Building a Career in Illustration: Explore Print-On-Demand | Learn with Society6 | Cat Coquillette | Skillshare

Building a Career in Illustration: Explore Print-On-Demand | Learn with Society6

Cat Coquillette, Artist at www.catcoq.com

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7 Lessons (24m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:51
    • 2. Creating Art to Sell

      3:17
    • 3. How to Sell with Print-On-Demand

      3:23
    • 4. Prepping Your Work to Sell

      6:36
    • 5. Uploading to Society6

      3:11
    • 6. Marketing Your Work

      5:32
    • 7. What's Next?

      0:37
424 students are watching this class

About This Class

Transform your creative career with print-on-demand in this beginner-friendly, 25-minute class.

Print-on-demand websites like Society6 give artist Cat Coquillette the freedom to travel the world and grow her creative business, all with the stability of a monthly paycheck. After a customer buys from Cat's Society6 shop, Society6 handles the production and shipping and sends royalties to Cat for each order, so she can leave the logistics to the experts and focus on her work.

In this class, you’ll learn how to maximize your success with print-on-demand platforms like Society6. From creating color palettes that sell to connecting with potential customers all over the world, this class is jam-packed with tips and tricks to help you develop your business. You’ll learn how to:

  • Create art that sells consistently, month after month
  • Optimize your work for print-on-demand products
  • Use promotion effectively to sustain bestsellers

After taking this class, you’ll have an arsenal of strategies for maximizing your success through print-on-demand, giving you the flexibility to build a creative career you love.  

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What You'll Learn

  • Introduction. If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I sell my art?” this class is for you. Cat Coquillette will tell you how she went from painting as a hobby to selling her work and maintaining demand for it. You’ll learn all about print-on-demand while Cat lays out her process, marketing techniques, and tips on how to identify potential bestsellers.
  • Creating art to sell. You’ll learn the two umbrella categories for selling your art — active vs. passive. Cat will take you on a deep dive by exploring the best channels to sell your work. You’ll learn what print-on-demand companies can do for independent artists and how to diversify your channels.
  • How to sell with print-on-demand. You’ll get a sense of how to make artwork that works on a variety of products, from T-shirts to phone cases. While Cat opts for vector-based designs to make her work wide-reaching, you’ll see that you can use a number of techniques to make sellable art. You’ll get digital painting tips as well as suggestions for creating work that has mass appeal, and you’ll learn to make smart decisions about where and when to sell your work. You’ll also get a grasp of Google Analytics and other online metrics to assess marketplace trends and establish bestsellers.
  • Prepping your work to sell. While it’s important to learn how to paint with watercolor to create work like Cat’s, it can be just as important to learn how to edit your watercolor creations. You’ll learn how to edit watercolor paintings in Photoshop by cleaning up imperfections. Cat will teach you best practices for scanning your work and editing it for maximum versatility. For instance, you’ll change your design’s composition so it fits a variety of products and alter your color palette by playing with hue and color balance in Photoshop. Next, you’ll take a look at editing a digital painting and see how to experiment with overlays.
  • Uploading to Society6. You’ll learn how to navigate the Society6 platform, the print-on-demand company through which Cat sells her work. You’ll see how Cat determines the price of her work for customers and her own personal profits and how she navigates Society6’s set prices. You’ll also get to see how designs look when adapted to various clothing and household items and how to add metadata to help people searching on Society6 easily find your products.
  • Marketing your work. You’ll learn how to grow your brand and get your name out there! Cat will show you how she uses various social media channels, like Facebook and Instagram, to showcase her work. You’ll check out an array of digital artist portfolio options and see how to vary your social media presence as an artist, by posting not just finished works but also process videos, photographs of your supplies, and more. Ultimately, you’ll figure out how to meaningfully interact with your followers and make it easy for customers to purchase your work.

Start building your own creative business on Society6.com: s6.co/StartSellingss.

Society6 is an online marketplace where 200k independent artists design and sell premium, everyday products for millions of customers worldwide. Every product is custom-made to order and every purchase pays the artist who designed it.

