E-Commerce for Artists: Selling with Print On Demand | Learn with Threadless | Wendy Lazar | Skillshare

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E-Commerce for Artists: Selling with Print On Demand | Learn with Threadless

teacher avatar Wendy Lazar, Founder & Illustrator, I Heart Guts

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Advantages of Print On-Demand


    • 3.

      Generating Ideas


    • 4.

      Sketching Your Designs


    • 5.

      Threadless Tips and Best Practices


    • 6.

      Building Your Brand


    • 7.

      Final Thoughts


    • 8.

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About This Class

Want to transform your artwork into a creative business? Learn how to with print on demand.

Join I Heart Guts’ founder Wendy Bryan Lazar for this 25-minute class that walks you through everything you need to know in order to get your print on-demand business off the ground. This class is jam-packed with tips on how to get started: you'll learn exercises for generating ideas, techniques for developing sketches, and strategies for branding and marketing. By the end of this class you’ll have the groundwork to start testing out your ideas and so you can get your work into customer's hands. Along the way you’ll learn:

  • Why Creators Love Print-On Demand
  • Exercises for Becoming an Idea Factory
  • Strategies for Finding Your Niche and Refining Your Brand

More and more creators are turning to print on-demand because it gives them the freedom to focus on creating artwork instead of having to worry about production and shipping. Leave the logistics to Threadless so you can do the work you love and get your vision out into the world!

Threadless is a creative community that makes, supports, and buys great art. When you buy from us, you support the artist who created the design. To learn more visit threadless.com/artist-shops

Meet Your Teacher

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Wendy Lazar

Founder & Illustrator, I Heart Guts


Wendy Bryan Lazar is the anatomically obsessed illustrator of I Heart Guts. Founded in 2005, our bare-bones family operation strives to offer plush organs with love, style and geeky puns. We like to think of the Guts as what you might find inside a dissected Hello Kitty.

Wendy has never been a stranger to making strange things. Known for making fresh bread fetuses and valentine hearts from laminated head cheese, she was always interested in the intersection between gross and cute. Wendy made her first science-inspired plush toy when she was thirteen, when some friends needed a planet puppet to spice up a classroom presentation about Uranus.

I Heart Guts operates in the Los Angeles metro area.


