Creating and selling surface design work online is a side project I’ve been exploring since last summer. Can it become a viable business?
There are a number of sites now that allow you to sell your fabric designs and receive a small commission. They are:
- Spoonflower (US based, international shipping)
- Eye Candey (US based, international shipping)
- stoff-schmie.de (Europe based)
- stoff’n (Europe based)
Focusing on the fabric-on-demand trend, here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Be your own promoter
These sites are at the very beginning of their evolution. Be a good community member of any site you join (have a positive attitude, be supportive of other members, etc.), but don’t depend on them to market you. They are working very hard to help the good designers get found, but those who seriously intend to sell have their own online shops, many of which simply link back to the fabric printer.
I’m particularly inspired by:
A number of excellent designers also sell their fabric work on Etsy:
2. Develop a line of products that use your fabrics
Consider straight fabric sales to be just a humble beginning. The fabric-on-demand sites pay minuscule commissions: You’d have to hit superstar status (admittedly conceivable) to make money going only this route.
Most of the above designers have beautiful examples of products that can be made with digitally (and other) printed fabrics. Hedge your bets by making (or partnering with someone to make) cool stuff, like Trois Miettes’ cheerful serving trays and journals or C’est La Viv’s lovely silk chiffon scarves.
3. Display really good photos
Don’t waste your time with crappy photos of your work. If you don’t know how to take really good photos, get someone else to do it for you. I cannot emphasize this enough.
4. Grow what works for you, and keep learning!
This article is meant to be a first dip, leaving the next threshold of questions unanswered, such as Which fabric-on-demand sites produce the best quality? and (a mystery question! One day, I’ll explore this with you—) Does digital printing create a surface design disconnect?
I’ve heard lots of good things about Fabric on Demand and Karma Kraft as awesome places to print your fabric designs (both ship internationally), but I don’t see a way for you to sell through their stores.
Finally, there’s the practical, sparky fabric writer, Kim Kight. She’s got a terrific book I keep near me, A Field Guide to Fabric Design: Design, Print & Sell Your Own Fabric (available on Amazon), and her True Up fabric blog is one of the best on the internet. She wrote a great piece on her digital fabric printing experiment, and has also posted an updated comparison chart for the four US-based fabric-on-demand sites she tested.
Have you got questions, or more ideas to share? Drop me a line via Twitter: I’m @peninasharon
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