Additional Resources:

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Interested in licensing your artwork like I do? Check out my Skillshare class:

Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hi guys. My name is Cat Coquillette and I'm the founder of my brand CatCoq. I'm an illustrator and graphic designer and today I'm going to be talking to you guys about how to make extra money through passive income. So, I've been painting since I was a little kid and I just never really stopped. As I began uploading my paintings, I was doing just for fun on Instagram, people were asking if they could purchase my work and this was something I hadn't really considered before. So, it opened up a new avenue for me realizing that I can make some extra money through illustration. Passive income for artists is the money that you earn for work you've done upfront and then, that money will continue to be earned over time. For an artist, what this could mean is, you create a painting. You start selling it through a licensing company or a print-on-demand company and then, every month or every quarter you get a paycheck for the work that is sold at that particular piece. So, one of the things I really like about Society6 is the quality of the products that they produce. A lot of people get into print-on-demand because of the opportunity to just focus on creating artwork and then, leave the rest of the responsibilities to the print-on-demand company. Last year, I went to Peru and when I returned, I did a watercolor painting of alpacas and I uploaded it to Society6. So, now the work is already done and I'll continue earning money for every piece that's sold of those alpacas. So, for this class, we're going to go over steps on how to really boost your passive income, from a starting sketch to a final product and what that entails along the way. We also go over some marketing techniques to really boost traction to your shop and grow followers. I'll also be going over some tips on how to identify potential best sellers and then, really capitalize on the momentum of a really popular artwork. So, I'm really excited to teach this class and I'm thrilled that you guys are joining me today. So, let's get started. 2. Creating Art to Sell: There are two kind of categories for making an income through your art. There's passive income, and there's active income. Active income is the money that you're earning for something you're doing at that time. Freelance, graphic design work, working with the client to create a custom branding identity, designing a website. With passive income, it's the money that you're earning recurrently over time. You will create a piece of artwork and then sell that month by month and you'll get that paycheck coming in as those sales continue to grow. I'll give you an example of passive income. Last year I travelled to Peru and my biggest inspiration there were alpacas. I did a painting of watercolor alpacas, uploaded it to my various Print-On-Demand and licensing websites. So now, every month I get a royalty rate from the artwork that is sold with those alpacas. The artwork was all done upfront and now I'm receiving royalties from that artwork. There are a ton of different ways for artists to get involved with passive income, and one of the ones that's really beneficial for me is Print-On-Demand. What Print-On-Demand is is a company that takes artwork from an artist and handles all of the production, working with customers, web hosting. They'll handle all of the logistics, the shipping, the manufacturing, everything that you as an artist don't really want to get into. You can focus on creating the artwork yourself. One of the benefits of working with a Print-On-Demand website is the exposure that they can bring to you as the artist. So a lot of these websites have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of unique hits per day to their sites, which is a really great opportunity for a lot of people to see your work. So today, we're really focusing on Print-On-Demand but there are a lot of other skills that you'll be able to learn in this class that will help you with other forms of passive income, like licensing or video tutorials like I'm doing today with Skillshare. There are a few questions that you can ask yourself before you start getting involved with selling your artwork through Print-On-Demand websites and licensing. Do you have existing artwork that you can repurpose and upload on the various templates to sell online? Are you putting all your eggs in one basket? It's really important to diversify your channels of income and work with various companies at the same time. Are you expecting overnight success? For me, it took a few years to really grow my brand. It was a slow grow to get to where I am today. One of the great things about passive income is the time it frees up, and for me I use that time to do a lot of traveling. So in each of these trips I go on, I find inspiration from around the world and I incorporate that into my artwork. For example, after I got back from Belize, I went on this whole spree of painting butterflies and insects. After I was in Asia, I painted a bunch of lanterns and elephants. You really see a reflection of my travels throughout my entire portfolio of artwork. Today I'll be focusing on a specific piece that was inspired by a trip I took with bunch of my friends to Santa Fe, New Mexico. While I was there, I was really inspired by the desert, the entire art scene. I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, and I was able to see some of her original school in the desert paintings which were just absolutely fascinating to see. For her style, she uses these really delicate hand-drawn brush strokes, really smooth blending, and it becomes these majestic landscapes with a dry desert school. I wanted to do my own interpretation of that. I used a similar motif, a skull in the desert, but with my own kind of illustration style which is really clean vector line work, incredibly intricate with a very limited color palette. 