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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: My name is Wendy Bryan Lazar. I'm the Founder and Creative Director of I Heart Guts. I draw happy internal organs as flushed toys, t-shirts, key chains, lapel pins, you name it. I'm unhealthily obsessed with the human body and love to draw weird, happy body parts. I really love my job, it is awesome and mostly because I have these amazing customers that are completely inspiring. In this class, we're going to start by talking about getting started with print on-demand. What is it? How does it work? How to come up with ideas for your store, working through the creative process. We're also going to talk about branding and marketing, how to get people interested in your stuff, create demand for your products. We'd really like to show you how to get your ideas from your sketchbook onto an actual product. Okay, so let's get started. 2. Advantages of Print On-Demand: Print On-Demand websites are really great and that you can take your artwork, upload it to a website and then have that website will create an actual product with your artwork on it. So when I got started, I started out with buttons, stickers, small items and as I grew I started carrying t-shirts, different kinds of t-shirt. I had a heart shirt, a liver shirt, a kidney shirt but after a while keeping count of all that inventory actually selling the inventory became sort of a problem. It's not easy to make the right decisions when you're actually buying inventory. I mean if you go to the sale rack of any Forever 21 you will see a lot of mistakes started to say, "Oh, we thought this tank top was going to do great but actually nobody wants to buy it, now we have to mark it down." So carrying an inventory is difficult, at best and it's a logistical nightmare at worst where you're trying to move stuff along. Maybe people don't like it, maybe they're not interested. The great thing about Print On-Demand is that you can be very consumer focused in that you can give your customer a tremendous number of options. If they want a pillow, if they want a green shirt, if they want a purple shirt, if they want to get a bunch of different sizes that's great. I was never able to carry a full line of size ranges just because it's difficult for a small company to do that. If you are a target you can have a design that goes from baby shirt all the way up to five XL. If you're a small company you just it's really hard to do that. The wonderful thing about Print On-Demand is that you can give your customer exactly what they need. Print On-Demand services are really great for creatives in that you can get your ideas out there. You can get your stuff on a product, you can sort of go from being the Picasso model of art which is, I made this one amazing thing to the Andy Warhol of making things where you've made a bunch of different things that can go out into the world and spread joy to lots of different people and a very inexpensive way too. If somebody really likes your art, they can have a piece of it for $13 on a mug and it's great. Before Print On-Demand, I had to screen-print my own shirts and get my own stuff made and it's laborious you have to order t-shirts, you have to get the inks, you have to roll out the inks, you have to let the inks dry. And if you're doing multiple runs of inks, you have to make sure you're not smudging and the registration is correct. It's fun but it's also time consuming and there's a lot of ways that you can mess up your fine artwork yourself. So the great thing about Print On-Demand is again, putting the customer in the driver's seat, letting them have a choice about what they want because you don't really know what they want and they might change their mind tomorrow. Customers' taste change. So a T-shirt that I could make that I thought was a really cool grey color might not be in style in six months and by then I'm stuck with 100 shirts in sizes that nobody wants and I'm a small company and I can't sell them. Having products around is always a little bit of a risk in that you have them, you have to sell them in a certain amount of time but Print On-Demand just really lets you roll with customer change. Let the customers have a choice. There's a handful of Print On-Demand platforms that are specifically for artists, Redbubble, Society 6 and Threadless which is the one that I use and the one that we'll be looking at during this course. Print On-Demand allows you to separate the creative process from the making of a thing process. So, you come up with a great idea and you want to put it on a product before you had to actually physically make these things or go to a printer, have them make buttons and stickers or have them make t-shirts. Now you can just jump over that whole making process and the whole carrying of products process and go straight into putting an object in your customers hands. I think Print On-Demand platforms have been gaining in popularity because it is such a great marriage of getting creative people to get their stuff out there and also making things really great for the consumer. The consumer wants something that's special for them that's their own personal thing that they only have one of that was made just for them. So, Print On-Demand allows you to have the only yellow tank top with a uterus on it that's ever been made in the world and that's an example from my company but, I mean to have your artwork on a sweatshirt that's blue is only going to be special for that one person that orders it. It's technically not even a mass manufactured product anymore it's your own special thing made just for you. If you have a sketchbook full of drawings and you don't know what to do with them, this is a great way to get your stuff out there even if it's just on your friends. You can make a shirt for your friend for their birthday. You can make something for your mom. You can make a great gift for anybody. So even if you don't want to get it further out there it's a wonderful way to put your artwork out into the world. So, for the next lesson we're going to dive into the creative process; how do you come up with ideas, how do you get those ideas on paper and how do you basically be a creative person. 