I have had my Threadless Artist Shop for about a year and a half now. It is the last big POD site I joined, it was the most confusing but definitely a fun one! I enjoy being a part of the Threadless community, I love the quality of their products and all the different features they have… I’m going to tell you a bit about my experience there and some stuff I figured out along the way…
WTF is Threadless???
They’re based in Chicago and have been since they started off back in 2000. Threadless started as a t-shirt company and has since expanded into a full lineup of apparel, accessories, home decor, and even footwear! Every time you buy from Threadless, you’re directly supporting great art and artists. Take it from me, there’s an actual artist that smiles or does a little goffy happy dance when they get an e-mail notification that they’ve had a sale!
They are now a giant in the print-on-demand industry but have a bit of different approach then Redbubble (I talked about that in my previous blog post: “About Redbubble”). When you decide to join Threadless, there are some features that might confuse you and if you’re like me, it can be a little overwhelming…
There are contests, artist shops, discover shops, your profile your account, dashboard, all this stuff – and I just wanted to sell my art on shirts and stuff… I mean, I was already on other POD sites, how hard can it be?
Artist shops – a new thing?
I actually knew about Threadless for a while before I decided to join, but was discouraged from joining the site because I supposed you have to win their competitions to even get on the site – but more about that in a later post. Let’s get back to the ARTIST SHOP.
Threadless introduced artist shops in 2015 and since then there were thousands of shops opened. These shops are special because you can customize them. You can pick your fonts, colors, overall look of the shop, even upload your own pics for the home page! Really cool… and you get a custom URL yourname.threadless.com – so everyone knows it’s you, not some shop25474112 or whatever. It really lets you create your brand. And it is 100% FREE to open one! Threadless also does all customer service related stuff and works directly with your customers to resolve issues that come up.
So, what’s the deal?
The catch – artist shops are not exactly meant to be a part of the Threadless marketplace. Often newcomers get really annoyed when they can’t find their own products on the Threadless main page right away. That is why you will have to promote your shop and find your buyers – and that is so challenging to do if you’re just starting out… Also, self-promotion is usually hard and uncomfortable for a lot of artists. But super important. Still hard, tho.
Just a guess – artists maybe got annoyed because it was so difficult to find buyers. Shop owners just needed more help marketing their products. That’s why in 2017 introduced a “Discover Artist Shops” feature on the main page. Very nice and very helpful! This shows Threadless is really listening to feedback and adapting as fast as they can. Your Artist Shop now has the option to allow your products to be added to the Threadless Marketplace, but the pricing and promotions are managed by Threadless.
My products are a part of the huge Threadless market place, and I think that is great! I am super happy when my art just casually shows itself on the main page, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside 🙂
Since it’s your shop, you can choose to set your own prices – as a result, you can make more per product sold then on other POD sites. Here’s how it can work:
You can also opt-in for Threadless to manage your prices (I did that, working great for me because managing custom prices of a buttload of products is a pain in the ass). Read more about it on artistshophelp.threadless pages.
Why two shops tho?
There is a difference between your shop on Threadless and your Artist shop, let me show you. This is my Artist Shop:
I made my shop look grim, picked my own typeface, colors, designed my headers etc… It clearly shows what my brand is about. I could have also made a custom homepage, but honestly, I’ve been struggling with that. A cool thing you can do there is uploading your own images of products. So if you have a model showing off your stuff you can add it to your homepage. Also, you can’t go to someone else’s shop from here – vonkowen.threadless.com is just my shop and you can’t access the Threadless marketplace through it. It is just “powered by Threadless”, meaning they handle production, shipping, and customer relations, but NOT promotion.
This is also my shop, but on Threadless marketplace:
Notice that my banners are gone, but you get the option to follow me, Hi-5 my design, but also you can browse all the other products and shops on the marketplace. Also, products sold here are priced by Threadless and when there’s a sale, your products are on sale too.
So, it is kinda complex, but once you figure out what’s going on, it’s actually pretty neat!
You made art – now what?
Let’s just suppose you’re interested in selling your art, maybe even make a living by being and artist. If you want to sell your art on Threadless, you’ll “just” upload it to using your shop dashboard.