3. How to Sell with Print-On-Demand: You know it's one thing just to make a beautiful piece of art that will work well as an art print, and if you just want to sell art prints that's totally cool. You can do that through these websites, but if you also want to be selling products like phone cases, tote bags, clocks, apparel, whatever, you want to make sure that you design something that you can reformat for those various templates. For me, it's easier to create something vector based because I can manipulate it and move it around a lot, but that's certainly not necessary. It's just my personal preference. So, sometimes especially when I'm creating artwork digitally, I'm able to pull elements from previous pieces and recycle them, so I'm not creating something from scratch every single time. So, for example, on this piece itself, I pulled the skull from my previous illustration I did, and my next piece after I finished this one, I use some of the same leaf elements. I also want to make sure that whatever I'm creating has mass appeal. So, I want to make sure that I'm creating various color palettes for each piece. You've already done the hard work of creating the artwork whether it's a painting, a sketch, or something you created on the computer. It's really easy to manipulate your color digitally and make a variety of color palette options. So, I usually do about between three and eight for each piece, so maybe one is all about needy and blues and then another has sunset hues because a lot of these things that people are purchasing, they want to make sure it fits in a room of their home and they're usually after a certain aesthetic or palate. So, now that you know what passive income is, you can start to think about ways that you can incorporate it into your own arts, and make decisions on where you want to be selling that artwork, and how you want to be selling it. So, now you've created your artwork and it's time to start figuring out where you want to be selling that online. There are a few considerations that you want to keep in mind as you're beginning to upload your artwork and figure out what channels you want to sell it through. So, there are some ways that you can look into past trends and see what might be selling well. For me personally, I use Google Analytics and I see some top hits on my website. What content people are sharing and engaging with. You can also look at past sales and can see how many of a certain print sold really well and that I can create more artwork in that vein and if you don't have your shop up and going yet or you don't have that many sales to track, you can still look at other factors like even likes on Instagram. Then, there are other things that sell really well as certain products. So, a pattern for me will do really well as a phone case, but probably not so well as an art print. But, for me that's a fine tradeoff because even though my royalty rate is lower on phone cases, I still move more products faster in phone cases. So, it balances out in the end. So, I combined all of these factors in the strategy for moving forward with my Southwestern vibes print. I looked at past sales to see what was really doing well and tried to project that for a way to move forward in the future. One thing I looked at was some two previous prints in the past that were selling really well. One was the succulent watercolors and the other was a vector series I did with animals. So, I wanted to use the motif of the succulents and combine it with that same style and aesthetic from the animal prints and that's how I got to the Southwestern vibes. So, now there's some questions you may want to ask yourself as you begin moving forward. So, can you look at past sales of your artwork and see what's done well for you and create more work in that vein? Are there some trends right now in the marketplace that you can incorporate into your work to boost sales? What are some ways that you can prep for big sale opportunities like holidays and back to school. So, those are some of the strategies that I use when I'm creating artwork and deciding where to sell it. But, now we can go into some specifics on prepping your artwork for a print on demand and licensing. 4. Prepping Your Work to Sell: So, in this lesson, I'll be talking about how I edit specific pieces to get ready to be printed on products. It's tempting to just create your artwork, upload it, and be done with it. But, the editing process is really important because that's what your customer is receiving and you want to make sure that it's the best it can possibly be. So, some specific things you kind of want to keep an eye out for and that I always make sure that I clean up off of my artwork are your pencil marks, imperfections, even the consistency of the paper after you scan it in. There are some imperfections that happen as you scan artwork in, it loses some saturation, it has some depth that sometimes you don't want it to have. It really captures every brushstroke, every pencil mark, so if you didn't erase everything you can get that in post. I use Photoshop to edit my artwork. So, what you're seeing here on my screen is exactly what my painting looks like right after I scanned it in. So, I usually