3. Generating Ideas: So, the first step is to come up with an idea. How do you come up with an idea? For me personally, I have a sketchbook and I have it around all the time. I have it by my bedside. I have it by my computer. Anytime I have an idea, even if it's terrible, I write it down and hope that at some point it will become useful to me or that idea will spark something else. The creative process isn't something that you just turn off and on. It's something that will come to you at different times. You might be in the shower, or you're having a good idea, or you're about to fall asleep. I personally keep a sketchbooks so I can keep any ideas that I might have, write them down, revisit them later. So, there's no such thing as a bad idea. All ideas are good ideas. Some of them will stick out to you more than others, it's something like, "Oh, I really connect with that, or that's funny, or I think that will work, or that would look great on a shirt." Any idea that you have, just write it down or keep it in your brain and just try to see if you can turn it into something later. The best way to make good art is to make lots of terrible art. Practice is really the best way to get good at anything, and then eventually you'll get it. You'll have a moment or you'll come up with a solution to a problem that will work for you. I just sort of advocate for bringing in more ideas, being open to a lot of different things because you never know what doors that will open to have more ideas in your brain. If you do have a concept that you really love and you're really attached to, I'd say go for it, just try it out, put it up on print on demand and just see what happens. For coming up with different creative concepts, I would recommend coming up with 50 different ideas a week. The idea is that you should be an idea factory. You should always be producing. If you can draw every day, even if you don't really feel like it, just do it. Sometimes the creative process is really just like a giant brain dump where you have to get some of the trash out of your head to get to the real gems that are in there. So, if you need an exercise to help gets you going, I'd recommend just sort of trying to put yourself in a surrealist pair of shoes, maybe grab a dictionary and run your finger through and pick out a word like spider, and then run it through again and say cake, and then put those together. What does a spider cake look like, or what do spaghetti shoes look like, or what does a hamster vacation look like? Just come up with two completely random concepts and shove them together. You might come up with something that you might not expect and that is sort of from your more subconscious brain, like instead of thinking like, "I got to come up with a great idea." just try to sort of uses an exercise to get yourself in that creative frame of mind where you're making stuff up. I think it's important to keep a balance between creating things and sort of consuming content. So, while you're creating things, you do need to know what other people are doing out there. So it is a good idea to look through books, or look through magazines, or look through Instagram, or whatever and see what are other people doing, what are other people producing, but make sure that you balance your content consumerism with content creation and saying, "I'm a part of this process, I am a creator, and I'm maker of things." Sometimes, if you go on Instagram, you might find something that inspires you. You might also find something on there that makes you feel terrible about yourself and bad about your own work because you think, "Oh my gosh, I'm not as amazing as my friend blah, looks like they're drawing all the time, and they're always making stuff and being super cool." Well, your friend is probably jealous of you and thinking, "Oh my gosh, you're doing all this amazing stuff all the time too." So, just make sure that you balance things. It's important to look, it's important to be aware of what's being made out in the world, but it's also important to just turn that off and look inside yourself for the answers for your creativity. For the next part of this class, I'd like to show you the start to finish of a drawing that I did. I miss my placenta featuring our placenta character, and I just want to show you from the very beginning those sketchbook stage of this idea and how I took it from the sketchbook all the way to a product. 4. Sketching Your Designs: So, now I'd like to show you my sketchbook and how I came up with an idea for a product that I ended up putting on our print-on-demand site. Here's just a list of different ideas I had for different shirts or different products. I probably didn't make 75 percent of stuff on this page, but they were just ideas that I had and I wasn't really sure, or they were something that people had asked for like, "Oh my gosh, I really need a lymph node thing." I wrote down I miss my placenta. So, I was thinking about, okay, I miss my placenta. Is this a placenta going on vacation, is this a placenta going to retirement, what is it? So, I wrote these ideas down over probably a period of weeks. If something popped into my head, I would put it down. Weeks later, I think, oh, I should write down another idea, I'll just add it to that page and see if anything comes of it. So, after we revisit these initial concepts, I start to doodle these ideas and riff on the concept and see what else comes out. Here's some of my drawings I did of the placenta. I thought about good night placenta, happy birthday placenta. I thought about let's get umbilical from Let's Get Physical, Olivia Newton John. I thought it was funny. She'd have a headband and sweatbands and be physical. Then, I thought about the placenta going and having all these ultrasounds. Then, I thought about ultrasounds, and her being a DJ, and spinning records with her wool earphones on. I might still make that one. None of these drawings actually made it to the final design, but they just helped me work out which drawings I was responding to, how I wanted the placenta to look on the page. I tend to feel the need to draw out my ideas because once I go to the computer, I get lost. You spend all this time moving things around and moving things left to right. That's not creative. It's more just moving things around on a page. I would encourage you to put stuff on a page as often as you can, as much as you can. If you already have some ideas, then you can start to finalize those and get them ready to turn into a computer graphic. But, just try to push yourself to really throw stuff out on a page, whether it's good or bad. Don't judge your work. Just put it down, get it down on paper