There are many techniques that can be used to create illustrations to place on POD products. POD stands for Print On Demand. There are various POD sites such as Zazzle, CafePress, and Spreadshirt that allow artists to upload designs to various products and sell them in their very own store. The artist then gets a certain percentage commission (a markup) when one of the items with their artwork sells.
So how does one go about creating artwork for these sites? First off you need some sort of art software. I use Adobe Photoshop CS6 and sometimes Adobe Illustrator. I also draw many of my illustrations with plain ‘ol pen and ink on paper! For an artist like me, I love the feel and look of pen and ink line art. Since this is the case, much of my artwork consists of drawing such line art first, scanning it in, wiping the white background, and coloring behind the lines in Photoshop. I love the look, feel, and uniqueness this gives my artwork.
Do you need Photoshop to use this technique? It certainly doesn’t hurt as I Photoshop is great for to working with layers. And you simply need to use layers if you are coloring behind pen and ink lines! You can also use layers for coloring different parts of the design. For example, you might use a layer for the face of a fairy, and then use another layer on top of that one to color the eyes. You can then lock the layer in Photoshop so that only the colored areas fill, and shade the skin on the face with the airbrush tool without accidentally messing with any of the colored details that was put into the eyes! Using layers are a time saver and an absolute must!
The other important part is to have a transparent background behind your image. You don’t want your image to be stuck with a white box around it when placed on a product. If on a shirt, you want the shirt color to be behind the image. If on something else like a card, many POD sites (such as Zazzle) allow you to change the background color. So you can have your image on a number of different products with different background colors. This gives more variety to your store and products.
Every now and again I’ll create an entire illustration right on the computer. Sometimes this entails using a Wacom tablet, but often I create an entire piece of artwork with just a mouse and keyboard. Sometimes I’ll create a pencil sketch, scan that in, and the Photoshop right over it with the pencil lines never to be seen again. Either way, I will make sure it has a transparent background, unless I want a very specific background behind one (such as a landscape). I find the ones with the transparent backgrounds are more flexible and look better on certain products.
That being said, not everyone can afford Photoshop. If you are looking for free software, I recommend GIMP as your next bet. If you learn this software you can almost do everything that you can do in Photoshop. Some find it a bit unwieldy, and some of the things you can do in Photoshop with a few clicks takes a bit longer in GIMP as you might have to go through two or three steps for the same result you can get in one using Photoshop. That being said, as far as free software goes, GIMP is the best you can ask for! It uses layers and you can even open Photoshop files in it.
One last point, work in a high resolution. I use 1200 ppi, save it, and then reduce it down to 600 ppi when I’m ready for saving as a.PNG and uploading it to the POD store. If I’m looking for it to be on a larger product (such as a poster) I’ll keep in 1200 ppi.
I have a number of other tips, but this is the basics. Just remember, draw line art, scan in, open in Photoshop (or GIMP), make it a layer, remove all white (so that it’s transparent), create a new layer for color, color behind the lines, save, save as a.PNG file (which will keep the background transparent), and upload it to your favorite POD store.