scan it at a really high resolution about 1400 dpi for an 11 by 14 print. The reason I like to do this is it gives me a lot of flexibility. It's definitely overkill. It becomes a huge image, but if I want to use just one element of that illustration, it can be as large as I want it to be. So, the first thing I do is I remove the paper background, which can be a little challenging for watercolor, but it's worth it because it's important to have those transparent PNGs for some products that you're using like apparel. You don't want that white background showing on the T-shirt that you're having printed and now you can have transparent foam cases. So, it's the same deal, you want that background totally removed from the artwork. So, that's the first step. Here's an example of what it looks like after the background is removed. You can kind of see that grid and that indicates a transparent background. So, some of the things I do right off the bat are bump up the saturation a little bit and make those hues a little bit deeper. These are things that get lost in the scanning process, so it's important to bring those back. Oftentimes, I'll make my illustration even more saturated than the original was just because I can in Photoshop. So, some other things that I always include are various color palettes. I've already created the artwork and it's really quick and easy in Photoshop to make some various color pallets of each piece. So, for this one, I wanted to do the same cats, but have them be pink and another one same illustration blue, so you can kind of go through and see all the different options I have. This is important too because sometimes people are looking to purchase a painting or a tapestry for the room where they already have a specific color palette chosen. So, this just opens up some more options and really maximizes the chances of profit for your specific painting. So, there's a ton of resources and tutorials that you can follow to learn how to make these specific adjustments in Photoshop, so I won't go into everything, but I'll just kind of show you some options of what you can do. So, for changing the levels and saturation, you can just go right in there and you see my original layer is pulled up, and you can move hue around, and have all these different color palette options. So, I play with that a lot. You can do the same thing with color balance. So here, it's just if you really want to bring out a specific color maybe the highlights of the specific piece you want to have more of a magenta feel, you can really play a lot with that as well. So, there's so many options here and painting the piece is the most fun, but then getting to play with this is a close second. So, there are various templates that you want to keep in mind as well. So, the three primary ones we Print-On-Demand would be square, vertical, and horizontal. This is what the original art print looks like. So, what I can do is kind of lasso around each of those individual elements, each cat, and bring it into different formats and orientations. So, this is what it looks like on a laptop. It goes to that horizontal and I'm able to kind of rearrange the composition of that piece to fit each formats. Then, you have some compositions that are in extreme horizontal and as long as you can kind of manipulate your artwork, crop it in or kind of reformat it altogether and you can fit all these various dimensions. So, it's just a good thing to kind of keep in mind as your illustrating your piece. Each Print-On-Demand company has a different kind of template system that they use for their products. So, what might be a tote bag on Society6, might not be the same dimensions or resolution as a tote bag through Redbubble. So, it's important to kind of keep in mind those various templates as you're putting these together. So, that's an example of some editing considerations I take in mind for a hand-done piece, something that I create by hand and then, scan it into the computer. But, I'll give you a quick look at what it looks like for a digital piece that I illustrate, where I don't have to worry about those same issues like the background texture or pencil marks or cleanup. So, this is an example of what that piece looks like after I illustrated it. As you can see, it's all done in vector line work, so I don't have to worry about pencil marks or imperfections in the drawing. So, this was the original illustration. From there I go into various color palettes, this blue and knitty palette was inspired by this bracelet that I found. I really like the color palette. I thought it really spoke to the vibe that this piece is sending Southwest, turquoise, navy. So, for me what I do is I take it from Illustrator and then, bring it into Photoshop to adjust for different templates. So, for each one I can have various color palettes and this is kind of a snapshot of how I do it. I bring in the original vector illustration, add the background separately, and the reason this is important is for having those transparent PNGs and then, I can play with the colors. I might put like a gradient of ombre on top of it and just find some unexpected ways to play it with the color. So, here's before, after, and I do that across the board with the various color palettes that I might want to incorporate. So, playing with the way that you can do overlays. Here I used the overlay called lighting and that can have some really fun and unexpected ways of interacting with the color. So, here I'll just scroll through some of the template, so you can see what they look like. This is what the final piece looks like for the apparel templates. This