and try to get started. Now, that you've created your work and you're ready to upload it to Threadless, we're going to look at exactly the nitty-gritty of how to get your artwork on to a print-on-demand site. 5. Threadless Tips and Best Practices: So, you finalized your artwork and you're ready to go. Depending on the kind of artwork you make, you might have to digitize it in different ways. For me, I tend to sketch, and then I will draw it as a vector drawing in illustrator. If your work is more detailed, like you do watercolor or you have very, very detailed fine work, take a really nice high resolution photograph of it or scan it before you upload it onto your print on demand service. And if your work is more raw or you want to work it in Photoshop a little bit, that's fine too. Everybody works differently, some people just draw it straight into the iPad. So, you've digitized your art, you're ready to upload it. Let me just walk you through the steps of adding your product to the Threadless shop. It's pretty easy once you have your store's setup. You can go to add product. You can upload your file from your computer. About 3.3 megs, it's got to be pretty big. Making sure your artwork is high resolution is a difference between your artwork looking blurry and pixelated and looking completely amazing. You cannot take tiny Instagram image and upload on Threadless and have it look good. It will look terrible. It will be full of pixels. So basically, DPI just means information, pixels per image. So, in order for something to go to the print press, it has to have enough information to make that look good as a big giant image. So, it uploads it. I'm going to name this, I Miss my Placenta, and there is the happy placenta, and then you choose what products to sell. So, I am choosing my apparel here, and I'm just going to pick a bunch of stuff. I know that this design doesn't really work well on reds or purples because the design sort of fades out. So, you can choose which colors you want. There's men's, women's, kid's apparel, I'm just going to select all of those options, and let the customer have their choice. You can have printouts, blankets, shower curtains which is just unbelievable. How do you print on a shower curtain? That seems like a modern miracle, and then generate products, and then you should add a product description. Make it short, make it snappy, and make it fun for people to read about your product. Baby's First Roommate, everybody's long lost organ. You can also add tags, which is a really helpful way for people to discover your product. So, obviously for the placenta, I'm going to add things like obgyn, new mom, placenta encapsulation, midwife, doula, new baby, there's a lot of different ways. When you're looking at your art, think about who might be interested in this that I wouldn't even think of besides my mom and all my best friends. Once you've added your caption, your title, your tags, then you can go into each sort of product and see what it looks like. It's helpful to review all the T-shirt colors that you picked because sometimes, there might not be enough contrast, the design won't pop the way you want it to. So, it's important to just quickly go through it. It gives you a preview for every single color, so you can see what it looks like. If you just want it to be on a white shirt, let's say your artwork is incredibly complicated and has tons of colors and just keep it simple, keep an eye on a couple of colors, white and black, or whatever. But again, you really want your customer to be able to choose because they're the ones who can look at their shirt and say, "I have too many red shirts," or "I have too many green shirts," or "I have too many whatever shirts." So, they may or may not buy your shirt based on what is in their drawer, and you don't know what's in their drawer at home. Just make as many options as possible. So, once you've uploaded your image and you've got all of your choices made, then you go ahead and hit publish, and you're ready to make this live to the world. So, being a maker of art and promoting your art are definitely two different things, and it's a little bit uncomfortable sometimes to take yourself out of the creative shoes and put yourself in your hustler shoes, but you have to put on your hustler shoes. You can't just sit around and hope that somebody will notice your stuff. It just won't work out that way. You have to create demand for your product. You have to create demand for your art, and that means showing it to people. Even if it's uncomfortable, even if you get rejected you might have to develop a little bit of a thick skin and be prepared for people to say like, "I don't want that", "I don't like that". Eventually, you will find your niche and you will find your people. Threadless allows you to customize your page, you have a few different layout options, you have a place to put your logo, you have a place to put sort of like a cover photo, so that's pretty customizable. You can change the color, you can change the fonts. Just make sure that it's reflective of your brand and your art. If your art is kind of gothic, then make sure your website looks gothic. If you're into like clean minimalism, then make sure your website reflects that. It sounds really obvious, but just make sure that you're giving like a full picture of what your brand represents, and make sure that is visual and hits people right over the head right away, sort of like they know what they're getting into. Your storefront page is sort of the face of your brand or your company. It's the first impression that people have of you, so make it worth it. Take some great pictures, put them up, put your logo up there, add in some great graphics, some photos if you want. Make it count because this is really your first impression with your customers the first thing that they will see. It's pretty easy and pretty fast to take drawing all the way through to a product. This has really allowed me to take bigger risks, try out different characters and different products in ways that I couldn't before. If somebody asks for something on Monday, I can get it to that customer on Tuesday while they still want it. Before, if I wanted to manufacture a shirt or something like a plush it takes months to get something from idea all the way into making a physical object you can hold in your hand. It's allowed me to be more nimble, as far as what I can make and how quickly I can turn it around. 