Just a little tip that works for me: select EVERYTHING right away when uploading. I always select all the colours and products, because later editing is a long and annoying process. There is such a thing when buyers get overwhelmed by all the choices. When I first joined, I disabled some colors and products. I later added them all and it was a daunting task, but it made my sales go up.
This is how the first page of the uploader looks like:
The primary file is used as the file for all preview images and universally applied to all product types — except cut & sew t-shirts, shoes, leggings, duffel bags and backpacks. For non-apparel products, the primary file’s transparent area is automatically trimmed and the design is centered on products with the chosen design background color.
Once products are created, you can customize further by uploading an optimized file for each type. This is why I say that Artist Shop is a bit intimidating for beginners – if you’re not comfortable with a graphic design software, it will be very hard to make all those items that require upload of a special template. But, it is a challenge, and you’ll be super proud when you succeed. I just LOVE creating backpacks and leggings!
I like to approach each product as a different canvas. My primary file is always the one that goes on shirts and I spend sometimes a whole day or two on creating and uploading different versions. I usually make a horizontal and square version, then work with templates for special items, that Threadless has kindly prepared for us:
Sometimes when I can’t figure out how to make a cool looking product on a template, I make patterns. That can be a cool shortcut if you’re stuck.
Give yourself some time to figure things out. There is a great Facebook group for Threadless artists, where you can learn the latest news, share your new artwork on a Wednesday thread, and just interact with people who work at Threadless and your fellow artists:
They also have a very helpful blog that will give you great ideas and tips. So be sure to check it out:
Don’t really expect to make a killer profit as soon as you set up shop. Success takes time, hard work, and… well, lots of frustrations and learning on mistakes.
My thoughts and experience
Artist shops are still a relatively new feature on Threadless and are constantly improving as time goes by. I’ve had my Artist Shop for about a year or so now and I can see how much it got better in that time period. Sure, there are some bugs in the uploader and some problems, but people at Threadless really listen to feedback, and that is so great! They are really artist-centered and I respect the hell out of that!
And since I like to be honest with you guys, I am going to share my earnings for the first few months:
So yeah… I did not get rich fast. You probably won’t either. There are people who will be an instant success, but those are rare. Most of us have to just not give up and try harder and it gets much better.
Quality of the products
Death moth shirt is mine, the other one was a gift for my brother. He wears that thing all the time and it still looks great, nothing faded… I can’t get pics now, I’ll try and snap some later when I see him… Anyway, I am amazed at how good the print is and how comfortable the shirt is! I just love it! I couldn’t believe how detailed the print is… This are photos of my shirt after it has been through a few washes:
I’ve also read a lot of reviews about Threadless shirts, and it just shows you that some mistakes can happen in the production line (maybe the design is off-centered, some color bleeding occurred etc…), but Threadless will replace the faulty product.
Also, I’ve read some bad reviews because the colors weren’t vibrant or the print was blurry. Well, since we upload and RGB image to the site, and printers use CMYK, you’ll always get a different looking color.
As for the blurry stuff, that is unfortunately most of the time designers fault, mostly happens when people resize raster files. Resizing doesn’t impact vector graphics, but raster images get pixelated and blurry. If you have a 600×600 px image and resize it to 4200×4200 px because of recommended file sizes it will look like crap.
This is why I think it is super important to learn about the basics of graphic design and maybe learn to use some design software. There are free ones like GIMP and Inkscape that I use. You can also enroll in an online class on graphic design, there are a lot of them to chose from. It’s always great to learn a new skill!!!
I absolutely recommend Threadless Artist Shop as a way to earn some money off your art or to sell your merch if you’re an author, celebrity, YouTuber or whatever…
As I stated before, it can be a bit intimidating for a beginner, but hard work and learning on your own mistakes pays off!
If you want to go for it – DO IT! Don’t give up, work hard! I believe in you!
There are also awesome things like design challenges and acces to other online and offline sales channels, that other POD sites just don’t do (at least not on Threadless level of doing these things). I’ll write a separate blog post about those.