is what it looks like as the actual art prints. Things get cropped in slightly for mobile. Laptop that goes to a horizontal, so for this case, it was easy I just flipped the artwork. The laptop template also fits the iPad templates, so you can hold an iPad in a horizontal manner or a vertical and it make sense. So, some other things that you can do with your artwork as you're adjusting it for these various templates are you can double up your artwork. So, for example, for this extreme vertical, all I did was flip the artwork and this will end up going on a beach towel, hand towel, and I can also double it up in other ways. So, this is what it might look like on the travel pouch or laptop, so it's just the same artwork repeated twice and it doesn't always work. But, for this motif it worked out pretty well. 5. Uploading to Society6: This is what the uploading process looks like on Society6. So, it's filtered by categories, you have your artwork, canvas prints, wall tapestries, framed arts, and you can go into each specific one and edit what you want your markup to be. So, I usually give myself about a 30 percent markup for all my pieces and then it increases as the size gets a little bit larger. It's pretty easy to use. It's all drag and drop and then you can reformat it in the back-end as you go. What's really nice about this back-end, is you can see the total cost that the customer is going to be paying for your work. As you change your price, you see what the total they pay is. So, I want to make sure that it's something where I feel happy with the profit, but it's also something that people are going to feel it's affordable to buy. Some websites let you adjust that rate yourself and then others have a fixed price. So, in Society6 they do a blend of the two, where I can set my own prices for wall art, framed art, any prints, but the rest of their products have a fixed price that I'm not able to adjust. So, you see here with the back-end on the throw pillow template page, I don't have that option to edit my price because it's not a fixed rate determined by Society6. So, this is why it's important to have a transparent PNG and remove that background from your artwork. When it's printed on apparel, it wouldn't look good if you had the full background tier showing through. By removing that background, you're able to have a lot of different t-shirt color options for the background which just gives more options for your customer, which is great. So, this is what the back-end looks like right after you upload the work. So, you see your image preview, you're able to name it and then add those tags. The tags are really important because when people are searching the Society6 website, they can find your work directly. So, say someone is looking for a cat iPhone case, they can go up to the top, type in cats and hopefully this is one of the first ones that pops up. So, one of the benefits of this back-end uploader is you're able to see where your artwork looks like on each product which is really beneficial and maybe, you can get an idea for things that are working really well on products, but then some things that aren't working very well at all. You can see what my leggings look like with the cat illustration. I haven't formatted them for leggings. So, I just want to make sure that is toggled off because it's not something that I want to sell because that our work hasn't been formatted for that specific template. So, if I do want to have this artwork available as leggings, I can always download the template provided through Society6. When you get to my Society6 shop, this is what it looks like. So, it shows a snapshot of Art Prints, Tote Bags, Throw Pillows. So, someone's able to go into whichever one they're wanting to maybe purchase. So, we'll go to pouches. So, the way these are filtered are by what's the most popular and what's selling well. So, for carry all pouches, my KILLIN' IT design is my number one seller and the most popular on here. So, it's going to pop up as number one. For me, I have a ton of artwork, so it goes back in 19 pages, but the way it's filtered is helpful for someone that's wanting to go to that shop and check out your top selling pieces. So, some things to keep in mind at this stage. Do you have the tools needed to get your artwork from paper to computer? Do you know the basics of Photoshop or Illustrator to edit your work? If not there's so many tutorials you can take online, especially through Skillshare. Then you also want to keep in mind the templates that your artwork might fit best in, and then how to create artwork specifically for those templates and lines. 6. Marketing Your Work: So, marketing is a really important step if you want to succeed as a commercial artist. It helps you grow your brand, get your name out there, and drive more traffic to your online shops. Some of the channels that work best for me are the classics, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. I also have an account with some artist specific sites like Dribble, and I'm always uploading new works in progress, new paintings I'm working on. Sometimes I'll do live videos to show what it's like as a paint specific piece. So, you can start marketing the piece before it's even online and for sale. So, you can start as early as a sketch and maybe you want to take a quick photo of that and post it to your Instagram page or Twitter. I'll also post photos of inspiration behind the piece. So, when I was in the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, I was taking so many photos and posting a few of them on Instagram just to show people things that were