6. Building Your Brand: Now you've got your new products up, you're starting to spread the word about your products and your stuff. Let's talk a little bit more about branding. Your brand is an expression of you. It's an extension of your personality, your look and feel, the way that your art feels, the way that you are. Branding can be a way of just showing people that you're part of the same tribe. So, you may think of brands as being like Disney or Under Armour or Hollister or whatever, but your brand can appeal to some freak corner of the world that needs their own representation too. So, don't be afraid to just be yourself and show your work and let that work express itself. For my own brand, I have guts. It's really an extension of my unhealthy obsession with the human body, I love to draw, I love the human body, they go together. It doesn't really make sense to put a happy face on a uterus, but for whatever reason it makes me laugh. It took me a long time to develop this idea, but over time I definitely found my tribe and my people that like the idea too. So, if you feel that burning need to make stuff, then you're in a good place because you'll have to create it, you'll have to get it out there, you'll have to share it with other people just because it's a part of who you are. If you do have that creative passion, you'll find other people who will connect with that authentic self. You're pretty much the number one salesperson for bringing that to life. If you go on certain people's Instagram feeds, sometimes you can see that all the pictures go together. That's branding. They all have a look and feel, they're not the same, but they have the same feeling and they give you the same feel. A great easy way to establish your brand is on social media of course, where you can use images and words to just give your brand that look and feel. On your threadless side, it's important to add your notes, about us page, that tells your story, it tells people why you're passionate about your artwork or your ideas so that they know you're not just some faceless corporation, but you're somebody who's really engaged and really cares about what you make. Here's a picture that I posted on Instagram. I miss my placenta design printed out as a blanket, because I thought it would make a really cute baby blanket for a child who had just been born, and just had their placenta taken away from them, and it did well. So, I thought this is great. Okay, this is actually working, I'm so happy. So, I make plush organs. So, I'm always thinking about organs all the time, and I walk through the store and I saw a box of heimaey graham crackers and I thought it said Kidney made. I thought about, the kidney is really like to clean up after your body all the time, really don't like it. So, I took a picture of two kidneys cleaning up a bunch of graham crackers, and I Photoshop it. So, it says kidney made, and then it says, I wonder if kidneys ever get tired of being on cleanup duty and then put a bunch of tags on there, like for nephrologists, urologists just see if I can get anybody interested through tags. Another great way to get your stuff out there is to do shows, live and in-person. It's just a great idea to go out there in person, show your stuff in real life, talk to people, get them interested in your stuff, maybe you can hand out a business card, or a sticker just to get people to see your stuff and put it directly into their hands. So, when I started out, I did some Google searching to make sure nobody else was making plush organs and there were some drawings out there. There wasn't really anybody at the time I started in 2005, who was making happy dorky organs. Since then, other people have made plush organ toys. There's room for everybody as long as they don't look the same. I can stop somebody from making a heart that looks like mine, but I can't stop somebody from making a plush heart that's completely different. So, just make sure when you make your art, make sure that it's different enough from other stuff that's out there, and that's established so that your work is unique and that it's not copying somebody else's work. Any time you draw an image or picture, if there is an automatic common law copyright with you as the author. But for an added layer of awesomeness, you should file your artwork with the government which is the US Copyright Office, I think it's copyright.gov. It's a fairly standard easy procedure, you scan it, send a scan of your artwork, you say the title, when you made it, when the date of first publication came through, and this just gives you an added layer protection in case somebody out there picks up your art and puts it on another print on demand site, which can happen. With the Internet, people think everything is free now. So, they'll Google an image like mouse drawing and they see Mickey Mouse, and they take Mickey Mouse they put it on print on demand site and next thing you know they have a Mickey Mouse shirt. That is copyright infringement, and of course Disney wouldn't like it if you did that to them. So, it's really important that you file your artwork with copyright.gov and make sure that you get a copyright number so that you can protect your work and enforce your copyright. So, if you go out there and you see that somebody has taken your art and put it on their website, then you can say here's my copyright number, here's the date of copyright. Now take that down. 7. Final Thoughts: Well, we covered a lot in this class from ideas, to marketing, to branding. If there's anything that you can really take away from this course, I hope it's that you realize that it doesn't really take that much to start your own creative practice with print on-demand. It makes things so much easier. You can just start with one or two ideas and get stuff out there. There's very little overhead, it's very easy to set up and there's really very little risk involved. So, it's a great way to just kick yourself in the pants and just go for it. If you feel like it, we'd love to see your sketches, your stores, any pictures you take. We'd love to see it all. If you feel like you're getting stuck, do not worry about it. The creative process, there's no right, there's no wrong, there's no real answers to the creative problems that you may encounter so just try to keep on going and you'll be fine. I hope you enjoyed taking this course and I'm super excited to see what you guys make out there. 8. Explore More Classes: