Our son, who is a junior in high school has "rebooted" a cartoon character he's been drawing for the past few years. The character wears a distinctive t-shirt and our son wanted to see if he could sell the t-shirt online to his many fans.
We did a little research and found that we could open a print on demand t-shirt store with no up front cost at www.cafepress.com. There are a number of similar websites, we chose CafePress because they had a wider array of products available. (I wanted to be able to put my designs on coffee mugs.)
From what I understand, as a store owner, you create the designs and Cafe Press sells them one of two ways. You get a ten percent royalty off of anything bought off of the main Cafe Press website. You can also set up a storefront inside Cafe Press. All the items have a base price and you can set your markup and you get in profit whatever you charge above the base price. I should also mention that there is a base amount that comes out of your royalties and profits that goes to Cafe Press. You can avoid paying this if you become a paying member -- but we're trying to do things that don't cost money up front.
So, we set up a store for our son's cartoon character as well as a store for products from Broken Toys: China's Song. Even though they are accessed through the same account, for all intents and purposes they are completely different stores.
It's a good idea to divide your store into different sections, so we've created several different sections for different design themes.
Here's a list of things that everyone thinks they can do:
- Write the text for a book for young children.
- Write a greeting card.
- Make a funny t-shirt
1. Be original!
I have a friend whose family loves to sing. She related a story to me about how they were driving down the road and each of the four of them was singing a different song -- but the songs were all in sync -- kind of like a round. (Think "Three blind mice" except with four different songs.)
So, I suggested the following bumper sticker for her car:
"Harmony: Everyone doesn't have to sing the same note"
When we opened the store, I spent about an hour carefully crafting a design using the design program, fonts and clip art provided by Cafe Press.
But, before I published the design I did a search and found the following quote by Doug Floyd.
"You don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note"
Since I don't have his permission to use the quote for monetary gain (even though I'm pretty sure I hadn't seen that before), I chose not to use it. Now, before I design a t-shirt, I do a little research to see if I the quote is original to me.
2. The fewer the words the better.
Sadly, this does not come easily for me. But, the simple truth is that the more words you have on your design, the harder it will be to read when they shrink it for some of the smaller items. In general, you need to be careful about the images you upload because you don't want them to be pixelated at a smaller or larger size.
3. Use different size fonts.
At first, I thought the Cafe Press T-shirt designer would be unusable because it only allowed you to have one size font. However, if you open a second or third text box, it will allow you to have fonts of different sizes.
4. White t-shirts need different designs from dark t-shirts.
The image of the glowing eyes I use on this website actually makes poor design for a black t-shirt because you are putting the black background on a black shirt and it doesn't look right. So, almost any design you do will need a white t-shirt version and a dark t-shirt version.
When you are using the Cafe Press T-shirt designer, once you finish a design, you can't make any changes to it without starting from scratch. However, if you have a text box or image that is outside of the square that defines the printable area Cafe Press will ask you if you want them to fix it or keep it the way it is. When you let them fix it, it actually saves the unfixed version to the Media Basket. So, before you complete the design and exit out. Go ahead and create a black t-shirt image as well. A black t-shirt image will use white as the color for the fonts and images.
5. Make use of the "Fan Pages".
A number of media companies have made deals with Cafe Press to allow people to make designs referring their properties. For instance, as long as you follow a page or two of rules, you can create Star Trek designs and sell them at Cafe Press. I suspect it will be easier to sell designs that refer to Star Trek that people have seen than something we've written that they may not have seen. However, coming up with a Star Trek design that isn't available already is very difficult. I started with a page full of ideas and was able to keep and use only about three of them.
6. Bring your "A" design game.
I don't have any solid figures on this, but every time I create a design, Cafe Press tells me how many designs have been created that day. It's usually around thirty thousand by the end of the day. Think about that. Thirty thousand different designs. I think a lot of those must come from people doing mass entry of personalized designs like "Today is Bobby's Birthday!" However, in order to get noticed, you'll either need to drive traffic to your store site or have designs that separate you from the rest.
7. Come up with a great name for your store.
"Broken Toys" was already taken at Cafe Press. I started to call it "Cross Purposes", but I think that is a shop on another site. So, we went with "Kingdom of Slumber", which is the name of the hush hush project we're working on right now.
So, what's your favorite t-shirt design?