inspiring me at that time. I'll oftentimes get feedback for a specific piece. As I'm painting it, someone might say, "I like this color palette, make one in blue." So, gives me an idea of what people are looking for. So, right after I finish uploading a piece and it's live and available for sale online, I always want to share with my followers that they can go purchase this as a new art print, maybe as a new tote bag, a new piece of apparel and really build hype they know that it's now available. I always like to provide a direct link URL to make it as easy to purchase as possible. That's pretty easy with platforms like Twitter and Facebook. So, when I am sharing some new content on social media, I always make sure that I share it across a variety of platforms. So, this is what my Facebook looks like as you scroll through, with more direct links because it's easier to click a link through Facebook than it is through Instagram. Twitter, I have an opportunity to retweet other people, have a conversation and a dialogue which is great for that specific platform. So, when I'm marketing, I want to make sure that I am showcasing a specific piece but then also keeping my overall brand in mind as well. So, I'm scrolling through my Instagram right now, and you can see some of this is new work, some of it's old. I'll do a variety of shots. There are some macros, some finished pieces, what the products themselves look like in process shots are always fun to highlight as well, and I want to give a really good glimpse and overall look at what my aesthetic is and the pieces that I'm creating. So, here, you'll see some of the things I'm doing behind the scenes. I did a pop up shop at West Town, so I took some photos of that and talk about it on social media. Even just simple pieces, this little leaf that I painted and I pulled that from a larger composition just to have a little tiny snapshot of something I was working on. It's always fun to show tubes of paint in the background with the products may look like when they're fully mocked up. Just a really great variety of content. Then, I also am active on platforms that aren't just for my audience or customers, but just felt fellow artists. So, Dribble is a great platform as well. It's more graphic and visual so you can see a snapshot of some of the things I upload through that platform. So, some artists that are active in print-on-demand use their print-on-demand site as their personal portfolio which is awesome, and you can totally do that. If you want to expand your brand, you can also have your own website. So, this is an example of mine. I host it through Squarespace. So I'm able to post a quick bio, tell a little bit about myself and show some new pieces that I'm working on. These are some screen prints and I wanted to add to my site that you can go through and order. I post some info on upcoming shows, new stuff that's up on my blog. So, show some new work in my portfolio, so it's a really great mix of content that does help me build my brand. I always want to show mentions and collaborations, other organizations, or websites, or companies that have mentioned my work or showcased it. Also, always end on a link to my shops that people can go right back to Society6 and purchase something directly. So, after a piece is on sale and you promote it, and share the link with people, and let them know where they can go purchase it, it's easy to just say you're done and that's it. But it's great if you can really capitalize on that momentum and keep it going by continuing to promote that specific piece, sharing links and showing how it can be implemented as other products, how it looks like in real life hung on a wall. There's endless opportunities to continue promoting one specific piece and it's great to rolling with it. So, I know as an artist it's really easy to get sick of some of your old work, especially something that you've done a year or two ago. But sometimes, you'll find that those are your best sellers because they've been in the marketplace and they've gained a lot of traction, so you don't want to abandon those altogether. Those are some of the best pieces that you can pull out and continue to promote and sell. For example, Little and Fierce is one of my best sellers and it's also one of my oldest pieces. So, it looks old to me and I've seen it time and time again, but for a lot of people, this is something new that they're seen and it's something they might be interested in purchasing. There are also a lot of really great opportunities to get featured by Society6 or any of the print-on-demand company I work with. They'll do art quarterlies, six packs. They'll do product collaborations and it's all these opportunities to get other artists involved to celebrate that community and push artwork. So, two things to consider when you're analyzing your marketing strategy. Are you posting engaging content and interacting with your followers in a meaningful way? Another thing to consider is, are you making it easy for the customer to purchase your work? So overall, just have fun with it. Your brand is a reflection of your own unique aesthetic and your own voice. I like to keep my comments conversational online because that's how I speak to my friends. Well, thank you guys so much for taking my class today. I hope you learned a lot about passive income and how to really boost your artwork through print-on-demand and licensing. Feel free to upload some of the work that you're doing into the project gallery and you can talk about different ways that you can use what you learned today to boost sales and market yourself. 7. What's Next?: way.