to use graphics that are not copyrighted as well, or that you have permission to use. I’ll show you how to find those a little later in this article.

Now before you go to crazy creating a design, you are going to want to know if it will sell. I suggest going to Etsy.com and doing a search for similar items. Etsy will show you how many people have rated a design and how many people have actually purchased it. you can also do this on Amazon. In this example, we can see that the “I LOVE it when MY WIFE lets me go skiing” shirt has sold a lot of product. This might be a good one to create our own design with.

Another factor to consider before going nuts with making your design is to determine what kind of item you are going to put your design on. T-Shirts are simple, but many other products require that you have multiple files in multiple sizes.

Creative Common Licenses

Alright, let’s consider the images. If you are not an artist, where are you going to find images that you can use and modify? I like to start with Pixabay.com. Here is the license from Pixabay:

That’s pretty simple and direct. Pixabay also offers a ton of vector images or illustrations, not just photos, so it’s great for combing things such as butterflies and skiers. I’d also recommend looking at Creazilla.com and CreativeFabrica.com for images, as they allow commercial usage. by the way, these are all good resources for images for your website and blog as well, not just POD designs. CreativeFabrica.com also offers a large number of fonts, so if you are doing most text-based designs, you can make it look more creative than just a standard block font.

So now we have some quotes and some graphics, but we need to combine them into a single graphic file that we can upload to the POD supplier. As a general rule, I recommend that your combined graphic be saved as a transparent.PNG file (some POD suppliers might require a .JPG, but most will take a .PNG.) If the background is transparent, which .PNG supports, then you can print on a variety of colors. You should also save your images in as high of resolution as is reasonably possible in order to get the highest quality print. Different POD suppliers may have different image requirements, so you will want to get comfortable with your image editing program.

Image editing

Which image editing program should you use? It really doesn’t matter, as long as the final output is a high resolution transparent PNG file. You can use whatever you want. Some free options include Lunapic, Gimp, and Canva. If you want a professional level editing program, take a look at PaintShop Pro or PhotoShop.

I am going to be offering an online course on how to start a Print On Demand business, and in this course, we’ll actually create some graphics you can use in your store. We’ll even create graphics for different products such as socks and backpacks. If you are interested, please contact me.

Next we’ll talk about marketing your POD store.