Artists: Be Your Own Design Company

Do good work and get it out there. That's what they say it takes to be successful as a creative, right? Being a self-employed illustrator takes more than the ability to draw awesome bears (The good work). It means spending 20-40% of your efforts on graphic design, blogging, photography, convention exhibit design, even guerilla marketing in order to promote yourself (get it out there). Over the next few days I will be posting some examples of design work I have done for self-promotional purposes. I hope you find it helpful in your own pursuits.

Part 1. Print-On-Demand services can help you be your own brand, regardless of you budget

It's looking chilly. Have you seen my Cover Letter Hoodie?

In late 2008 I launched my own T-shirt brand, Snake Oil Clothing. I sold screen-printed Tees at conventions like Comic-con and through a web store. Three years ago I moved into a small San Francisco apartment with very little storage. I just can't print and store large amounts of shirts like I used to. But I still get emails from people who are bummed that their favorite Snake Oil shirt is now mostly dryer lint. I didn't feel good about telling my fans that they were plain out of luck, so I made designs available through

It turns out, their quality is amazing! If you gave up on print-on-demand T-shirts five years ago when P.O.D could only be done on light colored shirts and had weird, off-white boxes around the image, it's time to try Redbubble.

I can put up new designs just see how they do. If I never sell one it doesn't hurt me. If 400 copies sell it's all up to those guys to print, package and ship the T-shirts out! All I have to do is wait for a Paypal payment of around $4.25,  per shirt sold, $11 when someone buys a hoodie! That's pretty much the same profit margin as when I was having shirts made through a screen-printer.

How does this help with self promotion and branding?

  • If you have a collection of solid work, you can make it all available as T-shirts, phone cases, pillows, prints etc. as P.O.D merchandise. Now you have a nice portfolio of work that shows a) what you are about (that's your brand) and b) that you can create finished work. Showing that you can start and finish a solid collection of artwork is huge on its own.
  • Your T-shirts sell. Not only do you now get some sweet "mailbox money" coming your way, now someone is walking around with your artwork on their chest. That's free advertising, son! Maybe that person works at Marvel, Pixar or LucasArts (Jeez, I guess I should just say Disney), wherever you want to get work. If your designs are strong people will ask about that T-shirt. Now you have fans who work at Lucas or wherever and see your artwork every week or so. That's Huge! And it totally happens.
  • Redbubble allows creators the option to upload artwork that is only available to the creator, private-style. So you can make one-off, high quality T-shirts that no one else could possibly have. For about 30 bucks!  That was unheard of a few years ago. I took advantage of this by printing one T-shirt with my resume emblazoned on it (pic above). I am not above this sort of shameless, meta, self-promotion. And I'm chok-ful-o-more ideas for using this technology and service to do things people could have never done before.  

Are you getting your artwork out there by using Print-on-Demand services? Let me know what kind of experiences you have had. 

Follow Ben Walker on Instagram and Twitter: @ArtofBenWalker